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Iron DM 2016 (The Complete Game Thread!)

Wicht

Hero
Ladies and Gentlemen and other sundry onlookers!

We come to the moment we have all been waiting for.

Iron DM 2016 - The Final Round!!!

In corner one we have [MENTION=67]Rune[/MENTION] ready to take on the Champion. Rune has been rarin' for this match for some time and has managed, after a close semi-finals, to make it to his desired destination. But does he have what it takes to go all... the... way?

In the other corner we have [MENTION=34958]Deuce Traveler[/MENTION], our reigning champion, ready to defend his title. He too made it into the finals by the barest of margins... But now, he stands, bloodied but unbeaten, ready to metaphorically clean his oppenents metaphorical clock.

For this event we have eight ingredients of the finest quality. Our contestants must take these ingredients and churn out an adventure. They have 48 hours to do so, and the entries need to be posted by 1 p.m. EST this Tuesday.

The ingredients for this round, hand picked by the judges, are as follows:
Ancient Curse
Moonlight Serenade
Hate Story
Sanctioned Kidnappings
Dirty Laundry
Awakened Behemoth
Unstable Cargo
Sail of Stars


You may start when you are ready, and as ever, Good Luck!
 

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Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/her)
I have to say, I think "Hate Story" is probably my favorite ingredient I've seen in my three years doing this. This should be a good one!
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
Iron DM 2016, Final Round, Deuce Traveler Submission (The Hulk)

Name: The Hulk

Game System: Traveller

Ingredients:
Ancient Curse
Moonlight Serenade
Hate Story
Sanctioned Kidnappings
Dirty Laundry
Awakened Behemoth
Unstable Cargo
Sail of Stars

Synopsis:
Revori Enterprises, a Solomani corporation specializing in xeno-biological research and development, is looking for freelancers to journey to the Mantabi of Sivalus V. The Revori representative, Gary Kay, hires the crew and its ship to visit a particular tribe called the Waanu, and watch how their lunar ceremony is performed when both of the planets moons have waxed in the sky. The characters are told that when the moons are full, the latent psychic powers of the Mantabi are multiplied exponentially. Therefore the party should report any hallucinations witnessed.

Although the party lands with needed medicines, the Waanu are unfriendly towards outsiders. They do not explain why, except to say that all offworlders are thieves and liars. The issue will be dropped there unless a freelancer takes time to befriend one of the Waanu. It turns out that around a hundred years ago, a starship visited the tribe and stole away a young child named Flower. Flower's mother, Clara, was an unusually strong psychic and raved after the loss, telling her peers in graphic detail how Flower was being harmed by her kidnappers. Her newfound hatred for offworlders and her stories of what Flower suffered deeply affected the tribe's own views. Clara cursed those that took her daughter and soon after took her own life. The tribe finds it important to bury the dead with detailed shrines celebrating a Waanu's life, and the party is allowed to visit Clara's grave site. An empty plot for Flower is left next to where Clara lies.

Although generations of time has healed most of these emotional wounds, the tribe still maintains its distrust. They will allow the freelancers to attend the ceremony in exchange for the medicines they are bringing, but they make no attempt to hide their disgust at their presence. The party will negotiate with the chief of the tribe, and the tribe's priestess, in order to try to change the tribe's disposition. Showing genuine curiosity for the tribe's customs helps while smug displays of superiority will alienate the Waanu. Medical and farming aid is also appreciated, as is any other skill set that can help the welfare of the Waanu. The tribe's final disposition towards the characters will come in play during the ceremony.

If one or both of the tribe's leaders are positively swayed towards the characters, then villagers will explain that the ceremony is primarily for the young. As the young come to age psychically, their fears and emotions generate powerful hallucinations. The tribe comes out to sing to the youth in order to give them psychic stability during the waxing lunar periods, when the youths' powers are strongest. The fears of the youth often become physical manifestations, and sometimes the young lose complete control of these temporary psychic creations. The creation can be destroyed with physical weapons, but care has to be taken, for the weapon will easily continue its path through the apparition. Energy weapons are better options as they have a visible impact against the animated psychic energy.

The combined song of the ceremony helps improve the youths' control of the hallucinations, while helping avoid insanity from what they witness. If the villagers as a whole feel more relaxed with the freelancers, the psychic conjurations that inevitably shake their mental leashes do no real damage to the characters and seem more of a nuisance. If the characters do not improve their relations with the villagers, they are surprised when some of the youth lose control. The villagers' distrust inadvertently fuels the power of these creations, with the result that they are more fearful and do energy-based damage that can wound or kill. This might result in the party lashing out and accidentally injuring villagers if not careful. If such chaos breaks, the tribe grabs their young and disperses into the wild.

Revori Enterprises finds the information that comes out of either scenario revealing and offers the party a following mission. One of their research ships was transporting goods from the Waanu a century ago, but the vessel was lost in transit. The ship was recently located and Revori Enterprises wants its property back. If the characters find out about Flower, Mr. Kay will seem surprised by their knowledge and confirm their suspicions, but will insist that she was brought aboard the vessel as an honored guest.

The drifting ship is the Cavanough, an ion-powered ship that employed two wide, foldable solar sails. Mr. Kay informs the party that the ship seems to be without power and with its solar sails torn and retracted. He wants the party to get on board via an airlock near the bridge, employ the solar sail so the ship can start running on auxiliary power, and see if they can recover the research files from the Cavanough. He also wants the party to redirect the ship towards the nearest station with Revori Enterprises representation so that it can be recovered. The party can keep any salvage they find in the cargo hold.

The Cavanough is a elongated ship with rounded traverse tunnels separating box-like crew sections. The sections are from front to back: the bridge, navigation, common room, crew quarters alpha, crew quarters bravo, research lab, engineering, and the cargo bay. Two airlocks allow for access, one operational in between the bridge and navigation, and another between the research labs and engineering that appears damaged.

The ship is cursed and haunted. Once the characters get close to the ship, their psychic thoughts awaken what lies inside. Once every 2-12 hours, a curse powered through Clara's restless spirit will cause something to go wrong with either the Cavanaugh or players' starship. Flower's ghost causes a psychic apparition once every hour. Roll 1d6 when this happens. On a 1-3, one or more characters suddenly hears the pleas and cries of the different children that were kidnapped for experimentation. On a 4, an alien child appears to harmlessly punch or slash at a character before disappearing into nothingness. On a 5, the harmless apparition takes on the appearance of a gun-wielding Revori mercenary or scalpel-wielding surgeon. On a 6, the psychic creation is more physical and will fight as a normal person until it disappears when 'killed'. Parts of the ship have multiple bodies from the last hundred years, as various scavengers have died exploring the hulk.

Working Airlock: If the airlock is opened from the outside without a boarding tube, the recent body of a Revori employee floats passed and into space.

Bridge: Access is easy once power is restored. Inside is the horrid mystery of how the crew died. From their blue-tinged skin, the five present crew members seemed to have suffocated while trying to weld through to the traverse tunnel. However, life support is working and the door operational. The corpses wear ancient Revori uniforms. The bridge records show nothing odd until the last entry. This is an audio entry of a crewman yelling for the captain to send help as he is trapped in the cargo room with some sort of beast. The audio ends in a blood curdling scream.

Navigation: Second section of ship. There is a manual crank for employing the solar sail. Once employed, auxiliary power is established, but imperfectly, causing lights to flicker on and off. Life support has stale-smelling air. The solar sails are seen to be torn and needing repair before the ship can navigate properly. For some unknown reason, the sail will somehow retract on its own when worked on, potentially injuring or ripping the space suit of whoever is working on it unless they're reflexes save them. Clara's curse in effect.

Common Room: Serves also as dining facility. A freezer room in a floor compartment accessed through an electronic hatch. Inside the freezer room are three frozen bodies of recent Revori employees. One has a data stick with messages from Mr. Kay asking them to recover the hulk. While in the party is in there, the hatch locks and apparitions of the three dead employees attack the party.
Crew Quarters Alpha: Personal affects of the crew are scattered all through this room.
Crew Quarters Bravo: A suicided geonee scavenger is found among the ransacked items. A note reads "Can't get out. Can't stop hearing their cries."

Research Lab: The equipment and tables still look pristine. As the characters enter they can hear the wailing of children. Shortly after the lights flicker off, then back on, and the tables seem occupied with small bodies underneath white sheets. A moment later, deadly psychic creations leap forth to attack, appearing as children of various races.

Research files can be found on the computer. They state that the company leadership sanctioned kidnappings of psionic children. Experiments were conducted to find the DNA code for psychic potential in an effort to compete with the Zhodani. Several children died during the experiments, while others were delivered to a larger research facility and their fate left unknown. One of the last log entries mentions Flower and reads, "Patient seems to have tapped into the psychic residue of previous candidates. She mentions names she should not know. Dr. Carl theorizes that she is able to tap into this residue and increase her power further; an exciting thesis that makes Flower our most promising subject."

Damaged Airlock: Something burned the door, leaving residue and melted parts.

Engineering: A diagnostic report reveals that the booster fuel tanks are unhooked. They are needed to get the ship up to speed before depending on the solar sails. Someone needs to go to the cargo bay to reconnect them. Once the tanks are ready, the engines above the cargo bay can be manipulated from here.

Cargo Bay: Flower's corpse is among the cargo. As soon as the character get near her body, their thoughts are sensed by Flower's ghost and it begins to animate organic material around the corpse. The face of the resulting behemoth wears goggles and a blue face mask, reminding the characters of a surgeon. Other parts of the coalesced monster are taken from the fears of the freelancers. For instance, if one was bitten badly recently by some sort of beast, then a second head grows from the monstrosity resembling the beast. Flower, and the haunting of the ship, can be stopped in several ways, while Clara is tethered to Flower's ghost and will follow her daughter's fate.

Killing the behemoth results in Flower's discorporation as she puts all her fears and energy into the creation. Finding a way to separate Flower's corpse from the center of the beast and eject her body into space also stops her from influencing the ship. Finally, the freelancers might use recorded sounds of the lunar ceremony to quell Flower temporarily. But her power, as well as her anxiety, waxes and wanes as the party uses the lull to travel through different parts of space. The ghost will rest if the party can get Flower's corpse to the Waanu burial grounds. Revori Enterprises would like to sweep this incident under the rug and plans to pay the freelancers well for their continued silence. If the party decides to air the company's dirty laundry, Revori Enterprises is greatly harmed, but will prosecute the freelancers for breech of contract. The party will have new foes and new allies depending on what they do with what was learned.
 

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
First, @Iron Sky, hook me up with that streamlined Front format! I also find the default to be sometimes cumbersome.

I've never explained it externally, just used it internally, so I'll be coming up with names and things on the fly for this. Maybe good names are Actors and Events. I'll sblock a rough overview of what I do below so it doesn't derail the thread.

[sblock=Actors and Events]Actors are any powerful individual or organization that is large enough to effect the direction of the game world. This could be anything from a powerful wizard to a dragon to a horde of orcs to a severe winter to the evil Queen Bavmorda and her army.

Events are things Actors will do at some point in the future unless the PCs intervene (assuming they can, which isn't always the case). It could be a wizard summoning a demon to destroy a town, a dragon migrating to new territory and battling a rival dragon for it, the horde of orcs spilling over the frontier, or the Queen sending agents to find an infant princess. I try to set a vague timeline for each and sometimes put a short reminder (Queen takes Stormport) on my Calendar about when it will happen. I usually try to just set one Event per Actor at a time until/unless the PCs take an interest in it and begin interfering. Until then it gives enough definition that it makes the world feel real, but not enough that I have to spend a lot of time thinking about it.

I try to have at least one Actor covering each major section of the world. For example, if there were Elflands, Orclands, and Humanlands, I'd be sure there was either one large Actor covering all of them (a supernatural storm, a guild war, even a bountiful harvest season!) or enough smaller ones to cover each so if PCs ever ask someone what's happening somewhere, there's always at least one interesting thing they can find out ("Oh, the plague is sweeping through the Capitol")

In my game, the Actors nearest the PCs are the Revolt against The Empire to the north west, a Barbarian Invasion in the north, Suicide Martyr attacks in the city the PCs are in, a Legion marching north to put down the revolt from down south, and a pair of child Twin Emperors kidnapped from the Secluded Kingdom to the East.

The PCs learn of events via Revelations. If it seems like a good time to slip in fleeing refugees, rumors of the evil queen sacking a distant fortress, sightings of something huge moving through the forest, whatever, that's the Revelation when the Actor and Event get "locked in".

The Revelation is almost never a major Event itself - just a hint of the Event to a) maybe give the PCs a chance to do something about it or b) to make your world feel more real and less random. If they have hints, something clicks in their brain when the actual Event happens and they say "aah, these are the evil Queen's troops" or "oh damn, that thing charging at us is that huge monster those shepherds were talking about". Sometimes they'll just stumble into an event, but I try to foreshadow whenever possible.

For example, in my current game, the party got the Revelation of the Legion by hearing rumors of it then hearing distant bugles, catching glimpses of outriders. The next session, they camped in the Legion followers camp and learned it was marching north to put down the Revolt (first Revelation of the Revolt). When they reached the "City of Airships" they met a young martyr from the Revolt and learned that massive suicide attacks were coordinated across the city at sunset (Martyr Revelation, tied to the Revolt). Now that they've "accidentally" commandeered and airship they'll be flying over the Barbarian Invasion, etc.

I have a little section in my game notes of Events that might look like this:

*Colossus uncovered in Scrapmoors, invades Empire with Knights Mechane
*Sultinate forces retake Umbar
*Twilight Empire undead army seized by rogue agent, marches West
*25 + 26th Legions go rogue, take city of Seer

Some might have dates set (especially if they are nearby), if not, they'll just happen at some point in the future.

I don't feel like I explained that very well, but hopefully it gives you a general idea. I'll maybe think about it more and see if I can figure out how to make it more succinct.[/sblock]

Also, @Rune, my critiques of your ingredients were to some degree a result of me being tired and it being at hour 5 of 6 (about 2am) of my judgment writing. Rereading now, I'd probably give a couple another point or two, but as I go I have noticed I get more and more critical, in part because get so meta about things I get a bit ungrounded as to what exactly good looks like sometimes. I think your adventure had maybe the most solid set of ingredients I've seen in any IronDM entry I've seen - both individually and how they were woven together.

I have to say, I think "Hate Story" is probably my favorite ingredient I've seen in my three years doing this. This should be a good one!

I thought of it watching Netflicks when a "Love Stories" suggestion list popped up. As I scrolled through it, I wondered there was never the opposite. :p
 
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Rune

Once A Fool
Championship Match: Deuce Traveler vs. Rune

Ancient Curse
Moonlight Serenade
Hate Story
Sanctioned Kidnappings
Dirty Laundry
Awakened Behemoth
Unstable Cargo
Sail of Stars


With Strange Aeons...
A System-Agnostic Sword and Sorcery Adventure.

Destruction slumbers beneath the waves. Its twisting dreams break mortal minds. It lures its faithful toward monstrous devotion. Within the city walls, destruction festers in another form. Driven by an ancient curse, hatred breeds revolt. Enter the PCs, caught between the schemes of two wicked factions.

Imprecation is a coastal city-state on a gulf called the Depthless Basin. It is a bustling trade city and a likely stop for adventurers in transition. Across the center of the Basin a stretch of sea is never touched by breath of wind. Within, a twisted tower of dark malice claws at the heavens above.

Hooks:

There are numerous means by which adventurers can be entangled in unfolding events.

  • They could be hired by a noble house to find their missing daughter.

  • They could be hired to recover an expensive gown stolen by a washerwoman.

  • They could be overheard or accused of illegally asking questions about the city's curse.

  • They could be suffering from maddening dreams and be sought out by cultists.

  • They could be commissioned by local clergy to root out a blasphemous cult.

What's going on:

  • In ancient days, Odium the Abhorrent, a practitioner of darkest sorcery, laid a curse upon the king of that age and all his line. This curse is inscribed onto a large lead tablet and set prominently into the castle's wall for all to see. It reads: "Save the City as ye might; daughters fed into the night. Beast that dreams below appeased; even spared, none shall be pleased. All for naught; your line must fall. Flame and fury, eating all." By decree, no one in the City may speak of the curse. But no king has dared remove or cover the tablet, because its maker is said to still live and watch over Imprecation.

  • Despite being illegal to relate, the tale of the curse's origin is well-known and oft-repeated in the City, though never in the open. It tells of an ancestor to the current king who married a woman already betrothed to a man of darkest sorcery. The sorcerer cursed the King and all his house. The nature of that curse varies with the telling, but its results are unambiguous. Every generation, some dark purpose compels the current King to steal away the daughters of Imprecation's noble houses, though some kings try to hide it. The dissemination of this story foments a hatred for the King among those who hear it told. Some of this hatred is natural, but some is a supernatural manifestation of the curse. Odium the Abhorrent is skilled in mind-controlling magics and uses the story to sow the seeds of bloody rebellion against the King.

  • The King has hired an independent agent to secretly kidnap the daughters of the City's noble houses and sacrifice them to the sea. This tradition, passed to him by his fathers, is intended to spare the City from the awakening of a massive monster, said to be slumbering beneath the waves. The sacrifice does not truly help the City; it is merely a cruel compulsion of the curse. Imprecation's guards do not know about the King's involvement of the kidnappings, but he has ordered them to quash any investigations, nevertheless.

  • Unbeknown to the King, his agent is really Odium. The sacrifices are not intended for the sea. Instead, they are actually taken to his dark tower across the Basin, where they fuel rituals that unnaturally extend the sorcerer's life. He lures them in the guise of a would-be lover, come to serenade them in the night. Moonlight is best for this; Odium has long since given himself to the Powers of Darkness and moonlight is now the only light by which he can look fair. His serenade is actually a powerful spell of mind-controlling, strengthened by including in its casting some personal token of the victim's. This token is often acquired well in advance through the use of subtle magics, guile, or stealthy minions.

    The victims are chosen from among the nobility for four reasons: Fostering hatred of the king among the nobility is designed to drive their political ambition toward eventual revolt. Once the nobility has spent its fury, the clashing houses will leave a power vacuum that Odium intends to fill. Additionally, watching the steady decay of civility has brought him much amusement over the centuries. Most importantly, the quality of the sacrifices matter; the bluer the blood, the more years of stolen life he gains through his ritual.

  • The mind-controlled victims are stowed as cargo on a small sailing ship, docile and inactive. There are four of these. A fifth is also stashed away with them, but the spell cast upon her is already beginning to fail, because her capture was a mistake. The young woman is not the intended victim. She is a servant--a washerwoman named Stella--who foolishly "borrowed" and donned a very costly gown that she was only supposed to clean. The gown is stitched with a thousand fragments of fallen stars, collected at great expense. It seems to make the wearer more light and graceful. At night, it sparkles with such brilliance that Stella's captor could not distinguish her from his intended victim from outside the window. Thus, the personal effects incorporated in the casting of the serenade were of no use in empowering its effect.

  • The harbormaster has a record of all docked ships in the harbor, except one. None of the logged ships are passing over the center of the Basin. No known ship can. The undocumented ship, Umbra, is bound for Odium's tower and, therefore, must. Belowdecks, his docile victims have been stowed as cargo in the hold.

  • In order for Umbra to sail across the windless center of the Basin, it must use a special sail. The sail is sewn with many fragments of fallen stars and glitters with their light. Under starlight, the fragments reach toward their brethren, pulling upward as if to get away. Clever manipulation of the sail converts that lifting force into forward momentum and allows the ship to move.

  • Umbra is crewed by Odium's minions. Odium has chosen to remain in the City to watch the fulfillment of his ancient curse. His victims are to be stored in his tower until he returns.

  • The slumbering beast does exist, though its awakening is only tangentially related to Imprecation's sacrificed daughters. The beast is a monstrously colossal mass of scales and tentacles with eyes of void; a traveler from beyond the stars. Beneath the sea, at the windless center of the Basin, it secretes its alien dreams into minds too weak to withstand them. Some few such broken people work in secret congregation to awaken their patron. A Cult of the Behemoth. Soon, very soon, the stars will be right. The rituals will call out. A sacrifice shall be made. The Behemoth shall rise from the depths and destruction shall reign.

Events in the City:

The following events are designed to occur in balance with each other. When the PCs interfere with (or aid) one of the listed events, they should discover evidence of another occurring in their absence. Not all of these events need to happen in order, but some are necessarily sequential.

  • A shopkeeper is arrested for telling the story of the curse.
  • Dark and alien dreams plague one or more of the PCs.
  • The noble houses begin hiring mercenaries.
  • A cultist disembowels himself in the center of the city. A message is scrawled in his blood: "THE AWAKENING IS NIGH"
  • Members of the city guard go missing in the Noble district.
  • Cultists of the Behemoth coerce a deckhand to allow one of their number to stow away aboard Odium's ship.
  • The noble houses clash in open revolt against the King.
  • Umbra sets sail with the kidnapped victims. This will only happen at dusk, as a large portion of its voyage must be done by starlight.

At the Harbor:

At this point, sufficient investigation likely will have led the PCs to Odium's ship. Events from this point on will play out much differently, depending on their actions (or inaction) at the harbor.

  • If there is a cultist aboard Umbra and it departs without the PCs, the cultist completes the cult's sacrifice and awakens the Behemoth. The ship and all souls aboard are lost and the Behemoth advances upon Imprecation, where only a unified defense and the efforts of mighty adventurers can hope to repel it. If the city falls, Odium will keep his distance from the Behemoth and eventually establish a new tower elsewhere in the world.

  • If Umbra departs without PCs or cultist aboard, the Behemoth is not awakened. Instead, the victims are taken to Odium's tower, where they will eventually fuel his life-extending rituals. If the PCs find a way to forestall revolution in Imprecation, the uneasy peace may last a generation. Yet, as long as the curse remains unbroken, revolt looms ever in the future.

  • If the PCs prevent the ship from sailing entirely, not only is the Behemoth not awakened, but the "borrowed" gown can be returned to its owner and the kidnapped women can be returned to their families (assuming they survive the disabling of the ship). If revolt has not yet broken out, the fallout from returning the victims could either forestall or hasten it. Stella will regain control of her mind within hours, but it will take weeks for the nobles. During this time, Odium will certainly seek to recapture the women. Additionally, the PCs now have earned his enmity.

  • If the PCs find themselves aboard Umbra when it departs, things will get a little crazy:

On the Windless Sea:

  • If the PCs fight and defeat Umbra's crew before it reaches the center of the Basin, events will play out much as they would if the ship never departed from Imprecation. However, if there is a cultist on board, he will do everything in his power to prevent the ship from changing course.

  • If the PCs go belowdecks (or are hiding there), they have an opportunity to discover the stowaway cultist, if there is one on board. Additionally, they will find the captive cargo standing nearly catatonic in the hold. One of these women--Stella--regains her mind a few hours after departure, just as Umbra reaches the center of the Basin. When she regains consciousness, a volatile fury engulfs her; she emerges from the hold with explosive violence, intent on seizing control of the ship and wreaking vengeance upon her captors. This will go much better for her if the she has the PCs' aid.

  • If there is a cultist aboard, he will use the chaos around him to sneak up the rigging and cut a crippling gash into the sail of stars, thus completing his brethren's rituals with a sacrifice of ship, crew, and cargo to the Behemoth below. The Behemoth awakes.

  • If the Behemoth wakes, it attacks the crippled ship. The Behemoth might be driven off through the might of the adventurers, but the ship's limited mobility makes victory much less likely. Chances may be improved if the sail is patched, but the only material on board that would be of use for this is the gown worn by Stella, who is disinclined to relinquish it.

  • If Umbra makes it all the way to Odium's tower, many more minions await, as well as profane ritual rooms, arcane libraries, and exotic macabre collections. Eventually, of course, Odium the Abhorrent also will be there.

  • Once the PCs return to Imprecation, whether victorious or not, they will find the City either on the brink of revolt, or already in its throes. Of course, if Odium is vanquished, the PCs may just fill the resulting power vacuum themselves.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
About your entry, [MENTION=34958]Deuce Traveler[/MENTION]:

[Sblock]Damn that looks like good, creepy fun! Really evokes the Event Horizon tone very well.[/sblock]
 


Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Without any preamble aside from this preamble about the lack of preamble, let's jump right in.

[sblock=The Hulk]Readability: There's no headings, no bold fonts to mark out sections of the ship, a lack of white space separating The Common Room from Crew Quarters Alpha/Bravo. This is a quick fix that makes going back and referencing details difficult due to a lack of "page geography"; there's very few visual landmarks to find your way around when you're looking for something.

Know when you have a physical copy of an RPG book and you find the combat chapter because if you skim through and there's the picture of the castle you've gone too far one way and if you get to the sample dungeon map you've gone too far the other way? That.

Not only does it reduce readability as the lack of anything aside from the line of white space between paragraphs breaks up the wordslaught making it both less visually appealing and more mentally fatiguing to read.

These criticisms aside, everything was written clearly and well. While the language generally drifts passive("is", "are", "will" action verbs), it also shifts now and then to more engaging, active phrasing.

Some of the terms seem to be Traveller-setting specific (geonee, Solomani, Zhodani, etc) which don't seem critical that I know, but a tiny bit of clarification might be helpful (or just making them human).

A few typos slipped in here and there "they're" instead of "their", but nothing derailing.

Lastly, a few lines that I couldn't figure out:

"But her power, as well as her anxiety, waxes and wanes as the party uses the lull to travel through different parts of space." So, they play the recording and then Flower's power wanes and waxes anyway but only if they use the lull to fly somewhere else in space? What? I've read it several times, but I'm not sure exactly what is meant here, partially because I'm not sure what "quelling" Flower does. Does she go completely dormant or reign in her behemoth or what? That part stopped me cold trying to figure it out.

"Clara is tethered to Flower's ghost"... what does that mean? Is she a ghost too or does that mean her curse is tethered?

7/10 Pts.

Cool: Exploring a derelict spaceship haunted by the lingering ghost of a kidnapped psychic girl. That's pretty damn cool.
10/10 Pts.

Playability: See readability for difficulty skimming back to reference various parts due to lack of headings or bold type on relevant sections. Especially important for an exploration-based adventure to save long "loads" when PCs suddenly go somewhere new while you look for it.

Otherwise, it seems like it would be fun to play and interesting to run. I don't know if I'm a huge fan of having cool events hinged to a dice roll: what if I roll 12 on the curse malfunction roll? Is there any way the PCs will be there that long. How cool would it be if the curse knocked out their own ship and they had to fix the Cavanough in order to get away? As is, I could see more skittish groups bailing when a ghostly alien kid drifts through the hull and jacks a scalpel into the back of someone's neck, but kill their only way out...

Also, I'm not quite sure if "rounded traverse tunnels" allow one to bypass sections of the ship – making exploration non-linear – or simply connect from one section to the next. I like the first idea more as it allows groups to choose their own path through the ship, even if most will probably just go stem-to-stern.

Lastly, I don't think any group I've seen would think to perform either of the alternate methods of calming Flower unless it were absolutely kicking their asses and they were desperate.

7/10 Pts.

PC Relevance/Agency: Let's look at what the PCs actually do:

They are hired, fly to Sivalus V where they befriend or alienate the locals and witness a psychic ritual that either scares them or attempts to murder them depending on where their initial diplomacy landed them.

Part two of the adventure finds them hunting down the ancient wreck of corporate research vessel, piecing together the riddle of what happened even as they piece together the broken ship, culminating with a terrifying battle against a half-organic, half-phantasmal monster assembled from dead bodies and the PC's worst fears. Did I mention how awesome a premise this is?

If they never show up, Revori doesn't get tipped off to the Mantabi right of passage and the Cavanough remains a haunted wreck drifting between the stars. Best case if all goes well, they make (psychic) allies on a backwater planet, clear out a haunted ship, get paid, and maybe trash the "good name" of a major corporation.

8/10 Pts.

Choices: The PCs have a few interesting choices here. First, how do they befriend the villagers if they even bother? That this has consequences for the danger level of the ceremony is cool and makes their decision really matter.

On the ship, I can't tell if they really have any choice in the order they explore. On first reading I understood the "transverse tunnels" to run along the whole ship to allow the PCs choices on where to go in which order, but I'm not sure if that is actually the case after subsequent reads. If it is (and if the PCs know what section is where) then they have some choices on how to explore, what to fix first, etc. If it isn't, the ship is a railroad, which makes it less interesting and reduces the PC's influence. Since it's unclear, I'll assume it's linear.

Lastly, they have several methods to put down the behemoth, but I'm not sure how groups would figure out how to disconnect Flower's corpse or play it a soothing song, as mentioned above.

7/10 Pts.

Rules: On time. Word count good. 10/10 Pts.

Ingredients

Ancient Curse: Clara's curse on the kidnappers. I'm not sure if a century is ancient as curses go and am also somewhat unclear as to the specifics of said curse. After its initial mention, Clara's curse sees reference again only in regards to the solar sails... did she only curse them? Is the curse responsible for Flower's ghost or is that all Flower's psychic juju? When it says the ship is cursed AND haunted it makes me think the two are separate? This would be a lot stronger if the specifics of the curse were enumerated. "Clara's psychic curse rouses ghosts within the ship" or something would make it more clear if the two are directly linked or not.

3/5pts.

Moonlight Serenade: The song that calms down the psychic powers of the tribal kids. The powers manifest according to the lunar periods and the serenade is calming, if not necessarily open-air as Serenade usually indicates. The moon's period indicates how much of it is reflecting light, so it is moonlight related.

4/5pts.

Hate Story: This is harder ingredient, but hatred is mentioned in terms of Clara's hatred for and curse upon the Revori. It is a story the party learns of her hatred, which manifests more later, though Flower's psychic haunting seems more relevant with the ship than the curse. If the curse caused the haunting then it all ties together, but a bit of unclear languaging leaves me unsure if there is causation or merely psychic correlation. Clearing this up would strengthen the Curse as well.

4/5pts.

Sanctioned Kidnappings: the kidnappings of Flower and the other psychic children. Sanctioned usually implies approved by a larger outside authoritarian body, which in this case is the corporate leadership which is authoritarian but not an outsider. Still works.

5/5pts.

Dirty Laundry: The kidnappings being the "dirty laundry" of Revori. The PCs can release this information at the end to tarnish Revori's reputation, though this makes me wonder why Revori Ent. hired outsiders in the first place. The whole adventure is about their dirty laundry, might be a bit stronger if the Revori worked harder to keep them from finding it out.

4/5 pts.

Awakened Behemoth: Flower's summoned creation that forms the final battle. It is indeed awakened, however it is not essential that it be a "Behemoth" either in size or in bestial traits – in fact, it is given primarily human traits with only the possibility of maybe having some bestial ones. She could as easily summon a dozen smaller apparitions (as I think she has been doing... or is that her mother's curse?) for them to fight instead.

3/5 pts.

Unstable Cargo: Flower's corpse floating in the cargo bay (I'm assuming no artificial gravity anyway). Not only is she unstable mentally and psychically, she's doesn't seem to be anchored to anything in the cargo bay either (until it animates).

5/5 pts.

Sail of Stars: The solar sail. This is a cool use, but the ship could have been powered by anything else – it didn't have to be a solar sail as nifty as this is. It does seem to be the primary target of Clara's curse for some reason, though I'm not sure that strengthens it.

2/5 Pts.

Ingredient Weave:

Sentence: The PCs are hired to investigate corporate Dirty Laundry starting with a Moonlight Serenade, discovering in the process a Hate Story leading to an Ancient Curse on the Sail of Stars of a starship engaged in Sanctioned Kidnappings and now carrying Unstable Cargo that can manifest an Awakened Behemoth.

Pretty strong.

Let's try replacements: The PCs are hired to investigate corporate Dirty Laundry starting with a Moonlight Serenade, discovering in the process a Hate Story leading to an Strangely-specifc Curse on the Nuclear Generator of a starship engaged in Sanctioned Kidnappings and now carrying Unstable Cargo that can manifest Twenty Apparitions.

3/8 replaceable is pretty good, historically.

4/5 Pts.

Summary
My main issues with this otherwise rock-solid entry could have been cleaned up by a bit more appealing formatting, and a little clarification of the curse and the ship layout. 5 minutes spent bolding ship sections, dropping a heading here and there, and better explanation of the curse(there were 100 words to spare!) would have been worth a few points at the least.

A compelling scenario with exploration, mystery, combat, diplomacy, horror, and a pretty cool story behind it to boot. Run has his work cut out for him. Deuce Traveler isn't the reigning champion for nothing.

Total: 83/105 Pts.[/sblock]

[sblock=With Strange Aeons...]

Readability: As mentioned in Rune's the last round judgement, poetic language is either a boon or a bane and rarely anything between. Similarly, this doesn't quite work for me. I think I figured out what it is, too: the sentences are too short and choppy for the way the language is woven. Here's almost identical wording but combining a couple sentences:

"Destruction slumbers beneath the waves, breaking mortal minds with its twisting dreams. It lures its faithful toward monstrous devotion while within the city walls destruction festers in another form. Driven by an ancient curse, hatred breeds revolt. Enter the PCs, caught between the schemes of two wicked factions."

Tweaked just slightly and it flips from bane to boon (for me, at least).

Again as before, after the opening, everything is well-formatted and eminently readable. This time, however, the language has kicked up towards primarily active wording: "betrothed" "compels" "dissemination" "lures" make for much more engaging reading.

9/10 Pts.

Cool: An evil wizard using Godzilla as an excuse to subvert a king into funneling noble sacrifices to fuel his eternal life opposed by the Cult of Zilla trying to use his sacrifices to awaken their God(zilla). And the PCs in the middle trying to figure it out. Pretty damn cool.
9/10 Pts.

Playability: As a GM, I move from one bullet list to another. Pick a hook(s) that work, jump to events in the city and stumble the PCs into half of them while ticking off the other half, then figure out which path the PCs end up on depending on where their investigative efforts take them.

The biggest drawback apparent to me is the question of what exactly do the PCs investigate? Who do they talk to? What sort of information will they glean? They can learn of the curse, the missing girls, that the nobles are unhappy with the King, the list of events seems to only be witnessed by the PCs, their actions seeming someone irrelevant. If I were to run this as-is right now, I'm not sure exactly how to run the party's investigations aside from having them repeatedly walk into events as they happen. What the PCs actually investigate is irrelevant, what is important is that I steer them from one "scripted event" to another and hope they piece things together from what they find.

After the investigation, things are spelled out much more clearly.

One addition that might have made the later sections easier to navigate would be putting key words in each bullet point in italics or bold just to help the eye catch them faster. "If there is a cultist aboard Umbra and it departs without the PCs, the cultist..." "If Umbra departs with no PCs or cultists aboard, the Behemoth is not..." etc. Minor quibble, but anything to shave a few seconds off "load times" while the GM finds the next section could be helpful.

7/10 Pts.

PC Relevance/Agency: So what do the PCs do?

Depending on their hook, they are drawn somewhere into the city with some task tying into the events stirring behind. the scenes. They start roaming around asking questions (this part that the PCs actually do is not very detailed), in the process stumbling into a series of semi-related events in which they hopefully find their way to Odium's ship. I'm not sure how they get "sufficient investigation" however...

After that, they either stop the ship, the cultist, or sneak aboard. Once aboard, a variety of things happen from Stella lashing out to fighting the Behemoth.

The only weak point, as above, is the investigation as the climax of the adventure hinges on it being successful and I'm not sure exactly how they piece together the location and purpose of the Umbra without the GM just leading them to it. If they find it, it's not due to their actions (as far as I can figure it), but me leading them by the nose to the right places. Even guiding them on the list of events could easily fail to lead them to the ship, upon which the rest of the adventure depends (leading to the "failure" state of fighting the Behemoth).

7/10 Pts.

Choices: The investigation is wide-open... so open that I'm not sure how it leads to the "correct" result. All I know is somehow they must find their way to the ship. Once there, the rest is highly dependent on what they do, so their choices and actions have incredible relevance.

Again, the weakness lies in the investigation, after that, the adventure is well-thought, well-paced, and laced with interesting outcomes.

8/10 Pts.

Rules: On time. Word count good. 10/10 Pts.

Ingredients

Ancient Curse: Odium's curse on the city which is part truth, part misdirection, and enforced only with direct action on Odium's part. I guess there's a trope of finding out the "passive" curse is actually a result of someone's secretive meddling, but as it stands I don't know if the curse stands on its own. I suppose you could say Odium is the curse in that case...

4/5 pts.

Moonlight Serenade: How Odium seduces the young women. Serenade in that it is out-of-doors enticement through song, moonlight because it is at night and Odium is so odious that even his magics can't make him attractive in full light.

5/5 pts.

Hate Story: Odium does hate the king, but it seems to be as much or more a revenge story, especially since Odium's emotional state is never mentioned. Hatred implies an emotional bent but I get more cold, reasoned action on Odium's part.

3/5 pts.

Sanctioned Kidnappings: The king's hired kidnappings of the noble women. These are not only sanctioned by the king, but arranged by him. I guess since he doesn't go into specifics as to who to take and how, it works as the "approved by authority", but these feels a bit direct for what I generally think of as sanctioning vs directing.

4/5 pts.

Dirty Laundry: The dress of stars needed (potentially) to mend the Sail of Stars. The reason Stella(the unstable cargo) was brought on board. If she hadn't been wearing it, she wouldn't have been taken, but since there's no intrinsic need that she be taken at all, this isn't as strong as it could be even though it might be a hook and may somehow help them find the ship (?). It may be needed to mend the sail – which is pretty neat by the way – but there's a strong possibility the sail is never torn in the first place.

3/5 pts.

Awakened Behemoth: An actual behemoth submerged asleep beneath the sea. Its awakening is the "fail" scenario (enabling a further fail state of "it TPK'd us"). Essential and cool.

5/5 pts.

Unstable Cargo: Stella, the washer woman. Unfortunately, we don't have a reason for why she's so pissed off. She could equally have been terrified or apathetic or panicking. She does have the Dirty Laundry, tying the two together well, but in for all but the almost-worse-case-scenario, she needn't be on board at all.

3/5 pts.

Sail of Stars: The sail that propels the ship. It is needed to get across the beclamed sea (created by the Behemoth) and ties together well with the dirty laundry. It could be a Towing Porpoise or a Sail of Fire or something else instead, however.

4/5 pts.

Ingredient Weave:

Sentence:

The party enters a city wherein an Ancient Curse has caused a Hate Story involving Sanctioned Kidnappings taken by Midnight Serenade, including one whose wearing of Dirty Laundry may eventually make her give it up to fix the Sail of Stars while she is Unstable Cargo to be sacrificed to the Awakened Behemoth.

A bit of a stretch for a bit showing the weakness of the Dirty Laundry/Sail of Stars/Unstable Cargo triad.

Let's try replacements:

The party enters a city wherein an Ancient Curse has caused a Revenge Story involving Arranged Kidnappings taken by Midnight Serenade, including one whose wearing of Solar Doublet may eventually make her give it up to fix the Sail of Fire while she is Suddenly Berserk to be sacrificed to the Awakened Behemoth.

Pretty solid overall.

3/5 Pts.

Summary

The lack of clarity of how the investigation would go and how it might lead to the climax is the weak link in the otherwise excellent chain of events that make up this adventure. Aside from that, the adventure has great mood, generally strong and well-used ingredients, a cool story, a fun clash between two opposing evils – all-in-all the sort of thing that shows Rune's extensive IronDM pedigree.

Total: 84/105 Pts.[/sblock]

[sblock=Conclusion]I had no idea adding up Rune's score who was going to win and boy is that close. 1 point out of 105. Both were excellent adventures with a few slight drawbacks.

The Hulk's layout was bland and unhelpful, the writing was largely passive, and – if I read it correctly – the ship was completely linear.

With Strange Aeons had the opposite structural issue – the end game was excellent, but I'm not sure how you get there due to lack of explanation of how the player's investigation leads them to the ship.

Both had creative and well used ingredients with a few weaker elements, though no complete failures.

I think I agree with what my points tell me: it was extremely close on ingredients – with an edge to The Hulk – and both were fantastic adventures. Rune's writing was superior, which is not to say Deuce's was bad, it didn't detract from the adventure while Rune's added to his. Sad-to-say, if Deuce Traveler's layout looked like he cared at all about it at all, that alone would likely have gotten him the couple extra points he needed to clinch it.

[MENTION=34958]Deuce Traveler[/MENTION], I was so excited to see a scifi entry and would love to see how it plays out at the table. It could easily have gone either way (and if the other judges disagree with me, it will!)


[MENTION=67]Rune[/MENTION] takes the tournament in my judgment, we'll see if my fellow judges agree.[/sblock]
 
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