Iron DM 2016 (The Complete Game Thread!)


Congratulations to [MENTION=976]Imhotepthewise[/MENTION] and the other competitors who advanced. I'm looking forward to seeing round round two entries. Hopefully next time I can do better. Good luck!

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Deuce Traveler

With a word count limit of 750, I knew I had to keep my entry limited and constrained, which is what I sought to do even if it limited me on how to use the ingredients in the list.

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

One idea I had was to have the Nightmare Clock actually send out a Nightmare, that black demonic horse. I could have connected the Echoing Sounds to the Nightmare, as an impending sound of doom as the sound of the horse would have echoed outwards from the clock until it came through it and attacked those around. I was then thinking that Wild Dogs could come next connected somehow to a Feat of Weakness, and that the Jumping Beetles would come last, but I couldn't find an easy way to connect them to Pink Socks easily. The clock could have been counting down to three dooms that would come from it: demonic horse, dogs, devouring beetles. But to make this all work would have required a lot of writing, something not conducive to a 750 word limit.

So I decided to keep it simple. Some of the ingredients ooze with a potential for horror: the nightmare clock, jumping beetles, and echoing sounds for sure, so that was the core of the story. The pink socks seem more whimsical and not an easy fit, so I thought of having them stained with diluted blood, but that wouldn't work for the type of all-devouring beetles I envisioned to be at the heart of the story. Ultimately I focused on making the pink and the sock wearing significant in different ways, splitting the one ingredient into two related ideas: pink affecting the senses of the beetles and the young girl hiding behind a tapestry with only her feet being shown. That way pulling the pink socks out of the synopsis would make that part fall apart, thus making my pink socks integral to the tale.

Halfway through my brain storming, I knew wild dogs were going to be the weakest ingredient in my stew, and the judge saw right through that. They were tossed in decently enough, as a reason for the boy having been trying to stand perfectly still when the beetles showed, but they could have been swapped for bandits, or an ogre, etc. I decided that I could sacrifice having a weak use of an ingredient for narrative cohesion, and that I would just take the hit. If I had two weak ingredients I may have tossed my idea into the trash and started from scratch, but I didn't want to do that with a 24-hour time limit. When I have 48 hours I sometimes take a night to sleep on it before committing to finalizing a draft.

Anyway, that was my own thought process. I've lost plenty of matches where I disagreed with a judge's decision. A writer always loves his own work above others.

Deuce Traveler

I just took time to read all the other entries. My two favorite by my opponents are LongGoneWrier's "SPOOPY SCARY SCAREAWEEN" and Gradine's "The Torment of Thornhill Manor".


First Post
There are valid reasons for the 750 words, but that does not make critiques of the rules unwelcome and none of the rules are set in stone for next year.

I think the 750 limit is good. Really forces you to be concise and creative.

6 ingredients, 12 really if you count the adjective that goes with each is about 3 too many to my thinking.

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Once A Fool
I think the 750 limit is good. Really forces you to be concise and creative.

6 ingredients, 12 really if you count the adjective that goes with each is about 3 too many to my thinking.

No good. Linking 4, even 5 ingredients is sometimes ridiculously easy. 6 never is. That's why 6 is the baseline. IRON DM is designed to never be easy.

And, incidentally, some ingredients are expressed in a different number of words (even one, occasionally). But it doesn't really turn the ingredient into multiple ingredients; rather, each descriptor serves to narrow down each ingredient. It focuses the available options, but the ingredient still is one thing.


Steeliest of the dragons
As a writer, and editor, I can very much appreciate the "forcing you to pare it down" angle of the 750 words.

As a creative sort, visual artist (which fosters a bent toward -perhaps overly- descriptive writing style), and DM, 750 words is entrely too short for a complete adventure.

This could go two ways, to my mind.

1. Leave the contest as it is and extend the first round to 1000 words (maybe 1250 for Round 2? 2000 for Round 3?)

or, go at it from the opposite angle,

2. Leave the word count 750, but change the content of Round I to a more synopsis style write up/guideline. Like: I. Overview/Premise. II Use of Ingredients. maybe III is an Example Encounter or two, initial thoughts type stuff. Then we get to see the progression (maybe another scoring point?) from this original idea into fully formed adventure in Rounds II and III.

Rather than an expectation of a fully integrated adventure, with thorough explanations, deep plots, and integrated connectivity of ingredients within 750 words. As Iron Sky notes, it's a completely unrealistic expectation.

I can understand Rune's [I think it was Rune] point that Round I's 750 words is working as intended, it's meant to be the crucible (think Goblet of Fire for you under 40's out there). The names that remain (or float out of the Goblet of Fire) following Round I carry on. This is not, of course, the "Fluffy Feel Good Get-a-Ribbon-for-Showing-Up DM" contest. People need to be eliminated.

I understand, and vaguely recall from judging -admittedly some years ago now, that it is also a good amount of time and effort for the judges to be reading through these things...trying to piece together what may [or may not] be intended, themes, use of ingredients -comparing/contrasting who [in our completely mortal and fallible opinions] used what "better," checking typos/grammar (for some of us a larger deal than others). It's work. No question. And keeping the first barrage of entries (since they will be the most in number) shorter makes complete logistical sense.

I just think, for Round I, either the word count OR the expectations are a bit too...constricting. And it might behoove whoever the planning council is for future rounds/contests, to take a look at that and decide which is more realistically expanded.


Edit: I'm now also very curious to hear this story :)

It was, I believe, the second ever Iron DM tournament. Three of the ingredients given for the round were Mast, Ghost, and Dryad. My adventure idea incorporated them all together, so that the ghost of a dryad was haunting the ship in which the mast had been made from her tree. Her haunting had caused the ship to crash, and now the hulk was the adventure sight. It was a rather nice blend of the ingredients (proving also Rune's point that sometimes blending the ingredients together is surprisingly easy.) I thought I had the round in the bag. The judge liked the other entry better. It was the first rather controversial Iron DM judgment, but now, fifteen years later, I am almost over it, and hardly ever bring it up more than once or twice a year.


2. Leave the word count 750, but change the content of Round I to a more synopsis style write up/guideline.

In fairness, all the entries are supposed to be providing a synopsis. It's even in the rules. I do sometimes think that people forget this (judges are sometimes guilty too).

The Rules said:
Each match will consist of two contestants given a single set of ingredients with which to construct a brief adventure outline or synopsis.

For myself, I try to approach the content, when I submit, as providing what you would reasonably expect to provide in a published adventures Background and Summary. In a standard 15,000 word adventure, you don't necessarily want to do much more than 750-1500 words of introductary matieral.

Also, I find it helpful, and have used this technique, of providing encounter information in bullet points, rather than paragraph form.
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Steeliest of the dragons
In fairness, all the entries are supposed to be providing a synopsis. It's even in the rules. I do sometimes think that people forget this (judges are sometimes guilty too).

Yes. Of course you're right. But what is read and expected (by most contestants and many judges) seems to be "Write an adventure." I'm simply suggesting the "focus" (for lack of a better word, I guess) on Round I could be the "sketchy" outline idea - in 750 words. That's just the first thing that came to mind.

You could, maybe/instead, simplify it by using less than 6 elements in Round 1. Start with 4. Then 6 in Round II, and you still get to 8 in Round III!

I'm just throwing my vote into the ring that I agree/concur/think 750 is too low. I'd vote [if we were voting] to raise it to 1,000 words. I think that's plenty constraining and would -no doubt in my case- still require a lot of thought and editing/paring down.

If it stays [by consensus or desire] 750, simplify the Round by some other means. That's all I'm suggesting.

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
So, I can’t apologize for giving the PCs free rein. Good NPCs make good adventures, and this entry has plenty of options for good roleplaying, combat, stealth, or magic use.

The way I see it, if you are the sort of GM looking to "give players free reign" you're probably not going to be drawn to pre-made adventures, more setting books that give you ideas that you can plunk your PCs down in and run with. I absolutely think that your adventure makes a great setting, but if I was a new GM who bought it expecting to read it an hour before the game started and be able to run it, I would be sorely disappointed.

You gave histories, geography, some motives, and a hook, then said "have fun!" Ironically, I've never actually bought or run a pre-made adventure (I actually didn't know they existed until the first time I entered IronDM), but I get why people would buy them. You want neat situations, interesting scenes to present, detailed environments to interact with, tough choices to throw at your players, and you want to do it without having to design it all yourself.

I actually didn't know pre-made adventures existed until I entered IronDM for the first time and have never actually run one, but I'd assume that they are mostly for DMs that don't have the time, energy, experience, or willingness to craft their own. Your adventure gives them a rich setting to play with, but almost no structured pacing, scene layout, or adventure flow. Here's a rough equivalent:

"The PCs' boss, the ruthless sociopath Jimmy Joffa gets transferred via armed motorcade to the Federal Courthouse next week for his trial. The judge Welma Story, is a hardliner on organized crime, but it wouldn't be too hard to find out where her daughter goes to private school. Then there's paranoid Sally McTavit, a leak in the police force that might be able to get the location of safe-house where the key witness is being held if the price is right."

That's about what your adventure is like. A distinct setting, some cool stuff to do, some distinct personalities, a choice of paths, and a bunch of inspiration that a GM can use to put together a cool adventure... if they are willing to spontaneously put together the scene when they PCs bust their boss from the armed convoy OR sketch out a private school and some complications with the kidnapping and interactions with the judge OR figure out what McTavit's price is and design a safe house location, security detail, witness, etc.

You've given a rich scenario for a GM to play with - which makes sense given your Dungeon World predilections (DW rocks!) - but there's still a tremendous amount of work a GM would be required either before the game or improvised on the go to actually make it an adventure.

Even though I personally prefer more open-ended adventure scenarios like you present to let me fill in all the creative details, I don't believe that's what most people look for in a pre-made adventure.

As far as making a complete adventure in 750 words, I think most of the winning first round entries from last year pulled it off. None of them were perfect - generally a bit too linear or a bit loose - but pretty much all of them managed to lay out a complete adventure within the word limits.

As hard as the 750 word, 6 ingredient, 24 hour time limit is, I think it's perfect. One of my first round entries from years ago was twelve pages long and I can't tell you how much my IronDM and writing skills improved trying to compress it to two. I could see 1000 words as well, however...

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