Iron DM 2022 Is Upon Us! Sign-Ups and Scheduling!


Over twenty years ago, one man had a dream,… to find the best, most creative DMs the internet had to offer. To this end, he crafted an arena in which DMs could test their creative mettle against one another, in an elimination fight to the finish to determine which deserved the title of IRON DM! This tournament became an annual event, eagerly anticipated.

Now, that time has once more come upon us! Do you have what it takes to succeed in this test of skill: crafting, writing and editing RPG adventures using a selection of ingredients chosen just for you and your opponent? Do you have what it takes to make it through three grueling rounds of intense and competitive adventure-writing, in order to become this year's IRON DM?

Wait a Moment, you say, What exactly is IRON DM?
Eight victims volunteers are paired off against each other and given a set of ingredients. These ingredients must be used to write an RPG adventure or scenario, keeping it within a preassigned word-count. A totally fair and impartial judge, or panel of judges, determine which of the two entries is the best and the winner advances to the next round. After three rounds of elimination, only one contestant will remain and they are declared this year’s IRON DM.

That's the basic structure. A more accurate and detailed set of this current tournament's rules will appear later.

So how did this all get started?
Back in 2001, before the current incarnation of these boards, the poster formerly known as Nemmerle threw together the first EN World Iron DM tournament. Contestants each had one hour for each entry. It was grueling, and intense, and a lot of fun. Nemm had a hit on his hands.

Soon after the first EN World tourney, tournaments were being held at other sites. The now defunct Nutkinland held a few. And, as Nemmerle was a founding member of the semi-secretive Rat Bastard DM's Club, it was only natural that tournaments happen there as well. As the tournament went on, changes were slowly made to the rules. The time for entry submissions was lengthened. Word Counts were established (because no one wanted to read a full length novel). Panels of judges, traditionally chosen from the RBDM club, but now of necessity somewhat more inclusive, were established for the second and third rounds. Tournaments went from being held two or more times a year to only once a year. And so forth. But the overall idea remains the same as when it first began.

There were a few years (2006 through 2008) when EN World saw no tournaments, simply because the RBDM Club had a public forum for a while, and nobody ever started them up over here. But the RBDM Club moved and became private again and in 2009, IRON DM once more returned to EN World.

And thus, here we are.

Can I read some of the older tournaments?
IRON DM 2021

IRON DM 2020

IRON DM 2019

IRON DM 2018

IRON DM 2017

IRON DM 2016

IRON DM 2015

IRON DM 2014

IRON DM 2013

IRON DM 2012

IRON DM 2011

IRON DM 2010

IRON DM 2009

IRON DM 2005









And then there's also the IRON DM Anthology. This is a collection of entries from the above tournaments that are particularly usable and/or inspiring. Note that many of them did not win the matches that they appeared in and should not necessarily be used as models for winning a match. Still worth a look, though, especially if you've got a game coming up on short notice.

So what exactly are the rules?
The tournament is set up in a single-elimination bracket style, with each match pairing determined according to scheduling availability among the eligible contestants within the match’s tier.

Each match consists of two contestants given a single set of ingredients with which to construct a brief adventure or adventure synopsis in any game system or genre. (A word of advice: You should waste neither time, nor words, on overly detailed stats, but you should also not assume familiarity with any given system or genre. Explain what you need to explain, and stop there!)

These entries will be evaluated on their own merits and those evaluations will then be compared to determine the winner of a match, who will then proceed to the next round.

All matches will be given a time-frame to submit the entries within. An entry that is late will still be accepted, but with a penalty applied to its word-limit. Late entries that are less than 1 hour late will have their word-limits reduced by 10% (meaning, for example, a first-round entry would have its word-limit reduced from 750 to 675, which is harsher than it looks). Entries that are at least 1 hour late, but less than 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced by 30%. Entries that are at least 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced by 50%. Entries that are at least 2 days late may be disqualified at the discretion of the other competitor and judges. Entries that exceed their word-limits will be considered to end once they reach that limit; judges will ignore everything after.

(Another bit of advice: Obviously, you really want to avoid being late, especially in the first round, but life happens, and sometimes you just can't make it. In such cases, you should take the extra time (before your next threshold) to polish your entry with your new word-limit in mind. It won't be easy, but you might still win. Even if you don't win, you may at least find the judgement enlightening for future IRON DM tournaments!)

Entries are expected to make good use of all of the ingredients submitted. The ingredients should be creatively applied, well-integrated, and fundamentally necessary to the adventure that they are used in. Ingredient use is the crux of the tournament, and contestants who fail to use the full compliment of ingredients will suffer for it in the judgement of the round.

Each of the first-round matches will use six ingredients. Second round matches will utilize seven ingredients and third round matches will have eight ingredients.

All entries are to be submitted with the list of ingredients at the top and are not to be edited, once submitted. To repeat: DO NOT EDIT YOUR POST, ONCE YOU HAVE SUBMITTED IT! Check your work before you send it in. Then check it again, if necessary. But do not edit it, or you will risk disqualification, according to the edicts of the judges. Part of the challenge of IRON DM is in the development and use of discipline in editing and time-management.

Do not expect judges to follow links within your entry. You may include links for others to follow if you choose to do so, but understand that any information that is necessary to the entry must be in the actual entry. Judges will be reading each entry multiple times and, are unlikely to also be willing to go outside the entry to find context for it. More importantly, expecting outside sources to carry the load of exposition very much defeats the purpose of the word-limit.

If the author chooses to include a trigger warning in an entry, that warning will not count against the word limit. Such a warning is being offered as a courtesy to readers (not necessarily the judges) in a context where the author can never know who those readers will be. Further, the kind of information conveyed in a trigger warning may not be in a form that can be used to shortcut exposition in an entry. Any information which conveys exposition will count against the word count.

Entrants may also put a description of the match at the top, for example: Iron DM 2025, Round 3, Rune vs. Wicht. Such a description will also not count against the word limit.

To clarify: Word count will include any and all descriptive text and exposition. It will not include the title, basic ingredient list, any trigger warnings, nor the round information.

Each of the first-round matches will have a single judge. The second- and third-round matches will have a full panel of three judges. Each entry will be judged on its own merits and then the two competing entries' critiques will be compared for the final judgement. In the latter rounds, the majority opinion will determine the victor. Different judges have traditionally had different processes to arrive at such outcomes – for instance, some may use a point-based grading chart, while others may prefer a more abstract analysis.

Judges will endeavor to be Nemmerelesque in their judgements – critical, but also fair and constructive in that criticism. It's tradition. It is understood up front, however, that all judgments are subjective. That's the nature of the game. Traditionally, trying to figure out what a given judge may want to see is part of the game, though doing so is not always a recommended strategy. How well do you know your audience? After all, being a DM is not about simply pleasing self.

Round 1: The Crucible
All matches in the first round will have a 24 hour time-limit! All matches in the first round will have six ingredients, all of which are to be used in each entry. Entries in these matches will have a 750 word limit, not including the title and ingredients list. Contestants who win their Round 1 matches will proceed to Round 2.

Round 2: The Refinement
All matches in the second round will have a 48 hour time-limit. These matches will each have seven ingredients, all of which are to be used in each entry. Entries in these matches will have a 1500 word limit, not including the title and ingredients list. Contestants who win their Round 2 matches will proceed to Round 3.

Round 3: The Tempering
The third round match will also have a 48 hour time-limit. This match will use eight ingredients, all of which are to be used in each entry. Entries in this match will have a 2000 word limit, not including the title and ingredients list.The contestant who wins this match will become the IRON DM 2022!

Scheduling, Discussing, and Spectating:
Once all contestants have signed up, this thread will be used only for scheduling the matches.

Once we begin, the tournament thread will be used to list the ingredients and the judgements for each match, as well as the entries, themselves. Commentary will also be welcome in that thread, but, please, if you are commenting on an entry that has not yet been judged, hide that commentary with spoiler tags, so that the judges can view the entries with fresh eyes!

If spectators would like to play a “home game”, please feel free to do that in another thread.

One final note:
Once these tournaments have been completed, we try to archive them on these boards for posterity, and so that the adventures can be run or plundered by future Internet generations. We make no claim of ownership over the entries, but we do request that you do not remove or alter your entries once the tournament has concluded.

This year's tournament will be coordinated and judged by a panel of three judges:

@Deuce Traveler: Three times crowned Iron DM (2012, 2015, 2016), Deuce has more wins than any other participant. He knows what it takes to win, and takes that wisdom with him into the judge’s booth.
@Radiating Gnome: A competitor from the early days, a well-seasoned judge, and a gnome of wisdom and renown. Has he seen it all, or do you have what it takes to still impress him?
Wicht: This year’s MoC. Two time Iron DM (2002, 2013), Wicht has been participating in the tournament as both competitor and judge from the very beginning. He knows what he likes, but does that include your entry?

So, who can enter?

@Gradine, as the current IRON DM, has automatic entry into this tournament. The field is open to everybody else!

So, I gotta ask:
Are you creative enough?
Are you disciplined enough?
Are you good enough?

Sign up and prove it!

Our Contestants:
1: Gradine (IRON DM 2017, 2021)
2: @Andrew Anderson
3: @Rune
4: @Helena Real
5: @Snarf Zagyg
6: @FitzTheRuke
7: @Kobold Stew
8: @J.Quondam

1: @humble minion
2: @Fenris-77
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad


The Elephant in the Room (she/her)

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads