IRON DM 2021 Tournament

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Final Form (they/them)

Swift Action
Tin Star
Waterlogged Sewers
Debt Collector
Hidden Knife
Underground Dance

The Job
The players are mercenaries for hire operating out in the west. They are contacted by a magnate from Chicago, Kenneth Loggins, who needs help collecting a debt from a small western town by the name of Bomont. He loaned capital (in particular: sewing and textile tools and goods) to an ambitious young woman named Ariel Solomon, but she is overdue on the returns. The players must travel to Bomont to either collect Ariel’s debt or bring her to Chicago’s debtor’s prison.

Bomont is a town rife with paranoia, guilt, and grief. The township’s leader is also their reverend, a grieving man named John Solomon. His youngest daughter, Dianne, had just been murdered. After going missing for a week, her waterlogged head, stinking of whisky, was found on the steps of the local saloon. Reverend Solomon has ordered the building locked, and has banned from the township not just alcohol but all activities he has long associated with the evil, including music and dancing.

The players arrive just over a month after this tragic event.

Ariel, Dianne, and her friend Rusty have a dream: turning the saloon into a dance hall. Rusty has helped recruit several former prostitutes escaping nearby towns as performers. Ariel sold most of the larger equipment she acquired from Chicago and stocked away the money to seed their dream, keeping only enough supplies to sew their dancing outfits. By day they sew, and by night they practice their routines.

Ariel does not have enough money to pay Loggins back, but insists that if she is able to open the hall and put on a show she will easily be able to make the money back.

Shortly after the PCs arrive, Rusty disappears.

Sheriff “Eggs” Benedict is deeply in love with Ariel, but she has not let him on her plans, as she knows how devoted he is to following the law. If he does learn the truth, he will in fact be torn over his love and his commitment to the law. He does what he can, however, to resist players who attempt to arrest her and bring her back to Chicago.

When Rusty disappears, Eggs approaches the PCs and asks if they would be willing to volunteer for the search.

Eggs is convinced that the former saloon operators were behind the original deaths, though he can find no evidence to back it up. The saloon owners in turn have pointed fingers at the local group of teetotalers who, at the behest of Reverend Solomon, have repeatedly targeted the saloon for vandalism and theft. In the week before Dianne’s disappearance, a barrel of whisky went missing; the local cooper, a man named Chuck, says that he caught Dianne trying to steal alcohol once.

In truth, he is a devout and zealous follower of Reverend Solomon who has attempted to destroy the saloon from the inside. He is also the one responsible for the deaths; he discovered the girls’ plan and grew convinced the three were evil witches, infected by Satan through dance. He kidnapped Dianne and drowned her in one of his barrels. In an effort to both close the saloon and discourage the other witches, he soaked the head in whisky and left it on the saloon’s doorstep. After learning that Rusty and Ariel were continuing their work, he kidnaps Rusty and brings him to his workshop.

If the players are quick enough, they’ll catch Chuck in the act of drowning Rusty in a barrel of whisky, and might save him with some quick first aid. Eggs and Ariel will also arrive on the scene. Perceptive characters will notice Ariel retrieving an item from her petticoats; a knife gifted to her from one of the former prostitutes for self-protection. If the players are not swift, Ariel will draw the knife and charge Chuck, stabbing him repeatedly.

If Chuck is Arrested Peacefully:
Reverend Solomon comes to see the error in his zealousness, and can be convinced, albeit not easily, to support his daughter with her dream, provided alcohol and prostitution are both still banned. True to her word, after only a few nights Ariel is able to raise enough to pay off her debt.
If Ariel kills Chuck: Eggs arrests her for murder, and insists his jurisdiction supersedes they players’ debt collection, leaving them empty-handed. Frustrated, Kenneth Loggins turns to the Pinkertons to get his revenge on both the town and the players who failed him.


Once A Fool
Commentary on Gradine’s entry:
That’s a remarkably complex set-up for what looks to be a short (one-shot?) session! It’s hard to do justice to a mystery adventure in a single session, but this looks like it would do the trick. Looks fun!

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Commentary on Gradine's Entry:
Damn you! I can't get Footloose out of my head now!



Small God of the Dozens
Hard Rain in Rosewood (Monster of the Week/PbtA)

Warning – this adventure contains children in peril, and possible harm to children.

Swift Action
Tin Star
Waterlogged Sewers
Debt Collector
Hidden Knife
Underground Dance

The town of Rosewood is home to a cult worshipping Yg-Salla, the Great Serpent. They have been holding ecstatic rites in the caverns connected to the town’s sewers for years. Several weeks ago they actually managed to summon their scaly master, who appeared through a rift and promptly killed most of the revelling cultists and then disappeared into the sewer system. Since then the town has been subject to a series of disappearances and rumours of a giant reptile in local sewers and waterways. The cultists are desperate to control Yg-Salla but will need to find him first. In the meanwhile, townsfolk continue to disappear in alarming numbers.

Sometime this afternoon, a girl named Jessica Martin disappeared from her home in a southern suburb of Rosewood. She took a backpack and some supplies and left a note for her parents telling them she was going to find a monster she’d heard about and capture it, just like her hero Jack Colton from tv. Her backpack contained a flashlight, some nylon rope, a pen knife, some sandwiches, and her Jack Colton Adventurer’s Club pin, a cheap tin star, but one of her prized possessions. She hasn’t been seen for several hours. About an hour ago, the torrential rain that the weather-man had been promising started to fall with a vengeance. Investigators will have to act swiftly if they want to save Jesse before the sewers flood.

  • Day – Yg-Salla awakens. The beast is seen in the river just north of town, close to the storm sewer outlet
  • Shadows – the rain intensifies, runoff becomes dangerous is spots. A Public Works employee is found torn apart at the pumping station north of town.
  • Sunset – Jessica’s uncle Chester assaults a police officer who ‘wasn’t doing enough’ and sets off into the sewers armed with a shotgun. Some roads become impassable due to water.
  • Dusk – Cultists slip into the sewers to search for Yg-Salla, armed with ritual knives dipped in snake blood. Some sewers in the downtown star overflowing.
  • Nightfall – running battles in the sewers as Chester, the Cultists, and Yg-Salla clash in the shadows.
  • Midnight – Yg-Salla will devour the town, one victim at a time. The sewers overflow.
Yg-Salla, the Great Scaled One
A Chthonic spirit that like a cross between a squid and an alligator. Eyeless and about 20’ long, with four legs, iridescent scales, a wicked beak, and a mane of tentacles sprouting from it’s shoulders.

Powers: Tremor Sense - does not need light to see; Natural Climber – can climb walls and most ceilings with ease

Harm Capacity – 14
Attacks – Savage Fury – claws and beak (3-harm close)
Armour – Scaly Hide: 2-Armour
Weaknesses –
  • vulnerable to silver (+1 Harm and pierces Armour)
  • True Name – calling out Yg-Salla’s true name while holding one of the Cultist’s ritual silver blades will allow you control the beast, or banish it back to it’s dimension.
The Sewers Location: maze (confuse and separate)
A bewildering mix of old and new construction, full of narrow passages and odd open areas. These tunnels fill steadily while it rains.

The Cavern Location: Crossroads (motivation: to bring people together)
Natural caves connect to the sewers. This is where the cult holds its rituals. Hidden here is a cache of silver ritual knives. A group of cultists will likely be performing a ecstatic ritual here when the hunters arrive, with loud drums, wild dancing and murmured incantations.

Cult of the Great Serpent Minion: Guardian (motivation: to bar the way or protect their master)
There are about 20 cultists that will slip into the tunnels over the course of the evening. Each is armed with a sliver ritual knife (Harm-2 close). They will either be searching for the beast, performing a ritual, or guarding the tunnels close the cavern

Chester Martin Bystander: Helper (motivation: to join the hunt)
Jessica’s Uncle. He is a debt collector and enforcer for a local gang. Violent and headstrong, but he does truly want to save his niece.

Jessica Martin Bystander: Victim (motivation: to place herself in danger)
An adventurous girl who loves the outdoors and exploring. She is quite brave, but her over-confidence often leads her into danger.

Police Chief Stan Burdock Bystander: Sceptic (motivation: to deny supernatural explanations)
He’s been chief for years. He has no belief in the supernatural and doesn’t want ‘amateurs’ anywhere near his investigation. He will start sending officers into the tunnel shortly after the rain starts.


Once A Fool
Commentary on Fenris-77’s entry:
I do like to see a well-done Powered by the Apocalypse entry. They do such a good job of presenting clear stakes in a clean format. I’m not familiar with that particular game, but your entry does a good job of giving me a sense of it. I might have to check it out.


Small God of the Dozens
Western Footloose vs. (even more) Cthulhu It! Very fun!
Also, @Rune:
Monster of the Week is probably my favorite PbtA game, which is saying quite a bit. You should definitely check it out!
MotW is definitely my favorite PbtA game. Supernatural, X-Files, whatever you need. WHee! I was actually going to go Trophy first, but the ingredients mitigated for a different approach.


Final Form (they/them)
Deeper thoughts:
This was a tough set of ingredients for me. I was definitely feeling the rust trying to work all of these ingredients together. While it eventually all coalesced into a story that worked, I did realize how much of what I was putting together was ultimately backstory. While there's only the search/confrontation spelled out for the PCs in terms of codified encounters, I hoped that there would, implicitly, be more character interaction going on as the PCs reach the town, figure out what kind of situation they've just walked into, meet Ariel and try to decide whether or help her or to try to drag her back to Chicago in chains; and I tried to throw up enough obstacles and complications towards whichever goal they end up partaking. I might have made the stakes a bit clearer throughout the adventure, as well.

I also realize that I was getting a little too cute by half on some of the ingredients (Waterlogged Sewers, anyone? Eh? Eh?)

As for my competition, I love Monster of the Week, and this is such a great example! I love the various levels of complications you introduce as the clock ticks down (I realize that clocks, as a game mechanic, is more of a Forged in the Dark thing, but I feel like they would work equally well in this circumstance). It's hard to top a great PbtA experience.

I'm anxiously awaiting the judgment!


Small God of the Dozens
I really liked the Footloose thing. You worked it in but didn't push it too hard. The character of Eggs is a very nice touch too, with the whole torn between love and duty thing, and there is a some interesting room for PCs to approach the whole business in a couple of different ways, which can be tough to get done in short words count.

I struggled little with the clues to start too. Once I decided on cultists and sewer exploration it got easier though. I had a very different plan in mind to start, but the pieces just weren't falling into place so I binned the whole thing and went with MotW.

Anyway, nicely done.


Final Form (they/them)
More spoilers, I guess
Come to think of it, all those Tombstone memes in the other thread had my brain stuck on westerns in the first place...


Once A Fool
Round 1, Match 2: Snarf Zagyg vs el-remmen

@Snarf Zagyg and @el-remmen, 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:

Simple Plan
Credit Due
Dogs of War
Poor Reception
Last Knight
Reality Breach

My thoughts on Hardrain in Rosewood:

I really like how strong the flooding is part of the narrative in this adventure. But I'm a little surprised that the Tin Star doesn't reappear later as a clue to find Jessica, since she could easily have dropped it.

However, I really love the countdown. This adventure has some strong stakes and motivation for the players to hurry.


Moderator Emeritus
Stayed up last night and wrote a whole draft - now I just need to tweak it and cut about 135 words. So far, I have added 23. o_O :LOL:


Moderator Emeritus
Oh and question, I know the title doesn't count for the word count but does the system/level description count?

So if the title was "Gingerbread Man's Revenge (An Epic Adventure for the Candyland RPG)" - would the parenthetical part go towards word count or not?



Oh and question, I know the title doesn't count for the word count but does the system/level description count?

So if the title was "Gingerbread Man's Revenge (An Epic Adventure for the Candyland RPG)" - would the parenthetical part go towards word count or not?

The answer in prior years has been yes as you are conveying information regarding adventure content.


Once A Fool
The answer in prior years has been yes as you are conveying information regarding adventure content.
To elaborate: a well-crafted subtitle can take a lot of the expository load off of an entry in a very efficient few words. I personally encourage their use as such, but they really do need to count against the word-limit.

Of course, @Iron Sky will be the arbiter for the match in question. It may come down to an interpretation. For example, if given the title: Steam Tunnels: An Adventure, I see no meaningful information being conveyed in the subtitle. On the other hand, Steam Tunnels: A Mazes and Monsters Adventure says quite a lot.

Radiating Gnome

Round 1 Match 1: Spurloose vs. Hard Rain in Rosewood

Hey all, it's exciting to be back judging Iron DM, and it's especially fun to jump in with a pair of strong entries to kick things off.

In this match we have Spurloose (by Gradine), a western crime drama, and Hard Rain in Rosewood (by Fenris-77), a Cthulu-esque modern scenario. My evaluations are based first on a study of the way the ingredients are used, and then a more subject sense of the general playability, writing, and presentation of the two entries.


Swift Action

In Spurloose, we have a situation in which the players are sent with a timetable to collect a debt, and if they move quickly enough in the process of investigating the situation, it's possible that they will be able to save Rusty from Chuck -- if they are not swift in solving the murder, they will be left unable to collect on the debt, because Ariel has been arrested for murder.

In Hard Rain, the story is on a timeline -- when the PC's arrive they have until midnight that night to prevent Yg-Salla from devouring the town. There is also the need to rescue Jessica before the sewers flood.

In comparison, I think that while they both have this ingredient, the "swift action" in Hard Rain is slightly less specific to this adventure -- it feels a lot like just a typical crescendo to a story climax, and not something that merits a special ingredient. The need for swift action in Spurloose has some of that, too, but the ingredient feels more integral to this specific story. It's a whisker of a difference, though, so we'll call this ingredient a draw unless I find I need a tiebreaker later.

Tin Star
In Hard Rain, the tin star is explicitly something that Jessica Martin carried into the sewers with her, in her backpack. It’s a striking detail in such a short write up — and unfortunately we are not given a sense of the importance of that tin star — it doesn’t explicitly come up as an important clue or detail later in the adventure. So, this is a bit weak.

In Spurloose, the tin star is Sheriff Eggs Benedict. It’s not an especially inspired use of the ingredient, but at least his role as Sheriff is established and appropriate to the ingredient. So, for this ingredient, Spurloose has an edge.

Waterlogged Sewers
So, in Hard Rain, the waterlogged sewers are a very literal expression of the ticking clock that drives the adventure.
In Spurloose, on the other hand, the word ‘sewers” is read as “sew-ers”, which is cute and made me groan, but has one small problem — the sew-ers have been drowned in whiskey, not water….so does that make them whiskey-logged? Either way, Iron DM has a long transition of creative interpretation of ingredients, so we’ll call it good even while looking sideways at Spurloose for having conflated whiskey and water-logging. So, this ingredient is another draw.

Debt Collector
In Spurloose, the PCs are the debt collectors, trying to recover the investment of their boss, Kenny Loggins. It’s solid, and they have to thread a pretty significant narrative needle to make sure they managed to achieve that goal.
In Hard Rain, the debt collector ingredient is tossed onto Chester, Jessica’s uncle, who charges into the sewer with a shotgun because the police are not doing enough. I find this particular use of the ingredient, because it’s not really important to the character’s role in the story, is pretty weak, so this ingredient favors Spurloose.

Hidden Knife
In Spurloose, Ariel has a hidden knife she will use in the final confrontation with Chuck. It's possible that the players won't even see the hidden knife, since the adventure holds out the possibility that Chuck will be arrested peacefully.

In Hard Rain, the ritual knives of the cultists appear to be the detail that is meant to cover this ingredient. The knives are technically hidden because the whole nature of the cult and the ritual is a secret, but that feels a little weak to me. The write up doesn’t help me see how the knives are important to the ritual, or why those would be the weapons of choice for a couple of dozen cultists trying to kill or control a monster in the sewers that they have released. I find the ingredient pretty weak in both executions, so we’ll call it a draw.

Underground Dance
So, it appears to me that this ingredient is the source of the “Footloose” games that Spurloose is playing, and that is good fun. At the same time, the dance is a goal that is not quite achieved in the frame of the scenario. Perhaps a write up with more room to breathe would describe a scene in the locked up saloon with Ariel, who presumes she’s alone, is dancing around like mad, but in this iteration it isn’t quite there.
In Hard Rain, the ritual that the cultists are indulging in does include ecstatic dancing, which does cover it, but there’s nothing about the detail that this is a dance that really is integral to the story or other action. I’m not totally pleased with either use of the ingredient, but I think that there is a slight edge for Hard Rain here. The dancing is actually happening in the story, after all.

So, the differences here are slight — I rated three ingredients as a draw, found that Spurloose managed two of them, better than Hard Rain, and Hard Rain had one ingredient where it has the edge. So, as a package, Spurloose is marginally stronger than Hard Rain on the subject of ingredient use.

Playability, Writing, Presentation
So, looking past the ingredients, I think these are both quite strong entries, and they make good examples of the way a tight word limit can actually result in some tight, clear, well-written submissions.

Spurloose is charming, drawing a lot of strength from the touch of wit that it brings in with all the Footloose references. I’m amused that the name “Eggs Benedict” sent me off to the googles to look up when Eggs Benedict was invented — and it appears to have been served in New York starting in the 1860s, but wasn’t published in a cookbook until 1890. So, while it is maybe not likely to have been something that would be general enough knowledge in Bomont to be the Sheriff’s nickname, it makes me laugh reading it, it does a nice job of putting the “tin” in the tin star (making him a weak sheriff), and just fits in the overall flow of the entry.

In Hard Rain, the tone is a bit different, but it’s still a very tight, well-presented entry. I find that it doesn’t have quite as much personality going for it as Spurloose, but there is some. Interestingly, one of the details that I find most charming and interesting is Jessica’s devotion to the Jack Colton tin star she carries. The specific ness of a name like Jack Colton sent me off to the googles, too, looking for something I had never heard of, but my very brief search turned up some inspirational “wealth is good” speaker in Vegas. I didn’t look to closely, I don’t want to get invited to anything ……. Anyway, it’s my sense that Jack Colton was just a name that has the right sound, and it works. But the description spends a lot of very precious words explaining that tin star, and it never pays off. Chekov’s gun, etc.

One thing that struck me about Hard Rain was the presence of some notes about the game mechanics for the knives, and for Yg-Salla. Those are not necessary details for such a short write up, and the twenty or so words that could be saved could have been spent detailing some of the less satisfying elements of the current write up. Why is it important that Chester is a debt collector for a gang? Why is the toy badge important? Why do the cultists use knives dipped in snake blood? Those details would matter a whole lot more than the PbtA stats, etc.

Final Judgement
I really like both entries, and I think the are kicking off Iron DM 2021 on a great note. But I have to pick one, and in this case the ingredients and the overall presentation favor Spurloose. Gradine, you’ll advance to round 2. Congratulations.

Fenris-77, you faced off with a seasoned pro, and wrote an excellent entry. Thanks for participating, and I hope to see you in future competitions. You’ve got the chops, for sure.
Thanks everyone!

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