Wolfgang Baur contacted me back in June to see if I’d be interested in working on a 4e project for Open Design. If you’re not familiar with it, the Open Design process puts a call out for patrons. If it reaches a critical mass of patrons, the project proceeds and the patrons get to evaluate submissions, see early drafts, and give their comments about the direction of the project. In a standard project, the creative process gets handled by a small number of authors, but Open Design expands it to a larger community.
So this post is kind of a pitch, but I think you’ll see why I found the project intriguing. Hopefully you will, too.
The Appeal of the Project
The adventure is tentatively called The Lost City. It offers something people have been asking for: a sandbox adventure for 4th Edition D&D. The lost civilization angle and a sandbox style of play dovetail wonderfully, and the three submissions (which you can see on the product page) all have their own creative, significantly different take on the concept. The early patrons on the forums are already making suggestions, picking their favorites, brainstorming, and twisting the submissions into crazy new ideas.
One of my earliest projects when I became and editor at Wizards of the Coast was Elder Evils, which contains a section based on the old module B4: The Lost City. So while I didn’t play that adventure, I definitely have some nostalgia for it. I especially loved how it evoked the strangeness of a culture cut off from the outside world and made ordinary people monstrous by their behavior and skewed worldview. Lost cities aren’t just about finding buried treasure and subterranean monsters; they’re alien, separated from the passage of time and unmoved by the rise and fall of the kingdoms beyond. Some of my favorite early suggestions involve how that lost city might alter the world around it once it’s found—even reborn. (Sorry, I can’t give you details. The discussions are one of the perks of being a patron, after all.)
The Appeal of the Process
I’d heard about previous Open Design projects, and they intrigued me. The idea of really opening up the design process to outsiders appeals to my collaborative side. Some authors really prefer to sit down alone and put down their ideas, but I tend to bounce ideas off colleagues and develop them through discussion when I can. Open Design sits at a happy medium. You don’t have just pros, who can tend to be set in their ways, but it’s also not just open to everybody, which invites confusion, chaos, and trolling. With a small group of invested patrons (some who comment plenty and others who’d rather lurk and see what the final product ends up being), there’s a big sounding board.
Giving new authors (drawn from the pool of senior patrons) a chance to submit ideas and possibly write parts of the project themselves (paid, of course) can help us find new talent, too. The meritocratic nature of Open Design means the loudest voice or the most senior author doesn’t get to make the decisions. The people paying for the project do. I’m more than willing to submit to the judgment of the masses, though I sure make my opinion heard.
You can sign up at the product page. There are a few levels of patronage, each with different benefits, and I’ll let that page explain them. You can chat with me in the comments or on Twitter (@loganbonner) if you want a little clearer picture of what the project’s about.
Are you going to Gen Con? I’m planning to sit in on the “What’s Coming from Open Design” panel and talk about The Lost City a little bit. If you’re curious, come check out the panel and talk with me afterward. You might also catch me wandering around. You can see what I look like on my avatar, and I should be carrying a WB bag from Comic-Con.