Wolfgang Baur's The Free City Wolfgang Baur's The Free City

Steam & Brass

This was the very first Open Design, an urban mystery with some intense combats, a fully-detailed Arcane Collegium, in a steampunk city, and new monsters and the first glimpse of the City-State of Zobeck. Steam & Brass was designed using pre-scaled encounters, and is thus usable for parties at 6th, 8th, and 12th level.

Its three interwoven plot lines make for higher replay value; three villains can all be the big boss, or they can be the NPCs who hire the party. With a contract with the devil, a new school of magic, and a clockpunk sensibility, it's not your average adventure.


This project is, alas, no longer available, much as many patron projects of long ago were kept in private hands and never shown to the public. The more modern way to think about it is simply that the limited edition is sold out.

Why don't I just make more?

Well, I asked the project sponsors about that, because the patron-sponsored approach was so new to me at the time. Four patrons, led by Steven Schend and Troy Luginbill, have sealed this project off from wider distribution, although 70 other patrons approved it. They are within their rights to hold me to my original promise of a limited edition, and so it stands. I don't defend their position, mind you. One of them does so here: Patronage: Egotism or the Public Good. Another defense is this detailed explanation from Troy. The short version from Steven Schend is:

Letting a new person buy in late would be like letting someone buy stock in Microsoft at bush league prices AFTER it released Windows 95. You can either be an investor when it's a risky venture, or you can sit on the sidelines and not get access to the rewards for taking that risk. It's gaming as per the stock market.

The fairly frequent questions about S&B are why I changed the way I create future patron projects; I wanted a small edition for sale to latecomers. So I made Castle Shadowcrag a larger edition, and made it available to members who joined Open Design later. I continue to stand by the pledge I made for Steam & Brass. My apologies to all those who missed out on that limited edition; fortunately, new projects are ongoing, and I hope you decide to support one of them.