IRON DM 2023 Tournament Thread

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/they)
Apologies for the delays, as well as the lack of great formatting, here. Jury duty is kicking my rear.

Judgment for Round 2 Match 2: @Snarf Zagyg vs @Iron Sky

Rules and Readability

Both entries come in just under the 1500 word limit, and came in on time. All rules have been observed.

Adventure Flow & Potential
This is my subjective "what did I generally like/dislike about the adventures" section of the judgment. "Everyone's Gone to the Rageture" (hereafter "Rage") is a post-apocalyptic one-shot game with one hell of a twist. Some of the elements are a bit gonzo, but it all fits together almost perfectly. There's an internal consistency to the entire game from start to finish, even with the midpoint twist.

The Dooms of Songport ("Dooms") on the other hand, is a game that covers a significant amount of conceptual ground, to the point where it feels, to read, as a much larger adventure than it ultimately is. What's here is quite good, but it is thematically a bit of a hodgepodge. At worst, this can lead to a confusing mess; at best, it can be a full throttle twenty car pileup of the most incredibly fun nature. In either case, it's harder for the DM to juggle and the players to navigate, but it can make it all the more satisfying to pull off.

On balance, though, I find "Rage" to be a more playable and coherent adventure, but not by such a margin that the ingredients won't be able to make the difference.

The Ingredients
These are some really wild ingredients, and some serious hits and misses between these two entries. Let's dive in.

Scary Stickers
I think in "Rage" this is served by the huge scary leeches. They're a fun and thematic element, but they aren't even a little bit essential the adventure. In "Dooms" these are the stickers that turn the bears into owlbears, and as such are both relevant and essential. What they aren't, though, is particularly internally consistent. I don't get the sense of why these druids have or are using stickers, or why something else wouldn't have made more sense. On balance, though, I have to give "relevant and essential" a bit of a leg up on "clever but irrelevant".

City in a Bottle
Both entries have cities in bottles, in one case metaphorical and the other literal. Both are absolutely critical to their respective adventures, and I can find no fault in either.

Misunderstood Owlbear
Both adventures also have owlbears, though in both cases neither of them are actually owlbears; one is a human and the other a regular bear. Only the owlbear in "Rage" could be said to truly being misunderstood, however; though how much can be attributed to misunderstanding and how much to misrepresentation is a matter of debate. The owlbear in "Dooms" IS an angry, violent owlbear, until he isn't anymore. He is not so much misunderstood as he is changed.

Copper Kettle
In "Rage" this is the copper cauldron. It's tied somewhat to the setting but it's more of a red herring than anything, and also, notably, not a kettle. "Dooms" gives us an actual copper kettle, and ties the copper into the setting, though the specific metal could be replaceable, and I also don't get why it's needed to purify the water, other than just because. Still, it's eminently central to the adventure, so that's not bad.

Sword of Echoing Sin
I'm sure the other judges touched on this already, but simply naming a thing after an ingredient isn't usually a good sign. The "sword" in "Rage"may be a weapon, and certainly does echo with sin, but it's not at all sword, no matter what you call it. "Dooms" has a sword, and it echoes sins, and it's pretty central to the adventure. Can't complain.

Uncaring Bears
This is well enough used in both adventures, though it feels a bit less of a non-sequitor in "Dooms". There's a pretty big caveat to that, though, which I'll get to later. As antagonists in "Rage" they're quite fun, if a bit of of left field.

Silent Choir
This is pretty weak in both issues, though given that its use is still substantially better used in "Dooms", where the choir is core to the climax of the adventure, even if I never am quite sure why they are silent in the first place. Much like the leeches, the song dogs in "Rage" are a fun obstacle and fantastic set dressing, but are otherwise fairly removable without much fuss.

In Conclusion

It's clear that "Dooms" has an overall edge in the ingredient usage. But there's something about ingredients that is much harder to capture with a blow-by-blow, one ingredient at a time approach, and that's how well the ingredients all tie together. In that sense, it's "Rage" that holds the edge. In "Dooms", nothing feels to quite fit right together. This might be a fully personal thing, but the all the elements (the songwizards, the myconids, the druids, the bears, the banshees) feel like at least two different adventures crammed together at once. That's not a deal-breaker necessarily, but it does make the overall ingredient edge a bit less impactful.

But the final straw for me is the role that the PCs play. In "Dooms", the two pieces that are necessary to solve the issue is the copper kettle and the sword. The thing is, those are both in there possession of people who have a pretty invested interest in using them to fix everything. Why are the Naturals, who are dealing with a schism caused by waterborne illness, not purifying the water themselves? Why does Lati give up the sword (and thus the responsibility for saving her people) to others? Why are any druids asking outsiders for help finding and subsequently calming down a beast? It can be argued that those factions don't know enough about the problems to solve it, but I don't see any way for the PCs to become better informed, except through learning more about the issues by interacting with these NPCs?

It's for this reason that I must therefore vote to advance "Everyone's Gone to the Rageture", and thus @Snarf Zagyg, to the final round.

And with the final vote of 2-1, @Snarf Zagyg is our winner. @Iron Sky, I almost have more to learn from you than you from me. You'll be back here again, and again, I'm sure.
 

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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
I definitely felt like this adventure was more of a hodge-podge than the first. When I finished writing round 1's adventure, I felt like I'd done the best I possibly could with what I had. When I completed this one, I felt like it was as good as I was going to get it in the highly-constrained time I had available. Rarely have I won when I finished it with such a feeling.

All the judge's criticisms definitely felt valid, though I was hoping at least one judge would connect the antimicrobial properties of copper which made both the bronze sword and copper kettle more relevant (even if not entirely irreplaceable) to fighting the Underdark fungus.

I had written much more to explain the druids reasons for including the players (the Inclusives putting a hard time limit on assembling all the creatures in hopes it would fail and they could corrupt more of the other druids) and Lati's reason for giving up the sword (she's a bard, not a fighter and would give it to someone better with it once they gained her trust). If I'd had more sleep and less brain fog, I might have been able to tighten it up enough to sway a second judge, but such is IronDM.

Congrats on a wacky, fun, and twisty adventure, @Snarf Zagyg, and look forward to seeing the finals!

Thanks to all the judges for your time and critique; IronDM has definitely honed my writing in all sorts of areas!

As a random final bit, I'm on version 0.93 of the RPG I've been playtesting and developing for the last 3 years and am reaching the stage where I think it might fly with outside testers/readers before I look to publishing it. If anyone's interested reading through and critiquing the rulebook or, even better, playtesting it with your group, DM me!
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Woah. First, I wanted to thank @Iron Sky for writing a compelling adventure. I know that I have a habit of eschewing writing "traditional" adventures, but that doesn't lessen my admiration for a very well-written one! I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Dooms of Songport, and had no idea which way the judges would go.

Also, a major thank you to all three judges (especially if you're also providing a civic service by showing up for jury duty- while everyone jokes about it, our legal system could not function without people that take it seriously). All of your judgments are well-considered and you put the work in- thank you for doing that.

Now, a few specific comments about my entry in the last round. In spoilers, because why not?

I wrote in the other thread about how I try to come up with imaginative interpretations of the ingredients, and in that sense ... well, live by the sword missile, die by the missile. Sometimes it works really well, and other times ... not so well. I think that the preferred method would probably be (as some competitors, including Iron Sky, do) to just bold the term and use it, but I am constitutionally incapable of it.

To paraphrase an older comedy show ... I like to step across the line. Habitually. I'm an habitual line stepper.

Of course, the problem with that is that when you aren't vibing the same as your judges, you can completely lose them. For example-
The scary stickers was both an obscure meta reference to the game mechanic, and an obvious reference to the sand leeches ... at least, I thought it was. But one judge got the meta reference, and missed what I assumed was the obvious reference.
On the other hand, I thought copper kettle used to refer to the object holding a slurry (calling it a cauldron) was a pretty spot-on use, but that's because a copper kettle, to me, has always been a reference to the pot that moonshine or spirits is made in! It honestly never even occurred to me that the word change would make a difference.

Finally, I also thought that the City in a Bottle was too obvious ... because I use the phrase all the time in the sense of the trope. But maybe I've just spent too much time talking 'bout that.

That said, when you're always pushing the boundaries on ingredients in service to your twisted vision, you can't complain when the judges aren't impressed with the deconstructed shepherd's pie.

I genuinely enjoyed writing my entry and I thought that all the judges' comments were great and instructive. It looks like I have to do this again ... I am now realizing that Iron DM is similar to a pie-eating contest, where each round, the prize is ... more pie. :)
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
When I completed this one, I felt like it was as good as I was going to get it in the highly-constrained time I had available. Rarely have I won when I finished it with such a feeling.

I knew in my heart when I handed in my last entry that it had very little chance of winning. I felt a bit like I'd "thrown" the match, which (for a moment there) I was okay with. I'm pressed for time and have other things (like PBP games) that I should be writing.

However, I found that I was very disappointed in myself for not turning in a better piece. I know that I could have done it, had I allotted the proper time to it. I mean, I agreed to go bowling with my wife and kids when I should have been writing instead!

I genuinely enjoyed writing my entry and I thought that all the judges' comments were great and instructive. It looks like I have to do this again ... I am now realizing that Iron DM is similar to a pie-eating contest, where each round, the prize is ... more pie. :)

I have mixed feelings (both glad and disappointed) that I don't have/get to write another one, but I'm glad that YOU do! I laugh my butt off reading your stuff in general. I think it's clear that not everyone's sense of humor lines up with yours - but mine does!
 

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/they)
IRON DM 2023: Championship Match, Snarf Zagyg vs Whizbang Dustyboots
@Snarf Zagyg and @Whizbang Dustyboots, you have 48 hours to post your entries to this thread. Please limit your entry to a title, a list of the ingredients used and 2000 additional words. Please include your list of ingredients at the beginning of the entry and please do not edit your post once it is submitted. Please refrain from reading your opponent's entry until after you have posted your own. You are on your honor to do so.

Entries that are between 1 and 59 minutes late will have their word-limits reduced to 1800. Later entries that are at less than 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 1,400. Entries that are at least 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 1000. In addition, 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. Entries that exceed their word-limits will be considered to end once they reach that limit; I will ignore everything after.

Your ingredients are:
Guardian Goose
Flooded Cavern
Hollow Peg-Leg
Elemental Orchestra
Legendary Door
Cured Orc
Time and Space Bomb
Captivating Toy

Happy writing!
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Update, 2pm.

Still staring at the list ....

mr-horse-no-sir-i-dont-like-it.gif
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Notes from a Tavern

Ingredients
Guardian Goose
Flooded Cavern
Hollow Peg-Leg
Elemental Orchestra
Legendary Door
Cured Orc
Time and Space Bomb
Captivating Toy

GM NOTE- There is no GM. Or everyone is a GM. You’ll figure it out. But you need at least three people. You can have more, but you need at least three.

Every participant is a player (see below). The characters all start with two insanity points. There are no other stats.

Mechanics-
You can choose between two “actions” on your turn.

Option 1- On your turn, declare and write down a basic principle of play (e.g., the game has magic/no magic, or the game has hit points).

Describe a challenge for your character. This can involve creating some new fiction in the game.

The player to your left explains and writes down a simple rule that determines the success/failure of the challenge. If there is an already-existing rule for the challenge, the player may add a detail relevant to the situation.

Resolve the challenge.

Then the player to your right will narrate the outcome based on the success/failure.

Option 2- You can eat the orc meat (see below). Eating meat increases your insanity by one. In addition, you can disbelieve the fiction. Successfully rolling at, or under, your insanity score with 2d6 means that you can eliminate any single (1) principle (and associated rules). Failure to roll under means that you can eliminate any single (1) rule and that you acquire two additional insanity points. Accumulating 11 insanity points turns you forevermore into a nonplayable NPC, and your turn ends immediately and forever.

And then…

Play passes in a counterclockwise direction. Play continues until (1) the Trial is concluded (see below), or (2) every player but one has been driven insane, leaving one character, alone, forever, externally validating the loneliness that was already inside; or (3) everyone stops playing because the rules have overwhelmed the game, finally signifying the utter futility of running after marks and prizes and accomplishments.

Rule Zero- At no point can a new principle or rule contradict the fiction or rules already established in the written rules.

Rule Zero and a Half- At no point can a new principle or rule contradict Rule Zero, or an existing principle or rule created by a player.

Rule Zero and Three-Quarters- At no point can a new principle or rule result in an “instant-win” or “instant-lose” for a character.


Background
You have been hard at work with your fellow designers creating the upcoming changes to The World’s Most Popular Roleplaying Game. You know that you must finish this work as your employer, the World’s Most Semi-Successful Toy Company, keeps you working with the alluring promise of meager pay, expensive and complicated health care benefits, and, if you make your deadlines with uncompensated overtime, Taco Tuesday.

But the constant toil is tiring, and you’re feeling the crunch. The latest, greatest, but certainly not new, edition will be released soon. You only need to get a few more tweaks in, and you and your friends can leave and go to the Earth, Wind & Fire Concert that you’ve been waiting for.

…but as you put in the finishing touches to the improved, but not new, Monk, you feel this strange surge of energy shoot through you. You’re no longer in the spacious yet sterile conference room, far removed from your usual cubicle.

Instead, you’re in a tavern. But not a sports bar. You’re in THE TAVERN, where adventurers congregate to go out on adventures. Except you’re not an adventurer, you’re just an NPC. And not even an important NPC.


The Tavern
You’re in The Tavern. It’s a legendary tavern known to all who have played The World’s Most Popular Roleplaying Game, but not so legendary that the name matters. It’s called the Smiling Drake. Or The Salted Goblin. Or the Dragon’s Breath. Something that was probably generated from a random table. And it’s filled with several interesting people. A merchant who is a little tipsy and is, perhaps too loudly, describing the route of his caravan. A shadowy figure in the back who might be a member of the assassin’s guild. A haughty elven warrior who looks strangely out of place. A pirate with a parrot and a peg leg talking about buried treasure. A bartender who keeps saying, “No, I am not a dragon pretending to be a human, why do you ask?” A board with a list of bounties that you can’t quite read.

Periodically, a group of adventurers barge through the legendary entrance to this tavern, make some small talk with the interesting people in The Tavern, throw around some gold, quaff some ale or mead, and then depart.

… and everything in The Tavern resets. Waiting for the next group of adventurers to come through.

You’re trapped in the generic starting tavern for a D&D game. But you’re not an adventurer. You’re not even a colorful NPC that the adventurers talk to. No, you’re one of the faceless background people who doesn’t have a name, a class, or even a stat block.

You quickly get your bearings. You discover the following immutable facts about The Tavern-

  • No Exit. The doors to The Tavern are legendary to adventurers, swinging open to call them to adventure. To you, they are distasteful, imprisoning you as cannot fathom pulling or pushing on them.
  • Beyond Good and Evil. There is a giant, angry goose that is just outside the heralded swinging doors to The Tavern. The goose allows adventurers in and out of The Tavern and appears to them as nothing more than a charming waterfowl, but viciously attacks and chases back any of the NPCs that try to leave. Who do you suppose the Goose is? Why, the torturer, of course. The Goose is not good, the Goose is not evil, but the Goose always is and always will keep you inside.
  • The Tunnel. In the basement of The Tavern is only one tunnel, dark and lonely, yours.
  • The Cave. At the end of the tunnel is a strange scene; a flooded cave bereft of light and hope, and you are the strange prisoners. Is there something under the water? Perhaps another tunnel, or a device, or a tentacled beast? Or is the dank water just a manifestation of the omnipresent despair that you feel lapping at the remains of your sanity?
  • The Metamorphosis. While the adventurers that walk through those doors are plied with flagons of ale and obscenely large succulent turkey legs, you are an NPC, moving toward the unknown nourishment you crave. There is only one food you may be served: the preserved meat of orcs. You notice that the other NPCs seem to enjoy this strange flavor, chewing methodically on it; after you have eaten two slices of it, you begin to feel as if your life as a designer of this game was more of a troubled dream. You know that this orc charcuterie tethers you to this world, but you cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside of you. You cannot even explain it to yourself.
  • Steppenwolf. The pirate, in truth, calls himself Steppenwolf. He is aware of the unreality of all that is around him and finds neither home nor joy nor nourishment in The Tavern which is strange and incomprehensible to him. His hollow peg leg contains a map to a treasure in the hills outside of The Tavern that he has refused to give to any adventurers because, after all, what’s the point? It all just resets again.
But just as all hope seems lost, you remember something … something fleeting. Something ephemeral. You’re not just NPCs. You are GAME DESIGNERS. Maybe, just maybe, you can design your way out of this problem.

You realize that you can create the rules that affect this world. But at the same time, the more tasty orc prosciutto you consume, the more this world seems real to you, and the less you can remember that this is just a game.


Character Motivations
There are three motivations for characters.

1. The character wants to escape the nameless life of the NPC and become a full adventurer. The character desires to replace this banal existence with an existence of chasing gold and adventure, anything that will distract the character from the utter meaninglessness of existence.

2. The character wants to return to the sweet, sweet embrace of The Toy Company. The character is looking for any possible way to rend a hole in the fabric of space and time to escape The Tavern and return to the decadent escapism of modern life.

3. The character has embraced The Tavern. In despair, there are the most intense enjoyments, especially when you are aware of your hopelessness.

Assign the motivations in order. If there are more than three players, continue assigning them in order starting again with the first motivation.


The Trial
Players have three hours before the Earth, Wind & Fire concert begins in the material world. After one hour and fifty minutes of play, put on Greatest Hits by Earth, Wind & Fire. At the end of the album, it will be too late to go to the concert, and the characters will be stuck in The Tavern forever. This is a victory for any Player whose character has a motivation to stay in The Tavern unless that character is already insane.

Players who are trying to adventure will succeed if they manage to get past the hallowed doors of The Tavern that have seen so many adventurers pass through them, get past the wicked giant goose that keeps them in place, and go forth on an adventure. Maybe they might find a way through the despair of the Cave or drown in the process. But if they can recover the buried treasure that Steppenwolf has on his map located in his peg leg, they win. What do they win? Maybe stop making up your own games, and just play D&D at that point. Go back to the tavern and read the board. Find your next adventure.

Players who are trying to blow a hole in space and time and return to the sweet capitalist embrace of The World’s Most Semi-Successful Toy Company might also learn something from Steppenwolf about the unreality of this existence, and a way to end it. Or find something in the flooded cave beneath The Tavern. Or double-cross their adventuring comrades and find that the treasure is not gold that glitters, but instead explodes them back to their own time and space. The important thing is that these players find their escape in returning to the Toy Company, finishing their work on the game, and getting to hear the sweet dulcet sounds of Earth, Wind & Fire in concert.

Players who are resigned to the true futility of existence will do everything they can to keep their friends with them in The Tavern. Work to remove the narrative tension. Remind the other players that other people can sort out problems. Adventuring is a lot of work… better leave that to the adventurers. And why get recaptured by the allure of the constant treadmill of a capitalist toy company; after all, isn’t work just the same as entering a pie-eating contest where the prize is … more pie? You can never change your life, and you aren’t dissatisfied with what you have here. Orc salami isn’t as bad as Taco Tuesday. Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. But you will always find something to give you the impression that you exist.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Long ago, in a time impossible to now remember, gods or some other entities unknown in the present day created a means to destroy the multiverse and reforge it anew, for reasons now unknown.

It has happened at least four times.

It is about to happen again.


The Dungeon at the End of the Multiverse
5E tier four adventure

Ingredients:
  • Guardian Goose
  • Flooded Cavern
  • Hollow Peg-Leg
  • Elemental Orchestra
  • Legendary Door
  • Cured Orc
  • Time and Space Bomb
  • Captivating Toy
The heroes sail into the remotest reaches the Astral Sea, pursuing Malĝojo the Destroyer. Once, he was a former wizard’s apprentice or junior cultist who slipped away, unnoticed during the heroes’ victory during one of their earliest adventures. Now, 20 levels later, drawn by whispers from the void, Malĝojo is taking drastic steps to undo everything the heroes — and all heroes, everywhere — have accomplished.

Their ship encounters a legendary spelljammers graveyard, a great hollow dome of destroyed ships, marking the border of a mythical Wildspace system. Within the system, there is only a single dim star, orbited by ravaged worlds, each stripped of life. The realm’s only inhabitant is Ansero, the great star goose. Ansero is whispered of in bullywug myths: It is the apocalyptic creature that will one day appear in the sky to devour all things. (Succeed on a DC 20 Wisdom (Religion) check to know this myth.)

Ansero has ravaged these worlds, which are covered in ruined temple cities to ancient gods unknown in the present day. The goose now serves as the accidental guardian of the object Malĝojo seeks: the Apocalypse Tree.

Few gods even know the tree exists and have stricken all record of its existence from the current multiverse. Those few who know of it have caused the great beast Ansero to unknowingly guard its entrance.

NOTE: This adventure is intended for level 20 characters, who will have vast resources at their disposal, by definition. This adventure cannot lay out every possible solution for the challenges set before the heroes. Even “impossible” problems may well get solved with ease. And that’s fine: The players have earned their godlike status and the fate of the multiverse is on the line, after all.

Ansero

Malĝojo’s ship floats in space, within sight of Ansero, but apparently abandoned. A search of the ship finds no one aboard.

Ansero is a gargantuan swan apparently made of starry void, with a 100-meter wingspan and 50 meters in length. It attempts to attack and consume any living beings it encounters, but ignores inanimate objects like abandoned ships.

But not all of Ansero is made of star-stuff: Its right leg and foot has been replaced by wood salvaged from ruined spelljamming ships. Careful observation shows an opening in the base of its foot, leading up inside its foot.

Inside is a narrow chamber, only five feet in diameter inside, with rungs leading to closed hatch. Opening the hatch and crawling through leads into the demiplane of Alyanabie Almajida.

Ansero has the statistics of a tarrasque with a flying speed of 120 ft.

Alyanabie Almajida

The demiplane of Alyanabie Almajida is a vast series of flooded tunnels and caverns, with only occasional pockets of air in places where visitors are expected or permitted, including the entrance, throne room, pleasure grotto and prison cells.

The plane is ruled over by Sultan Alhawt Aleazim, Sovereign of the Infinite Depths, a CR 20 marid would-be-god-slayer in exile, serving as one of the guardians of the Apocalypse Tree as part of a bargain struck with a number of greater gods in return for sparing his life.

Alhawt Aleazim’s court are essentially prisoners and are a mix of aquatic beings and elementals, all of whom are terribly bored after millennia spent in Alyanabie Almajida. They seek to draw visitors into their various schemes and plots against one another. The sultan is served by more than a hundred powerful elementals and jinn.

The sultan himself wants nothing more than to be entertained, which means keeping visitors here indefinitely if possible and not revealing the existence of or the way to reach the demiplane of Stronghold, which is hidden in a pitch-black flooded cave, hidden miles below his audience chamber.

Stronghold is accessed through a locked door (DC 20 Dexterity (thieves tools) check) set in the rock wall.

Malĝojo was given access to Stronghold by promising the sultan that, in the multiverse to come, the sultan would survive and rule the realms of water. (In fact, Alyanabie Almajida will be destroyed along with the rest of the multiverse, should Malĝojo succeed.)

Alhawt Aleazim will seek to endlessly entertain visitors in the pleasure grotto, where an elemental orchestra endlessly performs for his pleasure. Alhawt Aleazim can be cruel and the orchestra is missing another members whom he killed for poor play or perceived bad attitudes. If he discovers any visitors are musicians, he will insist they play for him beyond the point of exhaustion or, better yet, join the orchestra themselves.

Stronghold and the Last Door

In contrast to Alyanabie Almajida, the plane of Stronghold is warm and dry, and lit by a dim radiance that seems to come from everywhere and nowhere.

The demiplane appears to be a nearly empty ancient fortress, although there are no windows to the outside — and no “outside” at all. The entire demiplane is under the effect of a permanent forbiddance spell.

The plane’s lone inhabitant waits in the chamber before the Last Door, a door older than the multiverse. Although knowledge of the tree is almost unknown in the current multiverse, thieves sometimes dream of the impossible Last Door, although where it is or what it signifies, none know.

The Last Door’s lock does not correspond to how locks in the current multiverse work and whatever key it might have had is long lost. The door has three great seashells embedded in it and the fossilized skeleton of an unknown beast. The door is immune to damage from anything native to the current multiverse.

The figure by the Last Door calls themself the First Orc and claims, over thousands of years of life and countless reincarnations across multiple multiverses, to have reached a state of enlightenment and oneness with all things, lacking all anger, all resentment and all inclinations toward violence.

The First Orc wants a multiverse where all beings are equally enlightened, beginning with orcs. They will argue their case with the heroes, saying that the multiverse should be replaced with something better. They know how to unlock the Last Door and helped Malĝojo through it, knowing that Stronghold, unlike Alyanabie Almajida, will survive the destruction of the multiverse, as it has survived the destruction of the previous ones. (The Last Orc does not want to pay the price they know Malĝojo must in order to restart the multiverse.)

To sway them, the First Orc offers the heroes an intricate brass sphere made up of eternally moving discs. This is the Eye of Revoj. Those who touch the device find their minds transported into a detailed possible alternate future. In this case, they see a multiverse like the First Orc describes, a utopia filled with beings living in peace and harmony with one another. Should the user wish, the Eye can also create detailed visions of whatever else the user may desire. The visions are so seductive that those using it must succeed at a a DC 25 Wisdom check to return to reality without help.

They urge the heroes to allow the multiverse to be overwritten once more, as it has been at least four times in the past, in an attempt to realize the vision shown by the Eye of Revoj. They explain that a single seed can be planted in the soil of a material world and it will cause the entire plane to explosively restart, with changes based on what the planter desires at the time of planting, and the previous world will never have existed. But slamming two such seeds together — and the Apocalypse Tree always produces exactly two seeds — will do the same for the entire multiverse.

The First Orc will not voluntarily disclose that they can open the Last Door and will only use violence in response to being attacked first. They have the statistics of a solar.

The Apocalypse Tree

Beyond the Last Door is one more demiplane, known as Renaskiĝo. Like Stronghold, it is under the effect of a permanent forbiddance spell.

Renaskiĝo is a small forest surrounding a hill. Travel in any direction by land for half a mile and you will find yourself walking back to where you started. Similarly, the sky has an invisible “ceiling” a half mile up.

Ordinary forest animals live in Renaskiĝo and seasons pass as they would in the mundane world. It is currently autumn — harvest time.

Atop the otherwise clear hill, beneath a bruise-colored sky, is the black-barked Apocalypse Tree. The tree is now barren of leaves and seeds. Waiting at its base is Malĝojo, bleeding from wounds suffered in slaying the tree’s final guardian, Angkasa, an ancient solar dragon.

Malĝojo clutches one of the tree’s fist-sized seeds in his left hand. When the heroes spot him, he’s struggling to pick up the other seed with his now-ruined right hand, which was mangled in his battle with Angkasa.

Malĝojo has been possessed by an ancient spirit from a previous multiverse and speaks with a strange echo of two voices speaking almost simultaneously.

The Shade of Garloth cannot remember much of its past, although it believes it was responsible for destroying a previous multiverse and seeks to do so again, setting itself up as ruler. (Why its previous attempt failed, it cannot recall and insists does not matter.) But it could not physically touch the seeds in its current state and lured Malĝojo to Renaskiĝo so it could possess him and destroy the multiverse.

Although Malĝojo is a medium-sized human, while possessed by the shade, has the stats of a death knight. Once defeated, Malĝojo’s corpse immediately floats up, now fully under the control of Garloth. It now fights with the stats of a demilich.

Once defeated, the shade appears to dissipate harmlessly, gone at last.

Saving the multiverse -- for now

While it is possible to destroy the Apocalypse Tree or even burn down the entire forest of Renaskiĝo, within 100 years, both will be growing again. Within 1,000 years, the tree will next produce a pair of seeds.

As for the Shade of Garloth, it is not yet truly destroyed. When defeated, it will attempt to hide its essence, unseen, inside the Apocalypse Tree, a player character’s animal companion, an unintelligent magical weapon possessed by one of them, or even a PC. Hiding inside the PC is dangerous, as they will begin to have dreams of previous multiverses and will likely realize Garloth is inside them, regathering its strength before attempting to possess them. It will take the shade a year and a day to rebuild the strength necessary to do so.
 


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