It’s a review, it’s a session report, it’s a review session! (working title) As I’ve combined a whole bunch of published adventures into my campaign, I thought I’d combine a session report with a review of the adventure itself. What worked, what I needed to change, advice for anyone running it themselves, etc.
I find starting a new campaign, especially if you’re trying to create your own world (rather than just setting it in the forgotten realms or something), is really hard. How much information do you give the players beforehand? Do you drop them into a place with nothing? How much do you let them write the backstory? You start to realise why the old “you wake up in a prison” or “your pub is attacked by a monster” tropes get used so often. Doing a ‘session zero’ is a good idea, but it’s often a bit dull, and doesn’t involve killing anyone.
I was originally drawn to this adventure because it features talking cats (and dogs, and rats), but I also really liked that the adventure was really a light-hearted investigation of a city, following clues and finding out information. Perfect for finding your way around a new city! The adventure as published is set in Waterdeep, but it was no trouble to change a few details and insert it into Shallal.
King of the Cats is described as an adventure for 1st or 2nd level characters. Without giving too much away, the structure is as follows:
- The party get recruited by a talking cat(!) to find the King of Cats (apparently cats can speak, and they have whole parliament). A few leads are given, and the party might find some extra info if they ask the right questions – e.g. the cats and dogs (the adventure insists on using ‘wargs’ for some reason) used to fight, but the king recently negotiated a truce.
- The party wander around town, following up clues, talking to people, and maybe getting in fights. They meet the Rat Queen, and the Dog Lord, visit the Clockwork Carnival, and generally get up to shenanigans.
- The party find the king, but have to pick a side, and make either the ‘good’ choice or the profitable one.
It’s all of step 2 that makes this a great little first adventure. There’s plenty of people to talk to (/kill if you’ve got that sort of party), and interesting little bits – the various sideshows of the clockwork carnival are great. It also gives the players chance to decide what sort of person their character is going to be: e.g. this person is clearly up to no good, do I deal with them, ‘deal’ with them, report them to the guards, report them to their competition, etc. My group got quite obsessed with rescuing a mermaid who was being displayed as a carnival sideshow, and so this became their task in the second session.
My tip if you are going to run this adventure: don’t use a wererat for the rat queen, use a group of Cranium Rats. They’re far cooler, and much more interesting.
I liked this adventure. It’s a good first-level, first-session adventure, that puts more emphasis on roleplaying and exploration, and doesn’t fall into the usual goblin-cave or skeleton-crypt cliches.
That said, I did find I had to file down a few rough edges. There’s a lot of people to talk to if you want, and a couple of false leads and dead-ends. These work ok on paper, but I generally find it confuses everyone, when the focus at low levels should be on the players and how their characters interact. It also suffers as all investigation adventures do, where if the players miss clue A, they’ll never find B, or C or D or… But a good DM should be able to cope with that, and the adventure does give you a few suggestions for dealing with it.
Overall, the session was fun, it did a good job of introducing the players to the world (and each other), and the adventure was easy to run. I’d give it… a polydactyl-cat-thumb up.
I haven’t got my scoring system sorted yet. I’ll work on that for next time.
King of Cats is available on DMs Guild. (Full disclosure: I got nothing for doing this review. I even bought the adventure myself. But I will totally whore myself out for free stuff if you’re offering.)