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Choose Wisely

It's time to choose the Open Design adventure that I'll be working on for the majority of the summer, and part of the fall. Per yesterday's poll, I'm providing you all three options under consideration.

Note that the following three adventures will be designed for OGL/D&D 3.5 Edition; if you'd like to push for a 4E project, well, without a GSL it is slightly premature, but there is an option for 4E fans as well.

The final adventure will be delivered as a PDF to all its patrons in September for the shorter proposals, or in October or November for the longer project. A print version will be available for patrons as well.

Which will be the next Open Design? As with the first Open Design adventures, that is up to you.

Tales of Zobeck, the Clockwork City
I've been trying to come up with a way to provide a non-exclusive project that also has exclusive elements, and this might be it. The Tales of Zobeck anthology is in some ways similar to the Six Arabian Nights project, in that it would feature at least 6 and maybe as many as 10 short adventures, playable in one or two nights and for a variety of levels. Depending on how long people are willing to wait, I could write all of these, and I'd love the adventures to be fairly open work, shared with the patrons. If people want a shorter turnaround (say, September), the adventures could include some familiar names, such Jeff Grubb, Clay Fleischer, Zeb Cook, Joshua Stevens, Nicolas Logue, Tim Connors, James Jacobs, plus at least one or two new authors drawn from the senior patron ranks. This portion of the commission would be a limited edition.

In addition, this project would include a 30,000 word city summary/sourcebook by me. This material is half-written and it is a bit of an oddball, since I'm kind of overprotective of the setting bible/writeups. I'd want to complete this first, then share it with senior patrons and other designers, rather than sharing a lot of it in the Open Design style. This would cover most of the crucial locations in the city, the use of kobold PCs and the Kobold ghetto, a quick overview of history and pantheon, and a bit of clockwork magic.

This sourcebook is NOT a Ptolus-length treatment of the city, but it is enough that the shared world can truly be shared. Some version of the sourcebook would be made available to the broader public, a bit like the Player's Guides for the Paizo adventure paths.

Because of the cost of so many authors, plus the extra time, text, map, and art required, the commission should be about 60% higher than the straight adventures. However, I'm reducing it to the same level as the others because the sourcebook part of this project is not exclusive. It will be available to the public eventually, probably in print form. The adventures, which are the bulk of this commission, are a limited edition and will not be made available elsewhere.

Tales of Zobeck offers a combined MINIMUM length of about 80,000 words (about ~128 pages), plus EIGHT design essays on NPCs, culture jamming, creating PC races, or whatever topics the senior patrons request. Senior patrons may pitch Tales of their own, and they will receive a signed print copy of the final book.

Senior Patron (Suggested $75 to $150 donation)
Patron ($25)
Supporting Member (Any donation)

KQ Forum thread about "Tales of Zobeck"

But What About 4E?
WotC will be making plenty of 4th Edition D&D products this year. Open Design may make one (depending on the terms of the GSL), or it may not.

Currently, I have a 4E skunk works project underway, called Wrath of the River King. If you want to support it, great, but please be aware that it is very speculative (since the license is not available yet). Also, given what I've heard about the GSL so far, the resulting adventure cannot be released until October at the earliest.

So, what's "River King" about? I have a pretty good pitch and had some patron discussion with the 4E License Donors. However, I'm keeping the details to myself for now, other than saying it's a kidnap scenario that spirals WILDLY out of control. Design for low to mid-level (3rd or 4th?) is probably the goal, given the novelty of the rules set. Length is currently set at about 30,000 words, but... I'm liking the concept well enough to expand it significantly. It is not a limited edition.

If all that hedging doesn't scare you off, you can donate to Wrath of the River King, in any size donation you like. Donations of $30 or more gain full access to the discussion of this project. Donations of $100 or more gain access to a playtest game I will run at GenCon plus a print copy of the adventure, signed by me.

The success or failure of "Wrath" is unrelated to the current Open Design. Whether it is ever fully funded, it will not displace the current 3E project. If the terms of the GSL makes this project impossible, your money will be refunded in full.

For now, this is mostly a theoretical discussion of how 4E will change adventure design.

KQ Forum thread about "Wrath of the River King"
Court of the Shadow Fey
The party visits the Plane of Shadow and becomes embroiled in dueling, attempted assassinations, and infiltration of the Queen's bedchamber to defeat the Queen of Night and Magic and her Moonlit King. This builds on some themes first brought up in Castle Shadowcrag). In the grand finale, the party defeats the Queen and her Moonlit King, and then must flee the wrath and wreckage of the shadow plane, scarred somehow by the price of the high magic they invoked. The adventure includes at least a half-dozen Shadowfell Shadow plane locations, a new type of badass fey, as well as riddle and trickery encounters, lots of stealth and social skills, and a major dueling scene versus a shadow fey master of the blade or a shadow fey sorcerer.

About third of this is planar journeying, such as visiting the Sun God for help. Other encounters involve disguises and court politics around figures such as the Blind Seer and the Black Prince, and the last third of it requires fighting the unique monstrosities that lie just behind every shadow, from the Snake-Godling of Eternal Darkness to the Black Crone and the million-footed Lord of Roaches. Layers of dark fey nastiness present the party with some tough trade-offs ("Should we really be bargaining with this twisted servant of evil?").

Minimum length of about 50,000 words (about ~72 pages). Everyone who has participated in the past knows by now that every project I write in this format seems to run over... Court of the Shadow Fey also includes FOUR design essays on the Fey, planar adventures, social encounters, stealth, or other topics as chosen by the senior patrons.

All senior patrons will have the option of contributing a Courtier or Servant of the Queen as part of the NPC roster for the Court.

Senior Patron, Court of the Shadow Fey (Suggested $75 to $150)
Patron, Court of the Shadow Fey ($25)
Supporting Member, Court of the Shadow Fey (Any Amount)

KQ Forum thread about "Court of the Shadow Fey"

Lords of Lost Arbonnesse
This pitch was originally titled Lords of Lost Atlantis, as a placeholder name to suggest where it is headed. Lords is an island/water adventure, somewhere between pure Indiana-Jones pulp and pulp Cthulhu style. Lots of room for player heroics on an epic scale (though not necessarily requiring the Epic Handbook; could be 5th level) and raising/sinking a small continent. As a real wrath-of-the-gods type adventure, I'd expect major sea monsters, deadly terrain elements, lost islands with mysterious temples, hints of a cataclysm in forbidden lore, demonic involvement, the corruption of a great culture and perhaps an artifact or lost tech in there somewhere. A storm and shipwreck seem almost a requirement though that will be tough with high-level PCs.

The plots feature large-scale seaborne and undersea elements as the party goes to a lost continent and the deepest, blackest portions of the ocean, where the Mythos creatures are waiting.... Or perhaps its more a matter of the sahuagin king and other threats to health and sanity. The adventure concludes with some high-stakes bargaining with the Deep Ones, aboleth, or Mer-Kings, to decide the fate of a land lost to the sea and the souls of everyone who drowned with it.

Length of about 50,000 words (about ~70 pages), plus FOUR design essays on the Mythos, horror, high-level play, etc.

Senior patrons will suggest major monster set-pieces and create the trap-puzzle elements that make the combat sequences exciting.

Senior Patron, Lords of Lost Arbonesse ($75 to $150 suggested)
Patron, Lords of Lost Arbonesse ($25)
Supporting Member, Lords of Lost Arbonesse (Any donation)

KQ Forum thread about "Lords of Lost Arbonesse"

Feel free to discuss right here, but please note that I've opened up some threads over on the KQ.com forums just to keep the LJ discussion from turning into a giant hairball.

Commission Timer, Donations, and Refunds
As in past projects, if the commission is not met within 30 days, your money will be refunded in full. The two standard levels of patronage remain the same, $25 for standard access as a member, and $75 to $150 for Patrons of the Arts, aka the senior patrons. I'm adding a new option for people who cannot afford the patron level, which I'm calling Supporter donations.

Supporter Donations. This new level of access saves you some cash in exchange for your silent support and patience. In this case, you give up most of the commentary, discussion, design essays, Q&A, playtest reports, art/map previews, and so on. What you do get is a complete adventure, in PDF form, plus a chance to vote for your favorite proposal. If you change your mind later, you can always upgrade.

The Gen Con Game. In addition to the perks presented above, the senior patrons for this project will also have the chance to participate in a Zobeck game I'll run for some of them at GenCon this year. If too many people apply I'll limit it to the largest donors, the first to sign up or something similar. Or run two slots. I'm looking forward to meeting a LOT of people at the show this year, and gaming with some of you as well.

That's the scoop. Please support the Open Design project that interests you most!


( 72 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 1st, 2008 12:57 pm (UTC)
My donation is made to patronize Tales of Zobeck, the Clockwork City. However, should this fail to win, you can keep it for whichever of these three great 3.5e options does.
May. 1st, 2008 01:05 pm (UTC)

Yes? *sigh*

(damns the lack of an "all of the above" option.)

I'll have to say Zobeck, then. With the chance at six smaller options within the piece, we can have nearly all of it-- a political intrigue, a brush with something terrible from the deep, maybe even a prelude the River King and a delicious slice of Zobeck a'la mode.

That's my call...now if, for the luxurious minded, there is an option to support both Court/Lords/Zobeck *AND* Wrath, well then, I may have to skimp on goodies at GenCon.

May. 1st, 2008 01:34 pm (UTC)
Count me in for Zobeck!
May. 1st, 2008 01:55 pm (UTC)
Lost Lords was my choice. If it doesn't win I'm supporting whatever project does, since all are so good. (Zobeck is my second choice.)

Lost Lords struck me as true "high adventure" stuff, a mini-campaign akin to Empire of the Ghouls. Maybe it will expand to that size once the writing gets started. Wolfgang would probably hate that, but I'd love it!
May. 2nd, 2008 03:38 am (UTC)
"Wolfgang would probably hate that, but I'd love it!"

That's very funny because it's so accurate. He'll walk around cursing because it's larger than anticipated and yet he cannot help but keep writing until its got all the pieces to make it good. Happens almost everytime.
(no subject) - innercaine - May. 2nd, 2008 05:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 1st, 2008 01:56 pm (UTC)
Dang I like both Court of the Shadowfey (dovetails nicely into the ideas I have for my worlds cosmology) and Tales of Zobeck (sounds like most "bang for the buck"). Decisions, Decisions.

What would happen if I donated for both?
May. 1st, 2008 02:05 pm (UTC)
Always glad to make the choices tough. ;)

If you donated for both, the odds of those two being commissioned go up, and the odds for "Lost Lords" decline. You'd also have a better chance of seeing one of your picks win.
(no subject) - terraleon - May. 2nd, 2008 01:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - krell1 - May. 2nd, 2008 09:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - open_design - May. 2nd, 2008 09:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 1st, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC)
Money sent. I'm for Zobeck first, but will support another project.

Honestly, it was a hard choice. I like the Lords proposal a LOT.

May. 1st, 2008 02:55 pm (UTC)
Same boat here. Trying to decide actually.
May. 1st, 2008 02:38 pm (UTC)
How long is the voting open?
May. 1st, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC)
Damn, all projects look good! I mean, I have a soft spot for the scath sidhe, but they all sound really exciting.

Question on Lords, will this be modern pulp or Eberron-style fantasy-pulp?

I need to think about this. What's the voting deadline?
May. 1st, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
I chose Tales of Zobeck.

But, all of the options sound good. I'd like to be a patron for any of these projects.
May. 1st, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
I was really liking the Shadow Fey, but the chance to get some background on Zobeck is just to good to pass up.
May. 1st, 2008 06:55 pm (UTC)
I made my donation to the Fey project. However, whatever wins, just swap my donation over to that.
May. 1st, 2008 07:02 pm (UTC)
Give me a few days for my Pay Pal transfer to come through and then I'm in.

Here are my choices in the meantime... Looking at some of these proposals I can't help but think that you are spending too much time with Sinister Nick! :)

1- Court of the Shadow Fey (because Shadowcrag was so cool!)
2- Tales of Zobeck (A very close second I must admit - Hell, I could change when I pay in a few days if enough people make a strong case for it...) I would love a Zobeck book. But I'm a bit of a ``all or nothing`` kind of guy in this case. And I THINK it would appeal to me a bit more if we went with three somewhat longer scenarios, than six or ten short ones...

If Fey loses, you can count me in for Zobeck.

Right now, I have no interest in the Lords scenario.


May. 1st, 2008 08:05 pm (UTC)
I also am making my donation to the fey project but they are all good ideas so please just swap my donation to whatever project wins.
May. 1st, 2008 08:35 pm (UTC)
I'll support Zobeck!
May. 1st, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC)
Court of the Shadow Fey
Count me in as a senior patron for this project. I have my NPC in mind already :)
May. 2nd, 2008 12:19 am (UTC)
I've donated towards Tales of Zobeck, but I'd be just as happy with the other two adventures. Especially Lords of the Lost Arbonnesse as I might be starting up a Savage Tide campaign in the near future. So whatever wins just move my sponsorship there. :)
May. 2nd, 2008 01:23 am (UTC)
It's interesting how the discussion is going.

Choices thus far seem based on the immediate subject material. I haven't voted yet, but I see the selection more in terms of the subtext.

Courtly intrigue, social interaction, stealth, and otherwordly adventure....

(And this appeals to the long time Amber player in me, where we drink wine, dance, and flirt before we kill one another)


Adventure of Epic proportion. Horror What is at stake? Only the souls of an entire civilization. Adventure with massive consequences.. and it's underwater.

This is attractive to me I confess. Although, even if I love the Mythos, it can be overdone. I'd like to see some Mythos elements, but also some fresh approaches, touching upon the terrible beauty of the sea and it's allure. Mix and match horror and.. something else. For some reason a quote from Rilke comes to mind. "All angels are terrible."


World Building

Don't get me wrong, I'm fascinated by Zobeck. In fact I just wrote Wolfgang a not with ideas for Zobeck based articles I'd like to someday see.. and yet this proposal is the driest of the three for me.. Though I'd have to have it if it were selected.

Just some random thoughts...
May. 2nd, 2008 01:32 am (UTC)
Hey, innercaine, anyone who quote Rilke wins 10 immediate patron points from me!

I'd agree that the Mythos is a seasoning, not the whole dish. I'd want to keep it to one or two encounters. There's lots of room for the song of the deep, deadly mermaids, and fallen creatures of other types as well in that one.

I think Tales of Zobeck may read dry because the anthology approach is hard to describe in a few words. But patrons of the Arabian Nights may tell you it was quite successful in practice.

I'll be curious to see which you choose.
(no subject) - innercaine - May. 2nd, 2008 03:47 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 2nd, 2008 03:39 am (UTC)
Levels my man, levels. What levels are the adventures? I'll probably vote for a lower or mid level adventure as a tie breaker
May. 2nd, 2008 01:06 pm (UTC)
Good question! The levels are usually chosen by the patrons, and have tended to skew mid-to-high in the past. But that could change.

At a guess, Court of the Shadow fey works well around 8 to 13 or so. Lords of Lost Arbonesse I can actually see working fairly low, down to 4th or 5th, but I suspect once all the sea serpents, aboleth, and so forth are accounted for, it's a minimum of 10th.

Tales of Zobeck, as an anthology, has the widest range, from 1st to 15th, with some gaps.
May. 2nd, 2008 03:43 am (UTC)
How much compatibility would the Arbonesse thing have with Logue's Razor Coast? I saw that you did a short piece for logue. In other words, that scenario might be more useful if it tied in (even loosely) with the Razor Coast?

Someone else mentioned Savage Tide? Would it fit (again loosely) with the Savage Tide?

May. 2nd, 2008 01:12 pm (UTC)
The Abonesse would be as compatible with Razor Coast as I can possibly make it. As a "lost land" scenario, I think it is the most flexible of the three pitches; it can literally be dropped into any ocean.

My only caveat is that I haven't seen Razor Coast yet. There might be something there that makes it more difficult to be compatible.

For Savage Tide: well, it pretty unrelated to that plotline, though I can think of at least one way to tie them together pretty neatly.
(no subject) - nerdmonkey - May. 2nd, 2008 02:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - innercaine - May. 2nd, 2008 02:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nerdmonkey - May. 2nd, 2008 03:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - innercaine - May. 2nd, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chefseehund - May. 3rd, 2008 09:31 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 2nd, 2008 04:19 am (UTC)
ShadowFey Courts for me!
I am very drawn to the ShadowFey Courts (nice Amber allusions too, innercaine!), although the Mythos and Zobeck projects also sound interesting.

Wolfgang: what's the feasibility of being able to combine a Senior Patron donation with the purchase of the KGtGD---is that do-able or do I need to purchase the latter separately?

May. 2nd, 2008 01:13 pm (UTC)
Re: ShadowFey Courts for me!
For a senior patron, all things are possible.

The KGtGD is $14.95 for PDF if you want to combine them. If you want a print copy, I'd need to know your address for shipping.

Perhaps better discussed in email?
Re: ShadowFey Courts for me! - innercaine - May. 2nd, 2008 02:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: ShadowFey Courts for me! - krell1 - May. 2nd, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: ShadowFey Courts for me! - innercaine - May. 2nd, 2008 06:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 2nd, 2008 05:49 pm (UTC)
I have donated and my vote is for Court of the Shadow fey, however if Zobeck wins I will support and is it possible (should Lords of..) win that I hand over patronage to my co-DM?

Guess there may be problems with that but it just means that you have the dosh irrespective to the winning project
May. 2nd, 2008 06:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your support!
May. 2nd, 2008 06:32 pm (UTC)
I wonder why my messages are coming up anonymous?
Wolfgang, it seems like you are grappling your way towards a semi-open source common world with Logue (Razor Coast) and Zobeck (with your mention of a common book). I'd like to encourage that trend. Think of the way Lovecraft encouraged Howard and others to use his Cthulu Mythos as a parallel. Plus you guys don't have to constantly reinvent the wheel. For example, when you or Logue say "Zobeck" everyone knows what everyone means.

I also like the Zelazny Amber - Plane of Shadow parallel a previous poster mentioned.

This is a hard decision. I really don't know what I want. I think I like the undersea adventure the most but there are a lot of tender morsels.
May. 2nd, 2008 07:03 pm (UTC)
Wolfgang wrote:
and a bit of clockwork magic.

How set are you on that Boss?

Because I am tettering on the edge of the Shadow Court and Zobeck, and this is what is keeping me from going with Zobeck.

Krell1 remarked, "I'd rather wait for Wolfgang to finish the Zobeck tome he's working on, rather than receiving some tidbits a bit sooner."

For me.. Just the 'bit' of clockwork magic is making me think of sending Zobeck back as the next project. Letting it grow some more...
May. 2nd, 2008 09:44 pm (UTC)
Well, Tales of Zobeck is configured as 30,000+ words of Zobeck worldbuilding and 50,000+ words of adventure. That worldbuilding needs to carry both the fluff material and the crunch for games.

The amount of clockwork magic is limited because every time I propose an Open Design sourcebook, it loses in the votes to adventures. So... There's not going to be a crunch-only sourcebook on clockwork magic real soon. There might be a KQ article.

Not sure I really answer your question, but... If you want more of a particular element, that's why the early patrons get to argue about the outline. :)
(no subject) - innercaine - May. 2nd, 2008 10:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - open_design - May. 2nd, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eyebite79 - May. 2nd, 2008 11:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - open_design - May. 2nd, 2008 11:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eyebite79 - May. 2nd, 2008 11:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - innercaine - May. 3rd, 2008 12:22 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 2nd, 2008 08:40 pm (UTC)
I voted for Zobeck, but after seeing the discussions here and on the KQ forums I could get behind any of the three.
May. 2nd, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
I'm going to be signing up for Lords of Lost Arbonesse- that sounds right up my alley. I'm somewhat interested in the Zobeck book, but not really interested in the Shadow Fey book.
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