Review – Minotaur’s Bargain

This adventure, from JVC Parry and Phil Beckwith (of PB publishing) is 20 pages, including a cover, 1 page contents and credits, 12 pages of adventure, 4 pages of appendices, 1 page review and 1 page advertisement. It has several colour illustrations and colour maps.

This short, low to mid level adventure casts the PCs in the role of diplomats, representing a local town in an endeavor to secure Minotaur mercenaries against an imminent Orc invasion.

SPOILERS

The adventure wastes little time on story, shanghaiing the characters straight into the action. Negotiations are short, with literally the only outcome resulting in an arena trial to either prove themselves or atone for insult.

The dungeon/arena is a series of deathtrap and skill challenges that must be overcome to progress. Completing 4 unlocks the final arena fight that is a stand up combat against the final boss – a minotaur gladiator. Success or honorable failure gains the aid of the tribe, while abject failure does not.

END SPOILERS

Minotaur’s Bargain is an unapologetic dungeon crawl with a thin veil of story. Each challenge is a HP/Resource sink designed to reduce already limited PC resources (only allowing a single item per character into the challenge). It does however offer several clever ways for pcs to scavenge resources along the way. In many ways this is a team based obstacle course. Mechanically sound, the various encounters are so varied and disparate it would still have many players questioning the logic of such a medley of otherwise unconnected challenges under any other circumstances.

The truly clever presentation of this dungeon is that it fits the stereotypical minotaur maze theme, but dials it up to 11. Realism takes a backseat to ‘cool’ and we’re asked to ignore it much as we forgive the unrealistic elements of an action movie because its an entertaining spectacle.

I am generally not a fan of “just because” or “because magic” deathtrap dungeons, but its honestly hard to dislike this adventure. It gives just enough justification to swallow it, oozes cool, adds stripdown and subtle scavenging to PCs that (by this level) have begun to rely on toys and gimmicks. There’s enough logic, risk/reward and variance in skill checks to keep everyone interested and is thankfully the right length to limit the burnout of oversized dungeons.

This is not an adventure for players or DMs that like roleplay or immersion. There is little here for high Charisma type characters. That being said, this is intended to be the first of a trilogy, so a connecting story is potentially in the works.

Similarly, some players may resent the effective railroad into the dungeon, or try to fight their way out of being pressed into it. The adventure turns on an assumption of success or acceptance of failure.

Final Rating

The adventure has an attractive layout, and makes good use of the sectioned isomwtric maps to break up the text and pad the limited (though appropriate) art. The maps are clean and can double as player handouts.

Minotaur’s bargain is a slick dungeoncrawl that makes the PCs action heroes at the expense of deep immersion. However, it doesn’t really feel like a sacrifice. Its perhaps not the type of adventure you’d want to play every session, but in isolation it is a strong, fun adventure.

I’d rate this 5 stars for presentation and 5 stars for content, for a final rating of 5 Stars.

You can get this very cool adventure here.

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