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Iron DM Anthology

Rune

Once A Fool
One of the best side-effects of the incredibly competitive and extremely tough challenge that is the IRON DM TOURNAMENT is that a plethora of extraordinarily creative and high-quality short adventures--or adventure seeds are produced.

Because of the format of the tournament, these are usually light on mechanics or system-neutral and are, consequently, usually pretty easy to port over to an ongoing campaign.

Are they all good? Of course not. But this is an anthology, not an archive. To that end, the following post(s) will contain links to some of the entries I consider to be the very best for purposes of actually running (as opposed to meeting the criteria of the tournaments).

Additionally, I will include a very brief description of each adventure and a very simple rating.

The rating system:

Ease of Use: This category is a loose estimation of how easy I think the adventure would be to actually run based on ease of formatting, information, hooks, linearity (or lack thereof), and the like. It is rated on a scale of 1-5, with one being "practically unusable" and five "practically runs itself."

Awesome: This category is a loose estimation of just how memorable the adventure is (in a good way) for the players and the DM/GM, based on creativity, amazing imagery, rat-bastardy, and the like. It is rated on a scale of 1-5, with one being "either entirely forgettable, or memorable for all the wrong reasons" and five being "they'll be talking about this one years from now."

Unfortunately, only the EN World Iron DM Tournaments appear to have survived the years and still be available on the internet. The tournaments held at Nutkinland and the Rat Bastard DM's Club boards have disappeared with those sites. Consequently, all of these examples are pulled from only from the tournaments held on this site (and, regrettably, not the original tournament, which was on a previous incarnation of EN World).

As a final note, I encourage you all to post your favorites, as well. (And if anyone has archives of any of the lost tournaments, those would be cool, too!)
 

Rune

Once A Fool
  • ajanders

    "Have a Heart, Please?"

    "A noble disappointed in love receives an invitation from a fae noble inviting him to purchase a clockwork heart, which is immune to the pangs of that emotion. The party discovers this clockwork heart contains an unpleasant surprise. The party must follow him through the strange environment of the Feywild, gathering advice and allies along the way, and convince him to give up his plan. The climax of the adventure includes a tense standoff with the fae noble and the provider of the heart, a devil with his own agenda."

    Ease of Use: 4 (Solid structure with lots to do.)

    Awesome: 5 (Like a fairy-tale gone wrong, and yet, so right!)

  • carpedavid

    "The Siege of Castle Yume"

    War between the Queen of Spiders and the Lord of the Dead has left the world without the dream tapestries needed for restful sleep. Can the matter be resolved before all mortals go insane?

    Ease of Use: 4 (An implied cosmology may be too specific for some campaigns, but the ideas are so good, they ought to fit in somewhere!)

    Awesome: 5 (Chocked full of awesome ideas!)

  • Deuce Traveller

    "Going Legit"

    What could be simpler than transporting livestock on a boat? When everyone you meet has a conflicting agenda?

    Ease of Use: 4 (Lots of intrigue for such a seemingly simple premise!)

    Awesome: 5 (On the surface, a silly excursion, but this adventure could go wrong for the PCs in so many wonderful ways.)

  • Deuce Traveler

    ”The Hulk”

    A race of psychic aliens. A derelict and haunted spaceship. A mystery unfolding into sci-fi horror. A lot of fun.

    Ease of Use: 4 (Tight and well laid out, part social interaction and part dungeon [spacecraft] delve.)

    Awesome: 5 (The first part is an extended dip into the unknown and wonder. The second part builds suspense while gradually unravelling mystery and folding in layer upon layer of horror. Truly memorable.)

  • Deuce Traveler

    ”The Inn of the Tarnished Mirror”

    Something isn’t quite right in a modest inn. Will the PCs unravel its gruesome mystery? And, if they do, will they be able to ensure that justice is served?

    Ease of Use: 5 (The adventure’s structure is just complex enough to provide a satisfying mystery. And the abundance of clues allows for the adventure to practically run itself.)

    Awesome: 4 (A grisly turn of events and the possibility for future complications make for a fun and memorable experience.)

  • Deuce Traveller

    "Obbins' Wondrously Friendly Home"

    A friendship that spans space, time, and species falls prey to the greed of thieves. Can the PCs restore what has gone before, or must all things eventually end?

    Ease of Use: 5 (An unusual cosmology is easily offset by replacing the Plane of Time with the Far Realm, Feywild, Plane of Dreams, or even, perhaps, the Astral Plane. Otherwise, very tight and portable.)

    Awesome: 5 (Equal parts wonder, pathos, and cool, sprinkled with a healthy dose of freaky. Possibly the best IRON DM entry, ever.)

  • Deuce Traveler

    ”Quarantine”

    The PCs get caught up in the politics of a city beset by a magical plague. Can they help find a cure before anarchy and mob rule destroy the city?

    Ease of Use: 4 (Tightly constructed with diverse factions, the PCs can hardly help but get swept up.)

    Awesome: 5 (Dealing with a plague is a nice change of pace. Throw in local politics and a fanatical mob to contend with and you’ve got the makings of an adventure the players won’t forget!

  • ender_wiggin

    "Of Mazes and Mortals"

    Something is amiss in a labyrinthine Minotaur city. Can the PCs find a way to save the day?

    Ease of Use: 4 (Easily portable, but an entirely different race of minotaurs with a unique creation myth needs to be introduced. Needs some work to fully realize potential.)

    Awesome: 5 (Fascinating culture and city wrapped around an interesting adventure.)

  • Enkhidu

    "City on the Edge"

    "The PCs will travel into unknown waters to the edge of the world, only to find that a terrible beast set to guard a gate between worlds is dying and they must install a new guardian."

    Ease of Use: 4 (An evocative adventure that would be fun to run with just a few tweaks--even if your campaign world isn't flat.)

    Awesome: 5 (An apocalypse at the edge of the world is kind of hard to forget. Epic.)

  • Gradine

    "The Diamond Toad"

    With all eyes in the floating city of Caelum turned toward the airship race, the PCs have an opportunity to pull off the heist of a lifetime.

    Ease of Use: 4 (Specific, non-standard setting, offset by awesome imagery and tight premise.)

    Awesome: 5 (A great adventure with a lot of moving parts--and lots of room for PCs to plan their heist.)

  • Gradine

    ”Dreams in the Clouds”

    Transported from Eberron to an ever-changing fey plane, the PCs find themselves in a castle atop the clouds caught up in the politics of gambling giants.

    Ease of Use: 4 (Setting-specific, but easily ported, the pieces are present for the players to make their own exciting way.)

    Awesome: 5 (A fairy-tale in a dreamscape with giant politics and hijinks aplenty. Unforgettable!)

  • Gradine

    ”The Fittest”

    In a post-apocalyptic, radioactive wasteland, an all-consuming rot threatens the very existence of the surviving remnants of humanity. For some reason, mutants have stolen their only means of erradicating the fungus and the PCs must get it back.

    Ease of Use: 4 (Somewhat linear, but cleverly constructed to deliver an emotional gut-punch at the end.)

    Awesome: 5 (The deceptively simple structure of the adventure masks a tremendously potent underpinning of hard choices and unhappy consequences. Good stuff!)

  • Gradine

    ”Foxes in the Hen House”

    It’s like a game of Clue if the owner of the mansion was a necromancer intent on sacrificing all of his children and the PC was a doppelgänger imposter.

    Ease of Use: 5 (Despite being a one-shot solo adventure, this adventure is so masterfully crafted it begs to be run.)

    Awesome: 5 (“Remember that game that was like a game of Clue if the owner of the mansion was a necromancer intent on sacrificing all of his children and I was playing a doppelgänger imposter? And there was another doppelgänger I didn’t know about running around murdering people, too. That was awesome!” Possibly the best Iron DM entry, ever.)

  • Gradine

    ”Tearin’ It Up”

    A modern-day supernatural adventure featuring zombies and a crossroads-contract with a demon.

    Ease of Use: 5 (The limited utility of the setting is more than made up for by the very tight structure of the adventure.)

    Awesome: 4 (A simple premise with a lot of atmosphere leads up to one final rat-bastardly nail in the coffin.)

  • Iron Sky

    ”The Dreaming Lords"

    The PCs must travel from dream to dream in order to solve puzzle laid out in this adventure.

    Ease of Use: 5 (The innovative structure of this adventure begs to be used.)

    Awesome: 5 (Traipsing through dreams is always memorable. Even for those who can't remember their dreams.)

  • Iron Sky

    "The Far City"

    "The Far City is called by some the Last City, for it is said when one leaves all civilization and all that is known behind and travels to the end of one the worlds, there can be found the Far City, on the border between reality and chaos, astride the boundary with the Far Realm. It is ruled by the Cosa Nesunna, a race of aberrations that not only pull the strings from behind the scenes in the Far City, but have a massive network of "coscas" (families) that silently pull the strings behind the criminal organizations of all the Planes."

    Ease of Use: 4 (As with many planar adventures, this one requires high-level characters, but there is much to discover once the PCs get there.)

    Awesome: 5 (Far Realm hijinks. Tasty.)

  • Iron Sky

    ”Laboratory #AAAAAA”

    Strange happenings are afoot in rural Maasi County. Can the PCs get to the bottom of things in this adventure set in the modern day and stocked with quirky characters?

    Ease of Use: 5 (An extremely tight structure is enhanced by plentiful options for the players and the game master.)

    Awesome: 5 (The NPCs are so engaging/unsettling that there’s really no way the players will be able to avoid getting enmeshed.)

  • Iron Sky

    ”Never Enough Place”

    Caught up in a celestial game of intrigue, the PCs must traipse across time and space to find a godess.

    Ease of Use: 2 (While very tightly written, this adventure requires very high-level characters, a very specific cosmology –including deities – and covers such a massive scope that running it would be a challenge.)

    Awesome: 5 (But it is the very definition of epic! Running this adventure to its conclusion might be the most satisfying gaming experience the players and DM would ever have! Because of this, and because of a general dearth of quality epic-level adventures, this is definitely worth a look!)

  • MortalPlague

    "Beneath Ratter's Dell"

    A chance encounter with an animated brick bearing a plea for help leads the PCs to a dungeon in turmoil and the schemes of an evil wizard.

    Ease of Use: 5 (Super-tight adventure that even has a spiffy map.)

    Awesome: 4 (A solid scenario with some inspired twists.)

  • MortalPlague

    ”Morality Index”

    Aboard a derelict spacecraft, a mystery unfolds. What has turned its crew into a chalky substance? And why is the lone survivor wearing so many coats?

    Ease of Use: 5 (Extraordinarily tight and well-written, this adventure artfully blends social interaction with some engaging NPCs, suspenseful exploration, and a thrilling cat-and-mouse combat scenario.)

    Awesome: 5 (The mystery of the underlying scenario and the seamless transition from the slightly absurd to imminent danger make this adventure memorable. The ultimate moral decision about whether or not to even complete the mission: all the more!)

  • Nemmerle (now El-remmen)

    "The King's Nightmares"

    Take a fantastic journey to a dream-scape on the dark side of the moon.

    Ease of Use: 4 (Strong hooks and good details to hang intrigue upon.)

    Awesome: 5 (Wow.)

  • nonamazing

    "The Sound of Fear"

    A pyrohydra takes over the criminal underworld of a city--with each head running a different faction.

    Ease of Use: 4 (Despite its length, this adventure is set up very interestingly, with the first half dedicated to laying out clues--through the agents of the pyrohydra's heads. The second half is a delve through the sewers to the monster, itself. It even includes a map of the sewers.)

    Awesome: 5 (Intrigue and investigation abound. Also, who's going to forget a hydra who leads factions with conflicting agendas?)

  • Pour

    "Expiation"

    A PC has to go through Hell(s) before s/he gets to Heaven(s).

    Ease of Use: 4 (This adventure would have to be planned from the beginning of a campaign to actually be run as written, but its fundamental ideas could be used in many.)

    Awesome: 5 (Redemptive tales are good. Redemptive tales that a PC can participate in are amazing.)

  • Pro-Paladin

    "Good Clean Fun"

    "The PC is hired to work a late-night janitorial shift at a rendering plant. Here he or she uncovers murder, mad science, black magic and an ancient evil hoping to make a modern comeback."

    Ease of Use: 4 (A modern adventure for a single PC seems pretty limited, but could be expanded for a party pretty easily. Either way, a solid adventure that will keep the player(s) invested. Could easily work with other systems, as well.)

    Awesome: 5 (Creepy and macabre. This one would be hard to forget.)

  • Radiating Gnome

    "Age of Sorrows"

    The PCs are asked to save the world by saving someone from the Titanic. And then they need to fix that mistake.

    Ease of Use: 4 (Necessarily linear and best as a one-shot, but very tight structure.)

    Awesome: 5 (Amazingly memorable set-up with a very clever reversal.)

  • Rune

    ”The Dying Flame"

    The PCs get caught in a web of political maneuvering and treachery as a ghost attempts to right a wrong that has doomed his city by sacrificing his own daughter.

    Ease of Use: 5 (Once the PCs get to the city, they're pretty much guaranteed to get swept up in the adventure. Add to that the open-ended approach to resolution and you've got a tremendous little playground.)

    Awesome: 5 (At once exotic and all too familiar, the set up is both rat-bastardly and engaging. No matter what the PCs choose to do, they'll have a lot to talk about.)

  • Rune

    "The Fishy God"

    The PCs are whisked away to a pocket dimension of the Far Realms to answer for crimes they may or may not have committed. (Un)fortunately for them, they are not really the ones on trial...

    Ease of Use: 5 (Intrigue and curiosity combine to drive a tangled tale of alien deities--and an impostor--vying for dominance as the balance of power shifts. Naturally, the PCs are caught in middle.)

    Awesome: 5 (The PCs are dropped in the middle of a rat-bastardly situation (so much the better if the PCs actually are guilty) that the players will never forget!)

  • Rune

    ”With Strange Aeons...”

    A coastal city-state suffering a curse of Hate sacrifices its scions to placate a behemoth slumbering beneath the sea. Even as rebellion simmers, the author of the curse bides his time, waiting for his ends to be achieved. Enter the PCs...

    Ease of Use: 4 (With many options, active factions, and interconnected events, the PCs are bound to find themselves enmeshed in the unfolding action, no matter what they choose to do.)

    Awesome: 5 (An awakening behemoth. A cruel curse. An evil sorcerer. Ensorcelled sacrifices. Insane cultists. Swords and sorcery!)

  • seasong

    "Backwater Tar Baby"

    The PCs chase a crazed animal out of a bag of tricks through the twisted pathways of a sphinx's city. Hijinks ensue.

    Ease of Use: 4 (A paranoid city-maze that is compact and evocative. It can--and should--fit in any campaign.)

    Awesome: 5 ("Remember that time we had to chase that ferret through the city-maze and then had to fight that harpy?" Totally, dude. Totally.)

  • seasong

    "St Margaret's Tear"

    This noir-style modern game features intrigue and a sentient (and malevolent, naturally) mind-flayer egg.

    Ease of Use: 5 (Despite the modern setting, the fundamental structure of this adventure is so sound, it not only nearly runs itself, it could easily be the seed of a new campaign.)

    Awesome: 5 (Creepy and atmospheric. The PCs will not forget the time one of them was almost turned into a mind-flayer.)

  • Sparky

    "Woes in Niadelaar"

    "People are falling ill in Niadelaar. That’s nothing new, really. People have always fallen ill in Niadelaar -- it is a miserable, smelly, low-lying, backwater province with a history of trickery, deceit and betrayal that stretches back to the village’s founding. A fine place for adventure and adventurers!"

    Ease of Use: 5 (A tight adventure that is well laid-out.)

    Awesome: 4 (feels like a dark fairy-tale.)

  • Thasmodius

    "Master of Puppets"

    An insidious blight plagues the city of Tir Tara--a city lost to the planes.

    Ease of Use: 4 (A tight adventure with a lot going on.)

    Awesome: 5 (Very creative and well, a lot going on!)

  • Wicht

    "The Battle of the Temple of Seven Gates"

    A mock-battle between two Samurai lords becomes all too lethal when a group of trickster oni wreak havoc among the troops.

    Ease of Use: 4 (Setting specific, but well-woven and tight.)

    Awesome: 5 (Great mystery and suspense, lots going on, building to a chaotic climax.)

  • Wicht

    "The Haunting of Weeping Oak"

    What begins as a simple investigation of hauntings turns out to be a village-wide conspiracy masking an ancient secret and protecting an ancient way of life.

    Ease of Use: 5 (Extremely tight, great hooks if the PCs talk to any villagers at all. So much going on.)

    Awesome: 4 (A sinister town with a universally shared conspiracy. What's not to love?)

  • Wicht

    "The Luck of the Mighty"

    Strange armies from across time have been assembling, but one gods-blessed archer can set things aright--that is, until he becomes gods-cursed instead. Then it's up to the PCs. And they'll need to make their own luck.

    Ease of Use: 4 (On the surface, it's kind of linear and the DM has to be okay with letting high-tech weaponry fall into PC hands or take measures to prevent it, but the real adventure is easy to overlay onto any other adventure.)

    Awesome: 5 (The real adventure is in having the PCs put up with Levo, because they have to. And it's downright rat bastardly how much of a challenge that will be.)

  • Wik

    "Let us call thee devil..."

    The town of Yorik throws a party and the PCs are invited.

    Ease of Use: 4 (Set up with no real plot, but, rather, a loose collection of linked encounters, this adventure is really a playground.)

    Awesome: 5 (Part adventure, part (potential) drinking game, either way, it's a hell of a lot of fun.)

  • Wulf Ratbane

    "Bright Lights Cast the Darkest Shadows"

    Another noir adventure set in (almost) modern times, the PCs find themselves hunting what appears to be a vampire-starlet in 1920s Hollywood.

    Ease of Use: 5 (The specific nature of the setting is far outweighed by the very solid structure of the adventure.)

    Awesome: 5 (Vivid, haunting, and cinematic, this adventure plays out like a completely interactive movie.)

  • Wulf Ratbane

    untitled Memento tribute

    If you've ever watched Memento and thought, "It would be great if someone wrote a D&D adventure like this," you're in luck. Someone did. This is probably the very best Iron DM entry. Ever.

    Ease of Use: 5 (Good hooks and solid structure make it hard not to run.)

    Awesome: 5 (Trust me. This adventure may feature amnesia, but they'll remember this one!)

  • Wulf Ratbane

    untitled white tower entry

    "The party discovers the eerie tower of the grand theurgist Morien, the so-called “living lich,” and work to set things right before they, too, become victims of his life-draining machine"

    Ease of Use: 5 (Tight and evocative.)

    Awesome: 5 (Beautiful set-up and creepy-cool imagery will keep the players on the edges of their seats.)

  • Zappo

    "The Many Sings to Us"

    An alien hivemind is being spread through speech. Can the PCs find a solution, or will they be part of the problem?

    Ease of Use: 5 (Solid and tight.)

    Awesome: 5 (Excellent set-up, awesome adventure. Despite what I said about Wulf's Memento adventure, this might be the very best Iron DM entry. Ever.)
 
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Rune

Once A Fool
That's all of the initial selection. Future additions to this anthology will be in later posts to this thread.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
[MENTION=3192]howandwhy99[/MENTION]: are there any particular entries he's done that you would like to include in this anthology?

This is intended to be a living anthology, after all. Of course, this anthology does have another purpose, as well--to showcase useable entries (not just entries that excelled at meeting the Iron DM requirements).
 

howandwhy99

Villager
[MENTION=3192]howandwhy99[/MENTION]: are there any particular entries he's done that you would like to include in this anthology?

This is intended to be a living anthology, after all. Of course, this anthology does have another purpose, as well--to showcase useable entries (not just entries that excelled at meeting the Iron DM requirements).
Nah, the two I linked are good. The others all got eaten in the board fire of 2002 IIRC.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
I have updated the anthology with nine entries from the 2012, 2013, and 2014 Tournaments.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
The anthology has been updated with entries by [MENTION=34958]Deuce Traveler[/MENTION], [MENTION=57112]Gradine[/MENTION], [MENTION=60965]Iron Sky[/MENTION], and [MENTION=62721]MortalPlague[/MENTION] from the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 Tournaments.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
No problem! It’s actually fun for me to go through the past tournaments again, anyway. I just should probably do it a little more frequently instead of letting them build up.
 

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