Iron DM 2016 (The Complete Game Thread!)

Wicht

Hero
We come to the last round, and two good entries, Deuce Traveler’s “The Hulk,” going up against Rune’s “With Strange Aeons…”

I will be sticking with my point system of scoring, grading on Rules, Ingredient Use, Usability, and Style.

As far as Rules, both entries were on time and under the word count. So we’re good there, and both get the full points.

So let’s look at the ingredients.

Beginning with ancient curse, Rune jumps into an early minor lead. While both entries do have a curse, I don’t really consider a hundred years ago all that ancient. I do have some difficulty with Rune’s idea that the city has been simmering in rebellion for such a lengthy period of time as is implied, but the sleeping behemoth entry does double duty as an additional curse and so makes up for this. 2 points to Aeons, 1 point to Hulk.

Moving onto the ingredient, Moonlight Serenade, Deuce catches up a little. While Deuce Traveler’s serenade is not actually, technically, a serenade, it does play a pivotal part in the adventure. Whereas Rune uses it as background information that may or may not actually have any meaning to the PCs. So 1.5 to Hulk, and 1 to Aeons.
In the ingredient Hate Story, we again see a stronger usage in Hulk, with the hatred of the village being a real palpable thing that the PCs will have to deal with. The usage in Aeons is a bit different; the story being told magically creates hatred. This hatred is going to fester into rebellion, though again, I am called to wonder why it would take so long, many generations, for the magic to actually create a rebellion, and why would the wizard want to create a rebellion, thus killing his golden goose of immortality. I know the background says he wants to fill the vacuum and rule himself, but it seems like such a slow and stupid way to go about it. Anyhow, I give Hulk 2 points for this ingredient, and 1.5 to Aeons. For those keeping track, that brings the two entries into a tie.

The tie is maintained with sanctioned kidnappings. Though the ingredient is more background in Hulk, it is nevertheless background that is going to directly affect the PCs in a powerful way. Both get 2 points for the kidnappings.

With Dirty Laundry, Hulk moves ahead into the lead for the first time. The dirty laundry of Aeons is fairly weak sauce. A washerwoman takes some laundry she is supposed to be cleaning and puts it on. But there is no actual indication its all that dirty, indeed it shines like the stars. Hrm. The dirty laundry in Hulk is metaphorical but its pretty dirty and the PCs are going to get their hands full of it, so to speak. 2 points to Hulk, 1 to Aeons.

Hulk is going to maintain the lead with awakened behemoth. The behemoth of the ship awakens and the PCs must navigate it. The Behemoth in Aeons may or may not awaken depending on the actions of the PCs, and the PCs may or may not have to deal with it. 2 points to Hulk, 1.5 to Aeons.
So what about Unstable Cargo? Again, I think Hulk’s use is stronger. The cargo in the ship is indeed unstable and the PCs must deal with it. The cargo on the boat, in the figure of the cultist is unhinged, and I guess mentally unstable, but its just a little weaker than it could have been. 2 to Hulk, another 1.5 to Aeons.

The final ingredient is sail of stars. In both cases, I think the use is good, though the sail in Hulk is again something the PCs may have more direct interaction with. But I’ll give both 2 points.

As we head out of the Ingredients phase, Deuce’s Hulk has the lead. Let’s see if it can keep it.

I am going to reverse my normal order and deal with style first. How well do I like each adventure’s style? This is a mixed bag here for me.

With Hulk, I gotta admit I find the second half much more interesting than the first half. I understand the importance, story-wise, of the first half setting up the second half, but I suspect that groups which find the first part fascinating are going to not really appreciate the second part of the adventure, and those that are captivated by the exploration of the ship are going to find the interaction with the tribe’s men tedious. But the exploration of the ship hits a lot of good, solid notes with me, and I am going to give the whole of it 4 out of 6.

Rune’s Aeons, I also think has a problem with two parts not meshing well together, but whereas in Hulk it was two separate chapters, in Aeons it is two separate storylines that don’t necessarily complement one another. It’s a strange sort of thing with me – I like each individual piece of Rune’s Aeons, but the whole of it suffers. The beast at the bottom of the sea being real feels almost tacked on to a different, better story, and I think that the curse on the city loses some of its edge because of it. I almost wish that the wizard was working to awaken some behemoth through the sacrifice of the king by the rebellious city folk; some complicated ritual requiring regecide. As it is, I am going to give Aeons only 4 out of 6 also. In this case, I wish the author had left the peanut butter out of my chocolate, or had blended it better.

And now we come to usability, and I left this to last because I think one is clearly better than the other and makes the winner clear to me.

Rune’s Aeons suffers from the problem of too much backstory and not enough adventure. Its not bad, though parts are a bit convoluted, and I think I could make it work, but I would have to put some work into it to do so; changing up a few parts of the storyline, and adding in some more ways for the PCs to interact with the story.

Deuce’s Hulk, on the other hand, I could take and run with it. In fact, reading it, if I ran Traveler games, I would be wanting to run with it, and I can see adapting the general story-line to any number of systems and getting a good result. I do think that the weakness is felt in the heavy social requirements of the first half not gelling with the suspense of the second, and I would definitely make the first chapter short and sweet, but the first chapter serves a solid setup to that second chapter and helps make the pay-off richer, so I can live with the clunky meshing of the two halves.

For usability, I am going to give Rune’s 4 out of 6, but Deuce gets a solid 6 out of 6 and retains his lead in the points, and has my nod for this contest.


Rune’s “With Strange Aeons…”
]Rules: 6/6
Ingredient Use: 12.5/16
Style: 4/6
Usability: 4/6
Total 26.5/34

Deuce Traveler’s “The Hulk.”
Rules: 6/6
Ingredient Use: 14.5/16
Style: 4/6
Usability: 6/6
Total: 30.5/34
 
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Lwaxy

Cute but dangerous
So,read it all, started typing and now find myself lightheaded again. Need to shift it one more day, otherwise the conclusion would be without much explanation.
 

Lwaxy

Cute but dangerous
Not as detailed as I'd have liked, but my head has some orc misusing it as war drums.

Rules


Both well within, no advantage.

Use of Ingredients

Ancient Curse

The Hulk has a mother's loss and a murdered girl's fury, while With Strange Aeons has a spurned necromancer's curse. In both cases, the incident is only a century old, so not quite that ancient in either case. Other than that, it was well implemented. No advantage.

Moonlight Serenade

A psychic ritual in The Hulk, while the serenade in With Strange Aeons is a real serenade to lure the girls out at night. The latter feels a bit forced just to have it included and it makes me wonder why no one else made a connection from the disappearance of the girls to a nightly romeo singing in the streets. Not like only the target could hear the music. So I'm going with the ritual here, despite it not being a serenade, technically. Advantage The Hulk.

Hate Story

So the people in the city of With Strange Aeons have this problem with disappearing noble girls since a hundred years, and only now they begin to revolt? Wouldn't nobles faced with this problem either bring their daughters to other holdings far from the city, post a constant watch with the girls and get rid of the king as soon as they could? It also seems more of a fear or revenge thing, not hate, as everyone is aware of the curse and the only thing they could hate the king for is for him not to name a new king and leave.

The Hulk on the other hand has a tribe stuck with hate for something that's happened long ago, yet it makes sense as in a psionic society, such things likely make a much bigger imprint. Advantage The Hulk

Sanctioned Kidnappings

A sanctioned kidnapping, to me,is where the government or an organization turns a blind eye or is clearly in favor without being involved. But here we have two cases where the government and the corporation are directly behind it. No advantage.

Dirty Laundry

The Hulk refers to the obvious, with the kidnappings and experiments being the figurative dirty laundry. Not much of a twist, we could see that coming from the beginning. With Strange Aeons on the other hand refers to actual dirty laundry. I really liked that. It was relevant enough to the plot, too, with the bad guy mistaking the laundry girl for her employer. Advantage With Strange Aeons.

Awakened Behemoth

With Strange Aeons has the standard Cthulhuesque beast at the bottom of the sea, which might, or might not, awaken. The Hulk on the other hand has a psionic problem which, come to think of it, never really slept all this time, at least not constantly. Yet, it is at least definitely awake, which isn't the case in With Strange Aeons. Advantage The Hulk.

Unstable Cargo

I liked both the psionic creation and the mentally unwell girls in the boat for originality, however, considering the coolness of the psionic effect it's a clear call. Advantage The Hulk.

Sail of Stars

Standard solar sail for The Hulk. The sail from the boat in With Strange Aeons is way cooler. Advantage With Strange Aeons.


Readability

The Hulk comes over half finished in editing. It is difficult to quickly find references as there is a lack of headers etc. It works because it is not that long a text, but still. With Strange Aeons is very clearly structured and it is not hard at all to know what's where and find it immediately. Advantage With Strange Aeons.

Use in gameplay

The Hulk depends on the players finding out a few things in the first part of the adventure without which they would have a really hard time in the second part. The GM can easily arrange for it to happen, though, if just by having the group rescue a native to befriend. Also, if they are worth their salt, they have done preliminary research and probably already know that another ship from Revori went missing a 100 years ago.

In the ship itself, there are a few half explained issues, like what exactly happened on the bridge? The GM will have an easy enough time to connect all that went wrong with psionic attacks, yet such things make the adventure appear a bit unfinished. This could also use a map, which was of course not within the scope of this contest. The ship layout is, however, described well enough to create a simple map - or just take another one and ignore the layout provided altogether if you work with maps.

The geonee scavenger is but an afterthought, I had hoped after the race claiming to be the Ancients was mentioned, there would be a bit more relevance, but in the end it was just one of several scavengers.

Flower power (hehe) disturbing the ship really gives a lot of opportunities, not only to quell her anger (as the group would definitely have recordings of the moonlight ritual) but to bring her and the mother peace - and what about all the other children? They aren't mentioned anymore, as they were weaker than Flower, but one should think their spirits, too, would run along with Flower to cause mayhem, or at least be there somewhere lost and confused, probably projecting their fear onto the crew. In my game, I'd definitely rule that the only way to really free the ship of the haunts was to pacify all the lost souls.

With Strange Aeons has a lot of background information players may never find out about. I mentioned somewhere before that this is a pet peeve of mine. Either give them plenty of option to figure out the details - not just the basic story of the curse - or reduce background to the absolute must for the GM to fill in as needed.

The plot itself is slightly confusing. Why are the PCs doing what, again? Depending on the lead used it could go any which way, which makes this a bit of a sandbox, which is cool enough. However, as timing seems important, it will, with most groups, not be that easy to steer them towards the harbor in time - or you have the opposite effect and there are too many opportunities and the PCs don't find the road at all. The adventure seems like 2 stories entangled somehow, and it doesn't fit all that well. There is the beast at the bottom of the sea, which might never even appear, and then there is the bad guy killing noble girls to prolong his life, and the only reason why he needs nobles is that their blood has more vitality (which I don't find convincing). With less backstory and more adventure, this could have been a lot better.

Advantage The Hulk

Would my players have fun with it?

Definite YES to The Hulk. It's just the kind of research and recovery which makes the right mix for the people I GM for. With Strange Aeons, I am pretty sure I would have to rewrite it into half an adventure path to make it playable for them (and to be sure the beast appears).

Advantage The Hulk

So with a clear lead, The Hulk is the winner for me.
 

Wicht

Hero
Congratulations to [MENTION=34958]Deuce Traveler[/MENTION]. Looks like you held on to your title!

And good job to everyone else involved.

I would also like to thank my fellow judges for their work; and kudos to [MENTION=53286]Lwaxy[/MENTION] for slugging through what sounds like a nasty bug to help us bring this across the finished line.

Onlooker's feel free to pontificate on the contest, congratulate the participants, and give experience points all around. :)
 

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Congrats Deuce! I'm not surprised as I enjoyed both final entries.

It was great getting a chance to judge, I learned a lot about both critiquing and how to write and structure adventures. Looking forward to applying what I learned next year!
 





Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
Thanks, Rune! I plan to do a write-up next week, but I'm a bit swamped at work until Sunday. Thanks to everyone for their time, both those that had the courage to write and compete, and to those that took time from issues at home to judge.
 

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