Resource Review: 19 Shops & Shopkeepers (Jeremy Melloul): 3.5 Stars
Her smile draws your attention first. It is subdued and mischievous. Her golden eyes are fixed onto you. Her piercing stare is not threatening, but rather, interested – wondering what strange series of events has led you to her door. She wears a silken dress, styled like a toga. She strides towards you, brushing her hair which hangs in front of her face behind her horns as her tail swings with each of her steps. “Welcome,” she says. “I’m glad you’ve found your way here.”
Jeremy Melloul’s latest work is a useful, moderately sized supplement for adding very unique shops to any town or city your players may come across. It is important to note that this resource is not for DMs who are looking for d100 tables of wares, or lists of magic items, etc. Rather, it presents 19 “one of a kind” shops, niche and narrative in nature, which can add a lot of depth to your campaign. Each of these are more than just a shop however: they each present at least one engaging NPC and plot hooks for nearly every class and background. They are flexible enough to be used for any level of campaign.
Shops. Overall, I really enjoyed and appreciated Melloul’s take on “shops” (they’re really more like “establishments”). Though they serve a very “niche” role within a town or city, placing even just one of these in an area will bring depth and engagement to a campaign, possibly providing a hub of interaction for sessions to come. I am fine admitting that I could not come up with the uniqueness of these shops myself–in that, Jeremy has something truly special. While all of these shops are really cool, there are two that really stood out to me:
In Memoriam is a really cool and unique take on profiting from the undead. Patrons can pay a fee to ask certain questions of the undead, or in the event of death, your characters can lease their body to the establishment to benefit their still-living party members. Perhaps they can even be tricked into selling their bodies. Skilled DMs can use the grave keeper Hakamori as a potential foil for any cleric or paladin that may be in the party.
Mariner’s Trove is a store built on the water, meant to fulfill all your nautical needs–including hiring a ship. Amazingly, it is staffed by trained monkeys, providing abundant opportunity for hilarious and mischievous roleplay. Its proprietor, Captain Dreka Halftusk could be a launching point for a “deep sea” campaign–and a horde of treasure.
NPCs. Most of the NPCs in this supplement are engaging, relatively noteworthy, and should provide good roleplaying opportunities for your characters. Each NPC comes with a basic description, personality traits, a flaw, motivation, and secret. They are defined enough to give the DM a good idea how to play them, but flexible enough to fit into various needs the Dungeon Master may have.
Plot Hooks. Each of these shops can provide an optional plot hook, often in the form of a “test of worthiness”. Following these hooks could result in side quests of various length, and almost all of them could prove captivating in the hands of a adept DM.
What Didn’t Work
Production. The production of this supplement looks relatively low-cost. There are few pictures, and though the cover looks good, it doesn’t really seem to represent the material inside. There are numerous spelling and grammar issues that occasionally distract from the content. While the writing style in general is okay, it suffers from a bit of “clunkiness” at points. It seems to be unsure of whether it’s a self-aware text speaking directly to the DM (or is it player?) or an immersive text trying you’d find at the city’s information hub. While a low production cost isn’t always a big deal, in this the value feels as though it suffers.
Narrow Content. The content presented is excellent, no doubt, if not repetitive in form, but I found myself wanting a more of something different. Maybe a list of specific items each shop may sell (if they sell things), or other NPCs besides just the proprietor. In fairness, there are unique magic items listed for some of them–but roll-able d100 tables for situations, items, and disasters that may happen at each establishment would make preparation even easier for the DM who uses this, and break up some of the descriptive monotony. This resource is really only usable if your players spend time in a settlement (probably a relatively large city), as the shops are so specialized that most are not likely to be found in smaller villages or towns.
This resource has a lot going for it, but has a few weaknesses as well. We’re giving it 3.5 stars and recommending* it for anyone whose sessions spend a decent amount of time in a city or settlement. It can be kept in the binder and brought out when your players derail the campaign, or can be used to plan ahead for specific plot hooks. Depending on the preferences of the Dungeon Master and/or players, it could be a really valuable tool to have. Pick it up by clicking the picture below:
* Bundle Suggestion: This supplement would go great with our Booms, Heals, and Bleedings supplement.