Cat & Mouse is an adventure by Richard Pett set in Kobold Press’s Southlands setting. It’s written as an introductory adventure for that setting, for 4-6 first level characters. Players unfamiliar with the setting will likely be surprised by a few of the plot points, one of which involves a gnoll proposing marriage to a catfolk. I know I was!
The adventure has an urban setting, the great Egyptian-themed city of Per-Bastet. A wererat thief has ended up in possession of a magical artefact that gives him power over cats – a great prize in the City of Cats. Of course, other factions within the city want the artefact for themselves. Two of them – a gnoll merchant and a lady catfolk contact the adventurers to recover the artefact for them. The adventure sees the players looking for the thief and the artefact, and – once the artefact is in their possession – dealing with the competing factions.
Urban adventures are difficult to design and write. Players can very easily do things the adventure doesn’t account for, requiring the DM to do a lot of improvisation. Good urban adventures need to detail the personalities and motivations of the key NPCs, as well as covering the key locations of the adventure. In addition, they need to lay out all of the information in a manner that is easy for the DM to read and then reference during the adventure. It isn’t easy!
Richard Pett gets most of the way there in Cat & Mouse, but there are aspects of the design that puzzle me. It doesn’t help that the product includes some poor layout choices, including narrowing a stat block’s column to make room for a map, and a number of headers that are the wrong size. The amount of space devoted to the gnoll merchant’s home seems out of place when considering how much it will be used (just for a short meeting); if it’s detailed for later use, wouldn’t the home of the lady catfolk also require exploration? That location is not detailed in the text at all, and the catfolk’s personality and motivations are rather ill-detailed in comparison to the gnoll’s. (Also, the gnoll seems surprisingly poor for a merchant…)
A number of editing errors also detract from the adventure. The one that particularly amused me was the offer by the gnoll to pay “50 percent as much” for the artefact as the catfolk would. Richard, you mean “50 percent more”! These errors are more prevalent in the 5e conversions of stats, and the ability descriptions aren’t written all that well.
The adventure still has an excellent concept, and more than a few good encounters in it. It offers a lot of chances for the DM and players to make it their own. The ending is very open-ended, which is nice to see, although it is likely to be challenging for the DM to run.
I feel that Cat & Mouse is about 90% of the way there. A bit more development and some better formatting choices would have made it an absolutely excellent adventure. As it stands, it’s merely “good”, which is still a lot better than many of the adventures to cross my desk.