What Do I Know About Reviews, Keys from the Golden Vault, Part Thirteen (D&D 5e)
We’ve finally come to the end, the final adventure in this anthology, Fire and Darkness. Suitably, the PCs get to attempt to steal something famous. In this case, they will be sneaking into an efreeti warlord’s fortress, past fiends and dragons, to steal the Book of Vile Darkness. This final adventure in the anthology is for 11th-level characters.
You might be able to piece together way more of the structure of this adventure if you keep reading. So if you are going to be a player in this adventure, you should do what you would do if you see the Book of Vile Darkness itself and quit reading!
In addition to just sending the PCs their customary key if they are working for the Golden Vault, there are three additional hooks that you can use to offer the job to the player characters.
- A human leader living near the efreeti’s fortress is contacted by an Arcanololth working for the genie, and brings this information to the PCs in an effort to weaken the power of the efreeti warlord.
- A member of The Fated, a faction based out of the city of Sigil, is concerned about the efreeti having the Book of Vile Darkness as a resource, and they wish to hire the PCs to steal the book so they can guard it.
- A warlock that once had the arcanoloth as her patron has learned about the book and wants to prove that she has reformed by offering the information to the player characters.
When they get the job, they also get a copy of a map of Brimstone Fortress, smuggled out by the arcanoloth.
This adventure takes place in a remote location near a volcano, mainly within the general environs of the efreeti’s fortress. While it isn’t explicitly stated, the efreeti secured the Book of Vile Darkness from cultists that were attempting to raise a dead dragon as a dracolich, which is a pretty good excuse to use the setting that has an established cult of dragon-worshipping cultists that specialize in creating dracoliches, the Cult of the Dragon in the Forgotten Realms.
The PCs are left wide open for how they want to attempt this heist, but they can time their entrance into the fortress to coincide with a Cambion merchant that regularly visits. While it’s not the happiest trope from the PCs standpoint, the Erinyes guards at the fortress can see through magical disguises.
The efreeti maintains a prison in the fortress, and there is the opportunity for the old “prison riot distraction” to be employed. In addition to this, there is a prisoner that the PCs can befriend that can help as yet another distraction.
It’s also a pretty solid recurring trope that the most valuable thing that the villain owns is stored in their own quarters, and that is the case here as well, complete with a dangerous decoy of the book and an advanced security system around the vault. In this case, the vault being a demiplane.
Additionally, if the PCs meet up with the arcanoloth that smuggled the information out of the fortress, they are more than happy to tag along and help the PCs, but they are also waiting to double-cross the PCs. The arcanoloth is bound by contract not to steal anything from his employer, but if the PCs steal the Book of Vile Darkness, it’s perfectly okay to steal the book from the thieves.
The DM also has the option of using the “surprise, the villain is actually at home” trope, since the villain’s schedule is erratic and he could show up at the fortress at any time, and uses plane shift to arrive. That makes it harder to predict his presence, and easier to use as a twist to complicate a heist that’s going along too well.
We get some personality details for the efreeti second in command of the fortress, the arcanoloth administrator, the dragon watching the skies over the fortress, several of the prisoners, and a few quirks about the staff that works in the fortress as well. I like that even though it’s not part of the mission, the PCs can ensure that the prisoners willing to riot actually pull off their jailbreak (even though they only need to come back and encourage them to riot a second time to accomplish this). I also like being able to befriend an ogre that just wants its doll back.
The fortress’ guards include a red dragon and several different fiends. There are duergar staff, and salamander troops working as muscle. The merchant, his crew, and the prisoners are all humanoids, except for the aforementioned potential ogre friend. The administrative and residential area includes a beholder and some golems. I’ll give you three guesses about what the false book is. Overall, this is a nice variety of different creatures.
If one of the PCs is silly enough to try to attune to the Book of Vile Darkness, it may be more difficult to turn it over to a faction like the Golden Vault or the Fated to watch over it. If the adventurers manage to avoid doing something silly like attuning to one of the evilest books in the multiverse, their rewards will vary based on who employed them.
- A stronghold and a retinue if they work for the local leader
- An Amulet of the Planes if they work for the Fated
- A reward from the Blessings section of the DMG if they work for the halfling seeking redemption
The Golden Vault offers the PCs a magic item, but in this case, it’s a very rare magic item, which makes sense when you just stole an artifact for them.
I’m pretty happy with this adventure, and it’s a suitably epic wrap-up for a campaign, if you use the anthology in that manner. Stealing an artifact from a warlord from another plane of existence is definitely worth some bragging rights.
I was a little surprised when the cultists weren’t outright named as belonging to the Cult of the Dragon, but I was also a little surprised that they didn’t associate the cult with Vecna, given how strongly 5e lore has been tying him to the Book of Vile Darkness. I mean, he’s even got a built-in carrying case in his ribcage for the thing.
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