Sunday, May 26, 2024

‘Keys From The Golden Vault’ Review Part One: I’m Putting Together A Team

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It’s time for another Dungeons & Dragons adventure anthology and this time the all-star authors assembled have had one task: heists. After Shadow of the Dragon Queen tackled the challenge of the war campaign, it’s fitting that we tackle another set of tropes for Keys From The Golden Vault. Thirteen adventures are contained here spanning the genre, from standard bank theft to more complex and plain weird heists that will test the creativity of both the DM and their players.

I’ll be tackling the first half of the adventures today, with the second half released tomorrow to coincide with the wider release of the anthology. Normally I’d also want to tackle any new additions to the game like items and creatures but…there aren’t any. There also isn’t any sort of central location for the setting like in Candelkeep Mysteries or Radiant Citadel. So instead let’s just dive right in!

Enter The Golden Vault

The Golden Vault itself is an organization of mysterious benefactors (said to be metallic dragons) that essentially commit crime for the cause of good. Their role in the book’s adventures are as an easy “in” for DM’s to get players hooked, using handlers and the titular golden keys to push groups into undertaking their heroic, if sometimes less legal, jobs. It’s completely optional and for some adventures a little tacked on, but it’s a good tool.

The Murkmire Malevolence

Keys From The Golden Vaul Allosaurus attack
A prehistoric predator runs amok

The Level One adventure starts us in a very familiar place: the museum heist. Hired by a researcher named Dr. Dannell, the team has to infiltrate Varkenbluff Museum of Natural History and steal their latest exhibit before it hatches into some kind of horrible eldritch monster. It’s a two part heist, with players first maneuvering through the Opening Night Gala to scout then implementing their plan once the museum closes. Since it’s aimed at first level adventurer’s it’s heavy on traps and simple enemies, with most of the problems being solved by quick wit and a little luck. The big setpiece for this is the animatronic Allosaurus, which can be activated and set on a rampage as the perfect distraction. It’s not anything mind-blowing, but it’s great for groups not used to this sort of adventure.

The Stygian Gambit

Keys From The Golden Vaul Styugian Gambit art
It’s a hell of a good time

We continue in well-worn storytelling by following the museum heist with an Ocean’s 11 style museum heist that’s as much about the rivalry between two masterminds as it is the theft itself. The thing I love most about this adventure is the setting: The Afterlife Casino. Run by your employer’s former partner and rival Quentin Togglepocket, it’s entirely Avernus themed. Yeah it’s a HELL CASINO. I don’t want to even rob this place I want to visit it! It’s even fully staffed by tieflings just like every Actual Play podcast.

Since it’s in a casino there’s much more focus on roleplaying and charisma than other heists. There’s not as much room to just bust in and roam around an empty location. Outside of the potential for double cross on the part of Quentin, this is another standard heist more about living out the classic genre than anything.

Reach For The Stars

Keys From The Golden Vaul mysterious alchemy

Maybe it’s my horror bias creeping in, but this one might be my favorite of the first half of the anthology. “Reach For The Stars” takes a basic heist format and uses it to weave a creepy gothic tale of eldritch pacts and alien entities corrupting a wealthy family. There’s ghosts popping out of stumps, a stargazing Noth, and a mansion so warped by the Far Realm that even the air itself can change on a whim. At the center of it is the classic story of a clever man digging too deep into things he’s not meant to know. In the end the real score is just making it out alive.

Prisoner 13

Keys From The Golden Vaul Prisoner 13

“Prisoner 13” finally shines a spotlight on one of the most intriguing locations mentioned in Rime of the Frostmaiden: Revel’s End, the premier supermax prison of Toril. This isn’t your standard fantasy jail full of sleepy guards and brittle stonework. Instead, Revel’s End is a true panopticon that keeps its charges locked up with ruthless efficiency. The players are hired by a dwarf clan to get the key to their treasure from the titular prisoner, a hard as nails thief with magical tattoos. Breaking in is the easy part. Getting out is where it gets hard, since 13 isn’t exactly easy to get things from and may require a full escape before she’s willing to give you what she came for. It’s a standard prison break plot, but it’s fun to see the retrofitting of a thoroughly modern format to a fantasy setting.

Tockworth’s Clockworks

Keys From The Golden Vault clockwork workers
Machines building machines

Another more creative heist here with a tale of rogue gnomes and an entire town taken over by clockwork automatons. Yes, in this quirky little story your team has to not infiltrate a single building or event but instead the entire village of Little Lockford. Formerly a deep gnome residence in the Underdark, the mad Security Overseer Tixie Tockworth has turned herself into a robot (funniest thing I’ve ever seen) and set her creations upon the town. You’re tasked to enter Little Lockford and shut down the automatons to end Tockworth’s reign of technological terror. While the setup and names are a little silly, there’s some real clockpunk horror at play here as you grapple with the loss of humanity brought on by automation. The house to house movement and relative complexity of this heist really helps it stand out.

You can grab Keys From The Golden Vault at the D&D Shop, Amazon, or your FLGS, as well as online at D&D Beyond! Physical copies of the game (including the brick and mortar exclusive cover) come bundled with a D&D Beyond Code.

Check in tomorrow for the rest of the adventures!

Images via Wizards of the Coast

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