What Do I Know About Reviews? Keys from the Golden Vault, Part Ten (D&D 5e)
This next adventure is categorized in the description as a “reverse heist,” and if you have read through Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, the location of this adventure might be familiar. Shard of the Accursed is the first of two 8th-level adventures presented in this anthology.
As with the other adventures I’m looking at, you may find out more than you bargained for if you stick around to read this summary. While I’m not going to detail every little section of the adventure, it’s probably best if players avoid the rest of this section of the review.
Okay, there are a few different aspects to this hook. If you aren’t working for The Golden Vault, you may get the Shard of Xeluan, the object that needs to be reverse “heisted,” from one of two sources.
One potential source is a member of a trade organization that has acquired the object and wants something with the item’s reputation put to rest in the tomb from which it came. The other potential source is a hobgoblin wizard and scholar who picked it up as an oddity in the market, then did some research and realized that it may need to be returned to where it came from.
If you work for The Golden Vault, they send you the shard with your key, and send you to speak with a Tabaxi playwright that knows more of the history of the item. This is the same character that either one of the above contacts will also send the PCs to see.
However, once you 1. Get the shard and 2. Talk to the playwright, you then end up 3. talking to the mayor of the town, who gives you the final information that you need to start actually planing and executing the reverse heist.
The town of Oztocan and its environs is the setting for this adventure, which, unlike most of the previous adventures in this anthology, places it in an established D&D setting location. This time, that location is in the One Flint Sierras mountain range south of San Citlan in the Radiant Citadel setting. Most of the action is going to be taking place in an excavation outside of the town.
This is a “reverse heist,” which means the PCs are sneaking into a location to return an item. That is a trope that comes up from time to time in heist stories, but as presented this is another adventure that feels like it could have gone into a sourcebook that didn’t feature heists and still feel like a pretty solid example of the type of job that D&D adventurers often perform.
That said, like just about every other adventure in this anthology, the PCs receive a map to help them plan their infiltration, and they have multiple ways of approaching their stealth infiltration of the excavation site. They have the opportunity to disguise themselves as workers at the site, or using the ventilation shafts to sneak in without a disguise.
There is a lot to learn about the giant Xeluan, whose body is being excavated for a rare material that can boost spellcasting ability, and the giant’s connection to an adventuring band that were his friends, and build the tomb around him when his body was petrified saving the region.
Local politics as well as the familial relationship between the mayor and his sister, the leader of a local criminal organization, also play into the storyline, as does the family history of the sister’s deceased lover, who is integral in resolving the situation once the PCs make their way to the petrified giant’s body.
There are humanoid guards and members of the criminal organization, myconids, shambling mounds, a clay golem, doppelgangers that take the form of their boss to help her make her escape, an invisible stalker, wraiths, and a ghost.
If the PCs got the job offer outside of the Golden Vault, they might score a suit of elven chain or a necklace of prayer beads. While the playwright Leandro and Tavio, the mayor, are invested in fixing the situation, neither one contributes anything to the PCs if they succeed. So keep your eyes open for what you can steal from the criminal syndicate in charge of the tomb excavation, the Onyx Scar.
The Golden Vault delivers their standard magic item as payment. This time around, the rarity for the item is set to rare.
Regarding the opening hooks, it really feels a little redundant to have the PCs get the mission, go to one person for information, then go see another person for information before the mission starts. Especially since Leandro has information that he doesn’t want to share, but Tavio is likely to volunteer. It feels like The Golden Vault could easily send the PCs to Leandro and Tavio together, since they are friends.
While you could consider this a “twist,” the fact that the PCs may find out that they can’t restore the shard of the giant’s heart to the rest of his heart without the presence of the ghost who originally broke his heart may be a little frustrating, especially once they also find that the souls of the giant’s friends have been trapped and they have to make sure to gather those items and bring them to the giant’s petrified body as well.
I actually really like the narrative that the PCs eventually discover, that the Onyx Scar attempted to excavate material from the giant’s body, which was indestructible, but because one of the people helping the Onyx Scar was a descended of the giant’s friends, his participation literally broke the giant’s heart and made the giant’s body harvestable. It’s a nice story element.
I wish there were a little more of a head’s up that the PCs might need to do something special inside the tomb other than just returning the shard, as well as getting some advanced warning that maybe some of the magical experimentation which leads to the souls being trapped is going on at all.
I am a fan of returning to San Citlan as a setting, and honestly, if you aren’t planning on using this “reverse heist” as part of a Golden Vault campaign, this isn’t a bad adventure to slide into your exploration of the Radiant Citadel, giving you an additional 8th level adventure for that campaign.
Pingback: Routinely Itemised: RPGs #193