Iron DM 2016 (The Complete Game Thread!)

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Like Clockwork

Balancing Act
Demonic Coin
Zombie Merchant
Triple Agent
Puzzle Box
Blood-Red Star
Horseless Carriage

Russia. Moscow. Red Square…

Steam rolled across the bricks of Red Square in Moscow. The PCs are here to make contact with a man in a scarlet wool coat and a bearskin hat with a blood-red star medallion on it. The hat is common, indicating a military man. The scarlet coat is unusual in a country that favors darker, less exciting colors. They were sent there by an acquaintance in the British diplomatic service to meet this man. They have no prior knowledge of him, other than his physical description. They have no instructions other than to meet with him. It is night, slightly rainy, and the square is surprisingly deserted. They find Miklos somewhat near the Kremlin wall, leaning on his unopened umbrella.

Miklos greets them warmly, embracing them, and makes small talk, as if he has known them forever. A pair of policemen drift into earshot. Miklos tells the PCs of a book he recently read, about how a nalfeshnee artificer created puzzle boxes looking like woven bones to trade with other demons. The demon called them “Xatross Khan”, coining the demonic term “twisted bones”.

Miklos continues the small talk and casually sizes up the PCs and the nearby policemen. The sound of a steam powered horseless carriage can be heard approaching. As the carriage come into view, a lone driver can be seen. The goblin engineer can be seen crawling over the vehicle’s clockwork engine, making adjustments and feeding more coal. The noise of steam, rattling wood and iron, and tires rolling on bricks fills the night.

The vehicle prepares to pass near the party. The policemen leap towards Miklos and grab him in strong hands to bum rush him towards the approaching vehicle. The policemen’s Russian is obviously not their first language, even non-Russians can tell. The party notices the policemen are careful to take along his umbrella and hat, which could be easily left behind. If the party reacts to follow them, they will hear them call Miklos a traitor to England and Her Majesty, in English. Miklos is not a fighting man, so they ably hustle him into the passenger seat of the carriage unless the PCs intervene. The “policemen” are British agents, well trained in unarmed fighting. They quickly render Miklos unconscious.

The Brits hope to get away all together. If the policemen have to stay behind to allow the carriage to depart, so be it. What the hit is primarily for is to get what is carrying in his umbrella and coat pockets. They will not give Miklos himself up unless they have to.

There are other horseless carriages moving through the square that can be used by the PCs, even though their owners may be less than cooperative. A carriage chase through the streets of Moscow would be exciting.

What happens next has a lot to do with what happens in the opening scene.


If Miklos is saved, he will have to get out of Moscow. He know his cover is blown. He is carrying plans to a new Russian steam landship in the umbrella, plans to an outdated British submarine sewn into his coat, and xatross khan in his pocket. He will give them to the PCs and tell them to take them to Buckingham Palace in London. Showing the xatross khan at the palace will get them escorted quickly to an audience with a grateful royal majesty. The exit from Moscow will involve avoiding aggressive British AND Russian agents eager to capture Miklos.

If a “policeman” is left behind, alive or dead, they will have an address to a safe house on them. What the PCs can get out of an interrogated agent is up to the DM. At least, that they are agents, that Miklos is also a British agent, and they consider him a traitor. The PCs may learn that the policemen expected to find British secrets on him.

The Safe House

The safe house is in the upper floors of a building under construction.

Getting near the building without the British agents seeing them coming is an issue, since one is always watching the construction site below.

The unskilled laborers at the safe house construction site are zombies. They are brought daily by their owner who gives them their orders and moves on to other sites to drop off more zombies. Zombies can dig and tote all day without complaint. It would be easy enough to shamble along with the zombies unnoticed into the construction site. They could try to slip in with the zombies shuffling along the street to work, hoping their owner does not notice. They could also try to convince the entrepreneur to go along with their plan to his personal advantage in some way. The zombie master is very organized but ruthless, not above obtaining new “employees” on the fly. He is a good man to avoid in most times. He has contracts for labor all over the city, and runs his business with deft clockwork.

The British agents are in an open space high up in the building. There are only an array of rickety narrow planks that haphazardly work their way across the building floors and rickety ladders infrequently placed around. Some of the planks and ladders near the hideout have been weakened or piled with debris to give the agents warning if trespassers are approaching.

While the PCs are working their way up into the building, they encounter Russian agents looking to free Miklos away from the British. The Russians are not formidable to the PCs, but are geared up enough to slow them down. The Russians are enthusiastic about recovering Miklos.

The British agents are interrogating Miklos. A fighter he is not, but resistant to interrogation he is. They are confused by what they find on him. His hat, coat, and opened umbrella lie on the table. Miklos will not tell them why he has the plans for a new Russian steam landship on him. He also has plans to an outdated British submarine. Another agent intently twists the xantross khan, trying to find out what is inside. Its magnificently tiny workings flow and twist in firm denial of his efforts. The agents are armed appropriately to give the PCs and any surviving Russian agents a good fight.

The fight will be spectacular, spilling out on to the building floors under construction, with all the props that allows to be used. If Miklos is freed during the fight, one of the British agents will try to kill him in earnest, suddenly speaking in better Russian than should be spoken as a second language. Miklos will defend himself with a poisoned pin protruding from the blood-red star medal on his hat.


If only the PCs showed up and rescue him, Miklos will confess he is an agent for the British, but that the British, except the Queen, think he was turned by the Russians. He will show them the plans to the latest Russian steam landship on the inside of the umbrella. The sub plans are a ruse for the Russians. He will show them how to open the xatross khan, which contains a picture of Miklos in a private audience with Her Majesty. The picture is signed, “To Our Most Loyal Miklos, V.R.”

If the Russians show up too, things will be very sticky if they notice the landship plans, or become aware of the contents of the xatross khan. They will probably be upset that their double agent has turned the tables on them as well. Even if the first group of Russians is defeated earlier, any escapees will bring more Russian agents. There are a limited amount of British agents in Moscow, but there are plenty of Russian ones.

The PCs and Miklos now have the sticky job of getting out of Russia. Miklos has few assets to draw on. He knows whoever catches him, he is unlikely to live. Both sides assume he knows too much. He will place his valuables in the PCs hands. The PCs have their work cut out for them getting out home to England. Like described above, they will be rewarded for their efforts if they return the items to Her Majesty. If Miklos survives, he will be long in their debt.

Failure at any point can be assuaged with some vodka and black bread. Unless they turn away almost immediately upon Miklos’ kidnapping, the PCs will be marked as characters of interest to the intelligence services.

Balancing Act – crossing rickety boards
Demonic Coin – term used by demon for his puzzle box
Zombie Merchant – supplies zombie workers for labor
Triple Agent – Miklos, English Spy
Puzzle Box – the xatross khan
Blood-Red Star – on Miklos’ hat
Horseless Carriage – steam driven vehicles in Russia

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
I'll have it in time.

Oh, was busy most of the weekend and missed that it was "PM". Carry on!

I'll work on getting my Match 1 Judgement done tonight, by the way. This week is a bit busier than last week, so we'll see if I can manage to write under 10 pages (and get to bed before 2am)...


Once A Fool
Round 2, Match 2

Balancing Act
Demonic Coin
Zombie Merchant
Triple Agent
Puzzle Box
Blood-Red Star
Horseless Carriage

Puzzle Box
An Expanded Adventure or Campaign Front for Dungeon World, adaptable to any fantasy RPG.

Each star in the sky is but a portal to another place, a hole in the veil that separates the worlds. Beyond, there are planes outside mortal reckoning. Some are mere inert places. things. An unmoving star, dim with gloom in day or night, points the way to the Black Gates of Death's Kingdom. Thither all mortal souls eventually must go. Until of late, that is.

Some unknown attacker has found a means to wound the very plane, while capturing departing souls ere they transcend the mortal world. Through its blood-stained star, Death's Kingdom rains a foreign ichor with each new assault. The constant deluge cannot be endured by mortal flesh; its touch turns life into undeath.

Elsewhere, beyond the mortal veil, in a domain of demonkind, three mighty demons reside, bound by immortal curse to work in precarious harmony--an unholy trinity. This demonic triumvirate, known as the Wicked Three, scheme incessantly to undermine each other while projecting a unified agenda.



Enigmatic and Immortal, Death's role in these affairs is indirect. Yet, often the lure of a return to life compels mortals to undertake his tasks.

When one of the PCs bargains with Death and is allowed to return to life, Death tasks them with pursuing the following three-fold agenda:

1) He would see the attacks on his domain ended, so that its wounds can heal.
2) He would see the captured souls of the newly departed freed from their imprisonment.
3) He would see the demonic triumvirate held in check, for their schemes threaten the order of all worlds.

In return, the PC's spirit is returned to its body, wherever that may be.

It would be possible to ignore these imperatives without immediate reprisal, but the PC will certainly meet Death again one day, and Death does not like being cheated.

Cerberus, Agent of the Wicked Three

Cerberus is a demon serving the demonic triumvirate in the mortal world. He is not their only asset, but is, perhaps, their most powerful upon the mortal plane. Thus, Cerberus is often given commands in secret by one master that run counter to the interests of the others. Cerberus is compelled to follow any such command unless it directly conflicts with another. In such cases, he does the best he can, though not without resentment.


The Rotten Prince commands that Cerberus trade in corruption, undermine the mortals' social order, and spread zombies through the land. Thus, Cerberus sells zombie slaves to unscrupulous profiteers and aspiring warlords, accepting payment only in the form of favors or a peculiar demonic mint of coin. This demonic coin can be acquired only from him--and only by bringing him people to be made undead. Cerberus is gifted with some minor tricks of necromancy and can control nearby zombies. When he sells a zombie, Cerberus passes this trick on to the new owner.

If the PCs approach Cerberus with the intent to enter the Bloodmire, he may offer to sell them a waterproofed carriage and a team of zombies to pull it safely through the Bloodmire--but only for demonic coin, or some future favor.

The Blood-Lord commands that Cerberus wrest control of the growing numbers of blood-birthed zombies and use them to assault the mortal world. To achieve this, Cerberus will slaughter one of the dark pilgrims camped outside the Bloodmire, seize and study his dark grimoire, and devise an incantation to extend by miles his command over undead.

The Overseer commands that Cerberus collect souls of the newly departed as they ascend toward Death's Kingdom, that they may be consumed. To this end, Cerberus has acquired a legendary artifact, a puzzle box called Sagacity, in which to hold the souls. Cerberus cannot capture all souls that ascend toward Death's Kingdom, but they are plentiful, of late. How he is able to capture them is a secret known only to demonkind, but the process is so violent that it rends a new wound in the foreign plane each time a soul would pass through the blood-red star. How he is able to trap them within Sagacity is another secret, known only by Cerberus.

Cerberus is commanded to keep Sagacity secure--even from himself, in case his other masters have learned of it and scheme to twist its use. When not collecting souls, Cerberus relinquishes Sagacity to the mindless zombies that mill about within the Bloodmire.

Once enough souls are trapped to satiate the Overseer's needs, Cerberus forces a learned sage to work out Sagacity's secrets. Alternately, if the PCs manage to acquire Sagacity, he may attempt to force them to do likewise before seizing it again.


The Bloodmire

Beneath the blood-red star lies the ever-spreading Bloodmire. Exposure to the foreign ichor here makes zombies out of mortal life.

Grim Portent 1) The Bloodmire crawls with zombies.
Grim Portent 2) Local waterways run red with blood.
Grim Portent 3) The Bloodmire seeps into neighboring lands.
Impending Doom: Zombie apocalypse spreads across the world.
•Convert a living creature into a zombie.
•Witness a soul fly toward the red-star.
•Attract dark pilgrims.
•Can the PCs traverse the Bloodmire safely?
•Can Sagacity be acquired?
•Will the blood-rains stop?

Agent of the Blood-Lord, Carnage Incarnate

Grim Portent 1) The Blood-Lord's agent slaughters a dark pilgrim and seizes his grimoire.
Grim Portent 2) The Blood-Lord's agent learns how to command zombies from miles away.
Grim Portent 3) The zombies attack all living creatures.
Impending Doom: The demonic balance of power is broken. Zombies destroy civilization. Carnage reigns.
•Slaughter an innocent.
•Encourage violence among mortals.
•Strike a bargain that results in carnage.
•Will terror turn mortals upon each other?
•Will anything beautiful remain?
•Will the PCs help Cerberus serve the Blood-Lord?

Agent of the Rotten Prince, Merchant of Decay

Grim Portent 1) The zombie ranks swell with folk captured through guile or force.
Grim Portent 2) Zombies are sold to unscrupulous owners.
Grim Portent 3) Zombies labor throughout the land.
Impending Doom: The demonic balance of power is broken. None pure-of-heart remain to contest the corrupting influence of the Rotten Prince.
•Pay a finder's fee for the delivery of a mortal.
•Throw a mortal into the Bloodfields.
•Trade in corruption.
•Will the PCs bring a victim to Cerberus?
•Will the PCs owe Cerberus a favor?
•Will the PCs provoke vicious retribution?

Agent of the Overseer, Master's Hound

Grim Portent 1) The Overseer's agent stops trapping souls.
Grim Portent 2) The Overseer's agent forces a sage to unlock Sagacity.
Grim Portent 3) The Overseer devours the souls as they escape.
Impending Doom: The demonic balance of power is broken. A new age of tyranny rules over demonkind and mortal alike.
•Capture a mortal's departing soul.
•Dominate the meek.
•Command zombies to protect Sagacity.
•Can the PCs save the soul of someone dear?
•Will the PCs have to go through dominated pawns?
•Will the PCs bow down?


An ancient artifact, so old the immortals do not even know its maker, this puzzle box was crafted to unlock wisdom with its solving, even as intelligence is tested. Although fashioned from humble oak, it is seemingly indestructible. Nothing, incorporeal or otherwise, can pass through it. Its cleverly interlocked panels are magically warded such that only some unknown trigger can release them.

An inscription appears on the outer surfaces, but is not constant through the ages.

With study, Sagacity can be manipulated to reveal a narrow slot through which allows some things to enter, but not escape. The contents of Sagacity affect the specific trigger needed to unlock it, as well as the surface inscription, but the thematic nature of the trigger remains constant.

Currently, each face bears one line of these lines:

Light in darkness, stained in blood.
Demons' omen, undead flood.
Agent of the Wicked Three:
Vengeance, Violence, Tyranny.
Debt of souls withheld from thee,
Must be balanced to be free.​

When someone attempts to open Sagacity after performing an action that brings events surrounding Sagacity back into balance, roll + INT. On a 10+, Sagacity is opened and all of its contents are released. Aside from the trapped souls, wondrous and ancient secrets may be revealed. On a 7+, Sagacity is opened only enough to free the souls. In their rush to escape, the opener may suffer injury from the spectral onslaught. On a 6 or less, mark XP. Sagacity remains unopened, but can still be opened in the future, if a separate triggering action releases its wards.

Possible balancing actions could include: achieving a balance of power among the scheming demons, balancing of the proportional shift from living creatures toward undead (likely by destroying many zombies), balancing debt incurred in dealings with the zombie merchant, or atonement for amoral deeds done in pursuit of demonic coin.


Firstly, sorry for the delay caused by not being able to get to this yesterday.

That being said, we have

Iron DM 2016
Round 2, Match 2
Imhotepthewise vs. Rune

In this match we have two very different entries going up against each other. Imhotep’s offering, Like Clockwork essentially gives us a one-shot type of adventure set in a steampunk mirror universe. Rune gives us not so much an adventure as a campaign backdrop of gothic horror.

In the matter of following the rules, both turned in on time and under word count so both adventures get the full 6 out of 6 points from me for that.

In the matter of Ingredient use, I think one of the entries was clearly superior. That is often the deciding factor in these things; let’s see if that is the case here.

Let’s start off with the ingredients I did not think was well used in either, and that is Horseless Carriage. Both had a horseless carriage, one a steam-vehicle, the other a carriage pulled by zombies. In neither did I feel the ingredient to be essential, so 1 out of 2 for each for using it, but no more.

I was not overly impressed with either use of demonic coin, though I think it was used better in Puzzle Box. I’ll give 1.5 out of 2 to Puzzle Box for the use, but the fact that the PCs could find alternate coin to use (such as favors) weakened the implementation. In Like Clockwork, the use is a cheat, in my estimation, not being anything substantive in the adventure, nor anything the PCs will find necessary to know. It’s just a play on words in the background. .5 out of 2 for Like Clockwork.

Balancing act was also used better, I think, in Puzzle Box. As a set piece, it does see use in Like Clockwork, but not an essential set piece. It’s brief flavor and then it is gone. This ingredient however, is an essential part of the framework of Puzzle Box, where if the demonic balance is broken, the world will end. 2 points here to Rune, but only 1 to Imhotepthewise.

There is a similar sort of mechanic at play with the Blood-red Star in both entries. In Like Clockwork it is a passing sort of color, but in Puzzle Box it is a vibrant part of the campaign that must be dealt with. Again, 1 point to Like Clockwork, but 2 to Puzzle Box.

Zombie Merchant sees slightly better use in Like Clockwork, but it is weakened by the advice that the PCs would be wise to avoid the man. Ingredients are meant to be integral to the adventure, not avoided. Cerebrus as a zombie merchant is stronger I think, and so again, 2 points to Rune, 1.5 to Imhotepthewise.

In both adventures, I think the Puzzle Box and the Triple Agent were well used, though slightly more flavorably in Rune’s entry. But in both cases, I will give full marks.

When it comes to usability, I think that Imhotepthewise’s entry is far better. Rune’s vision was quite broad and colorful, but so broad that as an adventure, it is weakened. It is really a campaign setting, with campaign goals, and a DM would have to craft individual adventures to actually flesh it out. It is also hampered by the presentation of challenges and events – a presentation the mechanics of which are obscure. I think I can puzzle them out, but they are not immediately useable. Contrarily, Imhotep’s narrowness of vision makes his ideal for a one-night sort of story. The main difficulty is that it is possible for the adventure to completely fizzle if the PCs don’t make the right choices early on, and there needs to be a greater amount of contingency for PCs that go off the rails.

Still and all, I am going to give Like Clockwork 4 out of 6 for usability, but Puzzle Box only 2 out of 6.

When it comes to style, I like both of them. I like the intrigue of Like Clockwork, and the macabre atmosphere of Puzzle Box. In both cases I will give 5 out of 6 for style.

In the end, ingredient use becomes the primary factor here in victory. Like Clockwork’s sub-par ingredient use prevented it from being a stronger contender. Rune’s is hampered by the fact that it’s not really an adventure, but a campaign world, but the strong use of ingredients allows it to overcome so that Rune gets my vote to go on to the finals.

Like Clockwork
Rules 6/6
Ingredients 9/14
Usability 4/6
Style 5/6
Total: 24/32

Puzzle Box
Rules 6/6
Ingredients 12/14
Usability 2/6
Style 5/6
Total: 25/32
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