IRON DM 2020 Tournament Thread


Moderator Emeritus
I have read both entries. I am mulling. I shall probably continue to meditate upon the entries for the remainder of the year and then next year post my judgment.
Oh Wicht is judging? I thought it was Rune since he gave the ingredients. Just want confirmation so I can update the bracket!

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Oh Wicht is judging? I thought it was Rune since he gave the ingredients. Just want confirmation so I can update the bracket!
Round two and three features all three judges participating each match. The winner of each match will be the one that gets majority approval (either two out of the three judges, or all three judges unanimously). Ingredients were likewise picked by all three judges.


Moderator Emeritus
Round two and three features all three judges participating each match. The winner of each match will be the one that gets majority approval (either two out of the three judges, or all three judges unanimously). Ingredients were likewise picked by all three judges.
Reading the rules. . . or rather, reading the rules and than having them immediately escape my brain. . . is my weakness.

Match 2 thoughts and reflections, spoiler tagged for judges' benefit...

Wow, that was tough. My main problem was reconciling the different genres that the different ingredients obviously hinted towards - Binary Suns lends itself to epic sci-fi, stuck elevator to low-level modern-day, ogres and cursed swords towards fantasy. I thought about a WH40K adventure for a while, but reluctantly discarded the idea because WH40K ogres are called by the more trademarkable name of 'ogryn', and I wasn't completely sure the judges would consider them the same thing. @el-remmen's use of Spelljammer was clever - I didn't think of that at all, though I'm not familiar with the setting so I probably couldn't have done it justice anyway.

As I posted in the other thread, I completely threw out my entry with about 5 hours to go and ended up writing a new one from scratch. The discarded one was a D&D adventure marinated in obscure Realmslore - the Binary Suns were the intertwined and rival FR sun gods Lathander and Amanautor, a cursed sword had led a converted priest of one to lose her memory and regress to a time when she was the priest of the other, and her prior self's bardic associates included an ogre who was now redundant ... but after fighting with it for ages I realised I had 1200 words setting up an overly large and messy cast of different NPCs and their various goals and motivations and what actions they'd take if certain circumstances arose, but still had to write the actual adventure, and that looked like it would be over after one brief fight and possibly a conversation. I slept on it on the last night, and woke up with the final entry pretty much fully-formed in my head. It's not going to be as polished as I'd like unfortunately, and I can see some of the weaknesses of it very glaringly, but it's certainly better than the previous dog's breakfast.

Dark Paragon - G'Qaroc, the Great Old One who exists where there is perfect darkness. Not one of my stronger ingredients - it's a prominent feature of the adventure, and there's no shortage of darkness, but i needed to emphasise the Paragon bit more
Name Level - I'm kinda proud of this one. Level 5 in the old Department of Shakespearean Studies building. A literal level of a building that has been converted into a name.
Binary Suns - The twin suns of Praecipua. I tried to use this in conjunction with Dark Paragon - one sun casts regular shadows, but under binary suns there's a special sort of darkness - a paragon of darkness - where the light of neither sun reaches. I put in a line about starlight not reaching Praecipua either to try to emphasise the concept, but the writing here needed more polish and I'm not sure i got the message across adequately.
Stuck Elevator - The elevator in the Department of Shakespearean Studies building that brings PCs to level 5 and then grinds to a halt. I needed more word count to make this feel properly ominous, it was meant to be part of a weird and unnatural 'pull' directing the PCs towards the door to Praecipua. But structurally, it does mean that the PCs are very likely to walk the Name and see Praecipua before meeting Ffoulkes, which is important.
Cursed Sword - The alien sword that Pamir retrieves from Praecipua. One of my weaker ingredients. Sure, it's a sword and it's cursed, but its swordness isn't important to the adventure. That's one of the things I would definitely have tried to fix up if this idea had come to me earlier and I'd had more time.
Bardic College - Owlsley College and the Department of Shakespearean Studies. This was one of the last pieces to fall into place for me to make this entry hang together - it was a hard fit for a Bardic College in a modern setting, but a college department devoted to study of The Bard ... that could work.
Redundant Ogre - Professor Ffoulkes. @el-remmen and i both had the same idea here, the ogre being a redundant employee from the college. Originally i was being metaphorical and Ffoulkes was merely an ogreish personality, and that part stuck around, but I ended up giving him a mutated ogrish form to go with it.

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Wicht's Judgment of Round 2, Match 1
@humble minion
vs. @el-remmen

In this match we have two very interesting submissions, each evocative in their own ways. I find, as a personal note that while I like each of these, each of these submissions really trouble me with their problems, but they trouble me in such a way as to make me want to fix them, rather than just toss the idea aside. In its own way, that’s a good thing, because it tells me that each of these scenarios has definite potential. But which one has the greater potential? That is the question we must answer.

Our first submission is Humble Minion’s, The Playwright and Praecipua (Playwright), a Call of Cthulhu submission. On the one hand, I am a big fan of the genre; on the other hand, that is going to make me in some ways a bit more strict in my assessment, because I want my Cthulhu submissions to be done right, or not done at all.

Our second entry is El-remmen’s, The Fate of the Firebird (Firebird), a Spelljammer adventure. I only ever dipped my toe in the Spelljammer multiverse, back in the day, but I always wanted to get the right group together to really explore the material. Is this entry good enough to rekindle that interest, or is it going to remind me why I never did?

Both entries were turned in on time, and both entries are under the word count, using all the ingredients so we are good there as far as following the rules. So lets look at the ingredients.

Our first ingredient is Dark Paragon. A paragon is a perfect example of thing, and dark would seemingly imply an evil or malevolent such example. Both our submitters certainly interpreted dark in this way. I must be frank, that in neither entry am I exactly thrilled with the use of the ingredient. In Playwright the dark paragon is the dread Blossomer in Darkness. But there is no real explanation of why this entity is a dark paragon, or what it is a paragon of? Evil Flowers? Soul sucking madness? Now certainly, as a title, its not a bad one, and I don’t think it is one that I have seen possessed by other entities, so kudos on thinking to apply it in this way, but we want more than Lovecraftian prose for ingredient use, we want the ingredient to mean something. In Firebird, we have a potentially better use of the ingredient, maybe, when the paragon phoenix becomes an anti-matter, undead paragon phoenix of death and destruction, but… If the PCs play their cards right, this entity never shows up… So I am going to give each adventure partial points here, but it’s a wash as to which I think is better.

The second ingredient is Named Level, and here there is definitely one use better than the other. In Firebird, we are given multiple levels of an ocean-liner like space-ship, and they bear such generic names as Promenade, Deck 13, etc. None of these are particularly important, they are just potential set-pieces. Nothing wrong with set pieces but I am less than impressed with the use. Which named level is actually important? Any of them? None of them? On the other hand, the idea of walking a sigil like name through the level of a building so as to unlock a gate is rather clever, and I am very pleased with the use of Named Level in Playwright so definite advantage here to Playwright.

Then we come to Binary Suns, and here the situation is flipped. The binary suns of Firebird provide a time-table for the adventure, changing effects within the adventure and a potential denouement, one way or the other, to the adventure. In Playwright, on the other hand, the binary suns are just window dressing to let the PCs know they aren’t in Kansas anymore. Definite advantage here to Firebird. The twin suns, with their different powers is definitely one of Firebird's strongest ingredients, in my opinion.

Likewise with Stuck Elevator, Firebird has the better use than Playwright. In Playwright, the stuck elevator is not an obstacle to overcome, but merely a convenient way to trap the PCs for a while on the 5th floor. In Firebird, however, the PCs must unstick the craft’s elevator in order to avoid a fiery death in one sun, even though the ship will still end up plummeting into the other sun. But at least the phoenix will be reborn more positively that way, and it definitely plays a role in the adventure. Now, having said that, as a note for down the road, the idea of an elevator to steer a ship which is powered magically and steered through arcane means seems a little bit of a stretch. Most spelljammers are flying boats with a rudder on the bottom and no practical wings to speak of. Telekinesis doesn’t really need elevators. Still and all, Firebird gets the nod on this one.

Which brings us to Cursed Sword. This ingredient provides something of an impetus for both adventures. As an intelligent, suicidal psychopathic sword in Firebird which is intent on getting itself immolated in the sun of its birth (How do you forge a sword in a negative energy sun? One wonders.), the spelljamming sword is both a villain and a tool to be used. The sword in Playwright, on the other hand, is the hook and also one of the dangerous mysteries that the Investigators must unravel and survive. More than just window-dressing, the curse of the sword offers one way to die gruesomely as well as some insight into the mystery the PCs must unravel. The introduction of the sword, however, showcases to me one of the weak spots in the sword, and one of those areas where my editorial and writing instincts just made me want to step in and fix it. A pawnshop owner calling the PCs is just so… blah. It would have been much better if, for instance, the sword had been found at a gruesome crime scene, and the PCs had been called in as experts to try and identify it. Or perhaps it gets linked to one or two gruesome deaths before the PCs encounter it in some pawn shop, with a history that makes them want to find out more. Likewise the description of the sword says too much – “oddly proportioned and balanced if intended for a human wielder,” is just so non-poetic, telling too much. “With a hilt too large to be easily gripped and possessing a shape that made it seem as if the hand meant to wield it might have possessed more than the normal number of fingers,” would have been more provocatively Lovecraftian. The sword description just bugged me with how it was presented. But in the end, I call this ingredient a wash as to superiority.

In Bardic College we have an ingredient where I have to give the edge to Playwright. As a setting, a college building devoted to the study of Shakespeare gives us background, a place to explore and clues for the ogre to come, and its weaknesses. In Firebird, on the other hand, we have the Bardic College as being the place the PCs come from, but if this is indeed a one-shot, its not a place we are ever going to meet or really care about.

And then finally we have the redundant ogre. I must admit I am partial to this ingredient, as I was the one who supplied it, and it made me laugh evilly ever time I thought about it. I had high hopes as to how this ingredient might be used. Sadly, in both adventures, I feel like it could have been better. The professor at the heart of playwright becomes an ogre, true, but his redundancy is just background, and not really central to anything the PCs are going to have to deal with. Likewise in Firebird, we get a villain who is technically a type of ogre, but again his redundancy is just background, and not something to be dealt with. In each case we have an ogre, but I really wanted more to be done with the redundancy bit. So again, here we have a wash… Though let me just mention the interesting coincidence of having both ogres being college professors.

As I look down through the ingredients, I have to give the most slightest of edges to Playwright, but just. So we are going to have to go on and see how useable and appealing each of these entries are.

I am going to deal with personal appeal to me first. I like the set-up in Firebird, with a large spell-jammer, locked in a decaying orbit around two twin suns. This is a cool idea, especially with each sun making changes to the environment. I think this would make a great setting, and I want to see more done with it. I do think the table-setting is a bit clunky and lacking a bit of polish. Why did the negative energy sun turn all the NPCs into undead while at the same time, not threatening to do the same to the PCs. Why allow the positive energy sun to simply wipe a good number of the undead out, and if the undead were going to get wiped out, why are they still around when the PCs show up, assuming the ship has already done at least one orbit around both suns? How long has the ship been stuck there before the PCs arrive? Likewise, why only allow the PCs 60 hours to explore. The decaying orbit makes for a nice countdown clock, but it would have been cooler to allow the PCs a chance to experience the change from one setting to the other more than once or twice. Then we have the introduction of the redundant ogre to add a complication, but the explanation simply makes me go, “huh?” How did the redundant professor know that the ship was in a decaying orbit and that the sword planned to kill everyone? Why is the ship stuck in the first place if the sword, who masterminded all this, wasn’t even there? So the cool factor of the setting appeals to me, but the set-up lacks elegance and knocks down the entry a point or two.

And then we have Playwright. As I said, already, a Mythos setting rubs me the right way, and this adventure does several things just right for that setting. We have the cursed item which is both more and less than it seems. More because it is cursed, but less because the real danger is not from the sword, but rather from the entity using the sword as a gate. Likewise, walking the name of the level to open the gate is a very cool idea. The entry is marred somewhat by two things. One, as already mentioned, the hook is weak and could have been played up better. Secondly, the importance of finding the professor on the 6th floor, the question of why the professor is on the 6th floor rather the 5th (I know, his office is there), and why do we even need the 6th floor in the adventure anyway… This part of the set-up feels clunky, a little contrived, and less than organic. The adventure is going to hit a snag right about there, I know it, and I think it could have been avoided. So I am going to dock Playwright a bit there. Still, Playwright has just a little bit of an edge as far as appeal to this particular judge.

Which brings us then to useability. How practical is each adventure as far as use in gaming? In some ways, Firebird has the cooler action-set-pieces, with more scope for the imagination, with levels changing from negative to positive and then back to negative again but in some ways, I think this hurts it, because on the one hand, the adventure is very ambitious with its set and then it presents such a rather short time-table to explore that set – just three adventuring days. Unless the floors are too easy, then exploring multiple levels is going to take multiple days, but if the floors are too easy, they become less satisfying. Then there is the whole introduction of the drop-outs which is going to further slow down the action and I think it just needs some work to make it actually playable, especially as a one-shot, which means in four hours real time, which, from experience allows for only about 5-6 meaningful combat encounters. So as a practical thing, I am not sure it quite works. I want to see it work. I also want to see some explanation for things like the stuck elevator, why the ship got trapped in its orbit, and how did the ogre-magi know about the cursed sword. I do like the idea a whole lot, almost enough to sit down and try to figure out how to make it work, but it would take some work and playtesting I think.

On the other hand, Playwright presents a rather doable sort of adventure. There are a few rough spots, such as the hook, the 6th floor, and such. But again, I like the idea quite a bit, and wouldn’t mind sitting down, trying to figure out how to make it work, and I think I could do it with Playwright a lot easier than I could with Firebird, and in the end, still finish up with an adventure that the players will enjoy and remember for quite a while.

So all that being said, my judgment, as one of three judges, is that this round goes to...
humble minion, and The Playwright and Praecipua. We will have to see what the other judges think though… (and contestants, please wait until the other judges weigh in to argue too vociferously)

The Playwright and Praecipua (Playwright)
Rules 6
Ingredient Use

Dark Paragon 1
Name Level 2
Binary Suns 1
Stuck Elevator 1
Cursed Sword 2
Bardic College 2
Redundant Ogre 1 (total 10)
Useability 5
Appeal 5

The Fate of the Firebird (Firebird)
Follows Rules 6

Dark Paragon 1
Name Level .5
Binary Suns 2
Stuck Elevator 2
Cursed Sword 2
Bardic College 1
Redundant Ogre 1 (total 9.5)
Useability 4
Appeal 4.5
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Once A Fool
Round 2, Match 2: FitzTheRuke vs Iron Sky

@FitzTheRuke and @Iron Sky, you have 48 hours to post your entries to this thread. Please limit your entry to a title, a list of the ingredients used and 1500 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 1350. Later entries that are at less than 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 1050. Entries that are at least 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 750. 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:

Window of Opportunity
Nameless Things
Weird Magic
Unlightable Lantern
Occupied Mine
Old Ways
Faster Car

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