IRON DM 2021 Tournament

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Cool. Using an obscure system that the judge(s) might not be familiar with is always a risk in IRON DM (since the judges won’t follow links in an entry). That doesn’t mean it can’t be done and done well, of course. The trick is to make the shape of the adventure clear in stead of focusing overmuch on the mechanics. Which should be the case, anyway.
One of the beauties of Trophy is how integral the shape and teleos of the adventure is to the format. It's an elegant little system that way. Incursion design focuses specifically on a central theme and evocative description, all hung on a super-simple framework. Anyway, I thought it would have worked very well. Next time perhaps.
 

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Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
Trophy Dark is a very rules-light fantasy horror game, usually played as a one-shot. It's like horror tinged deconstruction of wilderness adventure in more traditional games. Here's the SRD. It was my first choice because it's super-evocative when done well and there aren't many rules to actually deal with on the adventure writing side so it works well for low word-count projects. There's another version called Trophy Gold that's got some campaign elements built in and is to the Dungeon Crawl what Dark is to wilderness exploration. Trophy (both versions) has been where I've been spending my design time lately.

[Edit: sorry, the word Incursion is their word for adventure or module, or whatever.]
Cool. Using an obscure system that the judge(s) might not be familiar with is always a risk in IRON DM (since the judges won’t follow links in an entry). That doesn’t mean it can’t be done and done well, of course. The trick is to make the shape of the adventure clear in stead of focusing overmuch on the mechanics. Which should be the case, anyway.
It can also be a mistake to worry overmuch about system and rules; the judges typically are looking more for an adventure synopsis than everything. It can be a fine line to walk, though; I've had a generic fantasy (ostensibly D&D) adventure that was docked for overlooking how easy it is to deal with poison in even low-level D&D. I've also seen mechanics invented wholecloth; some of them add quite a bit to the adventure, but can just as easily detract from it if the rules don't quite make sense.
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
Darn it!

I thought the trick was to make obscure references to 1980s movies. @Gradine !!!!!!! You Kevin Bacon'd me! ;)
I have zero regrets, and apologize for nothing

Kevin Bacon Reaction GIF by Tremors
 

Rune

Once A Fool
It can also be a mistake to worry overmuch about system and rules; the judges typically are looking more for an adventure synopsis than everything. It can be a fine line to walk, though; I've had a generic fantasy (ostensibly D&D) adventure that was docked for overlooking how easy it is to deal with poison in even low-level D&D. I've also seen mechanics invented wholecloth; some of them add quite a bit to the adventure, but can just as easily detract from it if the rules don't quite make sense.
In other words, mechanics don’t matter unless they do.

For example, it probably won’t matter that a hypothetical system considers healing potions mundane. But, if an adventure expects a dying NPC to be encountered inside a dead-magic area, the adventure needs to account for it. If the NPC is supposed to be beyond saving, that’s a potential problem. If, on the other hand, the NPC is meant to be saveable, the entry should point that out, so the GM can recognize and understand it.

Here’s another example, from one of my own entries: The PCs in a 5e D&D adventure might be traveling around with a rogue modron quadrodrone and need to enter an inverted tower that is the reflection of another tower across the surface of a lake. The modron can’t go with them because it’s innate truesight prevents it from seeing metaphor. To the modron, it is only a reflection.
 


Wicht

Adventurer
Iron DM 2021
Round 1, Match 3:
Wicht vs humble minion​

Ingredients:
Ghost Mushrooms
Rotting Utopia
Bear Necessities
Armored Lizard
Rootless Tree
Broken Angel




Incident With A Lucky Angel

A down-under post-apocalyptic adventure

Background
Mago Island has long been a safe haven for peace-loving Koals, The small mountainous island, 8 km east from the coastal city of Townsville, off the Queen’s Coast, is covered with the Koal’s beloved ‘Lyptus trees, a dietary necessity for the bear-folk. Its plentiful food, distance from the coast, and proximity to the fortified Townsville, have allowed the Koals, for generations, to be left to themselves, living in lazy, idyllic bliss.

Atop the island’s central peak is the Shrine of the Lucky Angel. A forty-foot tall angelic statue, a key corner-point in an ancient techno-arcane defense sigil, stands facing the coast. Radiation from the statue has affected the nearby ‘Lyptus trees. Growing to massive proportions, these trees are covered with glowing, poisonous ghost-shrooms which inject psychedelic spores into their foliage. Koals consuming these infected leaves become lethargic addicts, able to see into the Dreaming, yet capable of little else. The largest of these massive trees, called The Old Man by the Koals, towers hundreds of feet over the Angel and is so massive as to be visible from Townsville. Traditionally, a cadre of dazed Koal prophets tend to the shrine and serve as oracles.

Five years ago, a huge branch, falling from the Old Man, decapitated the statue. The stone head rolled down the mountain slope, sinking into a pond. Since then, more and more of the island’s trees have begun to decay, ghost-shrooms blossoming abundantly on their trunks. Many of the Koals have grown addicted to leaves of these dying trees, and the small society is starting to fall apart. The elders fear that unless something is done, their race will be forced to leave the island or else eventually starve to death in a drug-fueled daze.

Meanwhile, Dragon Riders from the Central Waste have their eyes on the Queen’s Coast and a conquest of Townsville. A party of their scouts are making their way to Mago Island, to examine its potential as a strategic locale in the coming conflict.

Possible Hooks:
Military
: The PCs, allied with the Queen’s army, made aware of the scouts heading towards Mago Island, are sent to eliminate the scouts and make allies of the Koals.

Techo-arcane: The PCs are seeking to activate the ancient sigil. To activate the angel, the angel’s head will have to first be located and the statue repaired.

A Plea for Help: The elders of Mago Island in response to a vision from their mountain prophets have sent emissaries to Townsville, seeking allies who can cure their affliction and defend the island.

Encounters and Complications
The Dazed and Confused:
Almost a third of the Koals are addicted to infected ‘Lyptus leaves. Most of these individuals are harmless, yet also hard to motivate. Given to uttering cryptic insights, they spend their days hunting leaves, with little regard for their own preservation.

The Scouts: The Dragon Rider scouts are a motley collection of savage mutants mounted on giant water-dragons, able to swiftly cross land and sea. Their leader, a cunning barbarian named Blood-Jack, rides a fire-breathing, bearded-water-dragon, so massive as to be able to swim in heavy plate armor. Blood Jack’s two lieutenants are Arul, a telekinetic witch, and Hugs, a gigantic feral Drope (a savage cousin of the peaceful Koals). The scouts quickly establish a base in ancient fortifications on the northwest end of the Island, and make forays across the island, enslaving and killing Koals.

Giant Ghost Moths: The infected ‘Lyptus trees affect the ghost moths which inhabit their branches, causing them to mutate and grow. These giant, glowing, psychic insects soon become violent and dangerous.

Prophecy of Doom: A Koal prophet proclaims the Death of the Old Man and the End of Luck. The roots of the huge tree are completely rotted away, and if something is not done, it will fall on the Angel, shattering the statue, releasing radiations, and killing all vegetation on the island within a month. The PCs must figure out how to fell the tree away from the Angel

Finding and Repairing the Head: The statue’s head is submerged in a mountain pond. The radiation from the head has produced voracious giant dragonflies, poisonous frogs and killer pond shrimp. If the PCs can reattach the head of the angel using some manner of adhesive, the radiation leak will be contained, and life can return to normal on the island.
 


Wicht

Adventurer
  • I would like to thank the makers of Izzy's Koala World for my inspiration for my adventure idea. I have been watching it here recently with the kiddos. Magnetic island, and the city of Townsville are real-world places in Queensland. There really are fortifications on the island from WW2, and there is currently a population of about 800 Koalas living there. The phrase, bear necessities, brought to mind the need for koala bears to eat Eucalyptus and the idea grew from there. Ghost Mushrooms are a real glowing fungus which can be found on some Eucalyptus trees, and so it all started to tie together.
  • If I had had more words I would have liked to explore the techno-arcane angle of the angel a bit better, but 750 words is pretty tight for much exposition and exploration.
  • Also, in case it was not obvious, a Drope is an anthropomorphic drop bear, savage cousin to the koala, and the leaders of the dragon rider scouts is a callback to one of my childhood cartoons.
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
Is my walking speed and whatnot inside a metaphor the same, or do things get all ineffable as it were?
As one of the judges of that particular entry, I can say with absolute confidence that I do not know the answer those, and in fact could not have cared less about them :p
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Here’s another example, from one of my own entries: The PCs in a 5e D&D adventure might be traveling around with a rogue modron quadrodrone and need to enter an inverted tower that is the reflection of another tower across the surface of a lake. The modron can’t go with them because it’s innate truesight prevents it from seeing metaphor. To the modron, it is only a reflection.

You dare to understand me?

ac48abc2527ccf38689c6465ae5cc5f0.gif


Don't you mess with my metaphor.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Fenris pauses to consider doubling down on the 'joking' aspect of his hot take. After a sip of tea and some beard stroking he decides against it.
 


Ghost Mushrooms
Rotting Utopia
Bear Necessities
Armored Lizard
Rootless Tree
Broken Angel


The Tree Of Dying

A Deathwatch adventure

Killteam Argonaut recently disappeared on a mission to assassinate Rugluk Brainboila, a powerful ork weirdboy, on an impossibly lush jungle world called Hamith. PC killteam is ordered to retrieve Argonaut and complete the mission.

One member of Argonaut is of the same chapter as a PC. This PC (Secretbearer) should be one whose chapter has a secret to hide. The Chapter issues secret orders to Secretbearer that the Argonaut Astartes (Target) must not survive lest this secret be revealed. If Secretbearer is a Blood Angel, Target may have succumbed to the Black Rage; a Space Wolf might suffer the Wulfen curse, etc (broken angel).

Hamith is entirely waterbound, and the 'ground' comprises vast drifts of overgrown floating vegetation. This vegetation is often fragile and PCs must travel light and only bear necessities because heavy PCs (jump packs, heavy weapons, terminator armour, carrying fallen comrades) risk falling through.

Rugluk's ship disintegrated upon re-entry and fell in fragments. Large pieces punched through the vegetation and sank immediately. Only small craft, rokkit-pack troops, etc landed safely. PCs in orbit can track that planetfall centred around a vast thousands-metres-tall tree drifting on the rich waters (rootless tree). Argonaut is incommunicado.

Orks swarm over Hamith. Observant PCs notice they are moving erratically and approximately towards the giant tree. PCs fighting orks will quickly have many more to fight unless they are quiet. If PCs are hard-pressed, something huge and fast will erupt from beneath the vegetation and eat some orks. Perceptive PCs see it's a giant lizardy thing, VERY perceptive PCs see it wears Eldar-crafted armor.

PCs must go to the tree. They can discover this by
  • follwing the orks
  • a PC librarian can sense psychic activity around the tree
  • discovering Argonaut's last stand, piles of spent bolt casings and dead orks around a charred hole in the vegetation mat. Large tracks lizard tracks, not ork) lead towards the tree.

PCs approaching the tree see Eldar wraithbone intertwines with living wood, now rotting with ork-fungus. It is impossible to burn all the fungus with the munitions PCs can carry, the tree is thoroughly infested. PCs must climb, fighting squigs and orks, to the Eldar outpost around which the tree was grown.

Climbing, Secretbearer PC hears a voice in his head. Hamith is a Maiden World, a long-ago-terraformed sanctuary and haven for the eldar race (rotting utopia). One warlock, Llifyr, riding a native giant water dragon (which the PCs saw earlier), guards Hamith. She mentally contacts Secretbearer and offers cooperation against Rugluk. She tells him his battle-brother (Target) accepted her offer, and might still survive.

High in the tree, in a wraithbone ampitheatre centred on a webway gate, Target fought Rugluk to a standstill and both lie near death. Rugluk's spores spawn eerie translucent fungus everywhere (ghost mushrooms), and through them his psychic ork genes taint eldar psychic circuitry and ghost warrior constructs. Fungus-encrusted wraithguard obey Rugluk's will. If left alone, Rugluk will recover.

Target is occasionally lucid and suspects Secretbearer is here to kill him, but insists he can still serve. GM should engineer a situation where Target saves Secretbearer's life, to impose a debt of honour & make deciding harder. If Secretbearer kills Target prematurely, Target will not be able to warn that Llifyr is untrustworthy, suggest the tree-toppling gambit to cleanse the ork infestation, or direct PCs to Argonaut's hidden transport.

Llifyr asks the PCs to delay the orks and Rugluk's ghost-mushroom constructs while she activates a psychic defense system she claims will wipe out the orks. She's lying, it'll wipe every mind within 50 miles. Llifyr intends to escape through the webway gate and let the mindbomb exterminate orks and Deathwatch alike. Unless warned by Target, Librarian PCs sense this with 3 turns before activation, non-psychic PCs only 1. Once they do, Llifyr will dispatch her giant armored lizard to defend her while she completes activation. If she is seriously wounded, activation aborts. She flees into the webway and closes it behind her.

PCs could simply kill Rugluk and escape, but his spores in the Eldar psychic node would spawn more Rugluks in future, armed with Eldar weaponry. To prevent this, the tree and all in it must be destroyed. Destabilisation is the best way to do this. The fungus-weakened tree has no roots, and will overturn catastrophically with sufficient lateral force, dumping orks, fungus, and wraithguard into the deep. PCs will only have light equipment (bearing necessities...), so ingenuity (and maybe Argonaut's transport) will be required.
 


👀
Eyes the time
Yeah, i ran this one a little close...

Going very heavy on the Warhammer 40K lore here, which could backfire on me big time. Lots of assumed knowledge required to understand the whole thing, and someone who's not across that setting will miss a LOT of the connections. But alae iacta est...

Edit: and AS SOON as i hit post, I immediately see a glaring typo, aaaarrrghhh...
 



I think the first round is always the hardest, to be honest, simply because of word count. There simply isn't space to lay out much background or describe NPCs/setting etc. By necessity, the limit pushes round 1 entries to be linear or very high-level and abstract. I hinted last year that increasing the first round word limit to 1000 might be an rules change to consider, but obviously the judges have scoffed at my feeble weakness in the face of the true mercilessness of [ominous reverberating voice] IRON DM!

This was not my first-choice entry, but I just couldn't trim the other to fit in the words available and had to reluctantly discard it. I used up 550 words in purely from setting the scene and the PCs had only just showed up. That was never going to work. Besides, the lizard didn't really fit. It was a cool idea though....

So I went with a relatively linear plot with my final entry. I suspect I will be thoroughly destroyed on 'bear necessities' - I seriously cannot BELIEVE there is no faction, vehicle, monster, or troop type in Warhammer with a name that references bears, so i had to play silly word games. Oh well.

Ghost Mushrooms
Rotting Utopia
Bear Necessities
Armored Lizard
Rootless Tree
Broken Angel

While the Bear God Napped

A D&D Adventure

Hook: PCs travelling through a desolate wasteland stop at Hope Gulch as it is the only settlement and water on their route

Hope Gulch is a communal ranch founded about a decade ago by an obscure sect of an inoffensive faith, who intended it to be an idyllic holy settlement. Several dozen families live there. It sits on the only reliable water for many miles.

Hope Gulch (rotting utopia) sits at the foot of a single large mountain. At the base of the mountain a spring feeds a marshy bog. The townsfolk rely on this water and fertile land to survive. A massive recently dead mulberry domiates the town (rootless tree), and like all wood, fabric, leather etc in town, it is crusted with mould, fungus, and rot.

NPCs:

Jeroab: once-charismatic sect leader, did something very bad 10 years ago, now careworn and second-guessing himself.
Oonbulp: ghost myconid king, previous inhabitant of the marsh, murdered by Jeroab
Old Thunder: huge ancient awakened dire bear, hibernating on the mountain. Knows what happened to Oonbulp
Ifrael: angel who led Jeroab's sect here. Sect fanatic. The driving force behind Oonbulp's murder.
Skaggerit: lizardfolk conquest paladin who has enslaved Ifrael (armored lizard). Simple soul who just loves tormenting angels.

When the sect first arrived at Hope Gulch, Jeroab found it inhabited by Oonbulp's myconids, with an old druid living on the mountain. Under the druid's guidance the humans and myconids lived together for a while, but resources were tight. When the druid died matters worsened. Jeroab and Ifrael decided the settlement must survive, and killed the myconids secretly, claiming to the settlers that the mushroom-people had faded with the druid's magic.

Old Thunder, on next awakening, smelt the death-spores of the myconids on Jeroab and attacked the township in a rage. Ifrael only just drove him back. Thunder retired to sleep off his wounds. Ifrael and Jeroab told the townsfolk the bear-god must be appeased. Ever since, the townsfolk leave fish and a barrel of strong mulberry hooch outside Old Thunder's cave monthly. Thunder rouses from hibernation, eats, drinks, and falls into a stupor again before waking enough to think clearly.

Ifrael was cast out by his god for his actions. In his lowest moment, Skaggerit found him, and bound him with an enchanted bridle. Skaggerit now rides Ifrael like a pony, a bloody spiked bit in Ifrael's mouth and raw spur-wounds on his sides. (broken (to the saddle) angel)

Oonbulp and his tribe are now ghosts. They cause the wild growth of fungus etc that taints the food and eats away wood and leather. Most recently, they killed the mulberry tree with a fungal infection of the roots. Jeroab is now out of the drink he uses to tranquilise Old Thunder.

When the PCs arrive, Jeroab will:
  • ask them to make a ritual offering at the Bear-God's cave. This is fish dusted with fungus spores, Jeroab is experimenting with replacing the spirits with soporifics.
  • ask rangers (he'll avoid druids) for advice on healing the mulberry tree. No good, it's dead. PCs who dig around its roots will find they've been eaten away by fungus
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
Spoilers
For what it's worth, my knowledge of Warhammer anything, let alone 40k, is extremely limited, but I still got a good sense of what was going on. The one thing I question is what relation orks have to fungi in this setting; as it stands it kind of comes of left field.

All told though, this is a pretty cool gonzo sci-fi adventure!
 

Spoilers
For what it's worth, my knowledge of Warhammer anything, let alone 40k, is extremely limited, but I still got a good sense of what was going on. The one thing I question is what relation orks have to fungi in this setting; as it stands it kind of comes of left field.

All told though, this is a pretty cool gonzo sci-fi adventure!
In warhammer (since about ~10 real-life years back) orks have been canonically asexual fungal lifeforms. They gestate beneath a toadstool, emerge full-grown and ready to fight, and when they die or are badly wounded they shed fungus spores everywhere to spawn new orks. So even if you defeat the orks in an area, unless you burn the whole place, there'll be more showing up from beneath their toadstools soon. It's GWs ... left-field but imaginative solution to the 'baby ork' moral dilemma I guess!
 

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