I could not be more impressed with how much investment is being put into Dungeons and Dragons these days by its latest owner, Wizards of the Coast. I was a little bit skeptical at first when the company known mostly for its battle card game took the helm of the greatest role-playing game ever created (or at least one of the best, and certainly the first to achieve mainstream success). But they have done a lot with the game, especially over the past few years following the launch of the much more accessible fifth edition rules.
Variety is the spice of life, and D&D is growing to accommodate just about any flavor of role playing adventure gaming and any type of campaign. Over the past couple years or so, we have seen a lighthearted original adventure into the fey realm with The Wild Beyond The Witchlight: A Feywild Adventure campaign, a revamp of the Ravenloft horror setting with Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft and adventures in deep space and other planes with the remade Spelljammer: Adventures in Space campaign setting and its three-book set of associated materials and adventures.
Suffice to say, there seems to be something for everyone in the D&D universe these days, alongside more traditional titles filled with, well dungeons and dragons.
Which brings us to the latest release into this campaign world, the Keys From The Golden Vault book. The new release contains 13 adventures designed for characters from levels one to 11, all centered around some form of heist, theft or otherwise covert operation which is decidedly not within the law. However, to make it so that Keys From The Golden Vault is not just a playground for evil characters, many of the missions can be undertaken for so-called good reasons. For example, the very first introductory mission for low-level characters involves stealing a gem from a museum protected by a lot of security. However, the gem is actually the egg of an eldritch horror, and if that gem is not retrieved and neutralized by midnight, it will hatch and cause a lot of death and destruction. That way there is still a heist, but even a lawful good character might be able to participate for the good of everyone involved.
That concept of “stealing for good” is actually at the heart of the entire Keys From The Golden Vault book. You might be surprised to learn that The Golden Vault is not a treasure repository at all, but instead an organization supposedly run by metallic dragons who operate a shadowy network of thieves and other operatives that go on heists in the name of good. Player characters who get involved with the organization are given a fancy music box, and every so often are sent a golden key which triggers a mission briefing when inserted into that box. Thereupon the key destructs Mission Impossible style whether or not the players choose to accept the mission. In addition to just the key and the briefing, players are normally also assigned a handler who helps them out, provides additional information and even sometimes acquires specific gear that players might need for the heist like grappling hooks or healing potions.
Dungeon masters can run an entire campaign set around the heists, with their players forming a “crew” more than an adventuring party. And because the adventures in the book start off easy and get more challenging, it can be fun as the party of expert thieves grow and earn new levels and skills. Each adventure is also written with enough openness to ensure that they can be dropped into almost any campaign as a standalone adventure too, so if a DM simply wants to change things up with a single heist mission without doing an entire thieving-centered campaign, then Keys From The Golden Vault works fine for that as well. DMs could also forgo the whole “thieving for good” theme and simply use the heists as missions for greedy players if they so choose, because for good or ill, most of the heists presented are fairly lucrative – especially if players opt to use their sticky fingers to obtain things beyond just the targeted object in each adventure.
Each of the 13 heists presented follow a standard format so that it’s easy for DMs to understand everything that is going on and how to run the adventure. The players generally follow the same general pattern as well, making each heist adventure surprisingly easy to both run and play. For example, while there are some variations, each heist generally has four stages: the briefing, the planning component (which might include physically scouting the location or otherwise gathering information about the target), executing the heist and then finally the resolution.
Most heists have interesting complications or opportunities built into them to give players the opportunity to think on their feet, but there are also two suggestions for complications that can be inserted into any heist for an additional challenge. The first universal complication is that the target or object the party is trying to acquire has been moved, so it’s not where they planned or thought it would be located. The book gives suggestions about how and why the object has been moved, and how the party might discover the new location. The second, and much more interesting, universal complication is that a rival heist crew is trying to pull off the same heist at the same time. The game book explains ways that players can deal with the rival crew, and also ways to put that crew ahead or behind the players in the race for the heist objectives.
There is a great variety of quests available that range from traditional heists where players are trying to break into a museum or manor house, to a prison break type of adventure, and even a great train robbery. So, there is more than enough to keep players happy and interested. Even if groups undertake multiple heist scenarios, each one in the book is so unique that they will keep things interesting.
Like most of the recently released D&D campaign type books, Keys From The Golden Vault comes in two cover variants. The first features a cartoon like action sequence and looks pretty nice. The second is more art-like, (and expensive to buy) featuring a golden design that looks kind of like the front of a bank vault. The artists for the two covers are Anna Podedworna and Simen Meyer.
Role-playing groups looking for something different or dungeon masters who want to provide their players with exciting heist-like adventures should look no further than the new Keys From The Golden Vault supplement. Heist movies like the Ocean’s Eleven series are wildly popular, and bringing that level of excitement to players, especially in a D&D setting, lets them actually experience the adventure of pulling off a heist first-hand instead of merely watching it on-screen.
Keys From The Golden Vault is a surprising but fun new supplement that can be dropped into any existing D&D game, or act as the centerpiece for a fully heist-centered campaign. Either way, for the amount of unique content provided, Keys From The Golden Vault is quite a steal, and one that you won’t need to participate in a heist to obtain.