What Do I Know About Reviews? Keys from the Golden Vault, Part Three (D&D 5e)
What the Hell, is it time for another heist? I think it may be time for another heist. Today, let’s take a look at The Stygian Gambit, the second-level adventure in the Keys from the Golden Vault anthology. The devil is in the details.
While our previous adventure had a few twists and turns and some surprise creatures showing up. This one is a more straightforward casino heist, so most of the spoilers are about security measures and the location of key items. I’m not going to get too granular in my analysis, but as with the previous blog entry, you may want to skip the rest of this if you are planning on being a player in a campaign that uses this adventure.
While the previous adventure involved stealing something to help stop a disaster and restore someone’s wrongfully smeared reputation, the offended party in this adventure is a little less angelic. Honestly, I’ll stop with the Hell puns, eventually.
Verity Kye is a tiefling spy whose gambling partner, a gnome named Quentin Togglepocket, double-crossed her, stole her money, and used it to build a casino that they were planning on building together. Verity wants the PCs to steal the golden statue that is the prize for a card tournament being run at the casino, as well as the original amount of money Quentin stole from Verity.
This setup isn’t quite as heroic sounding as the previous heist, but if you are using the Golden Vault as the group’s patron, Verity is an ally to the Golden Vault, so you’re keeping an ally happy by helping her.
Everything revolves around a casino that has been built inside a cavern. It sits on a waterway, and is only accessed by boats, next to a dangerous waterfall. This all fits the theme, because the casino is The Afterlife, and is styled after the Nine Hells. The boat carries you across the “River Styx” to a casino segmented into nine parts, with a staff consisting entirely of tieflings.
The structure of the previous adventure made it feel a little more obvious what route to take with that heist. In this case, the PCs are left to plan their own heist. That said, there are still several tropes associated with this adventure that should resonate with anyone familiar with the heist genre.
- There is a card tournament
- There is a potential counteroffer if the PCs get caught
- The casino has enough security that you can assume you always have eyes on you
- You need to get to the vault, as well as bring home the statue
Like the previous adventure, you have a time limit. In this case, it’s two days, because after the second night of the card tournament, there will be a winner that is awarded the statue that is half of what you have been hired to steal.
There is a list of casino patrons, as well as some quick personality sketches of the people in the card tournament. The employees are left undetailed, but there are plenty of locations where the DM is told exactly where various measures are that security uses to keep an eye on the team.
Most of the creatures the PCs will run into will be humanoids. There are a lot of tieflings in this adventure, due to the theme of the casino. The vault has its own animated undead guardian, so the combat PCs may get a chance to do what they do best after everything else in the heist has been buttoned down.
Unlike the previous adventure, there aren’t a lot of “added content” suggestions at the end of this adventure. Essentially, Verity is happy with them and pays them if they succeed, she may give them another job to do if they fail, and she fails to pay them and walks off really mad if they double-cross her. If the PCs are also working for the Golden Vault, the PCs can snag another uncommon magic item for their personal use.
I like this adventure, but with fewer guidelines as to what exactly the PCs should do in order to pull off the heist, I do worry that this one is going to be trickier of the group doesn’t already have a lot of heist tropes in mind. While I’m reading through this and thinking about causing diversions or finding a way to enter the card game tournament, or all kinds of other vectors, that may not be as evident to someone that hasn’t binge-watched Leverage or watched Logan Lucky multiple times.
It’s also a little strange that in multiple parts of the adventure, it mentions where security measures can be defeated with Dispel Magic, but this is an adventure for 2nd level characters. It might have been nice to add in some anti-security measures that didn’t require access to a 3rd level spell. It’s not that you can’t work around the security measures without Dispel Magic, it’s just that I’m not sure what the point of emphasizing that as a means of shutting them down serves.
If I were going to run this for a group that may not be very proactive in their planning, or that isn’t very savvy in the way of heists, I might give them a communication device where they can keep in contact with Verity during the heist. That way, she can serve as a means of nudging the PCs in a direction if they stall out.
All of that said, I love the atmosphere in this adventure. It’s a great setting, and I think that proactive players that are already into heist stories will have a lot of fun engaging with this scenario as something to solve.
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