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Once A Fool
Judgement: Round 1, Match 1

anonystu vs. Nemmerle

First of all, I want to thank both contestants for thinking outside of the box. Anonystu, I understand and appreciate your insistence upon adhering to the concise format. You get bonus points for that (not that I'm doing this point-based, but you get the analogy). Unfortunately, those bonus points are outweighed by how much they cost the adventure in quality.

What you have is a very good scenario, but too limited. Also, as you decided to use a ruleset outside of the standard, D&D, the burden of clarity falls to you. As it happens, I don't own d20 Modern, so I'm not sure what Department 7 is and I have no idea why there are illithids running around in a Modern world. I accept that this is a standard of the setting, but I have to accept it with a grain of salt.

I am familiar with Spycraft, and could easily see this game run with that system, so it's clear that this is pretty generic in applicability. That's good.

Now to contrast:


Anonystu, your entry has but a single hook and it's quite heavy-handed. Admittedly, this is standard for the genre, so I won't hold it against you.

Nemmerle also only provides one hook, fundamentally, and it's fairly straight-forward. Fortunately, it's a very likely scenario and quite flexible.


Anonystu provides a good plot, if a bit linear. Here, again, I think limiting the length hurt the scenario, as the events of this plot seem too short. On the other hand, the verisimilitude of the story holds up, if we accept that mind flayers are a common entity in the campaign.

Nemmerle's, however, is excellent. The premise is wonderful, reminding me of many superb short stories, from "The Lottery," to "Shadow over Innsmouth." Added to this is the very close attention paid to verisimilitude; I can't help but appreciate it's tightness. Additionally, I must comment on the form of the scenario. Nemmerle blends a free-form & time-based adventure in with encounters with interesting and believable personality. This allows for a more organic experience, which is quite refreshing. Many more modules should be written this way.


First of all, I must commend anonystu for taking the initiative and posting a scenario that uses a different game. While the execution could have been better (or clearer), I do appreciate the inspiration. Second, I want to mention that anonystu's wit is also appreciated. Finally, I want to say that inserting the PCs into the middle of what is essentially a domestic dispute between husband and wife is quite interesting; it even hints at being Rat Bastardly.

Nemmerle, however, trumps in this category, as well. Leaving aside his excellent premise, the atmosphere of his scenario is truly inspiring and his use of the ingredients are sometimes downright brilliant! I might also add that his inclusion of tactics is equally creative, showing that he has an understanding of rules application, as well as imagination. Additionally, there are some exceptionally Rat Bastardly things in here. First and foremost: the moral quandary presented the players (should they rescue someone who doesn't want to be rescued), but there are some other gems in there, as well. I'd go into detail, but people are already clamoring for my judgement, so I'll leave it at that.

After the Adventure:

Anonystu provides a few sound threads that could be followed into future adventures: the missing mind flayers, Jamison's exact connection with OREO (I love that name!), and, of course, Mariana could easily maintain contact with the PCs.

But Nemm's just got so many potential threads, both explicit and inferred, that I can't even list them. To be fair, I must say that this is a natural consequence of using a free-formed, organic structure, but that's certainly not a bad thing!


Claustrophobic mind flayer

I'm sorry to say that I'm disappointed in the way anonystu handled this ingredient. Even if it's perfectly fine for an illithid to be in a modern setting, the claustrophobia feels tacked on and unnatural. This is a consequence of it being good? Come on!

Nemmerle's use is much better. With the inclusion of the water creature template, it even borders on brilliance. I can definitely believe the creature's claustrophobia and I understand it's psyche (as much as I could any mind flayer). Good show!

Sinking ship

I had hoped to see this ingredient used as an encounter, or part of an encounter, and anonystu did not disappoint me, here.

On the other hand, Nemmerle's use of this ingredient, while solid, does not seem particularly inspired. I wouldn't call it "tacked on," but it doesn't seem so significant.

Empty chest

Okay, I'll grant that the use of these chests are handled well by anonystu; It's always good to see ingredients tied into each other and they are fairly significant to the adventure. However, I'd prefer to see a better-used ingredient tied in.

Nemmerle's chest is quite good. Not only is it the payoff (in a manner of speaking) for the villagers, but it also is (in multiple ways) the cause of the sacrifices.

Sacrificial altar (alter!)

Anonystu is quite creative here, with my misspelling. S/he uses it in two ways, although the blurb at the bottom of the entry only indicates one. The blurb mentions that Mariana alters her memory as a sacrifice; but there is also an alter-Mariana, who is a sacrifice. I'm pretty pleased with the use of this ingredient.

As for Nemm's, it's good, but in function it's pretty standard. I am mildly disappointed that neither submission picked up on the fact that a sacrificial altar need not be a life-sacrificing thing, but given the intricacy with which Nemm wove this ingredient in with the rest of the scenario, I can hardly fault him for such a minor conceit of mine.

Pleasant villa

Anonystu's use of this ingredient amounts to nothing more than a backdrop and is, ultimately, insignificant.

Unfortunately, the same could be said of Nemmerle's. In addition, Nemmerle's has even more of a tacked-on feel.

Insane mentor

I believe that anonystu completely bungled this one. Mariana is listed as a "mentor" to something or other. I had to assume it was either the other Mariana or the illithids, but I think that it's too much of a stretch of the term, either way. In addition, no matter how many times I read it, I couldn't figure out specifically why she would be insane (a muddled memory doesn't count, I'm afraid).

However, Nemmerle's usage of the ingredient wasn't that great, either. It's not tacked on, or anything, but it doesn't seem to be very inspired. Also, I believe that a "crazed" mentor may be a bit much of a stretch. I will say that it's a better use than anonystu's, though.


Overall, I think it's pretty clear that Nemmerle wins this match with an overwhelmingly superior entry. Anonystu, you've got a lot of potential, but you need to spend some time honing your skills. I fully expect to see that you are a seasoned and challenging opponent in future Iron DM's though. So don't let me down! ;)
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Moderator Emeritus

Ahem. . . I mean, thank you Rune. . . and anonystu - thanks for a great round - I feel bad that your brevity hurt you - I though the inclusion of a kind X-filesy modern setting was inspired.

As for my use of ingredients - I wanted te Villa to suggest menace - as PCs tend to see the location of a castle or manor as a focus for whatever evil is going on.

yeah, and the crazed mentor was a stretch. . .


First Post
Congrats Nemmerle! I was really impressed by your concepts and execution. I might run this in my campaign with your permission.

I have to say that Anonystu's was really quite clever and witty. I don't have d20 Modern, but this certainly piqued my interest!

Good job to both of you.

Wulf Ratbane

I can't believe nemmerle, of all people, set up an adventure with a moral quandary and hanging threads and wins his round.

You should be ashamed to enjoy the fruits of such bitter irony. :p



Once A Fool
The Judge's apology.

Upon rereading my judgement, it seems to me that I come off sounding harsher and, even biased, in my critiques of anonystu than of Nemmerle. This is particularly evident when I use phrases, like "Okay, I'll grant that..." and "completely bungled."

I'm sorry to come off sounding like such a jerk. And I had better explain. In truth (and I admit that this may well have come from the differences in length), the two entries seemed to me to be in entirely seperate classes. Now, I have never seen Nemm's entries in other Iron DM tournaments, so I had no idea what to expect, nor have I seen anonystu's, if ever there were any.

However, I started finding errors in his entry pretty easily, while I had too look much closer at Nemm's to find any.

For this reason, my language seems to have slipped into a biased-sounding diction. This is the result of the cumulative effect of these elements upon me, I'm afraid, as well as, perhaps, my general awe of Nemm's submission.

I want to stress, however, that this was not a foregone conclusion. Anonystu, you are good, and I fully expect that you could beat Nemm in a different match. But I couldn't let you have this one. Again, I'm sorry I sound like a jerk about it.
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First Post
I wouldn't worry about it Rune. When you are judging two entries against each other, not solely on their individual merit, your decision will always have a bias, IMHO. You are required to pick one, and it will be the one you like better.

Don't sweat it. You are the judge, and you have to judge :)

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