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

Tales of Zobeck, the Clockwork City

The Tales of Zobeck anthology was similar to the Six Arabian Nights project, in that it featured 8 short adventures, playable in one or two nights and for a variety of levels.

The adventure portion of the commission is a limited edition. The adventures chosen by the patrons  include:

1) The Devils That You Know (level 3 or 4)
Along the Nifelheim Road come the traveling caravans of the Shadow Fae, bringing exotic goods. The city is enthralled with these fine new wares, until the mischief begins. Missing children, crops gone bad, and livestock gone strange; the stories claim the enchanted road brings darkness. The PCs must stop the Shadow Fae tricks before anything worse happens -- or are the Shadow Fae  completely innocent? 

2) The Knave of Parts (low to mid-level)
Who is robbing the clockwork scullions of Zobeck? Who disappears in the night, flying over rooftops, laughing, taunting the Watch and the good (and wealthy) citizens? The tavern talk blames the Knave of Parts. Chase him across the rooftops, through the streets, and to his mysterious lair--or seek the help of Lord of the Heap (an awakened otyugh) in the Grey Middens, beset by the wind-up stirges.

3) The Madman at the Bridge (4th level)
The Puffing Bridge is stuck open, and the misbehaving machinery has infected nearby clockwork guards. Miners and workers can’t cross the river and when the sun rises, the problem will be clear to everyone: the city will be cut in half. The PCs find some missing engineers, but things quickly spirals out of control, with alchemical fire, insane clockwork guards, a gnomish plotter and his undead servants.

4) Tail of the Mouse King (5th Level)
All over Zobeck, vermin erupt from the sewers. Rats flood into rooms, clamber up legs, and rip at faces. Candles topple, and shops burn to the ground. Frenetic rats scour the city, searching everywhere… for the killer of the mouse king. In a Zobeck rooming house, a PC pulls a severed, 3-foot-long rat’s tail from her pack. Moments later, the walls explode with the furry bodies of a gnashing rat swarm.

5) The Maiden In The Glass (level 4 to 6)
Gaspar Kircher is a threadbare magic lantern operator, who competes (poorly) with the city’s illusionists and bards. While scrounging for spare parts one day, he met a pair of unscrupulous students from the Arcane Collegium. The pair sold him glass plates holding quite realistic images, which moved of their own accord. Both Gaspar and the students mistook them for minor magical trinkets, but the truth is very different....

6) Redcloak Ruckus (Level 6-8)
The infamous Kobold Wrecking Crew is often hired for demolition work throughout the city, and they will demolish any building in town for the right price. Hundreds of kobold miners descend on a structure and reduce it to rubble, but sometimes they demolish the "wrong" house. If those houses are owned by (and sometimes contain) people who have severely crossed the Redcloaks, that is surely a coincidence. The PCs are caught up in one such riot and demolition.

7) Plus the Plague of Shadows and more!


Patrons of the current Open Design project can obtain a copy. To become a member of the current Open Design project, please donate to the 4th Edition Wrath of the River King. At that point, you will have the option to purchase the Tales of Zobeck project as well.

The City Sourcebook

In addition, this project commission included a 40,000 word city summary/sourcebook by Wolfgang Baur. It covers the city's clockwork magic, the kobold ghetto, and other distinctive elements of the city. It is a gazetteer-size treatment of the city, enough that the shared world can truly be shared. 

The project is now complete, and the Tales portion has gone to its patrons. The discussion, revisions, and the design process from the inside are all done -- but the Gazetteer portion is available to the public!

Gazetteer available from Kobold Quarterly


Wolfgang Baur is the founder and primary author of Open Design projects, including the ENnie-nominated Castle Shadowcrag and the fan-favorite Empire of the Ghouls. He's also the publisher of Kobold Quarterly magazine and the author of Dark*Matter, Frostburn, Pathfinder #4: Fortress of the Stone Giants, and many other works.

Ed Greenwood is a Canadian game designer and the creator of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, the wizard Elminster, the Castlemourn setting, and much more.

Tim Connors is known for the "Lair of the Spider Eaters" in Dungeon magazine as well as for his articles in Kobold Quarterly, including the Arch-devil Belphegor and "Ariel, Angel of Hope".

OPEN DESIGN is a community-driven company devoted to adventure design and online participation. It has published a series of privately-commissioned adventures that have been widely praised in the RPG community as setting a higher standard for PDF publication.