IRON DM 2020 Tournament Thread


Once A Fool
It’s finally here, folk! The IRON DM 2020 Tournament begins. Herein, seven challengers will attempt to dethrone the current champion by testing their adventure-writing skills through three grueling rounds (if they can last that long!) of intense head-to-head matches.

This year’s judges will be:

, one of last year’s judges and the IRON DM of 2017.

Wicht, a competitor from the earliest days, a seasoned judge, and the IRON DM of FALL 2002 and 2013.

Rune, a once-frequent competitor, the IRON DM of SPRING 2002, and a not-infrequent judge of tournaments past.

Our Contestants:

1: Iron Sky (IRON DM 2009, 2019)
2: el-remmen (IRON DM SUMMER 2003)
3: FitzTheRuke
4: CleverNickName
5: practicalm
6: humble minion
7: Neurotic
8: Kobold Stew

The Basics:

The tournament is set up in a single-elimination bracket style, with each match determined based on scheduling availability among the eligible contestants within the match’s tier.

Each match consists of two contestants given a single set of ingredients with which to construct a brief adventure or adventure synopsis in any game system or genre. You should waste neither time, nor words, on overly detailed stats, but you should also not assume familiarity with any given system or genre. Explain what you need to explain, and stop there!

These entries will be evaluated on their own merits and those evaluations will then be compared to determine the winner of a match, who will then proceed to the next round.

All matches will be given a time-frame to submit the entries within. An entry that is late will still be accepted, but with a penalty applied to its word-limit. Late entries that are less than 1 hour late will have their word-limits reduced by 10% (meaning, for example, a first-round entry would have its word-limit reduced from 750 to 675, which is harsher than it looks). Entries that are at least 1 hour late, but less than 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced by 30%. Entries that are at least 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced by 50%. Entries that are at least 2 days late may be disqualified at the discretion of the other competitor and judges. Entries that exceed their word-limits will be considered to end once they reach that limit; we will ignore everything after.

Obviously, you really want to avoid being late, especially in the first round, but life happens, and sometimes you just can't make it. In such cases, you should take the extra time (before your next threshold) to polish your entry with your new word-limit in mind. It won't be easy, but you might still win. Even if you don't win, you may at least find the judgement enlightening for future IRON DM tournaments!

Entries are expected to make good use of all of the ingredients submitted. The ingredients should be creatively applied, well-integrated, and fundamentally necessary to the adventure that they are used in. This is the crux of the tournament, so don't think that maybe (for example) doing a good job with three ingredients will be enough, as long as you can craft a better adventure! I wouldn't count on it, if I were you.

Finally, matches have traditionally (but not always!) had exactly six ingredients. This will not be the case in this tournament. The list of required ingredients will get longer as the rounds progress!


All entries are to be submitted with the list of ingredients at the top and are not to be edited, once submitted. Let me repeat that last part: DO NOT EDIT YOUR POST, ONCE YOU HAVE SUBMITTED IT! Check your work before you send it in. Then check it again. We will not look favorably upon any entry that has been edited and may penalize the entry as we see fit, including, possibly, outright disqualification. Part of the challenge of IRON DM is in the development and use of discipline in editing and time-management.

Please do not expect us to follow links within your entry. You may include links for others to follow if you choose to do so, but understand that any information that is necessary to the entry must be in the actual entry. We will be reading each entry multiple times and, thus, unlikely to also be willing to go outside the entry to find context for it. More importantly, expecting outside sources to carry the load of exposition very much defeats the purpose of the word-limit.

Along those lines – I reiterate: we will be reading each entry multiple times. Please don't make that difficult for us. Don't bore us and don't make our eyes bleed. Please.


Each of the first-round matches will have a single judge. The second- and third-round matches will have the full panel of three. As I said before, each entry will be judged on its own merits and then the two competing entries' critiques will be compared for the final judgement. In the latter rounds, the majority opinion will determine the victor. Different judges have traditionally had different processes to arrive at such outcomes – for instance, some may use a point-based grading chart, while others may prefer a more abstract analysis.

We will endeavor to be Nemmerelesque in our judgements – critical, but also fair and constructive in that criticism. It's tradition. Even so, please understand that not everybody will agree with every decision that we make – that's the nature of the game. Traditionally, trying to figure out what the judge will want to see is all part of the game (though not necessarily a recommended strategy) – and that can lead to some undesired outcomes. It can sting sometimes (believe me, I know!), but it is a game. Let's have some fun with it!

That said, those wishing to gain a little insight into the judges’ thinking will need to do a little research to do so, but the information is out there. Be warned, though! We may have changed our thinking on some of these things within the last couple of decades!

Round 1: The Crucible

All matches in the first round will have a 24 hour time-limit! All matches in the first round will have six ingredients, all of which are to be used in each entry. Entries in these matches will have a 750 word limit, not including the title and ingredients list. Any descriptions or definitions of ingredients included with the list will count against the limit! That may not seem like a lot, but I assure you, it's even less than you think! Contestants who win their Round 1 matches will proceed to Round 2.

Round 2: The Refinement

All matches in the second round will have a 48 hour time-limit. These matches will each have seven ingredients, all of which are to be used in each entry. Entries in these matches will have a 1500 word limit, not including the title and ingredients list. Any descriptions or definitions of ingredients included with the list will count against the limit! Contestants who win their Round 2 matches will proceed to Round 3.

Round 3: The Tempering

The third round match will also have a 48 hour time-limit. This match will use eight ingredients, all of which are to be used in each entry. Entries in this match will have a 2000 word limit, not including the title and ingredients list. Any descriptions or definitions of ingredients included with the list will count against the limit! The contestant who wins this match will become the IRON DM 2020!

Scheduling, Discussing, and Spectating:

To keep down the clutter, scheduling for all matches will take place elsewhere, in the scheduling thread.

This tournament thread will be used to list the ingredients and the judgements for each match, as well as the entries, themselves. Commentary and good-natured trash-talking will also be welcome in this thread, but, please, if you are commenting on an entry that has not yet been judged, hide that commentary with spoiler tags,
like this,
so that the judges can view the entries with fresh eyes!

If spectators would like to play the home game, please feel free to do that in another thread.

One final note:

Once these tournaments have been completed, we try to archive them on these boards for posterity, and so that the adventures can be run or plundered by future Internet generations. We make no claim of ownership over the entries, but we do request that you do not remove or alter your entries once the tournament has concluded.

The challenge begins! Let’s get into it!

Round 1: The Crucible

Match 1:
el-remmen vs. practicalm. Rune’s judgement.
Match 2: humble minion vs. Kobold Stew. Gradine’s judgement.
Match 3: FitzTheRuke vs. Neurotic. Wicht’s judgement.
Match 4: CleverNickName vs. Iron Sky. Rune’s judgement.

Round 3: The Tempering

Championship Match:
FitzTheRuke vs. humble minion. Gradine’s judgement. Wicht’s judgement. Rune’s judgement.

el-remmen has provided a bracket visual to track the progress of the tournament. It is up-to-date with the completed standings and, thus, reveals the victors of every match. It can be found in this post.

el-remmen and Iron Sky have agreed to participate in an exhibition match to determine a 3rd-place winner in this tournament. This match will be quick, using the oldest of skool-rules:

1 hour. 6 ingredients. No word-limits.

3rd-Place Match: el-remmen vs. Iron Sky. Gradine’s judgement. Wicht’s judgement. Rune’s judgement.

Congratulations to el-remmen for becoming the 3rd-place contender for the 2020 IRON DM Tournament!
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I plan on living forever. Or die trying.
Well, use all our nicks as ingredients. Humble minion cooks neurotic kobold stew of el-remmen with practicalm attitude :p


Once A Fool
Round 1, Match 1: el-remmen vs practicalm

@el-remmen and @practicalm, you have 24 hours to post your entries to this thread. Please limit your entry to a title, a list of the ingredients used and 750 additional words. Be aware: if you include descriptions of your ingredients with the ingredients list, those descriptions will count against your word-limit! Entries that exceed their word-limits will be considered to end once they reach that limit; everything after will be ignored.

The judges will be using to ensure that our counts are consistent.

Please include your list of ingredients at the beginning of the entry and please do not edit your post once it is submitted. Please refrain from reading your opponent's entry until after you have posted your own. You are on your honor to do so.

Entries that are between 1 and 59 minutes late will have their word-limits reduced to 675. Later entries that are at less than 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 525. Entries that are at least 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 375. Entries that are at least 2 days late may be disqualified at the discretion of the judge with consent from the match's opposing competitor.

Your ingredients are:

Measured Step
Foreign Coin
Dream Surf
Silver Star
Heavy Metal
Disguise Kit



You Can Lead a Horse to Water​

Measured Step
Foreign Coin
Dream Surf
Silver Star
Heavy Metal
Disguise Kit

Adventure for low level heroes in a fantasy setting.

Local merchant, Wulfwin Jordan, approaches the heroes to escort his prized racehorse, Silver Star, from Redhorn, their current location, to Thalberg, a city 2 days away, and return with the payment.

The job pays 25 silver each.
Heroes can try to increase the fee 50 silver each with a DC 17 persuasion or intimidation check
The merchant expect them at dawn tomorrow

The heroes learn Wulfwin controls the local mines no roll required
A DC15 investigation check provides a rumor the mines are no longer profitable.
A DC20 Investigation check reveals Wulfwin seems to be selling a lot of his possessions
A DC18 nature check provides a rumor that crops are not doing well

At the estate, the heroes are shown Silver Star.
If the heroes can talk to animals, Silver Star says he is looking forward to the trip.
The groom gives the heroes a disguise kit if they think they need to disguise Silver Star to avoid trouble

On the first day of travel the heroes find a damaged bridge. The repair crew points out the ford just upriver.
Silver Star hesitates to cross the river. The hero leading Silver Star must make an animal handling roll of DC14 for Silver Star to cross
On failure, Silver Star bolts and the hero must make a DC 13 DEX check or fall in the water
If Silver Star bolts, heroes need to make a group animal handling check or be able to talk to Silver Star.
A failure means spending 4 hours chasing the horse.
On a DC 13 Perception, Nature or Tracking check while crossing the ford, the heroes see troll tracks that are a few days old.
If they follow the tracks, they notice the distance between the steps seems unusually far. If the heroes measure the steps they find the Troll would have to be 20 feet tall.
Any character with tracking, nature, or investigation skill to see the troll tracks turn into small humanoid tracks.
If the heroes follow the humanoid tracks, they come to a door in the hillside.
Two gnome children appear at the door and pretend to know nothing about any trolls or troll tracks. The children say their parents are repairing the bridge.
If the heroes visit the parents, they thank the heroes for letting them know about their children’s prank and give the heroes a horse brush with an enchantment speeds up brushing animals (10 minutes instead of an hour)

If the heroes use the brush, the disguise on Silver Star comes off and it becomes clear that this horse isn’t Silver Star. The heroes can put the disguise back or return to Redhorn

After the bridge, the heroes find an inn to spend the night.
On the second day, the road runs alongside a large river. Heroes will notice that the river seems to be unusually high. Eventually, a nymph named Dream Surf, calls to the heroes and asks to trade for the horse
Dream Surf offers them a chest filled with foreign coins of usual type (mostly silver with some copper and gold).
Investigating the chest DC18 reveals a hidden map to a pirate crew’s treasure (The Black Teeth)
If the heroes don’t trade for the horse, the nymph will use its siren song to draw Silver Star to the water. Once in the water the nymph and the horse will swim away

When the heroes get to Thalberg and have the horse, a careful inspection by the buyer shows that this horse is not Silver Star. The buyer sends the heroes back to Redhorn
The heroes try to find Dream Surf but she has forgotten that she wanted the horse.

When the heroes return to Redhorn, they find the merchant’s estate empty.
The day after the heroes left, a local priest found that heavy metal from the mine tailings were leaching into the water supply and affecting the crops and children.
The merchant escaped just ahead of the mob.

Heroes have the horse, the local magistrate takes it.
Heroes don’t have the horse, they local magistrate demands the payment
When the townspeople learn about the disguised horse, the heroes are said to be affected by the heavy metal
Heroes give up the treasure from the nymph, they get their original payment

If the heroes hide the chest of coins, when they start using the coins The Black Teeth will show up looking for the chest

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