Who Do You Trust?
In the cool streets and blazing bazaars, the word is out: a great treasure has gone missing in the Everlasting City of the Cat, and some very ambitious people have set their sights on it. Many paws and claws are out, and everyone is sniffing around for something rich and strange.
It’s an odd time for a catfolk thief and a gnoll merchant to make very tempting offers to strangers in town. Or, perhaps it’s not odd at all. Get caught up in the hunt with Cat and Mouse by Richard Pett and Greg Marks!
This 5th Edition adventure for 1st-level characters is a perfect introduction to the Southlands campaign setting, and it fits neatly into any desert city where cats are sacred and rats are cautious and sly.
(A poster map of the city of Per-Bastet is also available via DriveThruCards.)
Megan Robertson –
First level adventures have their own particular charm, with weak characters who will need to use wits as well as sword-arms and spellbooks to survive. This one, set in the City of Per-Bastet in the Southlands portion of the Midgard Campaign Setting, could make a good introductory adventure as it sends the party all over the city without presupposing that they’ve been there before. You may be able to find a suitable alternate location in your own campaign world: you need a desert city which is very fond of cats (or you will have to amend a lot of details in the adventure).
The adventure itself centres around a minor artefact and no less than three people (initially – others may join in once they get wind of it) who’d like to possess it. One of these key players hires the party to go after one of the others, who has already got hold of it (of course, she maintains that it was stolen from her…). It’s up to the party what they do, they have a lot of freedom as to where they go and who they talk to in their quest. Depending on how they go about their business, a party could complete the entire adventure without bloodshed or find themselves in plenty of street-brawls. If they intend to stay in Per-Bastet their reputations will, of course, be established by their conduct. An interesting side-bar suggests how you can reward parties who prefer to use intrigue and cunning rather than force to achieve their ends. Those choosing force will, of course, gain XP based on their victories.
There are plenty of notes to help you set the scene, but if you are using the adventure as written in the city of Per-Bastet you can find even more details in the Southlands setting book also published by Kobold Press. Most of the action takes place in the Perfume District and there’s enough of a map to give you an idea of its layout (think narrow twisting streets, crowds, stalls – pretty much a traditional North African/Arab souk!). There is also a good map of one of the antagonist’s dwelling – a typical riad (house around a courtyard) – and one of a plaza outside a cat temple, as well as the somewhat bizarre lair of another personage who gets involved halfway through the tale, and a couple more for places the party is likely to visit.
The ending is open-ended: it is up to the party – assuming they get hold of the artefact – to decide what to do with it. Any choice will have its consequences, which will be of greater significance if they decide to stay in town… and should they have completed their business in some style, they will find themselves well on the way to being players themselves in Per-Bastet affairs. It’s an excellent low-level adventure with the potential to kick off an epic campaign.
An Endzeitgeist.com review
The 5e-conversion of the introductory module to the evocative Southlands setting in Midgard clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? Per-Bastet is the glittering crown-jewel of the nation of Nuria-Natal; it is also one of the most evocative, awesome cities I have read within the last couple of years. Through its heart, there runs the eternal River of Sand, guarded by jealous elemental creatures, churning tons of sand in a truly amazing display through the streets of the metropolis. Sometimes, objects of strange origin wash “ashore”, the sand-touched items, often considered to be lucky.
Today, though, a treasure beyond ken has arrived at the shores of the holy city of cats, the minor artifact Grimalkin Eye – which can be used to befriend, fascinate or dominate any feline. Catfolk mistress henna Mjelidi, not a scrupulous being, would give her whiskers for the eye, but, alas, when she learned about it, the item had already found its way into another unlikely creature’s clutches – Raheed, a particularly ugly and unpleasant wererat has claimed the eye…and since found out that it grants him power. Worse, the gnoll slaver Hakaan-al-Khareen Zmirr Nill Mo Chantoor has learned about Mjelidi’s quest…and now wants the eye as well…if only to annoy the catfolk. It is him who offers a counteroffer after the PCs have accepted the job of securing the eye for Mjelidi.
Situated in Per-Bastet’s Perfume district for the most part, the module comes with sufficient basic information, though I’d still strongly suggest getting the amazing Southlands book. In case you are not familiar with it: In spite of being a Pathfinder book, its primary focus is the absolutely amazing setting that loses none of its amazing flavor in 5e – it is a great book regardless of setting. The NPC-conversions of the book deserve both praise and criticism: While I appreciate the respective builds, there are a couple of minor issues here, like the average damage To Hit value being incorrect in Mjelidi’s ranged attack. This does not sink the pdf, but it is a minor flaw. That being said, for example both traps and social skills and the like have been converted smoothly to 5e’s design paradigms – including thrown tins of paint etc. with appropriate DCs, improvised weapon short/long ranges etc.
Well, the module has another interesting angle: It proposes gossip checks, which basically approaches gathering of information as something that can be accomplished via the Charisma-based checks. In fact, the module is pretty…different…from what you’d expect. You see, the counter-offer I mentioned? It may actually be offered peacefully in the fully-mapped house of Hakaan…or, well, the PCs may pretty much murder-hobo everyone: Mjelidi and Hakaan get full stats, the house has traps and servants (and some nice indirect storytelling…seems like Hakaan’s been recently left by his lover…) – this diversity of angles is something I most certainly appreciate.
Anyways, as mentioned before, the trail of Raheed will lead the PCs towards the Perfume district, where a fun investigation through Raheed’s less than glamorous life begins: The trail leads from money-lenders to blind beggars and washing women with truly sharp, lashing tongues that may damage the PC’s reputation, the impression the PCs will get is most certainly not one of a glamorous existence. At any time during this section, the PCs may witness the Grimalkin Eye’s influence with one of the powerful temple cats going berserk…though, again, the PCs have a way to defuse the situation in a smart and non-violent manner! The 5e-conversion of the Bastet Temple Cat is particularly nice and manages to depict its angles in a concise and fun manner within 5e’s rules.
Ultimately, the trail leads to Festering Heth’s…where a local alchemist may confirm having just sold a cheetah to said being. Heth has since captured Raheed and tries to bluff the PCs…but whether they fall for it or not, once again, no violence is actually required. Heth is a coward and if the PCs fall for him, Raheed will escape…which means that the PCs may have to deal with him in his pitiful squatchamber…in the end, both Mejildi and Hakaan will try to get the eye…and both can’t pay what they promised…which would mean violence in the square of the lion, named for the caged animal conveniently here…And yes, if the PCs can play their cards right, they may well double-cross the double-crossers…and get past the final showdown without shedding a single drop of blood. Which is awesome.
One the downside, the module probably leaves the PCs with the powerful Grimalkin Eye, which, while not utterly OP, can enable rather powerful tricks: 1/day dominate beast (not properly italicized), 3/day animal messenger, animal friendship, speak with animals…but on a failure to attune to the item, it may confuse all the cats near the user. This will not break any game, but provide, particularly in the feline-centric Per-Bastet some cool heist options/political angles…so, surprisingly, I’m pretty cool with this! A GM who knows how to run with this will have a blast. The other complaint I can field here would pertain the lack of player-friendly, keyless maps: The book has a ton of nice, full-color maps for the tactical encounters, but lacks a map-appendix or the like of key-less versions to hand out to players, limiting the module in the handout-department unnecessarily.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Kobold press’ two-column full-color standard and is gorgeous. The original artwork contained herein is amazing, and the full-color cartography is similarly neat…though the lack of player-friendly versions is a pretty big downside for me. Unfortunately, I do not own the print version, so I can’t comment on the qualities of that one.
Richard Pett is mostly known for horror and macabre modules, but he obviously is no one-trick-pony. Cat & Mouse is an evocative module that makes good use of the amazing Southlands-setting. Furthermore, it can actually easily be run as a module for kids: The options to refrain from killing or shedding any blood while completing this module allows you to play true GOOD heroes…or, as always, you can murder-hobo through it…but why would you, when RPing would be so much more rewarding? And yes, if you’re running this for adults, you can easily emphasize the grime and grit, if that’s the tone you’re going for.
Now as for the conversion, which was done by Greg Marks – it is one of the better conversions and it does show care, that’s for sure. While not 100% perfect, it managed to translate the module well into 5e, maintaining its flavor and identity, while still accounting for the different mechanics. All in all, well done.
Anyways, usually the lack of player-friendly maps would cost this my seal of approval, but the diversity of challenges, colorful characters, attention to detail and the option to run this sans violence are simply too compelling to ignore. While the 5e-conversion is not perfect, it still maintains a very high quality, which ultimately lets me settle on a final verdict of 5 stars.