IRON DM 2022 The Tournament Thread


Eight Go In, One Comes Out!
Sound the trumpets, strike the drums and unfurl the banners!

The IRON DM 2022 Tournament is upon us.
Let all rejoice!

This year’s judges will be:
@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?
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?

Our Contestants:
1: @Gradine (IRON DM 2017, 2021)
2: @Andrew Anderson
3: @Rune (Iron DM 2002)
4: @Helena Real
5: @Snarf Zagyg
6: @FitzTheRuke
7: @Kobold Stew
8: @J.Quondam

The Basics
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:
To keep down the clutter, scheduling for all matches will take place elsewhere, in the scheduling thread.

This tournament thread will be used to list the ingredients and the judgements for each match, as well as the entries, themselves. Commentary and good-natured trash-talking will also be welcome in this 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 the 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.

The challenge begins!

Round 1: The Crucible

Match 1:
J.Quondam vs. Rune; Wicht's Judgment
Match 2: FitztheRuke vs. Helena Real; Radiating Gnome's Judgment
Match 3: Andrew Anderson vs. Kobold Stew; Deuce Traveler's Judgment
Match 4: Gradine vs. Snarf Zagyg; Wicht's Judgment

Round 2: The Refinement

Match 1: J.Quondam vs. FitztheRuke; Radiating Gnome's Judgment, Deuce Traveler's Judgment, Wicht's Judgment
Match 2: Kobold Stew vs. Snarf Zagyg; Radiating Gnome's Judgment, Deuce Traveler's Judgment, Wicht's Judgment

Round 3: The Tempering

Championship Match:
FitztheRuke vs. Kobold Stew; Deuce Traveler's Judgment, Radiating Gnome's Judgment, Wicht's Judgment

Congratulations to this years IRON DM: FitztheRuke!
Last edited:

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Round 1, Match 1
J.Quondam vs. Rune

@J.Quondam and @Rune, 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. Remember that 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.

Your ingredients are:
Wet Dragon
Gold Plated Saw
Forest Mushrooms
Icy Temper
Living Cave
Terrible Triad

Your 24 hours starts now!


Once A Fool
Round 1, Match 1: J.Quondam vs. Rune

Wet Dragon
Gold Plated Saw
Forest Mushrooms
Icy Temper
Living Cave
Terrible Triad

Wicked Trinity: A Dungeon World Adventure

Surreal, recursive, haunting dreams draw the PCs.
  • A mystic imbues a golden weapon with runes.
  • A rotten forest in darkness.
  • A tortured soul, eternally drowning.
A living cave, invades their dreams with whispered pleas for help.

They may seek answers, protections, or escape from the mysteries these persistent nightmares present.

Superstition, sagacious learnings, and serendipitous discoveries provide relevant wisdom:
  • A monstrous cave haunts the dreams of folk and drives them mad.
  • It is home to a wicked demon or is itself the demon.
  • It is a place of supernatural decay.
  • There is one person skilled and pious enough to forge a weapon suited to destroy a demon.
  • A truename spoken will control a demon and can compel it to depart.

The Mystic Weaponmaker:
Instinct — to destroy the avatar of the Wicked Trinity.

Deep in the wilderness lives a hermit who knows much of demons’ threats and vulnerabilities.
  • The Living Cave is home to — and imprisoned by — a demonic avatar: the Wicked Trinity.
  • The demon seeks to corrupt and spread. Unchecked, the world is doomed to rot and be consumed. Even virtue will decay.
  • The Wicked Trinity is Fear and Despair and Apathy, made manifest in one entity. It uses these tools to ensure its survival.
  • The Living Cave is tortured and in need of being freed.
  • All things within the demon’s influence decay at a supernatural rate.

The source of this knowledge is deeper than mere decades of study. In truth, the Living Cave has long spoken to the hermit through dreams, but she is unlikely to reveal this.

If the PCs take up the quest and provide the necessary materials, she will make a weapon:
  • Cast iron tempered in an icy bath of holy water to convert it into cold iron, capable of harming the demon.
  • Gold-plated and imbued with runes to protect from supernaturally quick oxidation.
  • A saw, because their foe is “flexible, but tough and fibrous” and a sword or axe will not do the job as well.

Perils Along the Way:
  • A rot that spreads and crimson mushrooms thriving on it.
  • Common folk, unwelcoming and fearful. Unworthy of aid. Lost causes, all.
  • Rations rot and water sours. Gear proves untrustworthy at the worst of times.
  • A growing sense of dread. A question in the air: What will you sacrifice?
  • A slow understanding that there is no victory. The PCs’ foe has spread beyond their ken and it’s death can only delay the inevitable.

The Living Cave:
  • A psychic pain emanates from abundant crystalline mineral formations.
  • Water drips from the ceiling, the walls, pools underfoot. An uncomfortable humidity permeates the unnaturally warm air.
  • Non-living materials decay. Clothing and leather rots. Iron and steel rust.
  • In the depths: a vast cavern, a long-sunken forest, rotting and consumed by colossal crimson mushrooms, malign and ominous. These — and those aboveground — are actually a single entity: the avatar of the corrupting demon.
  • Surrounded by rot and fungi: a massive crystaline formation formed around a long-subdued gem dragon. Water drips inexorably upon it’s forehead. The many years of torture has driven it mad and the crystal formations amplify it’s psychic agony.

Defeating the Demon:
The avatar can be utterly destroyed if ever single mushroom is killed and its spores can not spread. Aboveground, fire can do it, but the air within the cave is to humid. The saw can hew the massive mushrooms, though, if two PCs work in concert to saw through the stalks.

The Wicked Trinity will challenge this. It’s instinct: to corrupt and then consume.
It’s moves:
  • Threaten the decay of something a PC loves.
  • Thrive and spread, even as they watch.
  • Compel the dragon to reveal that its freedom will yield no reward.
  • Compel the dragon to psychically attack.
There is a hidden way to defeat the demon. If the PCs guess it’s truenames, they can compel it to abandon it’s avatar and leave the fungal growth bereft of supernatural power. These truenames are: Fear, Despair, and Apathy.

The Mad Dragon:
If the PCs defeat the demon, they still must decide if they will free a mad gem dragon upon the world. There is no material reward for such, but they may at least earn a powerful ally/adversary.


CR 1/8
title: The Three Omens of the Spirit Nobles

Wet Dragon
Gold Plated Saw
Forest Mushrooms
Icy Temper
Living Cave
Terrible Triad

The Three Omens of the Spirit Nobles

Three comets recently appeared over Woodmere village. Locals believe it's a curse by elves in the valley. This is true! Enraged by the newcomer's disregard for the woods, the forestfolk petitioned three Noble Spirits to destroy Woodmere when the three comets converge upon the next full moon.

The goal is to uncover the nature of the comets, and find a way to the Noble Spirits to end the threat.

  • heard of mysterious comets visible only from Woodmere.
  • attacked near Woodmere, by creatures that dissolve into mist when defeated:
  • --- snowstorm and ice mephits (in mountains);
  • --- rockslide and earth elemental (on road);
  • --- plesiosaurs (by boat).
  • summoned by Woodmere council to drive off forestfolk.

Woodmere village, a new lumber settlement, is led by four councilors:

Errik Rackham, no-nonsense businessman with a writ to operate a sawmill, is the real power.
  • views the forestfolk as pests.
  • His employees, the Sawyers, wear gold-plated saw-shaped badges as a symbol of authority.
  • Armed Sawyers patrol frequently, which escalates tension.
Mayor Brendish, affable, but always "busy" and indecisive, offers a reward.

Capt. Abbad, gruff guardsman who resents the Sawyers' interference with security.
  • grudgingly respects the forestfolk and their position.
Prof. Lize Orora, scholar, is helpful and very knowledgeable, but worried.
  • encourages parley with forestfolk.
  • knows to wait "at the standing stone" an hour away to contact the forestfolk.
  • knows "the blind hermit," but thinks he's crazy.
They allow the party to investigate without interference. If PCs go into the woods, Capt. Abbad or Errik Rackham offer equipment or guards, but don't insist. Sawyers are sure to provoke a forestfolk skirmish.

Crabbins, the blind hermit, is grumpy but knows much.
  • understands the comets' meaning.
  • doesn't align with villagers or forestfolk.
  • possesses a map to the Fairy Ring.
  • knows Noble Spirits can be beaten or bribed.
Forestfolk, primarily elves, usually only scout.
  • attack badged Sawyers on sight or if they witness trees indiscriminately felled.
  • do not talk of themselves or tactics.
Wyllynwe, druid Speaker for the forestfolk, is outwardly aloof and inwardly angry.
  • despises Rackham and the Sawyers, and will never negotiate with them.
  • acknowledges that forestfolk prayed to Noble Spirits to destroy Woodmere with floods, blizzards, and earthquakes at the next full moon.
  • might name the Noble Spirits or the Fairy Ring, but provides no directions or other help.

The Fairy Ring is an ancient circle of glowing mushrooms and the door to the Spirit World. Turning oneself clockwise three times is transports a character to fey lands. Turning counterclockwise exits the realm.

The Spirit World is vibrant, hazardous, and tricky to navigate. A guide is needed to move fast and avoid trouble. With some searching, PCs could find a guide who demands a weird payment.
  • Frystyss (pixie, adores Birtok, fears Gheodda),
  • Gwllyth (faery dragon, aka "Dewdrop", loves Svilla, hates Birtok),
  • Grumb (mushroomfolk, reveres Gheodda, fears Svillla).
With a fey guide, it takes only one day to travel between Noble Spirit lairs.
Without a guide, PCs navigate slowly (1+1d4 days) by asking directions and following the comets which appear over each lair.

The Noble Spirits' omen is not necessarily imminent: each can be flattered or bribed. A noble can also be defeated in combat, in which case their comet disappears temporarily, until the spirit reforms in a year and a day.

Birtok of the Mountain Ice rules a snowy keep.
  • frost giant, with yetis and ice mephits minions.
  • aggressive and quick to anger, so negotiation is difficult.
A good fight could impress him, and he might accept fresh fruit offerings left in a mountain pass.

Svilla of the Lake lives around a small island.
  • sea serpent, with water weird servants.
  • sly and elegant,
  • enjoys flattery, dismisses threats.
Her mind is not easily changed, but she might accept a fine idol in her likeness dropped in the lake.

Gheodda the Living Cave lurks within a low rocky hill.
  • has no creature manifestation, attended by earth elementals.
  • harmed by drowning or transmuting its heart chamber.
  • faceless and inscrutable, and slow to anger and understand
  • fights foes with shifting tunnels, pits, and rockfalls.
If placated, it may accept a bear's skull left in a cave.

Concluding developments
  • Early negotiation between forestfolk and villagers (without Rackham): Wyllynwe asks the Noble Spirits to dismiss the comets.
  • Noble Spirits all defeated: PCs collect reward. Forestfolk are angry, but know the spirits will return.
  • Noble Spirits all persuaded to end omen: PC collect reward. Forestfolk are angry and continue skirmishing, but willing to negotiate.
  • If any Noble Spirit remains: Woodmere will be destroyed.


Once A Fool
Commentary on @J.Quondam ’s entry:

I like your efficient presentation of …well, pretty much everything. It looks like that allowed you to pack a whole lot of adventure into a limited space. Looks fun!


CR 1/8
Super-quick observations on the entry by @Rune. .. .
I love the dark atmosphere, and how organized this is! I'm not too familiar with DW, but this does make curious to crack open my copy again and see how this might run.

and my thoughts as a first-time entrant in IronDM:
HOLY MACKEREL!!! That was in no way, shape, or form even remotely approaching anything resembling "easy". Even after following the contest a few years and reading others' commentary on it, I really didn't think that paring ideas down would be quite that difficult.

Squeezing six ingredients into 750 words felt like trying to cram 13 eggs in a dozen container.



Once A Fool
Those were a tough set of ingredients for me. I just could not get an idea to gel, and what did form resisted being an adventure. The imprisoned dragon came quickly to me (but at one point wanted to be a wizard’s faerie dragon familiar). I figured on a wicked fey-fueled adventure, but the terrible triad and the gold plated saw both remained obscure. This especially was a problem with the triad, because I knew if I was going to hang my adventure on a thematic frame, the terrible triad was going to be it.

What I had wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t connected nearly tightly enough to be presented in 750 words. Next try: basically the same thing, but aquatic. The living cave would be coral, the foes: to be determined. Same problems.

Eventually, I had to sleep on it. Up early this morning, a couple more hours of development and I wrote down something I could make a theme of: the concept of a wicked trinity and the inversion/corruption of the pious virtues of faith, hope, and love. If only there was some way I could put those virtues to the test in 750 words. I had to be subtle. I hope it worked. Especially after I think I had to cut every explicit mention that the demon’s influence corrupts virtue as well as matter. What can I say? I had 15 minutes to cut 51 words. I didn’t even have time to count as I cut.

I think I like it, but it’s too soon for me look at it objectively. I think I managed to accomplish everything I was aiming to (once I finally figured it out), but I haven’t reread it yet – for all I know I might have inadvertently butchered it in editing. It might be a little more linear than I prefer (especially for Dungeon World*), but I don’t think it’s presented too linearly.

I’ll reassess later. For now, I’ll drink some more coffee and ride out my adrenaline rush. There’s not quite any feeling like the one you get immediately after posting an Iron DM entry that might just be okay.

* For those wondering why this Dungeon World “adventure” isn’t presented as a front, I thought it best to present the adventure system-agnostically. It’s basically got the elements of a front, but is organized to be useful for traditional systems.

Why not just use D&D? Demons aren’t vulnerable to cold iron in 5e and I’m not even sure gem dragons are still psionic.

Radiating Gnome

Round 1, Match 2
FitztheRuke vs Helena Real

@FitzTheRuke and @Helena Real, 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. Remember that 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.

Your Ingredients Are:
  • Sea of grass
  • Mountain of ice
  • Feather wig
  • Two-headed cat
  • Truthful mirror
  • Swindled noble

Your 24 hours starts now!


For any newcomers who don’t know how I judge matches, I use an arbitrary and subjective point system to help me with my thoughts. I award points as follows

Followed the Rules: Wordcount, time limit, etc. (6 points)
Ingredient Use: Were all the ingredients legitimately used as a necessary part of the adventure? (up to 2 points per ingredient)
Useability: How easy could a GM plop the adventure down into their game? (6 points)
Style: Personal preference – how much does the presentation and adventure appeal to the judge (6 points)

IRON DM 2022 Round 1, Match 1
Rune vs. J.Quondam

Before ever the entries were posted, I was curious as to how this would play out. @Rune is a veteran of the contest, both as judge and contestant, and experience counts for something. @J.Quondam is a first time entrant, and that first go can be a bit rough on some. It is not unusual for a first entry to be a bit on the rough side, so there was the question as to whether or not it would be a lop-sided contest. Thankfully, from my perspective it was not, and as I read through I was pleasantly surprised at the newbie’s entry. But was it good enough…?

Let’s see what we have. Rune gives us “Wicked Trinity” (hereafter Wicked). Bad dreams compel the PCs to seek out a hermit who makes a golden saw so they can go to a cave and cut down every mushroom therein while an evil demon gives them more bad dreams and rots their clothing. There is a dragon sleeping in the cave, bad food and bad neighbors.

J.Quondam’s offering, “The Three Omens of the Spirit Nobles” (hereafter Omens) presents the age-old dilemma of lumberjacks vs. the woods, with the woods being defended by fae elves who have summoned powerful spirits to destroy the village. The PCs must journey to the fairy land and either placate or overcome the spirits, or else placate the fae. There is intrigue in the village, intrigue in the fairy world, and intrigue with the spirits, and there may also be some combat.

Both entries were turned in on time, and under word-count, so let’s get to some critiquing…

Looking over the various ingredients, my first impression is that neither of the entries used the ingredients perfectly, but one was a little better than the other.

The first ingredient was wet dragon. The dragon in Wicked is a dragon who is trapped and being tortured with a water torture. While the dragon is mentioned as a possible weapon to be used by the demon, it seems to mostly spend the adventure sitting there being tortured, providing a potential hook for, and this seemed a little odd, after the adventure was over. The use of a wet dragon in Omens, being a sea serpent, is far from inspired, but it does fit and the sea serpent is fleshed out with motivations, personality and is one of the three nobles the PCs must confront. Advantage here to Omens.

In the ingredient, gold-plated saw, the advantage swings the other way. The saws of Omens are rather lackluster, being nothing more than badges, and thus window dressing. In Wicked, the saw is a necessary weapon for cutting down the malevolent fungi. The necessity of it being gold-plated, or a saw, seems somewhat forced, though it is true that gold does not corrupt as readily as other metals and certainly saws work better to cut down fibrous matter, though axes seem like they ought to also work. Still and all, Wicked gets the nod here.

Then with forest mushrooms, we go back the other way. I must say that I was more than a little disappointed with Wicked in this regard. A Forest Mushroom is a mushroom which grows in a forest. Wicked makes it a Forest of Mushrooms, flipping noun and adjective, and moreover makes all the mushrooms to be cave mushrooms, an entirely different beast, so to speak. Omens on the other hand makes the mushrooms into a fairy ring, and the method of travel from one world to the next. While the mushrooms are integral to both adventures, the too-clever-by-half changing of the mushrooms from forest to cave in Wicked makes me give this ingredient entirely to Omens.

I also have to somewhat give the nod to Omens for Icy Temper, though point wise its going to be a wash. Though I think the use of temper as an ice bath for a weapon to be clever in Wicked, I note with some disappointment that it is a thing done by someone other than the PCs. This is a lost opportunity, having the PCs sitting around watching someone else make a weapon when the PCs should be the ones meeting the demands of weapon creation, even if directed by the wise hermit. I am not overly thrilled by the use in Omens, being simply an ice creature with a temper, and think it could have been made a little more important, but still… The advantage is there, even if only slightly.

There is a more clear advantage, I think, in living cave to Omens, though the use in both might seem somewhat similar. The cave in Wicked seems more possessed than living, though maybe it was living before and will be living after being exorcised. But I don’t get a good feel for how it is living or what the ramifications of that are. In Omens, though I get a clear sense of an elemental being in the shape of a cave, which can fight with its own being, and which is also protected by an ecosystem of earth-elementals. Heavy nod to Omens here.

I think both adventures make decent use of terrible triad, and though point wise I’ll give full points to both, I think if I had to fall down on one or the other Omens would get nod once more, mostly because while the true-names of the demon, also being its nature, is good; having each of the triad being an actual obstacle is a little better. On the other hand, Wicked’s triad is more classically terrible in nature, but the threat of total destruction wrought by the spirits is pretty terrible, so again, point wise a wash, but slight personal nod to Omens.

So coming out of Ingredients, Omens has an advantage.

Let’s examine the two offerings for both their usability and their appeal.

I will state up front that I am not familiar with the Dungeon World system specifically, but from the way Rune wrote up his entry I can get a pretty good feel for the kind of game it is meant to be, and I would hazard that so far as the system is concerned, Wicked is entirely useable. I also suspect that it would play out better in that system then it feels like it would play out in a standard D&D style system, where the obstacles presented, though they seem trite in a typical fantasy realm, would present more scope for the imagination in a system of give and take story-telling. With that in mind, I suspect that Rune has given everything necessary to run the adventure in the system he set it in, and there is a good deal to work with here.

On the other hand, Omens, presents a wide range of encounters in three different “realms” (village, fairy and spirits), a plethora of options for dealing with various entities in each realm and even a suggestion of the politics and interactions in each setting. There is scope for role-playing, combat and diplomacy, and though there is some fleshing out to be done, the amount of material presented in the space allowed is pretty impressive.

Usability then on both is going to be about even.

Which brings me to my personal preference. Wicked has some very good things going for it, though also some weaknesses. On the one hand the threat seems rather significant. A demon slowly corrupting everything and driving the world mad with its dreams. On the other hand, the actual adventure seems a little wanting. You visit a hermit who makes a saw, and then travel to a cave and cut down mushrooms while the demon threatens you, ruining your clothes and food. I don’t know how it would play out exactly, and I suspect the whole is more than the sum of its parts so that it would end up being a fun time. But in the end you are sawing down mushrooms next to a sleeping dragon who may or may not be used to mentally attack you. And the dragon itself feels largely to be window dressing, or the plot hook to a different adventure.

Omens on the other hand is a bit cliched in some of its presentations, but cliché is not necessarily bad. The sheer scope of adventure presented from the humble beginnings of a forest village is very impressive. The number of encounters, diplomatic, mundane, fae, and combat wise promises quite a bit of variety in game-play. I also like how the different possible outcomes are presented. All in all, it seems well thought out, and very impressive, even more so when one considers this is a first-timer’s entry.

Comparing the two entries, I find I like both, but one clearly came out ahead of the other, in no small part because of ingredient use.

For this match, it is my verdict that J.Quondam advances to round 2. The collective members of the CND may rejoice,… for the moment.

Wicked Trinity
Followed the Rules:
6 points
Ingredient Use: 7 points
Wet Dragon: 1
Gold Plated Saw: 1.5
Forest Mushrooms: .5
Icy Temper: 1
Living Cave: 1
Terrible Triad: 2
Usability: 5 points
Style: 4
Total: 22/30

The Three Omens of the Spirit Nobles
Followed the Rules:
6 points
Ingredient Use: 9.5 points
Wet Dragon: 1.5
Gold Plated Saw: 1
Forest Mushrooms: 2
Icy Temper: 1
Living Cave: 2
Terrible Triad: 2
Usability: 5 points
Style: 5 points
Total: 25.5/30
Last edited:


Agents of the Aerie

Sea of grass; Mountain of ice; Feather wig; Two-headed cat; Truthful mirror; Swindled noble

A series of three quests for youthful players.

Yarakromba, Lord of the Whispertop Aerie, a birdfolk noble, has hired the party to do odd jobs. The lord is so overweight that he can scarcely fly, and the stress of his position has led to constant moulting. His vanity has him covering up the bald spot with a colourful plumed wig. Yarakromba’s court is populated by squabbling schemers. The lord is terrible at telling friend from foe, often takes bad advice, and frets over every small decision.

Quest One:

The party is tasked with delivering a block of ice to Yarakromba’s neighbour, Lord Mudglub of the frogfolk of Bogswallow. They travel from the aerie to the Frozen Peaks, encountering snow leopards, ice-apes, and terrain hazards. From an enormous block, they must break off a veritable mountainous chunk (anything less would melt before arrival in Bogswallow). They have two choices to get the ice out of the mountains: They can capture a mammoth, and have it pull the ice on a sledge, or they can roll it on cut trees into the Swollen River and ride it down the mountain. Both routes have their obvious challenges.

Once down the mountain, the ice will have halved in size. With concern that it will not make the journey, they must take it across the Rolling Plains (the most direct route to Bogswallow). These grassy fields truly roll, like the waves of the ocean, and the rabbitfolk of Underdale have learned to pilot sledge-ships over its slick grasses. A rabbitfolk named Captain Bravebuck can be hired at the Inn of the White Swallow. A group with a mammoth may choose to make the journey themselves, but the mammoth will struggle with the hazards relative to the sledge-ship. Hazards include quagmires, cresting hill avalanches, landsharks, and sledge-pirates.

As they approach the outskirts of Bogswallow, it will begin to rain, further shrinking the ice block. Ice is prized in these humid swamps and various factions will attempt to buy, beg, cajole, or rob the party of all or a piece of it. Some desperate folks might even deserve it. Eventually the party should be able to deliver a piece to Mudglub, who will be happy to receive anything as large as his hand. The frogfolk lord will place it in his bath and sigh in relief from the heat.

He will reward the party with a looking glass that shows the observer the truth about themselves. If the party arrives empty-handed, Mudglub will chastise them for their failure but will remain a gracious host. He will show them the mirror that was to be their prize for success.

Quest Two:

The birdfolk are terrorized by a giant two-headed cat named Greymalkinous. The party is tasked with driving her off from her home in the Yawning Caves to the secluded jungle valley to the west (from whence she came).

Fighting her would be a deadly combat encounter, but one head can be swayed by an offer to play, such as by chasing a light (or a PC dressed as a mouse). The other head will cooperate during play but will constantly try to take things too far by knocking PCs down or threatening to use their claws. Both heads respond well to flattery and praise. If the party manages to survive fighting or playing with her, or convince her by appealing to her ego, she will acquiesce and return to the jungle.

Quest Three:

Political rivals among the birdfolk have convinced Lord Yarakromba to swap his feather wig for a fancier, cursed version, that makes him compliant to their wishes. While the party were off doing one of the other tasks, they used their influence to convince the lord to lavish them with titles, shiny jewels, and gold. By now the party should know Yarakromba well enough to recognize that he’s being mind-controlled.

They may use the looking glass given to them by Mudglub to show him the truth. If they did not get the mirror, they may wish to return to Bogswallow to get it. Lord Mudglub will be easily convinced to lend it to the party to help his friend and neighbour. Alternately, the party might convince Yarakromba if they succeed on two of three social contests, while his enemies send minions, create obstacles, or hire assassins to stop them. If shown the truth, Yarakromba will task the party with arresting those responsible, who will protect themselves with mercenaries.

Helena Real

Dame of Solamnia (she/her)

The Duchess' Divergent Desires​


  • Sea of grass
  • Mountain of ice
  • Feather wig
  • Two-headed cat
  • Truthful mirror
  • Swindled noble
A 5e adventure for four 3rd-level characters


Duchess Venphyphara Mistpetal (elf noble, she/they) offers the PCs—through Snuli (kobold bard, they/them), her spokesperson—rich rewards in exchange for performing two seemingly straightforward fetch quests for her. Namely,

  • Retrieving as many feathers as possible from Bucephalus (she/they), the Great Bicephalous Cat-Beast who dwells in the Sea of Grass.
  • Recovering the truthful mirror, a magical item that, as the name implies, reveals the true nature of anything reflected on it. This item resides atop Frozen Fist, a mountain of ice.


Snuli delivers the Duchess’ offer, which boils down to,
  • If they retrieve 30+ feathers from Bucephalus, each PC receives 100 gp.
  • If they retrieve 50+ feathers, each PC receives 200 gp.
  • If they recover the truthful mirror, each PC receives a common magic item of their choice.
  • If they retrieve 30+ feathers AND recover the truthful mirror in a timely manner [for you to determine], each PC receives an additional consumable magical item of their choice.
  • If they retrieve 50+ feathers AND recover the truthful mirror in a timely manner, each PC receives an additional uncommon magical item of their choice.
The PCs can choose to complete only the truthful mirror quest. The Duchess will not reward them for completing the feathers’ quest alone, however, because, as Snuli explains, another adventuring party swindled the Duchess with false feathers previously.

If the PCs accept the feathers’ quest, the Duchess (through Snuli) provides each PC with a potion of grass breathing (works like a potion of water breathing, but specifically for the Sea of Grass).

The Duchess’ Motivation​

The Duchess wants Bucephalus’ feathers because they’re the material component to create a fertility wig of feathers, which allows a childbearing person to have a magically safe multiple pregnancy. She wants to ensure her noble lineage’s continuity, sure, but to do so in one fell swoop. She's got better things to do than being pregnant many times!

Snuli knows this, but they wouldn’t share this information unless the PCs earn Snuli’s trust first.

Quest: Bucephalus’ Feathers​

Bucephalus dwells in the depths of the Sea of Grass, a massive extension of grassland turned into a water-like substance as a result of residual magic.

While the PCs are traveling in the surrounding grassland, I recommend using the “Grassland Encounters (Levels 1–5)” table in Xanathar’s to generate random encounters, two times during the day and four times at night.
  • If the PCs are traveling stealthily, you or another player rolls 1d20; on a 1-3, the PCs have an encounter.
  • If they’re traveling at normal pace, the encounter occurs on a 1-5.
  • If they’re traveling quickly, the encounter occurs on a 1-7.
Once they dive into the Sea, the PCs need 1 minute of grass-swimming to reach Bucephalus’ lair, a clearing surrounded by tall, tree-like structures made of grass. The two-headed cat-beast sleeps at the center of this, surrounded by her already-shed fur's feathers.

Use the stats for a displacer beast to represent Bucephalus, with the following additions:
  • Bucephalus has two heads.
  • As long as Bucephalus has two heads, she has advantage on attack rolls.
  • When Bucephalus is bloodied (i.e. reduced to half hp or less), she loses a head and the use of both her Avoid and Displacement abilities.

Retrieving Feathers​

Each PC can spend a bonus action or choose not to move during their turn to recover 1 feather. If a PC spends an action, they recover 1d4+2 feathers.


If the PCs kill Bucephalus, they’re attacked by her seemingly endless progeny. Each round they remain in the Sea of Grass, 1d6 two-headed kitten (use displacer beast kitten stats, with the same modifications as Bucephalus above) appear and viciously attack them.

Quest: Truthful Mirror​

Frozen Fist is an impressive mountain made exclusively of ice. Getting to the top, retrieving the truthful mirror, and getting back down should take the PCs 2 days traveling quickly, 4 days at normal pace, and 6 days traveling stealthily. Also, Frozen Fist should be considered as an “Extreme Cold” environment (cf. DMG, pg 110).

I recommend using the same rules for random encounters as above, but using the “Arctic Encounters (Levels 1–4)” table in Xanathar’s.

The truthful mirror is at the literal top of Frozen Fist. It can only be retrieved by someone who’s not afraid of who they truly are. The item requires attunement and, when attuned, grants the effects of truesight to any creature or object reflected on the mirror’s surface if held by an attuned bearer.


Ah, Iron DM! I spent most of the morning with writer's block and kept doing anything else but write. Then it came to me and I banged it out quickly. It's far from perfect, of course, but I couldn't think of any way to improve its faults without more words. I think it's fun, if a little silly. I hope whoever reads it enjoys it, even if I don't move on.

Radiating Gnome

Hey all, Thanks for participating in Iron DM. This is a judgement on round 1, match two, between @FitzTheRuke and @Helena Real.

My style of judgement is a bit less structured than Wicht's - and part of the fun of Iron DM is just how subjective it all is. I focus on the ingredient use as a primary consideration, and then that is influenced by comparative playability, creativity, presentation, and of course a certain amount of "rule of cool."

FitzTheRuke's entry, Agents of the Aerie (Agents) is a sequence of quests on behalf of Yarakromba, a foppish birdfolk nobleman.

Helena Real's entry, The Duchess' Divergent Desires (DDD) provides a pair of quests on behalf of a Duchess who is trying to get knocked up in a big way.

Both are fairly whimsical adventures, which is an interesting outcome, and they're both good fun on a first read. So, let's get down to brass tacks.

Ingredient use​

I evaluate ingredients for how well they are woven into the plot, and how well used they are. I look for ingredient use that is clever, and that makes that ingredient a crucial part of the story -- the details of the ingredient should be so well woven in that an alternative ingredient in the same place wouldn't work. And I just note which entry makes the best use of each ingredient, and which overall seems to have the best ingredient use.

So, here we go:

See of Grass - For Agents, the sea of grass is part of what the party must take while they are trying to deliver their block of ice to Lord Mudglub. It's an interesting setting detail that presents a challenge to the party. In DDD, the sea of grass is a similar episodic impediment, this time a place where the party will have to find and fight Bucephalus, the two-headed cat-beast. The usage is really very similar, but I find that I like the use in Agents better for one very specific reason: it provides a more flavorful, interesting setting. For Agents, the characters have to deal with setting-based challenges, might work with specific NPCs, might get a sledge ship, etc. Lots of choices, lots of interesting activities. But in DDD, while the sea of grass presents some location-specific challenges, many of them are immediately removed by Duchess providing potions of grass(water) breathing to the party. It's an odd dance -- here's a problem, let me solve it for you -- and I think it would have been stronger if the potions were something that the party needed to do something to find/make/earn. So, Sea of Grass goes to Agents.

Mountain of Ice - In DDD, the mountain of Ice is another location hazard that is where the Truthful Mirror is found. In a longer writeup, we could hope for some time to explain why the mountain of Ice was a mountain of Ice -- and why the mirror was there in the first place. It's not particularly strong use. Meanwhile, in Agents, the mountain of ice is the massive block of ice the party starts with, and that slowly melts as they try to make it to the court of Lord Mudglub. I get awesome Mosquito Coast vibes from that quest, and it makes the Mountain of Ice a much more important part of the adventure. So, advantage to Agents here, too.

Feather Wig - in Agents, the feathered wig is actually two wigs -- the initial wig that Yarakromba wears to cover his bald molted pate, and the second one is the cursed one that his rivals try to use to subvert him. In DDD, the feathered wig is created by the Duchess with the feathers that the party recovers from Bucephalus, and that is used to help her make the fertility wig of feathers.

The Fertility wig is a great idea for an item, but what I struggle with is the idea that a wig is used to help someone carry multiple births safely to term. If we were to design an item to do that sort of magic, outside of needing to make an ingredient fit, would it be something worn on the head? It's a fairly awkward choice -- and what the entry doesn't do is make sense of the awkward choice for me.

So, again, advantage Agents.

Two-headed Cat - Both Agents and DDD have two-headed cats used in significant ways. In DDD, we have Bucephalus the Bicephalus cat-beast. I scratched my head at a few things with Bucephalus -- we are never given an explanation as to why this cat-beast has feathers, and while I know the historic Bucephalus's name meant "bonus head", using the recognizable name of a horse from antiquity made me look for horse-like elements to the beast, which was a bit of a misdirection. And writing up this entry I can't tell you how many times a name with "phalus" in its root has led me to mis-gender the beast. At the same time, the Big B presents a fun, interesting challenge -- as do her kittens -- and it's certainly flavorful.

I liked the usage of the two-headed cat in Agents less well -- it's there, and presents a very cat-like set of solutions, but the usage is playful and goofy in a way that makes the silly tone of the adventure for children very silly indeed -- but I don't know that I think that tone matches the grind of trying to get the ice delivered before it melts away completely -- but there are mechanics and playability things there that I'll talk about in a minute.

In the end, I liked Bucephalus best, so advantage goes to DDD.

Truthful Mirror - Both adventures present a mirror that reveals the truth. And, at first glance, they're both just sort of a quest MacGuffin. Agents has somewhat better use here -- because the MacGuffin is a critical tool necessary to solve the third quest, to reveal the cursed wig for what it is. In DDD, there's also a more intrinsic use: the mirror is necessary to validate the feathers retrieved by the party. I think this one is a wash -- no one is using it better than the other.

Swindled Noble - In DDD, the Duchess has been swindled in the past, and that's why she demands the mirror to prove the provenance of the feathers. In Agents, the noble Yarakromba is swindled by rivals and the party must help prove that he's under the influence of his enemies. They're both working, and I don't think either is doing it more successfully than the other.

So, in the balance, I've given Agents the edge on more ingredient use than DDD, about 3-1. They're both doing a great job in a lot of cases, but I think Agents is just a better example of making the ingredients really intrinsic to the details of the story.

Playability, Creativity, Presentation -​

I think in both, the presentation is great -- I think that perhaps DDD could have saved some word count on explaining details of encounter tables, etc. But really both were great.

There are things that I just love -- the grind with the massive block of ice, and the effort to get it to the bog before it melts away is hugely evocative to me -- and at the same time, the challenge of trying to fight the big cat and recover feathers is a terrific scene (although, why not just kill the beast and take feathers of Bucephalus' dead body? Do the need to be harvested while she's still alive?) .

Both have their issues, of course. I found myself really wanting to get some sort of structure for the melting of the ice out of Agents. Like, what mechanic would be used, how will that create a ticking clock. For a short, first-round entry it's not strictly necessary, but the more concrete treatment of the feathers in DDD made me wish for something comparable in Agents.

And in DDD, Bucephalus suffers from the fiat of her having feathers for no apparent reason (other than the need to collect feathers for the wig). We're accepting that she has two heads, but why also feathers? Are both heads cat heads? It would be much more interesting if there were a reason for the feathers -- and I'd have sacrificed mechanical details to have that in a heartbeat.

There's another way we can look at these adventures -- and that's a sort of conceptual economy or efficiency. How many important elements in the story come from things that were NOT ingredients? In Agents, the frogfolk in the bog -- they're a destination, they hold the MacGuffin, but if something else were here, it wouldn't mess up the ingredients.

In DDD, Snuli the kobold bard isn't key to any of the ingredients. I started to say that the idea of childbirth was not important to the ingredients, then caught myself -- the idea of nobility is all about the need for children and the desire to preserve the line, so that IS keyed to an ingredient. So, I think that I have to give an edge to DDD for narrative economy.

DDD is actually marginally more playable, in its present form. While the concrete references to monsters and tables from specific books is not strictly necessary, it does make this entry something I could pick up and run with a bit easier than I could Agents.

So, there are some ways in which DDD is a bit stronger than Agents -- as much as I loved the melting ice and sail-sledging on the sea of grass, in most other ways I appreciated the creativity and economy of DDD better.

Final Judgement
In the end, though, I think the ingredient use in Agents of the Aerie was stronger than that of the Duchess' Divergent Desires. There were things that I really appreciated and even loved about the Duchess's Desires, but they are not enough to overcome the stronger ingredient use in Agents.

So, FitzTheRuke will advance. Helena Real, you're a gentleperson and a scholar, and I am heartily impressed by your entry.

Thanks to both of you for the entries!


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