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Friday 24 November 2023

[Free RPG Day 2023] Heist at the Museum

Now in its sixteenth year, Free RPG Day for 2023 took place on Saturday, June 24th. As per usual, Free RPG Day consisted of an array of new and interesting little releases, which are traditionally tasters for forthcoming games to be released at GenCon the following August, but others are support for existing RPGs or pieces of gaming ephemera or a quick-start. Thanks to the generosity of David Salisbury of Fan Boy 3, Fil Baldowski at All Rolled Up, and others, Reviews from R’lyeh was able to get hold of many of the titles released for Free RPG Day, both in the USA and elsewhere.


Heist At The Museum! is a one-shot scenario for Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition published by Loke BattleMats. It is a preview for the publisher’s Big Book of Battle Mats: Rooms, Vaults, & Chambers, it comes with two battlemats from that book, four detailed pre-generated Player Characters, tokens for the scenario’s for the Player Characters, NPCs, adversaries, and monsters, and six handouts. It also includes ‘5E in 5 Minutes’, a quicker primer on Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition and there are several tips on how to run the adventure as well. A seasoned Dungeon Master will be able to prepare the adventure and run it in a single session. It could also be adapted to an ongoing campaign, especially for a group of thieves, rogues, and ne’er-do-wells, though that will require some adjustment upon the part of the Dungeon Master to fit her campaign.

The set-up for Heist At The Museum! is simple. The Player Characters are a gang of thieves known as the ‘Magpies’ which specialises in acquiring historical artefacts. They are hired Braurius Malifont, a wealthy collector of exotic antiquities. Four such items, known as the ‘Tetrad’, are being held by the ‘Storied Chronicles’, the city museum which holds and displays antiquities from all over the world. Malifont gives the four a guide to getting into the museum and the clues he has uncovered to date as to the location of the artefacts he wants. The adventure itself begins en media res, with the Player Characters about to break in. They can access various routes, but once inside they must search the main display area to locate the items and not activate the guards. Their most obvious problem is not toppling the complete dinosaur skeleton of a triceratops! The encounter involves a mix of stealth, combat, and a big puzzle. This relies very much on player general knowledge, but the scenario allows for straight skill rolls should they come up lacking. The scene is as tense as any robbery should be, and ideally, it should end as the guards swarm into the main display area…

The second scene is at the home of Braurius Malifont. He welcomes the Player Characters to his home and congratulates them on their success. There is meant to be twist here—and there is. It is, however, an obvious one. For starters, the surname of the Player Characters’ employer is ‘Malifont’. ‘M-a-l-ifont’. It just sounds evil. Then, Malifont’s other guests are all there at the reception party, sipping wine and enjoying cheesy nibbles, all wear scarlet robes. It is intentional and not designed to be particularly subtle, and of course, Braurius Malifont will turn the tables on the Player Characters and a big fight will ensue.

The four Player Characters in Heist At The Museum! are thieves, all of Third Level. They include a scholarly thief who can step into the shadows, a street blade handy with paired scimitars, a swift thief capable of hit and run attacks, and a trickster who can grant Advantage to his allies and Disadvantage to his adversaries. All four are clearly presented and easy to read, and they come with a detailed background and equipment list. Their portraits are also replicated on their tokens for the scenario.

Heist At The Museum! comes with two maps from the publisher’s Big Book of Battle Mats: Rooms, Vaults, & Chambers. One is a museum location complete with display cases, carpet, stairs, and dinosaur skeleton, the other is personal study and connected bedroom. Both maps are presented in full colour, in one-inch squares. The tokens—which the Dungeon Master will have to cut out as part of the preparation—are also done in full colour and fit the maps.

Physically, Heist At The Museum! is well presented and written. Coloured text is used to indicate that the Dungeon Master refer to the monsters and NPCs and magic items. The two handouts are nicely done.

Heist At The Museum! is quick and easy to prepare and run. If it is obvious in its plotting, Heist At The Museum! is at least short, serviceable, and exciting enough for a single session.

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