Review – Mini-Dungeon #013: The Case of the Scrupulous Pawnbroker
The Case of the Scrupulous Pawnbroker clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains…*drumroll* a .jpg-version and a .tif-version of the map! Yeah, that’s pretty amazing! The dungeon’s number-less version of the map doesn’t sport any deceptive trap icons or traps – kudos, though the place where the secret doors are can still be gleaned by proximity…but if you conceal that part, it works well. In short: Full, proper VTT-support and help for guys like yours truly that can’t draw maps.
Since this product line’s goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
This mini-dungeon begins with the PCs having either a business relationship or wanting to establish one with a hard, but fair pawnbroker – now his store’s door is open and suspiciously empty, while an iron door in the basement leads towards a gruesome scene – the assistants have been slain and reanimated as zombies, though the PCs may save the owner’s dog as further support. If the PCs do not tarry, they may save the pawn-broker from the hostile assault of a really nasty gang of thugs under the command of a cult fanatic – they’re trying to break into his treasure vault, after all…
Pretty big plus: Kyle Crider has done some nice modifications to traps and stats in short-hand, which adds a bit more 5E-feeling to the conversion.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches apart from the hyperlinks – there are quite a few that don’t work, which is a bit annoying. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art – kudos! The cartography, with player and GM-VTT-maps, is nice.
This mini-dungeon has me torn – on the one hand, the story Stefanos “The Netlich” Patelis weaves is a nice one that can easily fit in any urban environment and it does sport the small details and level of believability I enjoy.
On the other hand, it could have benefitted from a short tactics-section for the adversaries if the PCs e.g. call the watch- a couple of lines would be there to warrant it and this may very well turn into a kind of hostage situation – bartering is a quite possible notion for the PCs and since the foes use the pawnbroker’s traps to their advantage, one can see the potential of the writing here. It is pretty obvious that, for once, we could have used some Intimidation, Deception, etc. – and we get nothing like that; much like most of these mini-dungeons, Perception, Investigation and thieves’ tools are the main non-combat options used.
This is by no means bad and Kyle Crider did a solid conversion here, but the few rough patches in the formal criteria, joined by the lost chances for social skills and the like, do drag this down a bit. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.