What Do I Know About Reviews? Keys from the Golden Vault, Part Six (D&D 5e)
Time for another heist? Yeah, I think it’s time for another heist. This time around we’re going to look at Tockworth’s Clockworks, an adventure designed for characters of 5th level. This is one of two 5th-level adventures in the anthology, so if you are level-up players after each heist, you may want to either hold off until you play both 5th-level heists or potentially only run one of the two in a campaign.
You know the drill by now, unless you skipped directly to this part of the review. I’m going to be looking at a few specific parts of the adventure, and while I may not give away every twist and turn, there are likely to be some secrets that are unearthed. If you plan on being a player in this adventure, you may want to find the right cave system to scurry off into until it’s time to play.
As with most of the adventures so far, you can be directly recruited by the person who has a job for you, or you can be recruited by the Golden Vault and be directed to that person, depending on if you are using the Golden Vault as a patron for the crew.
One thing that may complicate matters is that the job is in a deep gnome town in the Underdark. While the adventure mentions that the mayor of Little Lockford will hire adventurers to shut down the automatons making the town unsafe, it doesn’t really talk about where the mayor would encounter the PCs, so if they aren’t in an Underdark adjacent area or have Underdark contacts, it might be harder for the mayor to contact them.
If they are recruited by the Golden Vault, there is an additional section where the PCs may have encounters ranging from interesting to dangerous as they journey to the location where the gnomes of Little Lockford have evacuated.
The adventure takes place in a deep gnome town in the Underdark. The town has it’s share of magma floes, electrical cables, and steam machinery. There is also a cave mouth that leads into the mines and deeper Underdark where monsters may come to harass the town.
Most of this adventure would be a more straightforward D&D adventure if it weren’t for the vault that the PCs need to crack in order to get the key that will shut down the town’s automatons. There are some fun ways to get around town without being noticed, that I feel have some heist-adjacent vibes to them, such as riding the smelting buckets to different parts of town.
While the PCs need to crack the safe, the mechanics for cracking the safe mainly consist of a DC for trying to do it fast, and a DC for doing it while taking your time. There isn’t really a mechanized clock running against the PCs in the adventure. In addition to the DC to open the vault, there is a command word to open it without setting off an alarm spell, and the adventure notes that the vault can be opened with a knock spell.
The automatons are running wild because of a gnome, Tixie Tockworth, who is slowly turning herself into a machine, and decided to run off the rest of the town. The PCs can find a rival of hers still in the town, who has a burrowing machine that can be used to get from point A to point B underground.
In addition to Tixie’s rival, there is also a member of the clergy trapped in a temple, as well as a pair of goblinoid prisoners who have broken free, a goblin and a bugbear, who haven’t managed to find a way out of town.
There are lots of constructs in this adventure. In addition to the constructs that have the town on lockdown, there are some potential aberrations and plants wandering in from the Underdark, and the above-mentioned goblin prisoners.
The PCs get treasure worth 5000 gp if they complete this task, as well as three magic items, two of which require attunement, all of which are uncommon. If the PCs are working for the Golden Vault, they also get a rare magic item. Look at all that magic our crew is picking up in this campaign!
I admit it, I enjoyed Army of the Dead, so infiltrating a dangerous town that has been evacuated works for me as a heist setup. I just wish there was more to the safecracking than the adventure gives us. I wish it wasn’t just a single check to open it up. I would even be okay with using knock to open the safe, if maybe there had been separate sections to the safe and the knock spell only opens one section per casting.
It almost feels like the goblin and the bugbear, as well as the villain Toxie, could have had more interesting roleplaying hooks added to them. Toxie’s referencing her imaginary friend alone makes me feel like maybe we should have gotten a chance to redeem her. We get some tantalizing details, and some sad connotations about her loneliness, but not really a good reason for her to want to cyborg herself. As presented, I feel kind of bad using her as a disposable villain instead of someone to help.
The descriptions of the town, with all of the moving around on the slag buckets, and the potential for zooming around under the town with the tunneling device all sound like a lot of fun. I also like the idea that there is an area of the town where the PCs can visualize all of the bridges that can be moved around if they do get some grand notion of how to open up and shut down sections of the settlement.
But I just keep coming back to wanting that safe to be more interesting to crack, and wanting an implicit means of saving Tixie.
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