IRON DM 2020 Tournament Thread


Round 1, Match 3: FitzTheRuke and Neurotic
@FitzTheRuke and @Neurotic, 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:

Cold Lava
Befuddled Werewolf
Despondent Marine
Woods: Sunlit and Shallow
Jumping Coins
Cheating Death

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Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Agreed on the challenge faced with these ingredients, but what a fun opportunity, for which I thank everyone. The 400-words I started with were abandoned in the morning. For me the tension I struggled with was between Divine Pestilence and Civilized Magic. I felt there were default expectations I could use for that, but I wanted to go deeper. I’m a bit uncomfortable “showing my workings” like this, but since it seems to be part of the exercise, here goes.

After a preliminary foray with a three-way conflict between tech-wielding gnomes, snooty magicians going by the book, and wild druids for control of a lone tower in a plain (shades of the fourth Elric novel, probably), I settled in with a reincarnated dwarf barbarian now in the body of a gnome. That was the result of the divine pestilence, but the more I tried to make is consistent within world, the more space it took and importantly the more it was about the NPC and not about the players. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun writing it, especially trying to balance a presumptive cutseyness of gnomes with the dourness of dwarves:

“The power of the flower tower bower,” the small creature in front of you grumbles, “is sour.” His large-nosed companion, also a gnome, seems reluctant to speak. Eventually he does. “The god-rot’s fraught. We’re squat. Distraught.” He groans, and brings his axe down on the table. It is not the first piece of furniture he has destroyed since he met you.

I even had rhyming section names: The Pitch, the Hook, the Sitch, the Nook, the Witch, the Book. But that was all for me, not the players. It was self-indulgent, so it was all scrapped in the morning, and rather than having Reincarnation shenanigans, I went for a low-level rat-clearing experience builder that is standard now in online rpgs. I think the failed first draft was really good for my entry -- I can see how it shaped what I ended up with, but I don't like throwing away an idea I'm having fun with. But I did.

I wanted to do something with Divine Pestilence, and the idea of a sentient swarm with a passable Wisdom score seemed fun (shades of Vernor Vinge’s Fire in the Deep) – they could become divine casters, and since I like to play Druids, they could be the unwitting victims of the (deceptive, eventually rampaging) Gnomes. So there was the beginning of my double-cross, which just needed to be turned triple.

The Fool’s Errand and the Triple Cross had to be about the players, but it also meant they had to be misled. There had to be payoff there.

I always wanted to set the adventure in a giant flower. Playing on the inherent silliness of gnomes (as I see it) and a memory of me once giving a girlfriend a 6’ sunflower when I met up with her off a train in Northern England in the 90s, and her embarrassment at carrying it around for the day. (We broke up soon after, as it turned out.). To make that work, I had to have the players shrink a bit, and that then led to an idea for a final conflict where the players were small and the gnomes suddenly enlarged and rampaging, and so that paid off in a way that I thought was fun and new (as a DM I could have fun describing it for and with players).

The core was there, except for Civilized Magic. So I went back to my notes from the night before, and remembered Clarke’s law, which correlated technology with magic, and thought that was an honest interpretation of the ingredient (not tendentious) and also a way that gnomes might think of their non-magical gizmos. I thought of a fire-ball bomb, but settled on poison, sinking down floor by floor (moving at the speed of plot) because it gives the players a chance to race out of the tower if it goes off – a fun set-piece to play, with some moral stakes as they decide whether they rescue the rats they were trying to slay minutes before.

Anyways, that was roughly my thinking and my process: throwing away the first 4-hours of notes after sleeping on it, and spending the off-time on Saturday when not playing with or trying to feed my toddler pulling together something else. We (I) also watched Princess Bride in the morning, for what it's worth. Fun! And thanks to all.


I plan on living forever. Or die trying.
Cold Lava
Befuddled Werewolf
Despondent Marine
Woods: Sunlit and Shallow
Jumping Coins
Cheating Death

For fantasy or modern

  • help those in need
  • greed
  • wish

The adventure starts on the island (up to DM how the party gets there). They find a man lying on the shore, dying. When revived, despondent marine tells them about the rich temple of Hine-nui-te-po, the ancient moon-goddess of island people. In the temple resides his brother, turned into a monster. The party needs to help him lift the curse by bringing him to the temple altar and performing a ritual of Cheating Death, “killing” the curse.

If the party won’t help he launches into promises of temple riches. Finally, if that fails, he offers that the altar grants one wish after the ritual.

First obstacle: the temple submerged at some point and the entry is gained by swimming through woods surrounding the temple, sunlit and shallow. The pyramidal temple entry is at the lowest level.

The entry is cold, much colder than the surrounding water. After several twists and turns, the party sees a werewolf going from left to right as if strolling. It doesn’t appear to notice them. Once out of sight it howls. It is not possible to find it. Show them a brother in all forms, a befuddled werewolf, human, and wolf wandering around.

Finally, they come upon an orrery showing the moon in its four phases above a sleeping man. A sleeping man has a circular slot in his forehead.

Phases are aligned with hallways leading toward one of the corners. The passages are a labyrinth, simple, but not trivial.

Each ends in a room with a challenge. One contains a silver coin (full moon) and the inscription “Light reveals, darkness hides, but all are needed for death to lose.”. The second room has oxidized silver (black “Death”), the other two are half-moons. The waning room contains an inscription: “Use me to win over death!”. (obscure language check? decipher script?) Waxing one says “Use me to unlock Death”.

Returning to the orrery they find a befuddled werewolf waiting, whimpering. If they attack, it attacks. Otherwise, it will follow them quietly, whining occasionally.

Waxing coin placed onto sleeper's forehead unlocks the second level. The party comes onto a checkerboard edge with a cowled figure standing across.

“Play Jumping coins against me, the winner goes to the moon, the loser remains.” as white coins appear on their side. Jumping across the black piece causes white to half-darken. Jumping twice causes the piece to change allegiance. Thus, you can get from full moon to waning half, but not waxing half. You cannot win, The Death cheats.

Unless they remember and pull out the waning half. With it, the replica of the board appears on the ceiling, but with colors switched. The goal is to “feed” death with all four phases, not to win at checkers. Cheating death otherwise obeys the rules of the game and takes the pieces when it can.

Once defeated, it opens the third level of the temple, but curses “Two will lie to remain in the temple”. Werewolf is already cursed, thus immune. There is a treasure trove of silver items and an altar with pedestals for moon-phase coins. There is a ritual book on a stand next to it with four rituals “Moon Blessing”, “Cheating Death”, “Dream sight”, “Light eternal”.

Performing the second one with the werewolf on the altar will lift the curse. At that moment, great hourglass turns, the topmost level opens and cold slush oozes downward filling everything with the smell of ammonia (Fort saves or nauseous) and extreme cold (Fort save or fatigued). This cold lava will take its time but will fill the temple. The race to the exit begins.

Death also fills its room with more treasure (real, wastes time of greedy PCs).

Coming upon the orrery, they find it is rotating and the signs of their passage are gone. How do they find out which way is out? There is time for everyone to go through the passage 3 times. They could split, but remember that two will lie when they find the exit. (for 4 passages you need 9 people, adjust accordingly, the solution: werewolf goes alone – he is not cursed and will not lie, others go in 2, 3, 3 groups).

1. werewolf finds the exit, good
2. all in agreement = 2 cursed ones are the duo, lying.
3. one triplet disagrees = 2 cursed inside, minority speaks the truth
4. two triplets disagree = take majority report


Without editing your above post, and without providing any other commentary... Do you have a title for your adventure? The Title does not count against Word Count.


Once A Fool
It’s good to see a puzzle-filled temple once in a while. They don’t make enough of those these days.



Cold Lava
Befuddled Werewolf
Despondent Marine
Woods: Sunlit and Shallow
Jumping Coins
Cheating Death

The PCs are travelling on a road through the woods toward a mountain pass, when out from behind a soft cloud flies an airship. Not the majestic, glorious ship of the paintings and lore, but an ugly rugged thing with a poorly inflated balloon and a stack of tubes billowing blue smoke. Clearly in some distress, it suddenly lurches to one side. Objects fall from the deck, as does a humanoid that plummets toward the ground. Dangerously low, she manages to twist in the air and opens two small parachutes and a rapidly inflating balloon. Narrowly Cheating Death, she lands roughly in a nearby clearing.

The ship goes on to crash spectacularly in the foothills of the nearby mountains.

“Gabby” Gabbagrue, a friendly, talkative gnome airship captain, will introduce herself and offer to pay handsomely for help getting to her ship, offering a magic item, if necessary. She talks much, but offers little important information, not because she’s deceptive, but because it doesn’t occur to her.

She will divulge facts (one at a time) only if pressed, or when it is already obvious: 1) The airship is the Cloudcatcher; 2) a prison transport; 3) delivering to a prison beyond the mountains; 4) Its flight is powered by “Fickle Phlogiston”; 5) an unstable substance of wild-magic; 6) which was damaged in an escape attempt; 6) by their prisoner; 7) an Ettin; 8) infected with lycanthropy.

There are two routes to the ship:
- The Safe Way is to travel a circuitous path around the outskirts of the Woods, where frequent logging has kept them Sunlit and Shallow. This way they will arrive at the ship near dusk after two random wilderness encounters.
- The Quick Way is to follow a creek through the deepest part of the woods. They will arrive at the ship with some daylight to spare after four random encounters.

Either way, when they get to the foothills, they will find a survivor - Dolgar Drumlin, a miserable dwarf soldier with a head wound. Having failed his duty, the Despondent Marine will tell them dejectedly, if brought out of his funk: 1) He jumped before the crash; 2) he’s the only survivor (maybe); 3) ship is destroyed (true); 4) Fickle Phlogiston makes it too dangerous to approach (maybe); 5) the prisoner is dead (incorrect); 6) or escaped (correct).

Continuing uphill to the crash-site, they will find the ship with its hull broken open and dead crewmen scattered about. The “engine” – a heavy cast-iron thing is half-buried in the ground. From a broken pipe leaks blue goo that flows like lava down the slope, but when contacted deals cold damage. Occasionally this Cold Lava erupts in a damaging spray, and it lays in hazardous pools about the site.

The strange nature of the stuff – the Fickle Phlogiston – has over time caused dead crewmen to reanimate as Chillborn Zombies. 3d4 of them will rise and attack if the party travelled the Safe Way, or 1d6 if they travelled the Quick Way.

As they later scavenge the wreck for valuables, 1d6-1 survivors can be rescued from the twisted heap. A PC or Gabby can find her captain’s lockbox. When opened, 200 loose silver coins leap out. As a side-effect of the crash, these Jumping Coins have been suffused with the magic that once held the ship aloft and can be gathered with some effort. Anyone trained in arcana will know that the magic will fade in 1d6 days.

The party, having been given their reward, can choose to help to search for the escaped prisoner. If they do, Gabby, Dolgar, or another surviving crewmember, will give them 1d4 “whizbangs” – a grenade-like magic item that can cause the effect of the confusion spell, and a pair of oversized, extra-strong manacles. Alternately, the players may choose to make camp, or make the return trip to the road, by either route.

Whatever they choose, before dawn, they will find (or be found) by the prisoner, who is hungry and desperate, and will attack. It should be a deadly combat for the PCs against a giant, two-headed werewolf. The whiz-bangs should help. Also, a clever player may use a sling to throw the silver coins, or simply spill them, where their jumping will create an area confusing and hazardous to the vulnerable-to-silver lycanthrope.

If all goes well, the Befuddled Werewolf will surrender when at half its HP, and the PCs or a survivor can place him in manacles, ending the session.


That was quite a bit harder than I expected it to be! Not coming up with the general story idea, as I'd feared, but absolutely the word-count. At first I reached the max count having only reached two of the ingredients. It came together when I realised that, this being a synopsis and not a complete adventure, that I did not have to include exact encounters or specific rules, as those would be added and adjusted later, if it were turned into a full adventure. (I have to admit, I kind of want to write the stat-block for a 5e Ettin Werewolf, who's wolf form looks like a giant two-headed Cerberus. It would be quite the fight.)

It was fun to try, that's for sure.

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