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IRON DM 2020 Tournament Thread

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Lithovorisaur
A Weird West Adventure​
Ingredients
Ship Mast
Dinosaur Bandits
Lone Survivor
Golden Egg
Rough Transition
Laser Sword

Sailing
The PCs were promised an absurd sum by a shipping magnate to serve as protection aboard a solar sail ship shipping a herd of Maiasaur. Especially strange since so many of the beasts already roam the West.

Pirates!
Out of nowhere, pirates attack! While the main body armed with six-shooters, repeating rifles, and sabers distracts, the pirate captain severs the mast with his laser sword and an elite band raid the dinosaur hold. When they return carrying a small wrapped bundle, all the pirates immediately withdraw to their nuclear turbine steamship and sail away.

Rogue Wave!
Out of nowhere, a huge rogue wave hits and its all the PCs can do to keep aboard the ship and keep it intact until the ship's driven onto a beach.

Shipwrecked
The shipwrecked PCs and sailors find and cut down a tree to replace their mast. Wild beasts, hostile natives, poisonous plants and animals plus limited tools to aid in the task increase the challenge.

In the distance, the pirate steamship lies reefed. If any PCs take the time to investigate, they find all the crew dead, many from laser slash burns, their slagged sabers and wet, non-functional guns strewn about the broken deck. The ship's steam-turbine life raft is gone. If the PCs don't investigate, they see the life raft drop free and chug away.

Pursuit
While the mast is being cut, dragged ship-wards, and erect, the ship's captain reveals the herd of Maiasaur was merely cover for the Lithovorisaur egg in the hold. The bizarre, ultra-rare rock-munching beasts lay eggs whose shells contain veins of pure gold. The eggs alone are worth small fortune, a living Lithovorisaur worth a large one.

Chasing after the life raft, the PCs find it beached near a small herd of saddled Maiasuar, several sets of tracks heading inland. Mounting up, they soon see the pirate captain riding on the distant horizon with several spare mounts.

Dino-chase
The pirate captain is wily and cunning, leading the PCs through a maze of sharp rocks, narrow defiles, and steep cliffs. Falling rock, rattlesnakes, and a flash flood complicate the pursuit.

If they catch up to the captain, he finds high ground, slays all but one of his beasts for extra cover, and tries to force them into laser sword range. If losing the ensuing fight, he leaps onto his last mount and rides it to death if need be to make his lair.

After the close-range fight, the PCs recognize him as notorious bandit leader Burncut McSlash. This must have been a brief jaunt into piracy upon somehow gaining word of the Lithovorisaur.

Bandit Lair
The approaches to the lair contain quicksand, dynamite traps, rusty barbed-wire triplines, and the like. Inside the lair, Burncut lets loose with his Gatling gun until it runs out of ammo, then takes the fight into the narrow, dark, twisting tunnels full of dead-ends and pitfalls which he knows intimately.

Victory?
When defeated, Burncut's dying action is to cut the Lithovorisaur egg open to deny it to the PCs. The suddenly-hatched Lithovorisaur - in spite of it's sudden transition to the real world - is fully functional, mean, hungry, tiny, fragile, crazy-hard to catch, and can bite through almost anything.

The attempts to catch it without killing it in the depths of the dark, wet, sprawling, unstable, trap-laced bandit cave will likely become a mini-adventure on its own.

Aftermath
PCs have several options afterwards in addition to selling the still-valuable broken egg.
  • Raise Lithovorisaur, an extremely challenging and dangerous task on its own compounded by attacks, thefts, and raids by bandits, Lithovorisaur magnates hostile to new competition, and the like.
  • Sell the baby Lithovorisaur to the magnate for the promised payment plus a bonus round of hazard pay.
  • Sell the baby Lithovorisaur on the open market - if they can keep it alive, contained, and not stolen until then
 

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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
The Island Time Forgot (A D&D adventure - but easily adaptable to a few different systems/settings)

Ship Mast

Dinosaur Bandits

Lone Survivor

Golden Egg

Rough Transition

Laser Sword



Dinosaur Island exists in mostly uncharted south seas of the setting. Shrouded in literal mist and proverbial legends, it has been visited on and off for nearly a century by adventurers and poachers seeking to explore the island’s mysteries and/or capture dinosaur specimens for sale for exotic zoos or to populate the weird dungeons of paranoid wizards and the like.

While the island was cut off from such dinosaur bandits by the emperor’s navy for many years, the crumbling empire has shortened its reach, and while soon lost, when recently rediscovered only natural obstacles to approaching the islands (sea monsters, shoals, whirlpools, etc…). For a time, Captain Esmerelda Konti, a buccaneer leader and acclaimed hunter, was regularly leading her crews to the island and exploring more and more deeply and returning with more dinosaurs and strange artifacts, but recently she and her crew have not returned.

Hooks:

  • The PCs are hired to hunt down and arrest Esmerelda Konti by some agency of the empire trying desperately to maintain economic and social control in the imperial periphery (mostly hiring mercenaries to do state work).
  • Alternatively, some other politician may make a separate deal with the PCs to bring back some specimens for sale to inflate the imperial coffers (or their own).
  • The PCs are dinosaur bandits themselves, sent by a rival poacher hoping to get rid of Konti’s organization and open up a new dinosaur pipeline.
After a bunch of sea encounters from a random list (or DM choice) leading to the island, upon arrival the PCs by whatever nautical means they have of arriving will have to find a way to carefully survey the waters around the island because of hidden rocks and sandbars and some aquatic dinos. If they do not, there is a significant chance of running aground and maybe also ending up trapped on the island. Of course, they may have magical means of getting on shore without the ship getting too close or the need of a launch.

If they do a full circuit of the mountainous jungle isle, they will find a ship’s mast sticking up out of a lagoon, where the water is deep enough to have swallowed all of Konti’s ship. Atop it in the crow’s nest is Sid Sackville the lone survivor of Konti’s crew. He is half-mad from starvation and will have run out of water the day before the PCs arrival.

He explains that he and the others tried to flee after Captain Konti was killed or captured (stories among those who fled varied, and Sid was not there) while exploring another ship discovered half-buried atop a distant hill. He explains that a group of dinosaur-like creatures emerged from ship and attacked. Their leader seemed to be able to control or command dinosaurs and a great Mosasaurus scuttled the ship from below before they could escape. All the rest of the crew is dead unless there are some survivors on the island. Sid does not know and will try to convince the party to leave immediately and take him with them. He will even surrender to arrest, if they agree. He is so maddened and fearful from his experience, however, that he will (ineffectually) fight or flee if not the PCs do not agree. He will not want to guide the PCs to the mountain, but will do his best to point it out and draw a map if sufficiently calmed and brought somewhere safe (like the ship the PCs arrived on, anchored way of shore).

If the PCs have a way of getting some height or a spyglass, they may be able to spot where the other ship is by its mast sticking out of the rocks.

The island itself should be something Jurassic Park or Skull Island (from King Kong), with a harrowing journey of two to three days to the ship where Konti may be beset by dinosaurs and dire beasts of various kinds.

Expedition to the Peaks​

The ship itself is an ancient spelljamming galleon (or if the DM wants, just some one off unique magical ship meant for traveling between world/planes). Its entire crew also died on impact, but the lone survivor—Ashrozo—is a dinosaur-man, the returned evolved descendants of the island (which are probably not native to this world anyway). The DM can use draconian, dragonborn, lizardfolk, of some other related creature type for represent these - but they should look like different dino species, but humanoid. He was in suspended animation until accidentally awaked by Konti on one her missions, but she did not notice until she returned and found him ready.

By recovering The Golden Egg, an artifact of his people through which they were supposed to accomplish their original mission, Ashrozo has been able to continue. The egg, when placed in a clutch of other dino-eggs make them hatch into the evolved dino-men. The egg itself does not hatch but goes dormant until re-fertilized by one of the evolved kind in an elaborate and weird sexual ritual.

The ship is buried beneath centuries of dirt and rock, but the entire is mostly intact, creating a mini-dungeon.

As they approach the top of the peak, they will begin to encounter the fast-evolved dino-men. However, they have not gotten the same kind of training and exposure to the egg as is usual, thus have had a rough transition. They sometimes spontaneously and painfully transform back, leaving them angered and aggressive. Even when remaining in evolved form, their intelligence seems dim compared to Ashrozo.

Captain Konti is still alive and is a captive of Ashrozo. Ashrozo is kind a dino-monk - part of a religious order sent out to shepherd his people and ready the cosmo for their ascendance. He wields the Sol Blade, a laser sword of radiant power that works like a light saber (so he is a dino-Jedi).w

Ashrozo is not necessarily evil and will negotiate for help to free his ship or communicate with his people. However, if he is helped and allowed to go his own way (agreeing to let the PCs take Konti, though he originally hoped to bring her back to his people for punishment for selling their legacy), eventually groups of intelligent dinosaur bandits will begin popping up in places around the world, beginning their slow take over and beginning to establish their own nation and recruiting other draconic creatures to their side. And eventually, the world will have another rough transition when more evolved dinos return as reinforcements—filling in for the collapsing human empire.
 



el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
My dog decided that between 2pm and 3pm was the perfect time to start running around and barking wildly - getting herself worked up to the state where I am the only one who can calm her. sigh.
 


Wow, two entries already.

Guess I shouldn't be surprised that with such a crazy list of ingredients, the entries are quite zany as well. And I like it!

I am especially surprised how large in scope both adventures are. These are not short 1 session adventures, but campaign material, both of them. And there are a lot of locations and encounters too!

I like how central the golden egg is to the plot in Lithovorisaur, plus I love the word Lithovorisaur. The adventure is very varied and crazy, but comes across a bit linear in places, and I'm not sure if I like the ending. I do like that there are multiple choices in the aftermath of the adventure.

The Island That Time Forgot comes across as less linear. What I like best about it, is the more coherent plot, the multiple plot hooks, and the ending that leaves some interesting choices for the players. I tend to have a bias towards plot and sandboxy stuff, and this one feels more suitable for an open exploration focused campaign.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
For a full three minutes I was gonna write an adventure for a Thundarr the Barbarian RPG (the laser sword and dino-bandits felt fitting), but then I realized developing a whole setting/game - even the few sentences necessary in this format - was too much.

I also considered making it another Spelljamming adventure and making it a dinosaur planet!

I forgot to include so much because I didn't get a chance to go back and add it. For example, the sol blade was supposed to be connected to sun worship and the dinosaur need for hot sun-filled environment. Oh well.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
Judgement for Round 3, 3rd-Place Match: el-remmen vs. Iron Sky

Well, this was fun. With one-hour, you know you’re in for a different form of adventure, for sure. Most likely a first draft. Ingredients that are less developed than they otherwise might be. And, dare I say, likely a tendency toward more cinematic adventures over richly-complex and socially-in-depth ones.

Do these assumptions hold true in this match? Let’s take a look:

Ingredients:

Ship Mast


In “Lithovorisaur” (“Lith”), we have a ship mast which is intentially destroyed by the main villain in furtherance of his schemes. It is a necessary step in the movement of the adventure.

In “The Island Time Forgot” (“Time”), we have two ship masts, both echoing each other’s purpose; they are essentially signposts to point out where the adventure is. I think their implementation here is better for the adventure than the one in “Lith,” but the actual ingredient is probably not as strong, so “Lith” 1, “Time” 0.

Dinosaur Bandits

“Lith” gives us a dino-riding bandit who is trying to steal a dinosaur. This is the primary antagonist and, thus, a significant presence in the adventure. Pretty good.

“Time” gives us some dinosaur-poachers who are the basis for adventure, but only present in parts. It also gives us some dinosaurs that are trying to dominate the world, which is nice, but they, too, are only a part of the whole.

Usually, I’m pretty wary of ingredients that get multiple forms. Unless they are trying to reinforce a theme, it usually comes off as a lack of conviction on the part of the author that their ingredient is well-used. And that’s usually a well-placed concern.

So, are the two uses in “Time” establishing a theme? What would that be? Let’s see. The poachers are taking dinosaurs (that already don’t belong, though the poachers can’t know that) and taking them elsewhere. And, in so doing, activate the threat of the evolved-dinosaur infiltration.

If the theme is “banditry leads to bad things” we would expect to see that the evolved dinos’ efforts also lead to something worse, but we don’t. If the theme is “everybody is a bandit in one way or another” I think the first of the three hooks suggests otherwise. Maybe there’s something there, but I’m not seeing it. “Lith” 2, “Time” 0.

Lone Survivor

“Lith” gives us a lone survivor of a wrecked ship who is the primary (lone) antagonist of the adventure. I’m not so sure how important it is that the survivor has no living allies, but the survival part is enhanced by the fact that the wreck happens during the course of the adventure.

“Time” seemingly gives us two lone survivors. The minor NPC, as it happens, is not actually the lone survivor of his scuttled ship, but that gives room for the actual lone survivor, the dino-Jedi, to fill the role more comfortably. He’s a great NPC. Part antagonist, part ally, and all concealed villain. It is important that he is a survivor of his ship’s wreck, but the fact that he is the only one seems less so. Further, that wreck happened (long) before the events of the adventure, so I have to lean toward “Lith” again. “Lith” 3, “Time” 0.

Golden Egg

“Lith” has an egg that’s actual value is tied in with it’s material and the fact that it is an egg very much matters to the shape of the adventure. This is good.

“Time” has a very flavorful macguffin. The imagery really fits in with its role, but its color/material is of no import. And neither is its form, really. Why not have a nutrient bath do the evolving? Classical music? Mad science(!)? “Lith” 4, “Time” 0.

Rough Transition

“Lith” provides us with a rough transition in the form of a rogue wave that wrecks the PCs’ ship. It comes out of nowhere (being a rogue wave) and pretty much just moves the adventure along to the next part. Which is, in itself, a rough transition.

The missed opportunity, here, is that the adventure had already established that the steamship has a nuclear turbine. Its destruction (by some means, ideally brought about by the PCs’ actions) could have caused the wave and help tie things together (also hint that the steamship is wrecked), but the adventure seems to indicate otherwise.

“Time” has two rough transitions. The first of these is the unstable evolution of the dino-mobs that the PCs need to get through. The second is the take-over of the world through them. I think these two are sufficiently linked to say they support each other. “Lith” 4, “Time” 1.

Laser Sword

“Lith” gives the laser sword to its antagonist, who uses it to quickly cut through the PCs’ ship-mast, and in a cinematic climactic battle. This is very cool. And, yet, it contributes to a pretty big problem that this adventure has, but I’ll get back to that.

“Time” has a laser sword that, as far as I can tell, has no importance in the adventure at all. “Lith” 5, “Time” 1.

That looks pretty one-sided, but I will note that a few of the better ingredients in a pair were only marginally so. My initial assumptions are so far pretty well supported.

Adventure TIme:

Hooks and Stakes:


The most interesting thing about the hook in “Lith” is that it isn’t true, and the PCs don’t find that out for a while (although, they may have a hint at the start, if they know enough about the world). The stakes of the adventure come about incrementally with each new turn of events.

“Time” gives three varied hooks that are each pretty good and lay out initial stakes pretty well. Unfortunately, the actual stakes of the adventure probably aren’t going to be known until long after it concludes. I find that very intriguing, but it’s probably not all that great for the DM running the game.

It would be better if there were ways for the PCs to find out parts of the dinos’ plans along the way, both to increase the uncertainty of how to interact with the villain, and just to enhance a sense of investment in the outcome. Still, probably better than “Lith” in this area.

Adventure Shape:

“Lith” is an action-packed, cinematic adventure that takes its PCs from one set-piece to another. It looks, at least on the surface, like a lot of fun.

That checks out with my initial assumptions.

I also really like the options laid out in the aftermath section.

“Time” has some of that, but it doesn’t really detail any of it. Instead, it gives us opportunities to explore, some interesting NPCs to interact with (through diplomacy, other social means, or, possibly, violence). And it gives us an unexpected twist that changes the assumptions of the world. There is some surprisingly complex and rewarding gameplay, here.

Which is better?

”Lith” is uncharacteristically linear for @Iron Sky. This isn’t necessarily a problem, in the right context, but I think there are a few things that are working to enhance the problems that its linearity is going to introduce.

First of all, this adventure’s unique setting assumptions seem to want it to be a one-shot, which is fine. But those same assumptions make me think that it wouldn’t really work unless it also used pre-generated characters.

Here’s why: In a world with laser swords and gatling guns, if the PCs can choose the equipment that they start with, they are going to choose those things!

What happens if the pirate captain and/or the elite squad get killed while raiding the PCs’ ship?

What happens if the pirates’ steamship gets shot to bits with a gatling gun?

Or the life raft?

Or the dinosaurs?


The answers to each of these questions could be a lot of fun, but the adventure completely fails to help the DM figure out what those would be.

On the other hand, “Time” is pretty solid in form and function. I do think it could use some tightening, but, despite initial appearances, I think it would be far easier to run than “Lith.”

Well, maybe not, but that’s only because I’m confident in the improvisational skill that I’m pretty sure “Lith” would require of me. Unless, as indicated earlier, all of the PCs start without the nifty weapons.

@el-remmen gets my recommendation for 3rd-place in this tournament. But I want to point out that, despite my criticisms, 1-hour is an insane challenge (which I have never personally faced, by the way — I suspect that I would be far too slow a writer/thinker to manage it).

I am genuinely impressed with the quality of both of these entries, and, in Iron Sky’s case, the 25-minute rewrite makes his entry all the more impressive.
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Feel a bit like Rob Stark... win every battle/ingredient then lose the war. Especially since I seem to have lost over... hypothetical equipment options?

In fantasy games where enemies fly dragons and wield staves of power and PCs can pick their starting gear, why don't PCs just start with that equipment? In a modern campaign where enemies might have Apache attack helicopters and nerve gas, why don't the PCs just start with those? In scifi games where enemies have command sentient nanoswarms and Star Destroyers and PCs get to pick their starting gear, why don't the PCs start with those?

I've lost in many more judgments than I can even count, but this is by far the one that puzzles me the most, especially with a 5-0 ingredient lead which I think is the best ratio I've ever gotten on any IronDM.

Maybe I misread and the actual question is: what happens if the PCs get that lucky critical-hit headshot on the captain in the first encounter? If that's the problem, I totally get it and it's the main reason I run games that are completely improvisational/sandbox games but equipment?
 

Rune

Once A Fool
Feel a bit like Rob Stark... win every battle/ingredient then lose the war. Especially since I seem to have lost over... hypothetical equipment options?

In fantasy games where enemies fly dragons and wield staves of power and PCs can pick their starting gear, why don't PCs just start with that equipment? In a modern campaign where enemies might have Apache attack helicopters and nerve gas, why don't the PCs just start with those? In scifi games where enemies have command sentient nanoswarms and Star Destroyers and PCs get to pick their starting gear, why don't the PCs start with those?

I've lost in many more judgments than I can even count, but this is by far the one that puzzles me the most, especially with a 5-0 ingredient lead which I think is the best ratio I've ever gotten on any IronDM.

Maybe I misread and the actual question is: what happens if the PCs get that lucky critical-hit headshot on the captain in the first encounter? If that's the problem, I totally get it and it's the main reason I run games that are completely improvisational/sandbox games but equipment?
Okay. I’ll clarify my position. Despite the 5-1 ingredient split, i didn’t find that most of them were significantly better (although a couple definitely were). It’s a deceptive 5-1. In context, very nearly 3-3.

And when I weighed that against the structural issues I found in your entry, it made things tough. Those issues would (very likely, in my estimation) be pretty impactful to the experience of running the game. To be clear, the technological assumptions I called out are not the root of those issues, they are just one of the ways things could get derailed.

Fundamentally, your entry was very linear through a large part of it and there were a lot of points where things could easily go off course. And I’m talking about things that need to happen to get the adventure to it’s next step, like the pirates succeeding in their initial raid, the pirate captain surviving the raid, the steamship surviving the raid, the life raft surviving the escape, the pirate captain’s dino surviving long enough for a chase to happen.

(The laser sword and gatling guns seem like they would make each of those things more likely to get derailed, but it could still happen without.)

No doubt that would all get cleaned up with a second draft, but this version offers the DM nothing in the way of guidance if any one of those things happens. So, yeah. I had to go the other way.

Nevertheless, I remain sincere in expressing my admiration for the entry you put forth. Its cinematic and exciting through-line still looks like it would be a blast; I just know I’d have to prepare some contingencies.

And, I’m going to reiterate this more for the peanut gallery than for you, but I’m serious when I say, I do not believe I could do anywhere near as good a job as you did in one hour, let alone twenty-five minutes!

I am impressed.
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Okay. I’ll clarify my position. Despite the 5-1 ingredient split, i didn’t find that most of them were significantly better (although a couple definitely were). It’s a deceptive 5-1. In context, very nearly 3-3.

And when I weighed that against the structural issues I found in your entry, it made things tough. Those issues would (very likely, in my estimation) be pretty impactful to the experience of running the game. To be clear, the technological assumptions I called out are not the root of those issues, they are just one of the ways things could get derailed.

Fundamentally, your entry was very linear through a large part of it and there were a lot of points where things could easily go off course. And I’m talking about things that need to happen to get the adventure to it’s next step, like the pirates succeeding in their initial raid, the pirate captain surviving the raid, the steamship surviving the raid, the life raft surviving the escape, the pirate captain’s dino surviving long enough for a chase to happen.

(The laser sword and gatling guns seem like they would make each of those things more likely to get derailed, but it could still happen without.)

No doubt that would all get cleaned up with a second draft, but this version offers the DM nothing in the way of guidance if any one of those things happens. So, yeah. I had to go the other way.

Nevertheless, I remain sincere in expressing my admiration for the entry you put forth. Its cinematic and exciting through-line still looks like it would be a blast; I just know I’d have to prepare some contingencies.

And, I’m going to reiterate this more for the peanut gallery than for you, but I’m serious when I say, I do not believe I could do anywhere near as good a job as you did in one hour, let alone twenty-five minutes!

I am impressed.
Thanks for the clarification and I definitely agree with you about its linearity. If I'd had 25 minutes to edit rather than rewrite, I probably would have added things like: "if the captain is killed, replace him with a lieutenant of roughly equal power" and "if the steamship is destroyed, it doesn't really matter since the rogue wave will throw it onto the reef anyway" and "the life raft is too far away to hit with personal weapons". The captain did bring several mounts for the chase, but yes, his mount could have been killed again at the last stretch.

Other things I would have added were multiple pursuit options like "shortcut through the maze of rocks vs safer, longer way along the canyon rim" and "strain the sails to keep the life raft on the horizon" vs "play it safe and calculate where he's likely headed."

In my original draft I also even mentioned that he'd try to make his lair, but if he had to stand and fight he'd cut the egg open there and dump the mini-adventure of collecting the Lithovorisaur into whatever location they were at. He'd also be carrying a map to his lair so they could still enjoy delving/looting it. Didn't make it in the rewrite time.

Regardless, @Rune, thanks for clarifying, judging, and comments for the peanut gallery.

This 1-hour version was fun and challenging in a quite different way. Given my time constraints now-a-days too, it was much easier to fit in.
 

Gradine

Final Form
Judgement for Third Place Match: Iron Sky vs. el-remmen

Well, these are both really fun. I'll save the more detailed comments for after the ingredients. I'll be referring to these adventures as "Litho" and "Island" respectively.

Ship Mast
The ship-masts as landmarks to travel across the island in "Island" between the two shipwrecks is a pretty clever usage of this ingredient overall. "Litho" has the pirate captain cut down the mast of the PC's ship to scuttle it. There's a paragraph under the "Pursuit" heading that seems like it should've been earlier in the adventure, and it kind of muddies the timeline around this. There was more than way to scuttle the PC's ship (and note, the adventure does not allow the possible that the PCs can save their vessel), but the Mast ties in with another ingredient (Laser Sword) so that helps it a bit.

Dinosaur Bandits
I'm disappointed that both entries generally use this ingredient to create bandits who steal dinosaurs, rather than dinosaurs who are bandits. "Island" tries to sneak this in at the end but it doesn't really work. In either case... yeah, both entries have bandits, and those bandits steal dinosaurs, and they play a central role in the adventure.

Lone Survivor
I'm not particularly happy with how either entry uses this. "Island" features two actual survivors. Sure, we're led to believe, for a while, that Captain Konti didn't make. But she also had been hyped up through most of the adventure, and I never believed for a second she would have died off-screen. So, that gives us... two survivors, which if I'm doing my math correctly is not a lone survivor, so "Island" doesn't actual feature this ingredient. "Litho" gives us a captain that's also a lone survivor, but he's only the lone survivor because he murdered all the rest of his crew. That makes him lone, yes, but it also doesn't really make him a "survivor" so much as a "murderous backstabbing a-hole". He's not really forced to "survive" anything himself.

Golden Egg
MacGuffins! One has magical evolutionary power for... reasons, and the other is full extractable gold for... reasons. Of the two I think "Litho" definitely does a better job of pulling this off in a way that makes it make sense to be both golden and an egg. It of course makes the egg valuable, and the creature that hatches from it (and thus, presumably, capable of producing more eggs) even more valuable. It serves the adventure well, and it presents a clear and meaningful choice for the PCs at the end. "Island's" egg has no reason to be gold at all, and only symbolic reason to be shaped like an egg.

Rough Transition
A "rough transition" is, by its definition, rough. Having the egg sliced open certainly qualifies as traumatic... or at least it would have been had the lithovorisaur not been perfectly fine hatching in that manner. There's no consequence to it the action, and had the pirate captain not sliced the thing open it wouldn't have really changed anything at all (the egg could have begun hatching on its own, after all). It seems to be a moment that exists solely to satisfy the ingredient. "Island's" uses are far more clever and interesting, but they don't seem to be as directly relevant to the PCs in this case.

Laser Sword
Laser swords are super cool. And they're cool here, in this adventure. The laser sword plays a more central role in "Litho", and it ties directly into several of the other ingredients, strengthening together an overall weak set (Ship Mast, Rough Transition). But it doesn't ultimately feel like a necessary piece. One the other hand, the laser sword in "Island" may as well be any other type of weapon, or no weapon at all, considering the PCs aren't likely to fight Ashrozo. On the other hand, dinosaur jedi are frakking awesome.

As I said, these are both very fun adventures. "Litho" is a bit more railroad-like than "Island" (both have a fairly linear plot structure, I'm referring here instead to the PC's not being able to stop getting shipwrecked.) That said, it opens up at the ending with the PCs essentially getting to decide their own reward, and the potential ramifications of their choice. "Island" is a bit more open-ended in its travel but about as linear in structure until the end, when the PCs essentially have to decide what to do with Dino Monk and his people (to say nothing of the complications Captain Konti can provide if she gets loose). It's a gonzo twist with a surprisingly deep moral quandary- what to do about allowing a new advanced sentient civilization to grow and flourish in the world. The adventure offers little advice in the way of alternatives, which is a weakness of the piece overall, but one can infer that that Ashrozo might be convinced to keep his people contained the island, or perhaps find a way to fix his Spelljammer/vessel so they can travel to find a more appropriate home (or perhaps even help them find their original home, considering it is implied that the regular dinosaurs aren't native here either).

These two adventures are pretty even overall. That said, I think that "The Island that Time Forgot" edges out @Iron Sky's "Lithovorisaur" slightly on ingredients and just a little bit more in terms of the overall quality of the adventure. It's just a little bit more open-ended in its structure and conclusion, and just a little bit more interesting in its set pieces. So that is my pick for the winner of this match and @el-remmen for 3rd place for his competition. We'll see what our other judges think!

e: Adding the names of the contestants.
 

Gradine

Final Form
allyalbon_sketch334_jedi_dinosaur.jpg
 

Wicht

Adventurer
Judgment for Round 3, Third Place Match @Iron Sky vs. @el-remmen
This match, for third place this (last) year gives us two experienced contestants doing it old-school: six ingredients, one hour, no word limit.

Our first entry, Iron Sky’s Lithovorisaur (hereafter Rock) is billed as a Weird West adventure. This gonzo, dinosaur-filled chase sequence is packed full of goodness, but I find myself trying to figure out what system would work with it. Deadlands? Spirit of the Century? Cadillacs and Dinosaurs? Dragonball? Can I come back to this later?... I’m going to come back to this later…

Our second entry is El-remmen’s The Island that Time Forgot. The title is not all that creative, but it does conjure forth warm memories of other stories, including the classic Isle of Dread. Does the entry do anything new? We might come back to this as well…

The weren’t a lot of rules to follow this go-around, excepting get it turned in on time, so both entries followed the rules. Let’s dive right into the ingredients.

Our first ingredient, lovingly supplied by the malefic magnanimity of the judges, is that of Ship Mast. With sadness I notice neither of the entries had the mast be haunted. Moving on past the cold embers of past sorrows, let us consider how they have been used. Rock has the mast broken, in need of being repaired. Unimaginative, but passable. So what does Island give us? A mast sticking up out of water marking where a ship sank… and a marker for direction. I am going to give this one to Rock.

The dinosaur bandits of both entries are bandits intent on stealing or poaching dinosaurs or, at least a dinosaur egg. Island elevates itself though by hinting at off-world dino-sapiens who have taken up banditry and world-plundering if the PCs make the wrong choices. But this is, unfortunately not actually part of this adventure. It’s a story for elsewhen. I am going to give the nod to Island on this one, but really think the dino pirates should have been actually in the adventure! How much cooler would that have been?

Lone Survivor is likewise used a little stronger in Island. In Rock, the villain is the lone survivor, though as the text hints that he murdered his own crew, I am not sure this is the right wording. Island gives us a lone survivor as a clue, which is cliché, but still moderately stronger.

Both entries have really good uses of the Golden Egg. It is probably one of the strongest ingredients in both adventures. The golden egg of Island is an artifact with the powerful ability of giving sentience to dinosaurs. Which is really, really neat… except, did we just invent draconians? Maybe the go-bot equivalent of draconians? Dinonians? The egg in Rock, on the other hand, laid by a rock eating dinosaur, which just happens to have rich veins of gold in it… Literally a dinosaur that lays golden eggs. And then to have it hatch, and having the PCs dealing with a rock and metal eating little bundle of vicious cuteness. That’s just golden. So to speak. I am giving full points to both entries for this ingredient, but I do like Rock’s just better I must confess, it’s just more fun.

The use of rough transition in both entries is very different. In Rock it is a giant wave which turns the adventure from being an ocean adventure to being a land adventure. In Island it is the transformation the dino-beings are undergoing. Both have some weaknesses, but I am going to give full points for both.

On the other hand, in both adventures the ligh… laser sword is the weapon of choice of the primary villain. That’s as much of a wash as could be. Neither is a particularly strong usage, but both are passable, and equally so.

As I tally scores, Island has the barest of edges, point wise, but we are going to have to look a little deeper to see if the lead is good enough to win.

So let’s move on and critique the adventures themselves.

Both of these adventures had only an hour in which to be crafted. We could go easy on them, but this isn’t Aluminum DM,… So let’s start with the negative, especially when it comes to useability.

Rock has a few problems. The chase sequence is too long and drawn out. The whole matter of the dead pirate crew is contrived, as is the villain getting away. The villain’s name, even for a light setting, doesn’t feel right. And the cracking open of the egg is clumsy. Why isn’t the baby dinosaur cut in half? How about having the egg shell, besides having gold also have traces of vibranium, unobtanium, adamantine, or whatever magic metal the setting has, so that energy weapons bounce off? The laser sword rebounds, but not before cracking the egg shell.

This isn’t the biggest problem with the entry though. It is called a weird west adventure, but I have no idea what system it is meant to be run in? It is not Deadlands. I don’t recall a weird west setting with this level of gonzo in it. It reminds me a bit of the world of Dragon Ball (not the story-line, but the setting). If there is actually a game system with such a setting I would like to know about it.

But what about Island. Island has a few problems as well. Firstly, its derivative. I already mentioned the draconian connection. The island itself is straight from Land that Time Forgot. There’s not a lot of new stuff here. Even the villain is a straight up jedi riff. All of that is forgivable though if done right.

The second problem though is that it buries the lede. We have a decaying empire, dino-poachers, and a new race of uplifted saurian. And then suddenly we have a spell-jammer? Right there, we have a major problem, unless spell-jammers are already a known. But otherwise, it’s a major jump in theme and tone. Once you introduce that sort of thing into a game, it kinda trumps other issues. A new race of dino-people. Cool! But a ship that you can fly to other planets… that’s a whole new world right there!

And then there is the presentation. We have a lot of story. I’m not sure we have as much adventure outlined. There’s a few things to do, but mostly it seems to me that it is the opportunity for the PCs to discover a story, rather than a chance to really shape a story.

But what about appeal?

Island has a lot going for it, appeal wise. Dinosaurs are always fun. The whole new race of dino-men provide an interesting discovery. I could see it being a fun adventure if it was fleshed out and developed a bit more.

On the other hand, we have Rock. I don’t know what setting it is meant for, but I really want to find out. And if there isn’t one yet, there should be. It sounds like straight up fun. There’s a few problems here and there which knock it down a point or two, but then we get to the image of a rock eating, metal chewing dinosaurling, and all that potential for cute hilarity, and you just know that everyone involved would be having a great time.

So where does that leave us?
What is our final verdict?

The end-score is actually a little closer than I thought they would be when I first read through them. But in the end, I am going to have to go with fun. My judgment, for the reasons stated above, and based on my semi-arbitrary scoring system, is that Iron Sky’s Lithovorisaur makes him the winner of this match in my estimation.

Let's take a moment and see if the other judges have weighed in...

They have, and my judgment is the one odd out... So congratulations to El-remmen!


Lithovorisaur (Rock)
Rules 6
Ingredient Use

Ship Mast 1.5
Dinosaur Bandits 1
Lone Survivor 1
Golden Egg 2
Rough Transition 2
Laser Sword 1 (total 8.5/12)
Useability 4
Appeal 5
TOTAL SCORE 23.5/30

The Island Time Forgot (Island)
Follows Rules 6
Ingredients

Ship Mast 1
Dinosaur Bandits 1.5
Lone Survivor 1.5
Golden Egg 2
Rough Transition 2
Laser Sword 1 (total 9/12)
Useability 3
Appeal 4
TOTAL SCORE 22/30
 
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