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Dungeons and Dragons meets the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist: Take your adventurers on a module through Boston

Dnd hero mod darkRyan Huddle/Mashita -

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Dungeons and Dragons meets the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist: Take your adventurers on a module through Boston

A little past midnight on March 18, 1990, two thieves dressed as police officers talked their way into Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. After tying up the two guards on duty, they spent the next 81 minutes robbing the museum of 13 valuable works of art, pulling off one of the largest art heists in history. The art, estimated to be worth $500 million, has never been recovered and the theft remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries to hit the art world, with numerous podcasts, documentaries, and books delving into who might have been behind it and where the art is now.


And now there is a completely new way to explore this infamous heist. The Boston Globe has created a Dungeons & Dragons-type module where readers can lead a band of characters through the timeline of events of that night, see the artwork involved, and deal with typical heist complications. So grab your dice and form a party to play a campaign based on actual events, all while discovering more about this captivating mystery.

Learn more about the actual Gardner Museum heist from the Boston Globe and read related articles, view the art, listen to the Last Seen podcast or watch videos about the Gardner Museum heist before you start.

Below is a Dungeons & Dragons module, or a pre-written adventure that outlines the details of the game. Feel free to use this for your next D&D campaign. This is based on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist that actually happened March 18, 1990. But, it’s your game. Use the module as much or as little as you see fit. The important thing is to have fun.

The Heist begins

One or all the players are at the “The Bog and Bard Tavern,” relaxing after their latest adventure.


Percival W. Drottlee, a well-known goblin handler (chaotic neutral) has been watching them since they arrived. Drottlee walks up to the adventurers’ table and introduces himself, offering to buy them a round if they are willing to listen to his proposal. He has a time-sensitive job that he needs done.

Percival W. Drottlee

Percival W. Drottlee is a Goblin that has connections to the crime organizations in the city. He has used his quick wits, and dirty tricks to reach the top of his profession. Drottlee always has at least 2 bodyguards near him at all times. He uses his charisma to talk people into getting his way and will often pay a fair price for a job.

This is not the first group of adventurers that he has approached, as Drottlee is quick to mention. For one reason or another, the others were unable to do the job.

Drottlee also does not know the name of the person behind the request, but if asked and sufficiently convinced, he might share his ideas of who might be behind it.

As the bartender delivers the drinks, Drottlee tells the adventurers in quiet tones that he needs them to steal 13 pieces of artwork from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The job must be completed by the day after tomorrow, no later than 2:45 a.m., and the art delivered to an awaiting carriage on Palace Road.

If the players accept the job, Drottlee could provide the characters with a rough layout of the museum along with some observations that he has gathered in the last two days, along with photos of the artwork.

Gardner Museum heist artwork

Additional information

In this imaginary adventure, the museum closes at 9 p.m.

• Most of the fictional guards leave at midnight during the last city guards’ nightly check-in.

In this module, the city guards do security checks every 3 hours at the museum.

Reward for a successful heist

The mysterious benefactor is prepared to pay each character 100 gold pieces. They can also keep any treasure they find in the museum as long as they get all the specific artworks he has requested to the carriage by the 2:45 a.m. deadline.


Planning the heist

How the characters execute the heist is up to them. Allow the game players to use their creativity.

If the characters ask, Percival W. Drottlee does have guard disguises he can provide for 5 gold pieces for each character.

What the museum looks like

The exterior is a yellowish white stone three-story museum on a block by itself. A large wall surrounds the property on all sides except on Palace Road. The streets surrounding the museum are dimly lit.

Scouting the museum

During gameplay, the characters can scout the museum during the day leading up to the heist. The players can explore the areas open to the public during the day except for designated “restricted” areas. The Dungeon master can decide what areas are considered “restricted” areas, like the guards room listed as number 8 on the map provided. If they are discovered in a restricted area, the guard will approach them and ask them to leave the museum at once and escort them out. If the character becomes hostile, the guard will sound an alarm calling other guards to the area.

Heist complications

All the paintings have audible alarm spells. The fictional guards do have pass cards that can bypass the alarm spell. If the alarms go off, there is a master spell crystal that powers the alarm located in a secret room in the Dutch room.


Museum Guards

During the day there are 8 museum guards in this module, but only 2 guards are on duty at night. (Use the guard in the D&D 5th edition) They normally take turns making rounds taking them an hour. They have swords and card keys to all doors and the keys can be used to turn off alarms that are on the paintings.

Optional traps and monsters that can be included.

• Mimic: A mimic can change its shape to disguise its body as an inanimate object.

• Rug of smothering: Magically animated rugs that were commonly deployed as traps. They attack by trapping and constraining their victims. Rug of smothering attacks if a character gets within six feet.

• Animated statues: There are animated statues that are traps scattered around the museum. Animated statue attacks if a character gets within nine feet.

Roll for a monster

Make the heist a little more exciting with an additional unknown monster.
Stat blocks can be found in the Dungeons and Dragons monster manuel.


Museum Layout

1. Yellow Room

Marigold wall coverings and filled with musical instruments and contemporary paintings. Display cases house a vast array of smaller instruments and memorabilia of different musical genres.

2. Chinese Loggia

Large windows facing a garden function as a transitional space between the lush greenery of the museum’s central courtyard.

3. Spanish Cloister

Colorful tiles along the floor with an ancient sarcophagus.

4. Blue Room

Low ceilings and fabric colored walls. Display cases, furniture, and books.

5. The Courtyard

The courtyard holds ancient sculptures, the garden is filled with plants that change almost monthly from flowers and lush ferns to shrubs.

6. Vatichino

A small room filled with small and decorative art. Display cases hold hundreds of ancient books.

7. Macknight room

Named after the contemporary artist Dodge Macknight, whose watercolors line its walls. Shelves also contains a selection of important books

8. Guards room:

A small long corridor with a desk and sitting area. A door is located at the far end with access to the basement.

9. Little Salon

Lavish floor-to-ceiling tapestries fill the room taking the viewer with a sense of awe, like looking at a fairytale. Small objects fill the cases along the walls.


10. Tapestry Room

A long cavernous space gives the sense of a great hall. The walls are lined with 10 large tapestries with rich textures and heroic exploits, as well as large paintings. A massive fireplace is on one wall.

Collection of prints and old master drawings. Shelves hold books, textiles and portraits.

12. Raphael Room

Named after the celebrated Renaissance painter and his art is on the walls. Paintings are interspersed with sculptures and vases. Red fabrics provide the backdrop and set an opulent tone. Chairs upholstered in red, yellow, and green silk sit at the center of the room. Two massive velvet curtains hang from iron rods in front of the fireplace.

13. Early Italian Room

First room you will encounter after climbing the stairs. It has Gothic and Renaissance paintings. Surrounding the paintings are furniture and other decorative objects created in many different periods.

14. Dutch Room

Paintings line the walls from different regions of the world.

15. A hidden room

in the Dutch room that contains a power crystal that powers the alarm spell.

A long, narrow room filled with paintings, a library with rare books, and a chapel.

17. Titian Room

Named after the painter Titian, his work dominates the space. Furniture is arranged for guests to sit on and marvel at the art. A small table is set with flowers.

18. Veronese Room

The ceiling has a painting of a vast mythological scene. Surrounding the area are a mixture of objects that span different times and places.

19. Gothic room

Resembles the Gothic cathedrals. A life-sized portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner gazes out from the southwest corner.

Optional rewards


In this module, treasure includes: Harp with ivory inlay and zircon gems, a jeweled platinum ring, a gold dragon comb set with red garnets as eyes, and a gold cup set with emeralds.


Books include: “A Knights’ Guide to Arms and Armor,” “Carpentry For Complex Dungeons,” “101 Untraceable Poisons,” “Alchemical Compendium,” “Accidental Pickpocketing and Other Excuses,” “Tower Defenses, What Works and What Does Not,” and “Protective Verses.”


If the characters escape the museum with all the art, they will receive the gold promised to them. If they do not have all the art, subtract 10 gold pieces for each artwork missing.

If the players take longer than the 90 minutes, the carriage leaves and the police arrive for their rounds and discover the heist in progress.

How did the characters do? Compare it to the actual timeline from the night of the actual heist. Learn more about the true events that inspired us to write this.

The Gardner Museum heist timeline:
March 18, 1990

Ryan Huddle can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ryanhuddle

Credits: Illustrations by Ryan Huddle/Globe staff, Adobe stock. Gardner artwork: FBI, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Reuters. Special thanks to:Aprill Brandon, Kevin Wall, and Peter.Bailey-Wells