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

330596_INTRO—HEIST PLANNING_ Art by Alexandre HonoréBack into Keys from the Golden Vault we go. The next adventure,  Masterpiece Imbroglio, is also for 5th-level characters, so in campaign play, you have the option of only using one of the 5th-level adventures, or using both of them and maybe making sure the PCs are happy playing at 5th level for two adventures.

Spoiler Warning

As with all the other adventures in this anthology, I’m going to be looking at some of the story beats and general structural elements. I won’t be revealing everything, but it might be enough that you’ll pick up some spoilers. If you are planning on playing through this adventure with a character, you may want to skip the rest of this post (but feel free to find some other blog posts to read, I’m not too proud to ask for that).

The Hook

Beyond working with the Golden Vault and having this heist assigned to the crew as a mission, there are a few other hooks. In this case, since the PCs will be trying to retrieve a magical painting on behalf of the Cognoscenti Esoterica, the PCs may be looking for some obscure knowledge that only the organization can answer, with the retrieved painting being the cost of knowledge.

One of the PCs may already owe a favor to someone in the Cognoscenti Esoterica, which I like, but feels more substantial if this is set up before the beginning of this adventure.

My favorite hook is that the PCs have already had a history with the Agile Hand, the thieves guild tha stole the painting from the Cognoscenti Esoterica, and they want to steal the painting to settle some scores with their rivals.

The Setting

Most of the action in this adventure takes place in a town that, at minimum, includes a secluded barn, a local tavern, and the Agile Hand guild house itself. This setup means that you only really need a location that is large enough to have a thieves guild, but maybe not large enough to have a multitude of them.

Heist Tropes

You need to steal a painting back from the Agile Hand. The word is that they will be selling the painting within a few days, so the PCs should feel some time pressure. The guild house itself has a training course and plenty of locks and traps scattered around.

Probably the biggest heist trope is that this adventure doesn’t push the PCs in the direction of any specific plan. They talk to a captured guild member to get some information, including the map of the thieves guild, and they also find out that one of the guild members might also be caught unaware outside of the guild house.

The adventure doesn’t posit any particular plan, but it does have several sections where you get some “what ifs,” like “if the PCs set this on fire,” or “the walls in this area are largely soundproof.” The PCs can do reconnaissance, attempt to capture another guild member, cause a distraction, or any number of other things to get into the guild house.

One very helpful aspect of all of this is that there is a chart that shows who shows up from where if an alarm is raised in the guild house. There are several places where PCs may be able to get into small-scale skirmishes, but plowing through the front door like Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser on a revenge mission is going to draw a lot of aggro.


I am absolutely in love with all of the guild member names. The names in this adventure are so good for conveying the feel of people that are part of this kind of crew. Not only do you get names for all of the major movers and shakers in the guild, but you also get a list of names that you can use if you need to pick out a name for random members that the PCs decide to interrogate in the course of the adventure.

I also love some of the things that are included that are only lightly touched on in the narrative, like the Cognoscenti Esoterica being an organization that does like to gather magical things and obscure knowledge, but may not be nearly as important as their title makes them sound.


Most of the creatures in this adventure are humanoids, with some swarms and animated skeletons to round things out. However, as befits an important thieves guild, a few of the guild members are shapechangers (a doppelganger and an oni), which could surprise the PCs if they underestimate their humanoid opponents. Also, the painting itself is actually a sentient magic item that can be set to perform security tasks by its current owner.

After Action

This adventure has several layers of resolution. If the PCs recover the painting, they receive one reward, but they can also turn over a ledger held by one of the guild leaders for some extra gold pieces, and if they uncover the fact that the guild has a spy in the Cognoscenti Esoterica, they get another reward (a set of sending stones).

The Golden Vault offers them . . . wait for it . . . a rare magic item. Honestly, the fact that they might double up on rare magic items if they play both 5th-level adventures may play into your decision to run both. It already looks to be a magic reward-heavy campaign, but then again, how much harm can that one little rare magic item do to a campaign?

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