Wednesday, March 9, 2022

A (belated) Review of Hessaret's Treasure

 I've been meaning to review this Mythras scenario since I ran I more than a year ago, but somehow, I'm only now getting around to it ... full disclosure: I'm working on a few small, Mythras-related projects with its author Matt Eager, but that's actually only because I've reached out to him after reading and playing the scenario. Also, this review is based on the German translation of it.

I'm not going into details here, but still,


Hessaret's Treasure bills itself a fantasy spaghetti western, but since I'm not that studied in that genre, that didn't tell me much. The core idea is that the characters have to navigate two factions of shady NPCs who both hate and need each other to hunt for the eponymous treasure. As such, I would call the adventure story-focused, not in terms of being a railroad, but in the literal sense of it being focused on the dramatic story elements it brings to the table - the goals of and relationships between the NPCs, how they might interact with the goals of the PCs, and how they might form relationships with them. Both sides need the PCs as go-betweens to keep the other side from just trying to kill them off.

That's the core of it; and consequently, while running the scenario, I mostly referenced the extensive NPC descriptions in the back - that's where the meat of it is. You get four major players here, two on each side, and they're all multi-layered, with strong passions about their friends and foes. I found it easy to find their proper voices in play, because the ground-work laid by the text is rock-solid. The characters could believably side with any or none of them - my players gravitated towards each one of them in turn over the course of the adventure, only to doubt later whether their trust was misplaced.

Don't let yourself be fooled by the adventure being structured in scenes: Especially in the beginning, Hessaret's Treausure reads like it very much wants the characters to follow a particular order of events with a pre-determined outcome. Partly this is to get them into the tight spot between the two rivaling factions - but there's plenty of other possibilities for this to come about, and frankly, even if this central conceit doesn't work out as planned - like the characters getting what they need to go treausure-hunting on their own, or the characters clearly siding with one faction -, the adventure offers all the material you need to just keep playing. Part of Hessaret's Treasure might look like a railroad, but the material is really so encompassing and well-organzied, and it all makes so much sense - which is not at all a given in story-focused scenarios, where twists and turns are often deployed quite unmotivated and at the whim of the author - that, at no point, it would be a problem to go off the rails.

That being said, the central conceit is pretty cool, and it is well worth the effort to get your players to buy into it. As a GM, you'll have to be ready for some intense PC/NPC interaction. With a larger group of PCs, I can imagine that it might be a bit overwhelming to keep track of that - luckily, I ran this scenario with just two other players, which, to me, seems like the ideal number for Hessaret's Treasure. It not only made for intense role-playing, it also meant that the PCs really had to play their cards well to keep both factions at bay, since they wouldn't have been able to overwhelm any side on their own, and maybe not even with the help of the other faction.

Right now, I'm gearing up to revive my Mythras campaign with a sequel to Hessaret's Treasure - Arkannad is still out there and wants revenge, and by now, he has had time to not only catch up with the PCs, but also to get some back-up ...

This is really a great scenario - it's also a good read, but I recommend reminding yourself once in a while that things might go very different then suggested. The whole set-up is full of possibilities that can easily be explored with the material presented.


5 treacherous scoundrels out of 5

1 comment: