Winter IrondDM (Winner)!


Penguin Herder
So, no exposition from me last night. I crashed hard and slept until pretty much now.

Anyway, here's my EXPO:

It seemed to me that the mistaken flag of truce and the viscious circle went well together. A quote from a Stephen R. Donaldson book sprung to mind: "Mistrust justifies itself" (spoken by Lord Mohram). So I needed a couple of forces whose misunderstanding would lead to an escalating conflict.

I didn't have to worry about one of the forces: it was going to be tied to the dwarven stonework, so in came a troop of dwarves. Who canonically misunderstands dwarves? Elves! There was the seed for my political setup. To add another layer to the conflict, the dwarves became religious industrialists, while the elves became druids -- which helped me incorporate another element, the blind dire ape(s), as druidic animal companions.

The conflict had to be fairly young if the PCs were going to be able to do anything about it -- including exploit it. This let me exploit another aspect of the dwarven stonework, that it lasts a long time. The dwarves would be returning to a place which had long forgotten them.

Now I had everything worked in except the rod and the sorcerer. Every conflict needs its seed, and these two ingredients would provide that seed. The rod of the python is nifty because it can be used to restrain (grapple) as well as kill, so it's a good item for the priest of a god of healing -- and the fact that the snake has been a symbol of healing since the Greeks is icing.

The very lucky sorcerer I decided would be the instigator. He would be the one who stole the rod yet escaped both blame and detection -- by luck alone.

I considered briefly having the sorcerer be a member of an evil cabal of mages called the Viscious Circle, but decided against it.

That's it for the ingredients. Next time I think I'll make a separate section for mechanics (DCs for Gather Info, Spot, etc. and NPC reaction tables, not to mention force structure analysis and NPC Feats, Skills and spell lists) so as to cut down on space used for the formal entry. That way, anyone wishing to acutally use the entry to play with will have a "mini-module", but the judge won't have to slog through all those details.

-- Nifft

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First Post
Round 2, Set 2

Unfortunate coincidence
Mirror of surpassing beauty
Deflect arrows
Contemplative kraken
Serene battlefield

The time here is 10:20AM EST, good luck gentlemen
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First Post
Serendipity = fortunate coincidence = happy, huggy, love-fest sumbissions

??? = unfortunate coincidence = hacking, assasination, and Intrigue filled submissions.

Which would you choose, as an Iron DM judge?


. A quote from a Stephen R. Donaldson book sprung to mind: "Mistrust justifies itself" (spoken by Lord Mohram).

Best series ever. Leper-rapist as anti-hero, christ figure, and lots of kung-fu goodness via a race of mountain poepl called Haruchai
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First Post
Having given seasong enough rope to hang himself with, Incognito sits back to watch the fireworks, already in progress.
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Serpents in Grasmere

An adventure for levels 12-14

15 Years Ago:
Calistan, eldest son of the Baron of Grasmere, journeyed to the Kingsport temple of St. Cuthbert. There he took vows as a cleric. In the unheard-of span of three years, he gained his Magistrate's Seal. His only burden was worry for his beloved younger brother: Yrdas, ever as wild and heedless as Calistan had been calm and thoughtful. At last, the Baron had his disobedient son shanghaied by the King's privateers, thinking time as a sailor might make the wild boy into a man.

11 Years Ago:
The night of Yrdas's shore leave in Kingsport, he drunkenly decided that he could make good coin pick-pocketing a priest. It was an unfortunate coincidence that the first priest he found in Docksides was his older brother.

Only after Calistan subdued the attacker did he recognize his younger brother. But, as a Magistrate, he could show his brother no special mercy. Thieves could choose between hanging or exile to the Gaol-Isle, where he would live and die with its other inmates. Yrdas chose exile.

Tormented by guilt, Calistan sought appointment as of Warden of Gaol-Isle, hoping thus he might help his brother. But the seas around the Isle are guarded by a contemplative kraken who, in his old age, prefers learning and accumulating lore to hunting ships. Ship captains in those waters know they must pay tribute, in the form of items of lore, to pass. The bosun of the ship transporting Yrdas stole and sold the intended tribute (a waterproofed stone shape scroll) back in Kingsport; the ship was torn apart by the insulted kraken.

Four Years Ago:
The King was sent a message that the Baron of Grasmere had retired and appointed a steward.

One Year Ago:
Concerned by the lack of news from Grasmere, the King sent an armed delegation to investigate. It never returned.

The PCs will be sent to Grasmere to find out what is going on. How depends on your group; they may be agents of the King or a friendly church, or just known to be the adventurers to hire when only the best will do. The King or at least a very high-ranked Court official will speak to them. The PCs will be told to secure Grasmere in the King's name, then return to Kingsport.

The Story:
Thukrasios was once a medusa and a powerful wizard who found the formula to turn himself into a lich. He came to Grasmere because of an item the Baron was rumored to possess: the mirror of surpassing beauty. Anyone gazing into the mirror sees an ideal "reflection": youthful, intelligent, of surpassing beauty or handsomeness. Since it is not a true mirror, it does not reflect gaze attacks. Thukrasios quickly killed the old Baron and established his rule of terror over Grasmere. Now the reptilian, horribly decayed creature spends hours every day staring at his "reflection."

The road into Grasmere is guarded by wild animals that Thukrasios encourages to roam; make encounter checks for ordinary bears, feral dog packs, and so forth. The peasants are too frightened to leave their homes or speak to the PCs.

Castle Grasmere is a small stone fortress. The parade grounds are visible from far away. At first, the PCs see a battle; soldiers in formation with spears, archers drawing bows, knights brandishing swords, corpses on the ground, and so forth. But as they draw nearer, they find it is an oddly serene battlefield. Nothing moves. No arrows fly; warriors stand their ground. No ravens wheel overhead. Soon, they will see that the combatants are all statutes; very lifelike statutes, to be sure, but the "battlefield" is simply a huge tableau.

This is Thukrasios's collection. He immoblizes his victims, poses them, then uses flesh to stone or his own gaze to prepare them for his grotesque diorama.

Saving Grasmere:
The lich is unlikely to be caught by surprise, or taken down easily. He has an entire fort for defense, plus 6-8 soldiers who have been charmed so often that they are mindlessly obedient. Thukrasios is a medusa with the lich template and 12 levels of Wizard. Avoiding his eyes helps against his gaze attack, but not against his flesh to stone spell. Unless the PCs are amazingly crafty, he will have time to prepare himself for battle, always using protection from arrows to deflect arrows, a minor globe of invulnerability to stop magic, and a protection from elements against fire.

Return to Kingsport:
Upon returning triumphant, the players will be ushered into a meeting with the King and Calistan, who has just arrived from Gaol-Isle. If they were expecting the noble young Baron described to them by the King, they are in for a shock. Full of guilt over Yrdas's death, Calistan was vulnerable to the evil he saw daily in Gaol-Isle. In fact, he is so far turned from his old self that he has become a blackguard, ruling Gaol-Isle with no more mercy than Thukrasios showed Grasmere. Rejected by St. Cuthbert, he now draws power from darker beings.

The PCs should be rewarded well by the King, and grudgingly by Calistan. The King will hear no ill of him—even though detect evil and Sense Motive will reveal Calistan to be sly, evil, and manipulative of his liege. And the King wants Calistan to take up his father's barony....perhaps the adventurers, some day, need to return to Grasmere.


First Post
A Fiend In Need

I may lose for brevity, but I think it stands well at this length :).

Unfortunate coincidence - the fiend's planning all looks coincidental
Mirror of surpassing beauty - a method of dispatching the kraken
Blackguard(s) - it is their vileness that brought the fiend in to set up the coincidences
Deflect arrows - the flying fiend's best defense
Contemplative kraken - the kraken at sea, the mirror makes it contemplative
Serene battlefield - fighting on a becalmed ocean

Note: the fiend should be tailored to the GM's campaign, so I haven't detailed him. Assume a CR 10 fiend. The PCs should be about level 8, and the scenario should seem impossible unless they are clever.



This can be inserted into any reasonably flexible city locale that has a nearby ally/demi-ally across a short stretch of sea or ocean. I've left the city within fairly generic, and added two bits of essential history to it, which should fit nicely into most regional histories.

A few hundred years ago, a fiend of uncommon talent and ambition managed to break four paladins of their oaths and bind them to His will. Known as the Scourge, the blackguards managed to raise quite a bit of hell before they were finally caught an brought to justice. A powerful wizard of the time suggested that their punishment should be commensurate to their crime, and his suggestion was followed. Each was taken to a small room and told to kneel if they wished to live. All but one did, and as they kneeled, the wizard used a more powerful variant of the flesh to stone spell to trap them in that form, still alive (and aware!) of their surroundings, but unable to act. The fourth one did not kneel, but instead expressed regret and asked that his sorry life be ended.

Of the three, they have come to be known as Deceit, Fear and Malice for the expressions on their faces, hidden from the one they were kneeling before. Deceit's face is almost alive with planning and plotting, his eyes frozen in the act of darting over the possibilities. Fear's face is stricken, frozen with anguish - almost as if he knows his fate already. Malice's face is the most frightening, for even in stone, his hatred for his captors burns in his eyes.

The fourth was killed by a swift decapitation, re-dressed in his paladin's armor (with the head re-attached) and turned to stone in a position of repose. His face is peaceful, and he has come to be called Forgiveness.

More recently, the fiend has begun setting about to recovering His lost blackguards. His first step is merely to get them out from under the city's guard, so He can more leisurely pursue getting them restored. To that end, he has (in the guise of a wealthy, irritating, and somewhat foppish merchant) set up a set of beneficial trade agreements between this city and one just across the sea and, over the last century or two, established cultural festivals in each of the two cities. As each 'merchant' identity has aged, a new spokesperson for a better tomorrow has stepped up to the plate. It's almost traditional now.

That may seem like a lot of good work for a fiend to do, just to get his blackguards back, but He figures He can break things down again later.

Recently, He made a few suggestions into the right ears, and part of this year's festival will be a parade of each city's history in the other. In order to abridge trust issues, each will have the others' historic items at the same time, much like kingdoms would sometimes temporarily trade sons.

The two big ticket items coming from our city are the blackguard statues, and a magical mirror that shows you, not as you are, but as you want to be. The mirror's tie to the city's history was a powerful but hideous sorcerer who was seemingly unstoppable... until a wizard enchanted the mirror so, and sent it to him as a gift. The sorcerer became quite enamored of it, and ceased his programs of destruction... and, according to legend, lived to quite a ripe old age with naught but the mirror as a companion.

The fiend's plan is simple: He has employed a kraken to sink both ships as they pass out of sight of each of the cities, while He flits about and prevents magical communication with their respective home cities. The statues will tumble into the depths, where He can rescue and restore them. He then plans to sow misinformation and anger, and frame each of the cities as the criminals... thus breaking down the relations he's spent the past century or so building up.

Both of the cities are cautious, and our city has employed a two-fold method of ensuring the survival of its statues and mirror. Firstly, it is sending counterfeits on the big, public, showy boat, and sending the real items (the parade can't have counterfeits, lest relations with their sister-city be strained) along with a reasonably trustworthy smuggler, a ship's captain named Uuhef (a fierce, unsavory, red-headed dwarf). Secondly, it has hired some powerful adventurers to guard the decoy, and some not-so-well-known adventurers to guard the real mccoy.

Unfortunately, it was the fiend who suggested this tactic.


Regardless of the hooks you use, make sure the PCs know all of the above history EXCEPT the fiend's part in all of it. They should know about the mirror, the blackguards, etc. They can learn this from shipmates on the cruise, or be citizens of the city, etc. The information is necessary to survive.

Hook #1: The heroes are hired and on Captain Uuhef's ship. As events unfold, they will have to deal with the kraken and an invisible fiend in the background who is ruining communication, scrying, and other forms of spell casting.

Hook #2: The heroes are on the decoy ship. Have the decoys be poorly made, so they know what's up (sort of). When the other ship is attacked, the wizard on board Uuhef's ship is almost clever - when he finds out he can't get a communication off to the city, he sends one to the other ship instead, begging for help.

Alternatives: The heroes could be members of Captain Uuhef's crew. If they played through the Fool's Cold scenario earlier in the Iron DM competition, they could have run off with Uuhef there and joined up with him. In this case, have the adventurers that come on board be incompetent louts who couldn't protect a pickle jar. You could also have the PCs working for the fiend. In this case, you might even have them pretend to fight off the kraken, and substitute counterfeits on board the ship. Then, when the other city's boat disappears, and only counterfeits arrive, the other city will KNOW the first city was playing them for fools.


Everything starts, for the PCs, when the kraken attacks. It will start by calming the seas with its daily weather control, to stop the ships. Then, from the silent, serene waters, tentacles will reach up and wrap around the ship. The fight is on.

The kraken will not be attacking people initially - its job is to sink the boat itself, and then it can focus on munchies. If anyone starts really hurting it, it will lash out at them, but otherwise, simply describe the horrendous damage it is doing to their boat... and the fact that fly spells keep getting dispelled.

The solution to the kraken is the mirror. Creative PCs may find another way to handle things, but the mirror will captivate the kraken more or less automatically, allowing the party to deal with the scary fiend in true Big Bad Guy style.

Note: the fiend will continue flying far from the PCs, and should have the deflect arrows feat to help reduce the damage they can do to him. He focuses primarily on counterspells, dispels, anti-scrying and so on. His real goal was to prevent action while the kraken attacked, so he's not really intent on fighting. He will likely run if he can't put a dent in the PCs, and they will have to wonder where he might show up again.

This scenario can go a lot of ways, and lead to a lot of politics further down the line, depending on how well the PCs do. Repairing the resulting mistrust between the cities would be a MAJOR coup, as it would essentially alter the fiend's plot into a very, very good thing for the region. That will make a serious enemy out of the fiend, and lead to even more dastardly goodness down the line.


First Post
AAAAGH! I forgot to write in the summary... and I left the summary in place to point that fact out. I'll just go cry in a corner now... Especially in light of Mythago's even more brief scenario, which looks really good.

Oh well. I have a ton of comments about mine, but they'll have to wait until incognito's ripped me a new one.


First Post
mythago AND seasong: prepare for the afore mentioned ripping.

After the VERY stong submissions by Nifft, and Quickbeam last round, these two are a little wan by comparison.

expect the write up by 1 PM, EST.


Stop it you guys -- you're making me blush ;)!!

Good luck to both mythago and seasong, I'm going to have my hands full competing against either one of you. Speaking of which, is there any preference as to when the Finals going to begin?


First Post
Round 2, set 2

Round 2, set 2

Mythago vs. seasong.

Well, folks, I have to say, I’m disappointed. Both submissions, though containing strengths, were ultimately weak. The judging was difficult, but only because both sides were riddled with holes.

The bummer is mythago starts SO well. The errant brother getting shanghaied – I liked that a lot! Then, trying to liberate a few coins from his strict, Cuthbert worshiping brother –who later sends him off to his death is indeed an unfortunate coincidence. The concept of a Gaol Island is appealing to me in this fantasy setting, and the brother getting killed by the Contemplative Kraken (who could’ve been a fascinating NPC, had mythago detailed him a bit more), never arriving left me hoping we’d see the Kraken’s return later on in the story. The timeline, was consistent, and well thought out…

Up until “The Story” that is. 12th Level Wizard Medusa, Lich? WHAT?!? Completely tangential to the back-story, and a horrifying misuse of an encounter. This adventure was set up for characters whose maximum level is 14 –so MAYBE they could handle a CR17 creature… Thukrasios (and by the way, I’m pretty sure all Medusae are female, not male) is CR 21 by my count and an even higher EL, because mythago specifically states he has a fortress, guards, AND he has time to prepare himself for battle. It would be an unfortunate coincidence if the Lich even noticed the PCs passing through, let alone saw them as a threat.

So, what really happens is that the PCs are all killed or retreat back to Kingsport, and there we meet the Blackguard that Calistan, the eldest son, has become – a neat idea that was. Too bad it’s not incorporated into the story at all, except maybe in a later adventure. Then adventures over. Again: What?!

Ingredient-wise: I like the unfortunate coincidence, this starts a chain of poop which drives the story forward. Great use of the ingredient. I like the Kraken too – too bad he was strictly a single use plot device. He needs incorporation. By now even Eric’s grandmother should know that you don’t tack on ingredients. You just don’t do it. The mirror is exactly the same, and worse, it wasn’t even mentioned in the back-story. Big oversight. The serene battlefield was meant as a clue to the type of foes the PCs would face, and the answer to the riddle of what happened to the King’s armed delegation. I actually liked this one – too bad it was spoiled by the off-CR opponent. Hated the deflect arrows use, “protection from arrows” does NOT deflect arrows. “Windwall” does though – see I’m not totally unreasonable :p Finally, though the NPC Calistan was a very interesting, mythago did squat with him, rendering him usless. To me, the obvious thing to do is have The Blackguard be the one who sacked the city, with a troop of convicts from the Gaol island.

On to seasong.

Seasong is all set-up, little or no adventure. The back-story is quite good, on par with mythago’s but the the punch line is brief, and it’s a sucker punch. It’s also riddled odd expectations, and mechanics problems, and major missing plot info. Too ambitions maybe? I can’t believe it’s SEAsong we’re talking about here! Here are few highlights.

mechaincs: somehow there is a “fiend” (demon or devil) that is going to fly around, deflecting arrows, and somehow dispel multiple attempts at communication and flying from TWO ships, each with a contingent of guards, including spell casters. Err – how is this exactly? How does he spot a scry attempt when he is flying overhead? This fiend was brilliant enough to plan for A CENTURY to set up this little shindig, and yet this is his best plan?

Also, why is the CR 12 Kraken buddy, buddy with the CR 10 Fiend. What – the fiend speaks Aquan? More importantly, it’s VERY ambitious of seasong to assume the PCs will give the mirror to the kraken when he has stated EXPLICITY, this is a city treasure the PCs are trying to protect – throwing it to some sea beastie is the last thing they’d do. It sets the PCs up for failure, which I’m against.

And what about the other cities ships and national treasures? We get zero information and back-story about them, an oversight, I think - and that’s only because seasong's story is SO focused on the politics, and precautions, and the trust between the two cities.

Seasong alludes to the unfortunate coincidence quite a few times in his submission, yet it never really materializes. The fiends plot is NOT going to look coincidental, by seasongs own admission. It is going to look like a deliberate act of war by one city on the other. And it is unfortunate, but NOT coincidental at all, that it was the field who suggested the 'two boats' tactic. The one place the ingredient would occur, is if we use the PCs as part of Uuhef’s crew – in seasong’s “alternatives” section. Oh, and by a 'fortunate coincidence', it is also the one situation in which the PCs might actually toss the mirror.

I should add, I loved the sentence “. In this case, have the adventurers that come on board [should] be incompetent louts who couldn't protect a pickle jar.” Loved it, seasong. I did like the serene, aquatic battle field, a decent touch to an otherwise flawed submission.

Sooo, my “least poor” judgement goes to Seasong. Why? Well, at least he has a single, semi-viable combat. Tough, but at least possible! Mythago didn’t even give us that.

I would like lengthy (and possibly apologetic) exposition, please.
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Penguin Herder
incognito said:
After the VERY stong submissions by Nifft, and Quickbeam last round

My, my. From "decent" to "VERY strong" in just 24 hours! Charles Atlas, eat your steroid-shriveled heart out!

-- Nifft

PS: ;)


First Post
My, my. From "decent" to "VERY strong" in just 24 hours! Charles Atlas, eat your steroid-shriveled heart out!

Whoops! I'd edit it, but you quoted me, so it's too late.

Ok, let say instead, that Nifft, and Quickbeam looked "very strong" by comparison to our most recent contestents.

Wise guy


First Post
So, here's my apology: I apologize. I sucked on this one. I sucked harder than incognito said - if I was planning a game session and this was what I'd come up with by the deadline, I would have cancelled.

But I had to submit something, and at the deadline, that's what I had... and I would rather get ripped up than quit just because I had a bad day.

I feel rotten about this win, too, because I think mythago should have won. His kraken wasn't terribly detailed, but I think that's at least partly because he was trying to keep his word count down. And while both entries were incomplete, mythago's wouldn't require a complete rewrite to make it good.

I would like to make one point: for its length, it's good. I hate to say it, but for the level of detail that our fair and honest judge demands on NPCs, background, and motivation, I am not going to be able to keep it under 2,000 words. This one was an experiment, and I think it failed - the competitors have to play to the judge, and the judge likes detail.

Now, let's get down to the brass tacks I'm sitting on.

1. I should have simply written this as an extension of the last one. Assume that the PCs are on Uuhef's boat, and write up hooks for various reasons why Uuhef's crew would be interested in this job. If I treated it as a module, in fact, I could have drawn the fiend into the earlier scenario, as being involved in the thieves' guild that was trying to frame Johannsen. I would have, but I ran out of time when it occurred to me this morning and I had to leave it as an alternate.

2. Summary, summary, summary! ARGH!

3. The structure was weak. I built this around a single encounter, and while that may be good for some GMs, I prefer to stage multiple encounters in a scenario - I'm not sure why I went the opposite way with this one.

4. Using the mirror on the kraken isn't obvious. It's a last ditch, desperate measure in a fight where there are few items on hand, and the history of the item will come back up. I should have made this more obvious (perhaps giving some flavor text the GM could read to the PCs that would seed the idea in their heads).

5. I really should have had a list of "ways this could go" and the politics they would lead to. The fiend could become friend or foe, as could the cities, for example. I've been trying, with these IronDMs, to get better at writing scenarios for other people's use, and that means explaining more than I'm accustomed to.

6. I should have explained this more: why is the kraken helping him? Because he has arranged for an easy meal for it! Simple as that, really - no one is expecting a kraken to happen by.

A defense in my favor:

I stand by not detailing the fiend. However, I should have explained his methods for preventing communication better. I tend to think of haste, counterspelling and dispel magic as almost standard villain affairs, and a few preparatory spells (anti-divination magics placed in the right areas) as good add-ons. In practice, he's unlikely to have to stop more than one or two attempts at a time. And as for why he wouldn't be joining the fight... well, that's WHY he enlisted the aid of the kraken.


First Post
Seasong: I may like detail, but mythago could won this one with the exact same wordcount. Mythago has the knack for brevity. If you continue to doubt, go back and read Vaxalon's submisisons. He has a similar talent.

All my contestents: Keep in mind I have to critisize **something.** Many times it a lack of detail, because posters include an incredible amount in some areas, and forget to include any on an ingredient!

I still can't get over the gross CR 21 issue. Whoa!


First Post
Brevity is the soul of wit, and of wit I've none.

Personally, if you think a submission is overly long and want to encourage shorter ones, instead of commenting "it's long" and then heaping praise on the details, perhaps you could rip on "details that are unnecessary"? I'd certainly appreciate it for my submissions :D.
Originally posted by incognito
I still can't get over the gross CR 21 issue. Whoa!
Good thing I didn't do my level 1-3 version of the kraken encounter, then. Don't think I didn't consider it.


Congrats to seasong. I bet you're feeling every bit as fortunate to have advanced, as I did against Nifft!!

mythago, I pretty much agree with Incognito's judgment on this one, except that I'm not sure the high CR (nigh impossible) encounter should have cost you the battle. As noted in the critique, you do have the gift of brevity -- or perhaps I should say clearly succinct descriptiveness. Hopefully you'll return for the next tournament to further stake your claim as a formidable foe!

So, any thoughts on the timing of the Final Round? I'm good to go for a starting time tomorrow (whenever); Saturday (until 5pm); not at all on Sunday; and back to whenever on Monday.
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