Iron DM 2016 (The Complete Game Thread!)


Please Don’t Eat The Preacher

Starless Stream
Hungry Darkness
Forged Pardon
Dry Water
Arcane Gambler

After the Change, the land was covered in clouds and darkness. The impenetrable clouds did not allow sight of sun, moon, or stars. Mountains fell, rivers changed course, seas lowered or raised as they saw fit. Every day since has been pretty much the same.

Locally, the Kaintuck Bend became an island. The Misspee river flowed around it north and south. The river shift trapped a sleeping drow vampire who became known as Belle Noir. The creature could not cross the flowing dark water, devoid of the sparkle of any light from the sky.

The bend had a small settlement of religious fundamentalists who had weathered the change only to fall victim to the hungry dark horror that rose from the grave. The only inhabitant pardoned was the Preacher, whose mad ramblings, damnings, doomings, accusations of sin, and twisted foretellings initially amused the black skinned, black haired, black fanged, and black eyed bloodsucking creature bathed in shadowy garments. Among the many pronouncements, the Preacher waved his worn and floppy Holy Book at Belle, saying “You shall only leave here by flying over the reflections of stars.”

The settlement, now lesser vampires in Belle’s thrall, became the backbone of her plan to survive. To continue the supply of fresh blood, Belle built a grim casino, catering to the intelligent undead and outsiders eager to wager most anything of value. The cover charge for the experience was live food on two legs.

Preacher continues to rail against casino staff and guests, waving his limbs and his ever-present Holy Book. The lesser vampires fear his book. No one will approach him, out of fear or out of disinterest. In her way, Belle is fond of him. The word got around that the Preacher is to be left alone.

A hexslinging gambler named Tenn’see Mike learned of the high stakes gaming. He made it his business to learn as much about the casino as he could. He spent many weeks in Nu Madrid, north of the bend, watching, questioning inhabitants and passers through. He learned of the Preacher and his Holy Book. He formulated a plan to be the first human to sit at Belle’s gaming tables.

As the PCs pass through Nu Madrid, Mike makes nice with them, showing them card tricks and minor magical effects for entertainment. The PCs feel like there is more to this simple hexslinger. Mike offers them a job with a generous payment in advance.

Mike wants the Preacher’s Holy Book. If asked, he will freely tell most of what he has discovered. He offers to pay in advance because he will be following them in after a short while, and, without telling them, expects to use them as his cover charge, getting his money back. He expects to protect himself with the book, and, if found in his possession by Belle, will confess that he found it without knowing who its owner was. If the PCs ask if Mike has anything about Belle, he will say he can give her what she truly wants, if need be. At night by the river, he will cast a spell opening a small hole in the cloud above, showing sparkles of stars on the water.

Mike tells the PCs how they, as living beings, will get to the island. There is a magically dry tunnel through the water across the bottom of the Misspee river from Nu Madrid. A patron of the casino cast the spell to allow itself and fellow patrons to clandestinely transport two legged living food to the island for the vampires. The PCs just need to hold their breath and walk in until they are deep enough to reach the tunnel, and take another breath to walk out on the other side.

How the PCs obtain the book from Preacher is up to them. Publicly killing him is probably a bad idea. Making him quietly disappear alive or dead is better. They may double cross Mike for the reward money. They may attempt to bargain with Belle. They could use the Holy Book to protect them and gamble themselves, if they can arrange the cover charge.

If anyone bothers to look inside the Holy Book, they will find it is full of the scrawled recipes of Preacher’s grandmother. There is not a single holy word in it. It is about as dangerous to the vampires as lint. As a holy symbol, it is a forgery.

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5 + 1 Wizards

[h1]The Wager's Corollary
If the Gods are real, so are their Myths[/h1]

  • Doomsayer
  • Starless Stream
  • Hungry Darkness
  • Forged Pardon
  • Dry Water
  • Arcane Gambler

You and your friends are relaxing in the beergarden of the Red Dragon's Inn by t
he Ållmaiden River, watching and laughing as the group of five *very* drunk wizards are trying to gamble at the nearby table, or at least who can cheat the most outrageously, when the world ... twitches beneath you, and you feel the sound of a very large snap, or is it a crunch. Everything pauses, and just as you look up an
see a dark slit in the daytime sky, the seer of the game stumbles up and over to you.

The Pardon is lost.
The Hungry Darkness has opened,
drinking the healing Tears.
Death walks down the Starless Stream.
As below, so above,
the Starless Stream hides
the Forge of Forgiveness
in the Dry Waters.

The Allmaiden is more formally, and mythically, known as the River of the Allmaiden's Tears.

It flows past, or over, or by, a crystal prominence known as the Maiden's Regret, or the Maiden's Pardon.

The resulting waterfall (the Hero's Fall) marks the dividing line between the Allmaiden and the Mirrorless River.

The Mirrorless River is so named because, even though it is placid and smooth, it reflects nothing.

[h2]The Dark Opening:[/h2]
When the characters arrive at the Hero's Fall, they notice three things -
1) the rip in the sky, that has been getting closer as they traveled, now begins directly overhead,
2) the Pardon has been destroyed, and
3) the river, instead of continuing on, now falls directly into a cave that looks like a fanged mouth.

Examining the rip, the characters can barely see a black-on-dark shape of a three-headed dragon.

Examining the remains of the Pardon reveals what looks to be a shattered jewelry box with veins of crystal emerging from its sides; the interior holds nothing, but the veins converge towards to a spot in the center, almost touching.

Descending into this cave is difficult as most of the water fills the cave, and the tunnel is essentially vertical for the first several hundred feet. Falling is lethal.

[h2]At the Bottom of the Falls:[/h2]
The only light down here is what the characters bring with them. The river flows off and away. As the characters follow it, the air gets colder and colder, and they start seeing ice appear in the river. Eventually, the river becomes a solid stream of ice, though it doesn't appreciably slow, and the environment keeps getting colder. Not long after the river is solid ice, it starts fragmenting into chunks, though it still flows. At this point the characters can see a glittering in the distance. That is a large large of ice pebbles. Bright light will reveal something dark deep in the ice.

The ice is supremely cold, and water is instantly frozen and absorbed by the pebbles. Bare flesh takes damage as if exposed to fire.

The dark, buried object is the dried-out husk of a famous wizard and atheist known as Pazkwel the Gambler. He holds a ring made entirely of diamond and carved to look like a seed of the Worldtree. He is freshly dead.

From his body, the characters can discern a large dark altar-like shape at the bottom of the lake.

[h2]The Forge of Forgiveness:[/h2]
The Forge has a slot for the ring. If they place the ring in the slot, it is destroyed and a portal opens into the sky, where the dark stream is. A drawer holding a book, and tongs also opens. The pebbles all start falling into the portal. The book describes how to reforge the Pardon's Seed - the characters must use the ice pebbles, melt them together with their own blood, pour the mixture into the slot/mold, and then once set, use the tongs to extract it. Once extracted, characters have a short period before the portal closes, which is the only way out at this point.

When the portal opened Death's Guardian, a three-headed dragon spitting acid, exhaling poison gas, and spewing fire, came through and begins trying to kill the characters.

The dragon is dead, the characters are top-side, and the reforged ring is back in the jewelry box. As soon as the latter happens, the Pardon regrows, the Hungry Darkness closes, and the river resumes its course.


Round 1, Match 4
[MENTION=57112]Gradine[/MENTION] vs. [MENTION=34958]Deuce Traveler[/MENTION]
[MENTION=53286]Lwaxy[/MENTION] Judging

Your ingredients for this match are:
Jumping Beetles
Echoing Sounds
Nightmare Clock
Feat of Weakness
Wild Dogs
Pink Socks

Because I am posting this without either checking in, we will allow an extra hour lee-way for the completion of the entries. So you have until approximately 11 a.m. EST tomorrow to turn in your entries. Good Luck

Deuce Traveler

Iron DM 2016, Round 1, Match 4, Deuce Traveler Submission (Leaping Shimmers)

Entry Name: Leaping Shimmers

Jumping Beetles
Feat of Weakness
Nightmare Clock
Echoing Sounds
Wild Dogs
Pink Socks

Rule-Set: Envisioned for dungeons and dragons of any edition, but could work in a number of other rule-sets and technology levels.


Old man Wetherby has a pretty good racket going on. Every few months he hitches his wagon and travels to a new town to sell off the goods he's collected and purchase for himself some room and board. A shrewd trader, the man always manages to have a bit of extra coin on him so he can purchase earthly pleasures. Although the kind of expensive dining silver and rare pictures always changes from place to place, one item he continues to sell each time he moves is a worn, disturbingly-decorated grandfather clock.

The clock itself is garish; the type of thing that only the well-to-do might afford in order to show off as a conversation piece. The clock has a secret, however, in that Wetherby will set a hidden, special internal chime that is set to go off weeks or even months after he auctions it off. When this chime goes off, a large swarm of shimmering beetles erupts from a compartment devouring all organic material it crawls over. The fast, leaping beetles will kill for an hour, following a combination of sound and heat signatures as they kill every living thing in an operating radius that can include an estate or keep. The swarm itself communicates by mimicking noises, each beetle echoing the noise to the others in its swarm and moving towards the intended victims, splitting into smaller swarms against multiple targets, and leaping over obstacles, up stairwells, or even into high windows to get to their targets. Old man Wetherby decides when the chime is to go off, so he is ready to appear after the duration of the beetles' attacks and pick the area clean of valuables. He then stashes them for awhile until any investigation is over, purchases the clock through third parties, and moves again to another far off town. He would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for some kids and some wild dogs.


The recent mass slaughter of an entire estate or plantation has local investigators stumped and authorities call for outside help. All that were found of animals and people at the crime scene were skeletal remains picked entirely clean. Several small valuables have also gone missing, though the authorities are unsure of a connection, or if locals decided to take advantage of the tragedy and loot the scene.


There were two survivors of past attacks in different locations that the adventurers might seek out and interview, both surviving through fear-induced feats. One young man was passing by drunk in the fields of a plantation late at night when he was set upon by a pack of wild dogs. They had surrounded him, yelping and growling, and the young man froze in place since he knew the animals would set upon him if he ran. He saw the swarm of leaping, shimmering creatures bound over some hills and towards the dogs. One brave mutt ran forward and barked, only to have the swarm bark back and devour it. The swarm then split and followed the now-terrified fleeing pack of dogs down some hills and when they were out of sight the young man fled to the authorities.

A young woman was in a keep when the swarm attack occurred. Young and foolish, she fled behind a tapestry with nothing but her quivering legs covered with pink socks showing from the bottom. She wept quietly as the swarm went up and town the keep's steps, mimicking its screaming victims while ignoring her.

Both the youths recall hearing the loud chimes of a grandfather clock. Their stories reveal potential weaknesses of the swarm, which is that the swarm attacks by following a mixture of movement, sound, and heat. The rare color of pink is part of a color spectrum that does not register to the beetles. A silence spell can greatly disrupt the swarm, stopping the little creatures from echoing to each other the sounds of their detected targets.

Whenever Old man Wetherby is investigated, those near him when he is sleeping or passed out drunk will hear him mutter through fearful nightmares about the horrors of the clock. Just because he profits from the device does not mean that the man does not worry about his own survival should he ever make a mistake.

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Round 1, Match 3 Judgement

This round might be difficult for reasons far different than Rune vs steeldragons; after reading both adventures, my initial response was not "interesting" like both of their entries, but instead "what?" Both felt like walking into a movie you've never seen before 30 minutes after it had started - I kept on feeling like I'd missed something important to be able to really grok what was going on. Maybe it was because when I skimmed them both last night I was bleary-eyed from staying up until 2am working on the last match since both got better on a subsequent re-reads, but more on that below.

That said, the same note from my last judgement: "as a judge I will be expecting interesting, complete, and easy-to-run adventures even though as a past competitor, I know how brutal and limiting the 750 word count is and that what I'm expecting is practically impossible given how limiting that is. If I come across as harsh, it's because I'm expecting more than it is reasonable to expect from a couple pages."

So let's wade in.

[sblock=Please Don't Eat the Preacher]Appeal
Does it have any "cool factors" - things that will elicit "neat", "cool", "awesome", or, best of all: "wow!"?

Hexslinging gambler. That term alone is cool enough to launch a book "Old West Wizard" series. Turns out, it pretty much did. A vampire casino, reached by a secret underwater tunnel, is also pretty cool. Since two of those things are the core parts of the adventure, that's a pretty good start.

Does it seem like an adventure that would be fun to play and an interesting premise to pitch to players?

Let's pitch it: "How about a job stealing the holy book from a preacher stomping around alone in a vampire casino?" Its quirky, different, a bit silly. Not bad for a quick little side-adventure if your group isn't put off by how strange it sounds. Unfortunately, this adventure is 95% backstory with the whole meat of the adventure provided for the GM to run almost entirely summed up in the pitch sentence, like a "adventure hooks to get players to go to X" section of a campaign setting book.

This is essentially a cool location with a hook with a couple suggestions on how the GM can turn it into an actual adventure.

Is the entry fun to read or at least easy?

The first paragraph threw me off - most likely what my initial stumbling was about because today the rest read fine. Jumping in with "After the Change" threw me because, changing from what? By the end, I'd figured out this is probably Earth post-magipocalypse, but on my first read my brain was still trying to figure that out when it should have been focusing on hexslingers and meat-antes.

Also: "Mountains fell, rivers changed course, seas lowered or raised as they saw fit. Every day since has been pretty much the same."

I don't think it's intentional, but the second sentence made me think every day the mountains move, rivers change course, seas come and go. I think what you meant was "after the tumult, things settled to their current state" not "and the tumult continues unabated to this day."

Is the adventure clearly understandable?

Once you understand the river is probably not going to disappear, jump its banks, or turn to a lake, the rest makes total sense.

Is the editing appealing or at least legible? Are there typos?

A heading here and there might have been helpful, but being so short it's not a major stumbling block. I didn't see any typos.

Do the players' choices or, at the very least, their presence in the adventure matter?

If the PCs never show up, Mike hires some other armed band that wanders by to do his dirty work/be his blood buy-in and everything pretty much stays the same. The big effect the PCs have on the world is whether the mad preacher keeps his holy book or not.

Where this one kinda falls is that two player choices are the whole of the adventure. There's a huge chunk of setting, then the adventure essentially is the players deciding "How do we get the book?" and "What do we do with it now?" That's the whole of the adventure, right there. Maybe that turns out to be pretty cool, but that's entirely on my shoulders as the GM running it since the adventure gives me so little else to work with.

Is all the cool stuff buried in the backstory or do the players get to see it too?

The backstory is vampires, a casino, a river, a preacher, a tunnel, a hexslinger. They see all of those things to some degree or another.

Would this be fun and exciting to run?

It could be! If you are a great GM good at coming up with your own material with a bit of grist for the inspiration mill (like infiltrating a casino full of vampires to steal a holy book from a preacher) this could be awesome. Of course, if you are a GM good enough to come up with all the scenes, encounters, and NPCs that could make this adventure rock, do you really need pre-made adventures in the first place?

How easy (or difficult) would this be to GM?

If you were a newer DM - which I'd guess are the most likely to buy and run pre-made adventures - you'd really struggle with this since you'll have to come up with most of it on your own.

If it is linear, does it hide it well or will players complain about railroading? If it is more free-form, is there still enough structure that the GM can still run it without a ton of extra effort?

Where most adventures are a (preferably) branching road leading through interesting destinations, this one is a compass pointing towards adventure. It has a hook and a couple ideas on the sort of adventure you could make with it, but it's only and adventure in the most generous ways.

The Rules
Was it turned in on time? Is the word count within limits?

Yes and yes.

Are any ingredients used in an especially creative way? Was it clear what each ingredient was or were any obscure or vague? How essential are the ingredients: if I changed the words in any ingredient, would they no longer work? How interwoven were the ingredients with each other and how essential was each to the adventure?

Let's go through them individually:

Doomsayer –While he does a bit of doomsaying (is that a verb?), his primary role is that of mad preacher. His actual pronouncements actually hold no weight at all, the primary one damning the vampire to never cross starless water actually a statement of pre-established fact, not some new revelation and definitely of no power of its own. He does serve as the primary focus of the adventure, however.

Starless Stream It is indeed starless, though it is only starless by fiat. By trope, vampires normally can't cross flowing water. Here, it was arbitrarily added that it had to be starless, then the river also made magically starless to provide an obstacle. This could be replaced by "Flowing Water", which was added anyway to make it fit. It is not necessary for the adventure and serves mostly as a lodging place for the Dry Water.

Hungry Darknessthis is the drow vampire, though her hunger serves only as a prelude to the adventure and isn't relevant to the course of things. She might be asleep for the whole adventure for all we care unless the PCs try to bargain with her. She is both dark-skinned and a force of darkness, so that part does apply fairly well. She is the reason everything is the way it is, so she is key for the back story, though she need not even appear in the adventure itself. This could also be the darkness shrouding the world, though its hunger could be better established by saying "the impenetrable clouds devouring sun, moon, and starlight alike".

Forged Pardon the preacher was never pardoned for his holy book in the first place, he was pardoned because he amused Belle, so there was no forgery. If she had let him live because she feared his (false) holy book, this one would have been perfect, but unfortunately it was not used this way. It is key to the adventure as obtaining it and doing something with it is the whole adventure. Also, near the end it says "They could use the Holy Book to protect them and gamble themselves" but it seems Imonhotep even was forgetting that the book was a fake. If it said they could try to use the book and learn to their chagrin that it is powerless, that would make more sense.

Dry Water I read the tunnel as being a physical tunnel with the spell keeping water from flowing into it. If so, the tunnel is Dry of Water, but it is not Dry Water itself. It also serves as a means to bypass the Stream which is not essential in itself. For both of these, if Belle was stated to have a huge desire to escape from her island and devour the whole world, both would be instantly more essential (and her ingredient made stronger) as it is all that is keeping her contained. I never really got that she was struggling or overly ambitious to escape.

Arcane Gambler – Hexslinger. Hexslinger. Hexslinger. That word alone makes me want to play a mage next time I'm in a game just to wander around challenging other mages to duels. Mike is reasonably important, the ingredient fits well, but unfortunately his only real role is to be the adventure hook. If the adventure was actually written out so we could see him show up and betray the PCs to get to the big table, he would be more integral, but as is he mostly serves as a large gold exclamation point.

Tying them together: An Arcane Gambler provides a Dry Water path beneath the Starless Stream to steal the Doomsayer's Forged Pardon presumed to keep him safe from the Hungry Darkness. That's a pretty tight sentence which means, regardless of how well the ingredients are used individually, they are remarkably tightly knit together.

If I rewrite it with the less fixed elements modified: A Desperate Gambler provides an Underwater Tunnel beneath the Starless River to steal the Mad Preacher's False Symbol presumed to keep him safe from the Hungry Darkness.

Aside from their main use, were any ingredients used in other clever ways?

The Hungry Darkness as the clouds was a nice addition.


This is a setting with a few cool NPCs and an adventure hook, only marginally an adventure at all. This paragraph is pretty much the entirety of the part of the adventure that will actually be played:

"How the PCs obtain the book from Preacher is up to them. Publicly killing him is probably a bad idea. Making him quietly disappear alive or dead is better. They may double cross Mike for the reward money. They may attempt to bargain with Belle. They could use the Holy Book to protect them and gamble themselves, if they can arrange the cover charge."

There are no real explicit scenes, encounters, challenges, just a pile of suggestions on how you might turn this into an adventure. If I'm a first time GM, I have Mike pitching the PCs on helping him, a quick description of walking through the tunnel and... the rest is up to me.

Sure an experienced GM could make something really cool from it, but that's about the same as the fallacy that a difficult or flawed game mechanic is fine since an experienced GM can make it work. Just because I'm a legendary thief who can pick locks with a blade of grass doesn't make grass a lock pick. Someone out there could run a kick-ass session of Fatal, but that doesn't mean it's not still the worst RPG ever made.

Sorry, that went off on a bit of a tangential rant...

[sblock=The Wager's Corollary]Appeal
Does it have any "cool factors" - things that will elicit "neat", "cool", "awesome", or, best of all: "wow!"?

After reading this several times slowly, there are some neat bits. Rappelling down a waterfall, adventuring along a supernaturally cold, frozen river, taking a McGuffin to the bottom of a frozen lake, forging something(?) using a mold of ice and blood, and fighting a three-headed dragon are all cool.

Does it seem like an adventure that would be fun to play and an interesting premise to pitch to players?

The lack of transitions is pretty jarring, but let's see if I can figure out what happens:

In a tavern, the world lurches as a hole rips in the sky. A drunk wizard lurches over from a heated game of Arcribbage, spews a prophecy, the group hikes to a waterfall, rappels down it to an supernaturally cold frozen river, digs a sorcererscicle out of a pile of ice pebbles, forges a ring(?) from ice and blood to seal the sky, then fight a three-headed dragon to escape. That sounds pretty awesome, just too bad it took me ten minutes of reading, intuition, assumption, and analysis to figure that out.

Is the entry fun to read or at least easy?

This entry suffers from several major initial issues that make it extremely difficult to read.

The first paragraph is a massive, mangled comma-splice. I know you were rushing to get this posted, but that first paragraph is what draws us in and hooks us on your adventure. I read a significant amount of a wide variety of print media and I had to read that paragraph several times, slowly, to get what it was trying to say.

The Investigation has a serious case of name-drop-osis; in five short sentences we learn of and supposed to remember the names of 4 places(two of which have two names) and the relations between them(one of which could be named Schrödingers Pardon). I'll change the names so you can see what I mean:

"The Bloodfeast is more formally, and mythically, known as the River of the Bloodfeast's Tears.

It flows past, or over, or by, a crystal prominence known as the Feasts Regret, or the Feast's Pardon.

The resulting waterfall (the Monster's Fall) marks the dividing line between the Bloodfeast and the Flatsheet River.

The Flatsheet River is so named because, even though it is placid and smooth, it reflects nothing."

Let me see if I have it straight: The Allmaiden – formally the River of the Allmaiden's Tears – flows in some proximity to the Maiden's Regret, also known as the Maiden's Pardon where it forms a waterfall known as the Hero's Fall, thereafter reflecting nothing causing its name to change to the Mirrorless River from there on.

Even if I have that right, how much of that do I need to know?

"The Allmaiden flows over a crystal formation called the Maiden's Pardon. Beyond the resulting waterfall, the river becomes the Mirrorless as, past the falls, it reflects nothing." Same information, clearer, less than half the word count.

Strange typos ("a large large of ice pebbles"), excessive commas, sudden jumps to different parts of the adventure with no transition, a lack of explanation of what exactly everything is... it's too bad, because I'm pretty sure there's a cool adventure here despite all attempts to keep me from figuring that out.

Is the adventure clearly understandable?

No. How do we get from the tavern to the investigation? Why does this almost purely geographic information require investigation? Why do the characters decide to to this? What is the pardon for, extended from and to? Why is it a ring? Why would they go into the cave in the first place? Why is Pazkwel "freshly dead"? What killed him and what was he doing there? Why does he have the ring? Altar at the bottom of what lake? How do they get there? Was the dragon a threat? Right now he only seems to be a danger to people making Pardon's Seeds.

Is the editing appealing or at least legible? Are there typos?

There are typos, tons of unneeded commas making things more difficult to read, and the first paragraph was run over twice by inadvertent carriage returns, to name a few issues.

Also, if you are going to have information that is to be read to the players, maybe put it in italics or something, otherwise "you" refers to the GM. I'm pretty sure the GM won't be relaxing with some palls at the Red Dragon's Inn when they read this (though right on if they are!)

Do the players' choices or, at the very least, their presence in the adventure matter?

What happens if they don't show up? Um... I'm not sure actually. There's a big hole in the sky? It might be getting closer, but that could just be because the PCs are traveling towards it. Unfortunately, we don't know the stakes. They also don't have much for choices either: go to the waterfall, climb down, dig out ring, go to altar, put ring in slot, forge new ring, fight dragon, put ring in waterfall box(?), end. Entirely linear.

Is all the cool stuff buried in the backstory or do the players get to see it too?

The coolest part of this adventure is what the PCs actually do – which is great!

Would this be fun and exciting to run?

I'm about 75% sure it would be. I'm not totally sure due to the exact scenes and structure being so mangled by the writing.

How easy (or difficult) would this be to GM?

It's linear and spelled out, if some transitions were added along with a bit more editing and explanations of what is going on, yes.

If it is linear, does it hide it well or will players complain about railroading? If it is more free-form, is there still enough structure that the GM can still run it without a ton of extra effort?

It's pure linear. This seems high-level, so magic will handle most of the parts that otherwise would have required the PCs to think (rappelling down a waterfall, surviving the crazy cold, digging out the ring). It's a railroad.

The Rules
Was it turned in on time? Is the word count within limits?

No and yes, respectively.

Are any ingredients used in an especially creative way? Was it clear what each ingredient was or were any obscure or vague? How essential are the ingredients: if I changed the words in any ingredient, would they no longer work? How interwoven were the ingredients with each other and how essential was each to the adventure?


Doomsayer: A floating gold exclamation point drunk wizard that vomits out a quest then fades away. He does at least give a doom... except we're never told what makes it so terrible. "Death walks" and all that, but it seems like the only death we see is the dragon who seems content to mind her own business until the PCs start making bloody ice-pops. He does deliver a doom, but it could just as easily have been on a scroll or something.

Starless Stream: This actually would have been stronger if there was no Mirrorless River, because that's just Starless by fiat. If it was the Allmaiden now starless because it now flows underground, it would have been great. It is the main setting of the adventure (which is a pleasant change from the usual dungeon fare), but since it was already starless by decree before the tear in the sky its starlessness is irrelevant.

Hungry Darkness: I'm pretty sure the hungry dark is the rift in the sky, though maybe it's the dragon chilling inside. Ah, it's a double use, so the cave mouth that opened below the rift is the hungry darkness, devouring the river. That's a bit better, though it's the thirsty darkness not hungry. It is dark, because it's underground, though it could be "Hungry Cave" or "Hungry Mouth" and work just as well.

Forged Pardon: This one is forged as in crafted on a forge, which is clever, unfortunately I don't see how it's a pardon. This could be a bit of missing backstory on how the hungry dark is the punishment for some previous offense held in abeyance by the Maiden's Pardon. As such, Pardon could be replaced by just about any object (a ring in this case).

Dry Water: The river is so cold it sucks the water from you. Smart. The water is also needed to be forged into the ring. It is also is the Starless Stream (assuming it is the falls that renders the river starless) which ties them together well.

Arcane Gambler: The Doomsayer at the beginning. The gambling is irrelevant to the adventure and the only reason they are wizards is by fiat. They could have been praying zealots instead and it would have worked as well. Also the frozen corpse of the (randomly atheistic) wizard in the ice. He also is both arcane and a gambler only by fiat – we have no evidence he was either. It could just as easily have been "the dried-out husk of a little-known cheese critic and paganist known as Lewkzap the Jogger" and the adventure wouldn't have changed a bit.

For a sentence: A Doomsayer tells of a Forged Pardon lost, bringing the Hungry Darkness to devour the Starless Stream, requiring the body of the Arcane Gambler to be found locked in the Dry Water.

It seems fairly strong, but since several are only what they are by fiat, it could just as easily be: A Musty Scroll tells of a Forged Ring lost, bringing the Thirsty Mouth to devour the Icy Stream, requiring the body of the Cheese Critic to be found locked in the Dry Water.

Aside from their main use, were any ingredients used in other clever ways?

The rift and the sky and the cave I think were both intended to be the Hungry Darkness, though I'm not sure.

Though completely linear, buried beneath the layers of obfuscation of problematic editing, overly, excessive, comma, use, and a large number of sudden confusing jumps where transitions should be there is a pretty cool adventure (pun not intended).

As with most 750 word entries, there is clearly much missing here. This could use a couple editing passes to eliminate unessential stuff (don't give us multiple names for things, it not only confuses, but wastes precious words too), fix typos and layout errors, and add transitions and a clear hook. Some drunk dude spouting a vague prophecy with no obvious threat made me wonder why the PCs ever headed to the falls in the first place.[/sblock]

[sblock=Comparison]Again, I'm not sure how this is going to go. Before getting to specific comparisons, I know Imhotepthewise's Please Don't Eat the Preacher (hereafter Preacher) is much more readable, clear-cut, and is only marginally an adventure. I likewise know that The Wager's Corollary: If the Gods are real, so are their Myths: 5+1 Wizards (hereafter Wager) is a royal pain to read, has sudden jumps in action with no transition and tons of unanswered questions, but it also is undoubtedly an adventure.

Cool factorsPreacher has a vampire casino island and a hexslinger (HEXSLINGER!). Wager has forging a ring out of blood and ice on an underground frozen river before fighting a three-headed dragon. I'm leaning towards Wager a bit.

Other Appeal – Preacher steals it right here because you can read it once (well, twice if you get hung up on the first paragraph) and get everything. There are so many mental full-stops due to sudden jumps and unclear information in Wager that I doubt most people would even finish reading it. Sounds harsh, but I had a sinking feeling from the extra return in the first sentence that this would be a difficult one.

Preacher takes it overall on appeal as the cool stuff is so hard to get to in Wager.


Players matter and have choices – In Preacher, the players have tons of choices, but they are in the same way you have tons of choices in a park. We can play hide-and-seek, tag, capture the flag, eat a picnic, whatever! - because it's a setting, not really an adventure. If the PCs show up, it's still a cool setting, but nothing really changes.

In Wager, the adventure is a straight-up railroad. There might be a bit of creativity with some of the environmental challenges, but otherwise it's pretty limited. If they don't show up, I'm not sure what is at stake... the dragon chills in her rift or what?

This part is a wash as one is pure structure and no choices, the other is only choices with no structure and if the PCs never show up, I'm not sure anything of discernible importance really changes in either. (Wager hints at big things, but never reveals them).

Other playability This is a tough call since in Preacher the GM has to come up with almost the whole adventure in the setting provided while in Wager the GM has to decipher what the adventure is, but once they do, it's pretty cut and dried. I'll call this part a wash as well.

Time and word count – Both had correct word counts, but Wager was late. It was only 2 minutes, but remember where I warned in advance I was a stickler for the rules? This is that.

Preacher takes this part for being on time.

For future competitors: if you are late with a judge that is OCD about time limits, might as well take 15 more minutes to do another editing pass since you're late anyway. I've seen win (and lost to) adventures turned in as much as half-a-day late. Once it's already late, might as well make the most of it.

Ingredients – Preacher didn't have a single rock-solid, irreplaceable ingredient, but the ingredients were woven together about as well as I could hope for.

Wager had a couple solid ingredients on the other hand, but the weave was much, much looser.

I think Preacher gets a slight edge on this one.[/sblock]

[sblock=Conclusion]Closing thoughts (tl;dr of the above):

This was a tough match between a well-crafted, tight adventure setting with a hint of adventure smeared on at the end and a pretty cool – if linear – adventure presented like a half-built puzzle; it's probably good, you just have to figure out what it is first.

If Wager was cleaned up and clarified in a few places, some extra fluff stuff (like alternate names of things) removed, I'm pretty sure it would have beaten Preacher just on the merits of being 80% adventure and 20% backstory/setting vs Preacher's 20% adventure and 80% backstory/setting.

Thanks for playing, @GuardianLurker. I'm looking forward to reading any follow-up you have on this as I can tell there was a huge amount that was slashed from this one to smash it into a 750-word box and it deserves an unpacking to fill in the details as I can see the bones of something really cool jutting out of said box.

Congrats @Imonhotepthewise, you advance to round 2.

Last note, read through any of the winning first round entries from last year if you want ideas on how to make a 750 word adventure work. None of them were perfect, but pretty much all of them managed to lay out a complete adventure within the word limits.[/sblock]
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I'm a little disappointed, but understand. This was far, far, from what I'd consider ideal. Life happened, and while I had the initial idea locked down, instead of having 4+ hours to write it, I ended up with one. Unfortunately, what got posted was literally just a brain dump. As you can tell, seeing as how there's a line break in the middle of a word.

It also really needed about another 250 words to get it all in. I could have probably editted it down, but literally just didn't have the time. Honestly, I should have postponed to the weekend, as I know I'm a slow writer (12.5 words/minute, blazingly fast.... not), but 4 hours would probably have been enough, and I felt I owed it, giving the kickoff-kerfluffle.

What was missing:
Most importantly, the backstory, which would have cleared up a lot of the WTF? meaning issues.

First, this was all supposed to tie into a myth; the name-dropping section is the distilled info, as raw as it could get.
The other key thing in the backstory was Pazkwel - who is actually the Arcane Gambler, not the window dressing. In the backstory, Pazkwel sets out to prove that the god's don't exist by disproving one of the more well-known myths, and one that even (supposedly) left tangible, material evidence.

As an indicator off how big a difference the myth and backstory make, the Hungry Darkness was both the cave (and in a secondary sense the rift, but mostly the cave). The Starless Stream was supposed to be the actual rift - which mirrored the path of the riverbed. The Pardon, was the weakest ingredient, but the key point of the (missing) myth.

The myth basically broke down as follows - Hero God and Virgin Goddess are involved in a classic, long-drawn-out unresolved sexual tension situation. God tries to give goddess a ring; she throws it away, splitting the ground in two. Hero God goes off to fight Death, and dies, leaving the Virgin Goddess heartbroken. She cries over the ring, tears forming a river. As the tears flow over the ring, the tears crystallize over it, symbolizing both her regret and her too-late forgiveness. Oh, and during the Hero's fight, his sword cleaves a rift in the sky, destroying the stars, and providing the opening Death needs. The goddess' tears (and love) seal over the rift, and prevent Death from entering and destroying the world (though obviously making the inhabitants mortal).

Pazkwel figures out how to essentially undo all of this - assuming the myth is real; he believes/wagers it isn't. So he builds the altar in the cave below. He destroys the crystal and takes the ring. He then uses the altar to de-power the ring. At this point things went wrong for Pazkwel - if destroying the ring worked, he planned to reforge it and escape through a portal (just as the successful characters would have). But when he de-powered the ring (that twitch), the bottom dropped out from the bottom of the pool, and into his cave system. He drowns in the flood. The cold is an artifact of the de-powering ritual.

Failure consequences are classic "End-of-the-World" in the fullest sense - *everything* dies and the world is destroyed.

Frankly, the hook was something that would have dies in the first edit (except for the Doomsayer), but it had gotten into my head and would not go away. It's a tongue-in-cheek reference to the card game "Red Dragon Inn". It doesn't really belong with the rest, but popped into my head during the brainstorming and would not leave.

The entire adventure is a reference to "Pascal's Wager". Ideally, an adventure group setup would include a priest and a wizard at minimum. And the adventure could be easily set to any adventure; all that really needs to be tuned is the toughness of the dragon, and a little bit of its backstory to justify any lower level. Logistically, it'd probably work best at 4th to 8th in 3.x/PF. The availability of good divination and rapid/instant transport would probably reduce this to a single encounter.


The Elephant in the Room (she/they)
Iron DM 2016, Round 1, Match 4, Gradine Submission (The Torment of Thornhill Manor)

The Torment of Thornhill Manor

Jumping Beetles
Echoing Sounds
Nightmare Clock
Feat of Weakness
Wild Dogs
Pink Socks

Rosewick is a small village renowned for its floral gardens. At night, rose blights shamble out of the long-abandoned Thornhill Manor, on the edge of town, attacking and terrifying the villagers. They seek brave souls to investigate the Manor, and put an end to attacks.

Thornhill Manor
The manor house looked as though it were once grand, but now stands dilapidated; weathered; overgrown by flowering vines. The kennels lay in the corner of the estate. Legends tell of a masquerade thrown by the manor’s arrogant new lord centuries ago; the next day the manor was abandoned; its guests and servants missing forever. The manor was declared cursed and avoided at all costs.

Inside Estate
As soon as the PCs enter the estate, everything is instantly revitalized; and full of life. Servants rush past. Well-dressed lords and ladies in masks stroll past. None pay the PCs any mind.

The PCs are now trapped in Lord Thornhill's dream.

Thornhill is hosting a masquerade. On a successful difficult Perception check, a PC hears, on the faintest edge of hearing, the echoing sounds of a ticking clock. Every hour this distant clock chimes (no check needed), leading to nightmares (see below).

At the party’s onset, several ladybugs leap onto Thornhill from a nearby rose bush onto him, causing him to panic, flail about, and attack the bush. All the partygoers laugh at this feeble display of weakness; all save one: a beautiful pale woman in a black dress and flowery mask, who gives a knowing smile.

Lord Thornhill - New master of manor. Skull mask. Arrogant. Terrified of insects. Spends most of the party telling tall tales of his feats. None believe him.
Garrett - The kennelmaster. He is annoyed and distracted. He skulks off to kennels early.
Damascena - Secretly a Night Hag, out to curse Thornhill. Spends the party seducing him.

The Clock
In nearly every room of the house sits a large grandfather clock, which seems to be the source of the distant ticking and tolling. Time doesn’t seem to flow normally on it; at times it runs too slow, elsewise too fast. If a PC approaches the clock it disappears; as if it was never there to begin with. The PCs have nearly the full run of the house, save the master’s chambers, which are guarded and locked.

The faint bells toll regularly. These trigger, briefly, a nightmarish version of the manor. The building warps, and vines choke the walls. The nightmares last only as long as the bells toll (2 seconds per toll), then vanish, as if they never happened. Marked* events only occur if the PCs are near the NPCs when the nightmare triggers.

  • Thornhill* vomits two swarms of ladybugs, which attack party
  • Damascena* glares at the party
  • Garrett appears hovering; shivering and barefoot, whispering "help"
  • Rose blights attack party

Dream: Garrett retires here. He'll tell the story of a dog attacking Lord Thornhill, and being ordered to put all the dogs down. Instead he released them into the village, hoping they’d be adopted. He takes off boots and socks to rub his feet. The socks are stained pink, which confuses him.
Nightmare: Kennels remain in Nightmare until all PCs exit. They're flooded by 18 inches of pale pink water, filled with rose petals. Garrett's skeletal body hangs from a noose; shivering, complaining about being cold. His feet are underwater, perfectly preserved. Six blight hounds, large dogs corrupted by blight, attack the PCs.
If Garrett’s body is given his socks (which dream Garrett does not part with willingly), it thanks the PCs and tells them the full story: Rosewick is haunted by the night hag Damascena, responsible for sowing the villagers’ nightmares. The loosed dogs tore out her prized rose bushes. Incensed, the hag cursed him, Lord Thornhill, and the entire manor.
If asked about the grandfather clock, Garrett says the only clock in the manor is in the master’s chambers.

The nightmare remains permanent, and multiple rose blights attack the PCs, The manor itself seems to intent on stopping them, the overgrown vines grasping at them. The master’s chamber door is still locked, but easily battered down. On the master’s bed is Damascena, in her true form, straddling the sleeping Lord Thornhill, pouring ladybugs into his mouth. The grandfather clock chimes, and Thornhill briefly stirs. Damascena protects herself, but flees if endangered. Thornhill momentarily awakens before rapidly aging, dying and wasting away. The nightmare fades, leaving only an ancient, weathered house.

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