IRON DM 2021 Tournament

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
That sounds like a story worth elaborating on!
I actually recorded the whole campaign (played online) via Roll20. I was only one with a camera and audio had some issues here-and-there, but think I have the videos somewhere on my backup hard drive; could dig it up and put it all up next week if anyone is interested. Whole campaign is 12ish sessions I think.

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I plan on living forever. Or die trying.
So, finally, some time to write a commentary on my post. And I have several questions regarding the English language. I understand it may be weird to ask questions about it in literary competition, but I seem to have some misunderstanding about the use of some 'features'.

I quoted bits and pieces of IronSky judgment, I'll add others as I come to them.

Uh oh. Right of the bat, I had to hunt for the title. Not bolded, not capitalized. First impressions matter and the first impression this gives is something rushed.
I wrote it in about an hour, sorry about that. I guess my punishment is that I didn't pass into the finals. Monday evening I had 3 different scenarios, this one was most compelling.
1. Save the friar: The court in three meanings in this one: judicial court, fey winter court, and kingdoms court.
2. Fey warlock pretending to be a vampire
3. A wizard scholar so focused on his research he moves his urges and emotions into homunculi- so salacious comes just like in this one, but the one looking for help is "innocence". The real bad guy is female apprentice, the wizard doesn't really notice anything around himself including her and she wants power NOW.

"free the innocent friar" what innocent friar? "The" implies we already know who it is. "An"?
So, Question 1:
THE vs A(N) - my understanding is that "THE" represents a specific thing (not a specific KNOWN thing) - so I used it like THE sorcerer, THIS one, in this story. Not just any sorcerer. Why is that wrong? I mean, obviously, you don't know YET who it is, but it is THE sorcerer.

Atlantes needs the children to rejuvenate what? His urges were pushed into a construct? Or are there plural constructs since there's no "a" before "minor construct". What city?
The sorcerer rejuvenates HIMSELF. Why is this wrong? The sentence runs something like The sorcerer (the subject) does something (a verb) to the kids (objects) in order to rejuvenate (another verb) - but this one works without qualifier so it works on the subject...doesn't it?

"[a] wicked grin [that] people... describe as vaguely familiar"? Or are they "wicked grin people"
is [that] important within the context? Or it is just with your lexical hat on? In my native language, it is not needed (but can be added as you did)

Explanation of all the things missing in the writing:
  • trap for the salacious homunculus using young ladies because I'm straight and when thinking about lusting after someone it is female. With too little time, I couldn't re-read and recognize the error
  • the homunculus knows what sorcerer knows, thus he can be a source of information regarding the ritual
  • in the writeup, I mention that soulless bodies of boys fight against the PCs - NOT undead (yet) - if PCs subdue them, souls from the gems have functional bodies to return to
  • without holy-water-doused homunculus, the void will not destroy the sorcerer
  • without SOME kind of holy damage the void will start spreading
  • the ritual circle is the thing preventing the void from spreading and at the same time it channels stolen life force into the sorcerer
  • the information could be found in the books (research) in that same room - or through the homunculus
  • nobles and functionaries appearing in the monastery are from kingdoms court, in preparation for kings arrival

I think that is all. Someone commented I should have passed the deadline. I would...if that thought ever crossed my mind. But I think that way I would struggle with the word count since several things went unsaid.


Once A Fool
Someone commented I should have passed the deadline. I would...if that thought ever crossed my mind. But I think that way I would struggle with the word count since several things went unsaid.
It’s worth pointing out that some past (and possibly future) judges (particularly those who use a point-based criteria for judgement) would impose an additional point-loss penalty.

But even so, it might be worth the risk in some cases.

Of course, the 1-hour match will have no such leniency.


Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
So, finally, some time to write a commentary on my post. And I have several questions regarding the English language. I understand it may be weird to ask questions about it in literary competition, but I seem to have some misunderstanding about the use of some 'features'.
I've just been following the competition--it's not at all how I GM, but it's interesting because of that--but I can answer the grammar questions.
So, Question 1:
THE vs A(N) - my understanding is that "THE" represents a specific thing (not a specific KNOWN thing) - so I used it like THE sorcerer, THIS one, in this story. Not just any sorcerer. Why is that wrong? I mean, obviously, you don't know YET who it is, but it is THE sorcerer.
Yes. Definite article vs. indefinite article. I haven't re-read your entry (sorry) but the problem may be more that the person commenting hadn't seen the existence of any sorcerers established, let alone that there was exactly one.
The sorcerer rejuvenates HIMSELF. Why is this wrong? The sentence runs something like The sorcerer (the subject) does something (a verb) to the kids (objects) in order to rejuvenate (another verb) - but this one works without qualifier so it works on the subject...doesn't it?
While rejuvenate can be an intransitive verb--one that doesn't need or use an object--I think it is more commonly used as a transitive one--a verb that needs and uses a direct object. This might especially be the case if there are multiple plausible things to be rejuvenated in the sentence. English is a weird language.


So, Question 1:
THE vs A(N) - my understanding is that "THE" represents a specific thing (not a specific KNOWN thing) - so I used it like THE sorcerer, THIS one, in this story. Not just any sorcerer. Why is that wrong? I mean, obviously, you don't know YET who it is, but it is THE sorcerer.

The question here is not actually a grammar question, but rather concerns clarity in writing. Grammatically, there is nothing inherently wrong with the sentence that raised the comment, but presentation wise, it is jarring.

As well, the problem here is not an English specific problem, because if it was in Spanish, I would see the same jarring discordant note in the sentence.

The line, "PCs need to stop a mad sorcerer/fey warlock Atlantes and free the innocent friar," would read more clearly if it was, "The PCs need to stop a mad sorcerer/fey warlock Atlantes and free an innocent friar." The initial, "the," in the edited sentence makes it clear that we are not concerned with just any old PCs, but specifically the PCs who are running through the adventure. This is a minor point. The second edit is more important for the smooth flow of presentation. By having "the friar," when presenting an initial overview of the world, you make it sound like there is only one friar at all, or a least only one who is innocent. By replacing, "the," with "an," you make it clear that there is more than one friar in the world, but that there is one in particular that the PCs will be interested in, that he is falsely accused and needs to be free.

Later, in the presentation, when the particular friar is introduced something like, "The monks at the monastery assigned one of their own, brother Matthias to investigate." After, he can then be, "friar Matthias," "Matthias," "the investigating monk," or even later, "the falsely accused friar."

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
What @Wicht and @prabe said.

Using "the" before you establish that there is an individual we should be focused on made me think I'd missed something since I knew of no specific individual. After they are introduced, referring to Matthias as "the monk" or Atlantes as "the sorcerer" makes sense in context.


Once A Fool
For what it’s worth, @Neurotic, I have found everything you’ve written prior to the round 2 entry very easy to understand – to the point that I can not tell if you do not speak English natively.

The difficulty in parsing that entry seems to me obviously a byproduct of it’s hasty writing and the lack of time to edit, rather than a lack of understanding of how the language works. I’ve seen many rushed entries from native speakers that presented similar difficulties.


Moderator Emeritus
I'm with you @Neurotic. I had no problem reading your entry and given both the genre of writing and the medium, some of those criticisms come off as unnecessarily picky. But IRON DM judges also judge harshly, that is part of the schtick (I should know, I started the tradition!), and you have to accept whatever criteria an individual judge feels is important.


Once A Fool
Round 3, 3rd-Place Match: el-remmen vs Neurotic

@el-remmen and @Neurotic, you have 1 hour (until 5:30 PM EDT) to post your entries to this thread, using the ingredients provided. You do not have a word-count limit, but all ingredients must be used and judges are free to penalize late entries as they see fit. Please do not edit your post once you submit.

Fools Rush In
Weapon in Waiting
Fading Dreamscape
Feast of Fools
Magical Workshop


Moderator Emeritus
Fools Rush In (A D&D Scenario for a Party of Bards) - Dedicated to @Snarf Zagyg

When Barangajangle the Clown finally died of old age, most people of the Kingdom of Serri did not expect the notoriously humorless King Arduous to announce a contest to replace him. Barangajangle was Arduous’s father’s Court Jester, and rumor had it that the King only kept him around out of respect for his father’s memory, and no one expected for a new jester to be appointed. Called “The Feast of Fools,” the contest is a grand carnival that will draw scores of songsters, minstrels, jesters, and the like from the four corners of the known world, in hopes of winning the coveted prize of being the wealthy and powerful king’s Court Jester and having the right to say whatever they want without punishment and temper his tendency towards violent and unjust answers to national crises with the wisdom of the fool—a strong tradition of the otherwise oppressive regime. The contest was a surprise, given the king’s reputation, but sages and members of the court see this as evidence that as the once young king matures, he is embracing the customs of the lang and tempering his power.

Barangajangle was also, unknown to many, a spy who worked against the king’s more onerous policies and fed information to the King’s enemies and opponents. The PCs are summoned to the Feast by Barangajangle (sending a final message from his deathbed) in hopes that it will provide them with a way into the castle to foil the evil king’s latest plans of death and conquest.

The player characters could be bards, rogues, or a mix of classes - but chances are they will have to either all pretend to be bards or part of a bard’s entourage in order to enter the contest and be allowed onto the castle grounds.

Announced as a three-day event, on the first day after all the contestants and their helpers are registered and their weapons and obvious magical items confiscated (no dangerous anything is allowed near the king) there is an inaugural feast before the contests begin. (there will be a feast each night). It is here that the format is announced. The king explains that the person who survives the three-day event will be the new jester - assuming they can pass the final test. He says, “survive” because those who lose will be executed and the would-be jesters are encouraged to trick and harm their fellow competitors to get to the end. All the bards are locked into the castle grounds, and anyone who tries to leave forfeits their place in the contest and their lives.

This should be reinforced right away by several of the would-be contestants getting up as the announcement is made, to make a run for it and being dropped by a rain of arrows from the castle walls.

Loyal citizens and servants of Serri have also been invited and encouraged to throw things at the bards, respond to disliked performances with violence, and the like. The Feast of Fools is a carnival in terms of the dark underbelly of the carnival trope - with a community working out their frustrations and xenophobia on the visiting bards.

There should be plenty of evil bards and their retinue there because while some want to temper the king’s evil, others want to encourage it and profit from it.

The player characters have another reason to be here, however. The information from Barangajangle explained that the king was working on a powerful magical item with his equally evil court wizard, Azzafrance, and the weapon has been waiting for the proper time (an alignment of the music of the spheres and stars) and the blood of 100 bards to be finally ready to unleash on the world. This will also mark the end of the period time that the king and his court wizard can used a magical anti-music box they have access to, to transform the castle into a dreamscape that will make it difficult to for the bards to want to escape or work together to break free, because each day ends like a dream - making the events of the day seem foggy and unreal. Each morning any sign of the previous day’s carnage will be gone. But each day this dreamy feel fades, until the actual horror of what is happening is unavoidable when the magic mecha rises to kill everyone.

The weapon is an immense clockwork golem that the king or his loyal servants can magic jar into, basically wearing it as a battle suit. Yes, it is a “mecha.

As such, while the PCs are participating in the contest and trying to keep from being murdered by other contestants, they will be hunting for the magical workshop beneath the castle where the Court Wizard is working on the mecha-golem, getting it prepared for the festival finale, which the king plans to use to destroy any remaining bards and their retinues - including the supposed winner. Essentially King Arduous hates bards and music and plans for this to be a good start for banning all kinds of music and humor (esp. any that could be considered subversive) by killing as many friggin’ bards as he can.

To begin with one out every five plates at the opening feast is poisoned, doing an amount of damage that would kill most characters of the PCs level (half on a save). Each night the dinner feast will have an increasing rate of poisoned meals and/or drinks. 1 in 3 and then 1 in 2.

This adventure should require lots of sneaking around, making alliances, lying, acting, and singing. Oh and improvisation, as the PCs might not have access to some of their best gear while this is going on.

Possible Bardic Contests:
  • Performance Marathon: A musical jam that lasts until the second to last performer drops. It will last over 24 hours, with bards playing instruments and singing improvisationally (imagine like the D&D version of Phish). It will require both performance checks and Constitution saving throws to go on. Those who break the developing theme or play off key or fall behind the rhythm are shot by the king’s guards.
  • Joke-Telling Contest: In each round the would-be jester must tell a joke on the given theme for the round. Those who don’t get beyond a certain number of laughs from the audience are beaten (some to death). The final round is politics, required careful joke telling as the contestants do not have legal protection yet.
  • Lore Test: A grueling oral examine testing the bard’s ability to know relevant lore. This knowledge is tied to solving deadly puzzles.
  • Battle Bards: A knockdown drag-out brawl using nothing but musical instruments as weapons
  • Agility Course: Just what it sounds like, but deadly.

The player characters may gain the aid of other contestants who rushed to register for the contest for the power and prestige it would provide and now have second thought. They might also have allies in the form of those in the court who helped Barangajangle’s agenda and enemies in the form of those who would profit from the king’s wars of conquest and crushing draconian rule on the people.

If the player characters find the magical workshop, they will find it under the sway of the magical anti-music box. While it looks like a music box, the item really emanates a zone of silence and absorbs sound, which feeds the power of the mecha until it is charged up, drenched in bard blood and ready to go. The box also causes confusion - reinforcing the dreamlike sense of the scenario. This can make casting spells in the workshop difficult. The mecha will have a similar zone of silence around it. If the PCs do not stop the final ceremony, the mecha emerges from a secret trapdoor in the ground of the main courtyard and begins killing every bard and bardic ally it can find. It’s next stop will be accompanying the king’s mounting armies to a neighboring nation to conquer it.

  • Fools Rush In - The title, but also the many bards and performers who cast aside doubts about the evil king’s motives in hopes gaining power and prestige.
  • Mecha - The enormous clockwork golem the king can magic jar into.
  • Weapon in Waiting: The afore-mentioned mecha that needs the proper alignment and bardic blood to work.
  • Fading Dreamscape: Within the workshop is a music box that creates the cursed conditions for the contest.
  • Feast of Fools: The festival/carnival itself - and the increasing foolishness of anyone who eats at the poisoned feasts.
  • Magical Workshop: Where the clockwork mecha-golem is stored and where the magic music box is kept.


I plan on living forever. Or die trying.
IRON DM 2021

el-remmen vs Neurotic, third-place match


Fools Rush In
Weapon in Waiting
Fading Dreamscape
Feast of Fools
Magical Workshop

The Great Dream​

In The Great Dream anything is possible and Ayurin, the inhabitants live protected and peaceful lives. Each of them has power to change minor things of the dream so scraped knees, burned food or stubbed toes are non-existent. The carriages moved silent and soft over the cobblestones, light as feathers for horses to draw without effort. There were great buildings dreamed by the architects, weird ships on the waters that ran on their captains focus on the dream rather than the sails. There were street lamps whose light was dreamed into the world each evening as Daydreamers walked along the streets, lighting them, dreaming of the world enlightened.

Great Dream is ruled by The Dreamers; The Queen who defined the world and sleeps eternally. The King who rules the world, maintaining Queens dream with magical dream-gems. The making of those gems is a secret that came from Before The Dream, legendary time when Ayuring lived dangerous lives, constantly fending off monsters, famine and greedy neighbors.

Unknown to the most people, on the borders of the kingdom The Awoken sit, each holding a dream-gem and looking out over the Gray Mists. Each Awoken guards the border with its own contigent of guard, each guard raised from birth to be a guard.

The Mists are an unknown expanse that occasionally shows other worlds as the Mist swirls and a shows glimpses of lives in other dreamscapes. Or spits out weird monsters that threaten the peace of the kingdom.

The job of the Awoken and its guards is to prevent these monsters from reaching the inner kingdom where the populace lives.

Dream-gems enable The Awoken to partially control The Mist closest to them, to hide or reveal details when other worlds appear. But its most important function is instant communication with The King whose master gem projects the kingdoms map in its central room. And each of the dream-gems is a light on that map, drawing near perfect circle of the Great Dream.

The Dream went on, eternal and unchanging. Until one of dream-gems winked out. And The Mists moved in, the circle no longer perfect. Attuning to the master gem, The King tried to see the border, but only The Mist swirled in his mind-eye. He expected that guards will send a rider with some new information. But nothing happened for a week. And then...another gem winked out, the bulge of the Mist now obvious on the Great Dream. With the second gem silence, small tremor shook the kingdom and The Queen turned in her sleep.

The worry started to gnaw at The King of Dreams and the world got that much darker. One month later, four of the gems disapeared, tremors got stronger and The Queen tossed and groaned in her sleep. People started losing their dream-granted powers and the confusion and worry permeated the kingdom.

The Players​

The King needs to send people to see what is going on, his magical sight blocked by The Mists. But the secret of the border needs to be kept as long as possible. To that effect he choses people he can afford to lose, he choses people who defied the rules, who used their powers for personal gain, for harming others and for perpetrating crimes.

The King goes into his Magical Workshop, dreaming about new king of dream-gems, one that will allow him to follow his 'suicide squad' and keep them in line.

The PCs are these prisoners, each should make up a reason to be in prison. The Dream powers are fading with Queens Dreamscape (so any game system can be used with powers only for minor, flavor stuff). Each is promised freedom if they can restore the border. They are briefed about The Awoken, geased not to talk about it with anyone, but themselves and given dream-gems by which The King can follow their adventures.

The Adventure​

Players need to come near The Mists. Which is about two weeks of travel away. But after about 10 days, the terrain changes. They need to fight through ever more twisted terrain, normal animals rabidly attacking; trees twisting their branches in an attemt to harm them; food and water tasting foul – this should be game of attrition just as much as power.

They need to fight through, defeat (near The Mist border) strange human using some kind of mechanical animated armor the size of a giant. The study of the giant reveals parts written in the language never seen, but parts are written in archaic Ayurin. The markings indicate there is a hidden stash of weapons prepared behind the Border Forts in case of organized attack from The Mists.

Brave (and unlikely) heroes need to track the giant footsteps into the Mists, find the stash of Hidden Weapons and return.

The stash is row after row of Mecha robots, their special glass cabin enabling the driver to see through the mists. In that instant, the danger to The Kingdom is apparent as a group of formians drive their mindless drones through the border of the kingdom.

Their complete lack of imagination is disturbing the World made of Queens imagining and the race to restore dream gems before the formians enter The Kingdom proper is on.

The stash contains notes from Before The Dreaming, unknown things are mentioned, plague, nuclear weapons and lasers among other things. But there are notes on making of dream gems and The King needs to return to Magical Workshop to create more of them to combat this new threat.

The Fading Dreamscape shakes ever harder as the formians advance, each soldier defeated and dominated simply turned against the unlikely heroes.

PCs will need to coordinate with the king, organizing his people to defend the kingdom, with The Awoken to coordinate and try to strenghten the borders, and finally, to defeat formian handlers among the hordes of lesser or dominated species.

The Formians don't really care about their drones, there are always more to be made, so like fools they rush in in whatever traps the players prepare making a feast of fools for the carrion eaters. With mecha powers (give them powerful ranged weapons, such as rays (lasers) or explosives (fireball) along with melee capabilities of giants) the PCs can lay waste in the horde, but it is by itself fools errand since they are essentially endless.


Once A Fool
Round 3, Championship Match: Gradine vs Wicht

@Gradine and @Wicht, 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 2000 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 1800. Later entries that are at less than 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 1400. Entries that are at least 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 1000. 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:
Frozen Island
Last Chance
Shapeshifter Grifter
Professional Killer
Unidentified Wound
Illegal Speed
Secret Shop
Ethical Dilemma

Radiating Gnome

Once again I'm apparently able to get my judgement in first, which means I'm safe from being the tiebreaker again.

And that's pure cowardice on my part. But here goes:

3rd Place Match: el-remmen vs Neurotic
All right, you know my routines by now. Fools Rush in vs. The Great Dream.

The high wire act of doing something in just an hour is especially fun, and there's a lot of good work going in to both entries. I'm impressed with what you've been able to produce in so little time.


Fools Rush In

So, for Fools Rush In this is not just the eponymous ingredient, it's a core part of the setup for the adventure -- aspiring jesters, bards, and entertainers are rushing in to a situation where they're likely to be killed -- fools in both senses of the term.

For The Great Dream, the formian giants (fomorian?) who blunder into traps set by the players are the fools who rush in -- this isn't anywhere near as tight a use of the ingredient. So, Advantage FRI.

For The Great Dream, we have animated armor and a stash of mecha robots that is apparently driven by the fomorians who are bringing their lack of imagination to the dream landscape.

For Fools Rush In, the evil King has a special magical mecha suit that he can use to destroy music and kill all the terrible bards.

Both cover this base. I think the explanation is written up a bit better in FRI, but that's not enough to be more than a whisker of an advantage, so call this one even for now.

Weapon in Waiting
Again, this one appears to have been well used in both entries. One Mecha or an army of them, they're waiting in the wings for the signal to attack. If anything, the Mecha army in TGD doesn't really wait much, just marches across the border, but that may be a technicality.

Fading Dreamscape
Much as Fools Rush In was the central conceit of FRI, the fading dreamscape is the central conceit of TGD, and I think that TGD has the clear advantage for this ingredient. The dream in FRI is covered, but it's not as central to the overall plot.

Feast of Fools
FRI combines the ingredient Fools Rush In with the Feast of Fools and the two essentially become a single core ingredient -- it's always lovely when things socket together like lego bricks in that way.
For TGD, the feast is also closely related to the Fools Rush In ingredient, but because that ingredient was a bit weak, this one is also weak. Frankly, the "of fools" could be removed from it's sentence in the entry and we would lose nothing in the story. " like fools they rush in in whatever traps the players prepare making a feast...for the carrion eaters." So, this one goes to FRI.

Magical Workshop
Both entries have adequate magical workshops, and I don't think one is inherently much better than the other.

Overall, then Fools Rush In has a bit of an edge on the ingredient part of this.
Writing, Presentation, Playability
Both entries are surprising solid and completely formed ideas given the time limit. Time for polish would have helped both, but I think we can clearly see that there are great ideas here to work with.

There's a manic joy that I love about the evil king's desire to kill all the bards and put an end to music in Fools Rush In. There's a graceful simplicity in the use of silence to stop the music and make it easy to just stomp around and crush those annoying buskers with their guitars and juggling torches.

And, at the same time, there's lovely world building that has started in The Great Dream -- a fey world where everyone has a little dream magic except the fomorian goons and their mechs who are going to come and bring their monstrous lack of imagination to the dreamscape.

Writing-wise, though, there's an element that I thing gives Fools Rush In an edge. There's a neatness to the way the ingredients are woven and socketed together as if they were not a random batch of crap, and it makes the whole thing feel like a planned story. I've talked about how Fools Rush In and Feast for Fools connect, which is easily done, but the idea that the magical workshop holds the weapon on waiting, which is the king's music-ending mecha, and the whole thing is draped in the idea that the secret weapon that makes the real world feel like a dream.

The Great Dream does plenty of this sort of connecting the dots, too, but the connections lack the feeling of inevitability and natural connection in some cases that the ingredient weave in Fools Rush In all have.

So, for me, the better entry is Fools Rush In, and that makes this a vote for El-Remmen. Neurotic, you've never disappointed at any stage of this competition, and this is no exception. Thanks for an excellent entry.



I have a basic plot, characters, and setting outlined in my head. Now I just have to find the time to type it all up sometime today...

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