Keys From the Golden Vault Is the Best D&D Anthology for One Sneaky Reason

2023’s first official sourcebook will make you better at role-playing.

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dnd keys from the golden vault heist
Wizards of the Coast / Anna Pavleeva

Your mission, should you choose to accept it — and you will accept it — is to play a Dungeons & Dragons adventure that isn’t just another combat-heavy meat grinder.

Many D&D adventure books focus on a gauntlet of battles for low-level characters connected by plot threads to level up fast. (In D&D, all or most of your experience comes from defeating enemies.) It’s an easy way to play for Dungeon Masters and players alike. Publisher Wizards of the Coast’s first big release of 2023, however, emphasizes creative teamwork and role-playing more than usual.

Keys From the Golden Vault features 13 short heist-themed adventures ranging from Level 1 to 11 that emphasize a variety of mechanics to ensure players rely on their non-combat skills.

What’s in Keys From the Golden Vault in under 8 minutes.

“Combat prowess is less important when sneaking through a guarded complex,” the module’s intro reads, “whereas stealth, skill with locks, social skills, clever problem-solving, and versatile character abilities will shine.” The new module — released February 21, 2023 — also has some interesting tie-ins to the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves movie that make it one of the publisher’s more compelling releases in recent memory.

Plot Hook

The titular Golden Vault is a secretive organization aimed at righting moral wrongs no matter the cost, even if that means operating outside the law. D&D fans might liken the Golden Vault to something like the Harpers, and rumors indicate it has some connections to metallic dragons (the good ones).

Most previews and even official materials reference inspiration from Oceans 11, but there are clear nods to stories like National Treasure, Casino Royale, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, and many more. Mission Impossible is probably the most obvious source of inspiration for one reason alone.

This hand-drawn map for “The Stygian Heist” can be provided to players, but what might it get wrong?

Wizards of the Coast / Mike Schley

An NPC serves as your crew’s handler, offering guidance and advice, and each mission is given to you via your magical Golden Vault music box. Various keys unlock pre-recorded messages with all the details of your assigned heist, which is pretty similar to how Ethan Hunt gets every assignment.

These Golden Vault messages may not self-destruct upon receipt, but the spy vibe persists.

You’ve got galas to infiltrate, high-stakes casino games, a prison break, and even a magical train escorting a dangerous prisoner. Hand-drawn maps complete with arrows detailing the ideal path and sparse notes like “alarms?” are available to players, adding a sense of authenticity to the experience — especially when they’re incorrect or incomplete. In every case, players have to plan and execute the heist by tracking down a moving MacGuffin and dealing with whatever problems come their way.

Who Is It For?

Dungeon Masters who struggle to come up with challenges or puzzles unrelated to combat will find so much excellent stuff in here. 2021’s Candlekeep Mysteries and 2022’s Journeys through the Radiant Citadel took a similar anthologized approach with collections of short, self-contained adventures that can fit seamlessly into any campaign. If you liked either of those books, then Golden Vault is a must-buy.

Whereas Candlekeep focused on stories linked to the titular library and Radiant Citadel focused on the various cultures that make up the multiversal hub city, Golden Vault doesn’t offer much connectivity between its various stories. In theory, a DM could ignore the Golden Vault organization entirely and just present their players with the music box, and off they go on one of these adventures. Or, you could just string the various adventures together to create a heist-filled campaign.

A game of Three-Dragon Ante takes place during the heist called “The Stygian Gambit,” which is set in a casino.

Wizards of the Coast / Andrew Mar

In any case, even smaller mechanics and resources are worthwhile. The casino heist, for example, details how to play the Three-Dragon Ante card game using dice with dire consequences for anyone caught cheating.

The Good

The “Rival Crew” concept is one of this book’s most interesting mechanics — and one that belongs in every campaign. Streamlined personality quirks and motivations enhance the crew’s backstories, and there are even easy references for stat blocks the DM can use. Each specific heist also offers potential motivations tied into each specific story. Maybe the party has to defeat their Rival Crew in combat or bribe them to leave while you’re standing in front of the priceless artifact you’re both trying to steal.

Speaking of artifacts: Many of the rewards for these heists are excellent, such as a sentient painting that remembers every detail it ever hears. Similarly, whether the setting is a gala or a casino, each adventure has interesting NPCs the DM can use, along with various tables full of complications. One of the more intriguing is the Suspicion mechanic in the prison break-in heist, which functions like Wanted level in the Grand Theft Auto video games. The more commotion you make, the guards and warden get more suspicious and double up on patrols, don armor, and prepare for mayhem.

The Honor Among Thieves

Revel’s End is featured in the heist “Prisoner 13,” but also in the upcoming film Honor Among Thieves.

Wizards of the Coast / Kent Davis

The Level 4 adventure “Prisoner 13” sees the players infiltrate a dangerous cliffside prison called Revel’s End. While the location was introduced in 2020’s Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, the location was created for the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves film.

“We’ve worked with the filmmakers since the beginning, which is why we were able to have the in-game connections we do,” D&D Executive Producer Kyle Brink tells Inverse. “In this case, a heist book was a great game idea all on its own that also fits well with the film, and the inclusion of Revel’s End was a direct result of my team working closely with the filmmakers early.”

At some point in the film (based on the trailers, anyway), the movie’s main group gets sent to an icy prison, which is the very same prison from the “Prisoner 13” heist.

Is It Worth It?

Absolutely. Every campaign could use more variety, and these capers offer a wide array of plot hooks and heists. Even homebrew enthusiasts will find a lot of clever details tucked away inside Keys From the Golden Vault, whether you want to incorporate some body horror, gambling, incarceration, or just your run-of-the-mill museum theft.

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