What Do I Know About Reviews? Keys from the Golden Vault, Part Two (D&D 5E)

330596_INTRO—HEIST PLANNING_ Art by Alexandre HonoréNow that we’ve taken a look at the introduction to this anthology, let’s start digging into individual adventures. Today we’re going to look at The Murkmire Malevolence, an adventure that is geared toward first-level adventurers.

Spoiler Warning and Content Warning

I’m not going to go into deep spoilers, but even touching on some of the initial planning phases of the heist might reveal too much for some players. You may want to avoid the rest of this article if you are planning on engaging with this material as a player.

The main content warning I would point out is the potential interaction with a creepy doll, as well as some material that gets into long, segmented insect territory. Make sure you check in with everybody and tweak the details accordingly.

The Hook

If PCs are working for the Golden Vault, as introduced in the previous section, the hook is pretty simple. They get a Golden Key, their music box reads them the details of their next mission, and they are directed toward their NPC contact that wishes to hire them.

If they aren’t members of the Golden Vault, the adventure lets you know that someone in the party should be familiar with Dr. Cassee Dannell, an academic that has fallen out of favor at the Varkenbluff Museum of Natural History. She needs the PCs to steal something from the museum, not only to help her clear her name, but so she can neutralize the threat of the object.

The Setting

This adventure takes place in Varkenbluff, which to the best of my knowledge is not a pre-existing location in any current D&D setting. Varkenbluff, as presented, feels more modern than a lot of D&D locations, except perhaps somewhere like Sharn in Eberron or Ravnica. A lot of the modern elements are still couched in magic.

Without giving away too many details, the museum has what feels like very modern locations like a gift shop or a cafeteria, and the affiliated university seems to be structured in a way that mimics modern academic facilities. 

The Location

Most of this adventure is going to revolve around different areas in the museum. The museum itself has two floors and a basement, and the action can take place while the museum is open, as well as after dark.

Heist Tropes

As the introduction mentioned, this adventure does provide the PCs with a map right off the bat, as the scholar that is hiring the crew worked at the facility. Despite this, she doesn’t know things like where the alarms are set, guard patrols, or where the keys to shut off the various alarms and traps are located.

There is a gala to unveil the object that the PCs need to steal, which gives them an opportunity to scout the location while undercover. The gala lasts from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, and this is all-important, because the heist absolutely has to finish up by 12:00 Midnight, and at 10:30, complications arise.

For a first-level adventure, this is a solid overlap of low-level exploration and a museum heist. A lot of the action is going to revolve around finding alarms, avoiding guards, and making sure that none of the things that can animate to cause problems will animate.

There was a section that I thought was a “false location” twist, where a similar object can be found, but it’s actually part of a puzzle that the PCs may need to solve to be able to take the item and leave the museum.


This adventure gives you details both on guests at the gala that you might speak with, as well as quick personality sketches for the guards. In addition, there are some rumors that your characters can overhear that may or may not be relevant to pointing the PCs to different locations when they attempt an after-hours theft.


Most of the creatures you will encounter will be humanoids, either gala guests, museum officials, or guards. However, there are also a few constructs in the mix as well. I don’t want to spoil anything but think of the kinds of things that could be an animatronic museum exhibit, and you might get the idea. I also like that said creature has the means to shut it down outside of just battering it to zero hit points.

After Action

There are a few nice hooks that you can add to this adventure that are detailed at the end, such as helping the academic clear her name once she can present the evidence that she is correct, rooting out corruption in the museum, or trading down similar objects and helping to neutralize the threats presented by those objects as well.

The PCs get paid fairly well by the academic (for 1st level characters), but if they are working for the Golden Vault, that reward can jump up to an uncommon magic item. Read very carefully, because I believe the intent is just that, an uncommon magic item, for the crew as a whole.


I like this adventure quite a bit. It has a lot of the tropes you would expect to come up in a museum heist, especially a museum heist in a world where magic and the supernatural exist. My biggest concern is that you have some important things start happening at 10:30, with a hard limit at Midnight, but there isn’t really much in the adventure to help remind someone to keep track of time, or any tools to help shorthand the process beyond trying to keep the PCs acting in rounds continuously.