D&D 5E D&D Beyond Reveals New Golden Vault Details

Over on D&D Beyond you can read more about Keys from the Golden Vault, including information on 3 of the 13 adventures, the Golden Vault organization itself, and an overview of how the heist adentures within work.


Four of the adventures include:
  • The Stygian Gambit (for 2nd-level adventurers): Case a Nine Hells-themed casino and steal the prize for the Three-Dragon Ante tournament that's currently taking place.
  • Prisoner 13 (for 4th-level adventurers): Infiltrate a remote prison in the tundra of Icewind Dale and extract information from an inmate.
  • Vidorant’s Vault (for 7th-level adventurers): Break into the safe of a renowned thief, bypassing its many security features en route.
  • Fire and Darkness (for 11th-level adventurers): Navigate the grim fortress of an efreeti and retrieve an artifact of unimaginable evil, the Book of Vile Darkness.

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D&D is really a different game at high levels. But it is a game where high entities, including gods, get imprisoned. High level breakouts and heists can be done, but they are not going to look anything like what comes to mind when most people hear "heist" or "prison breakout." At this point, WotC really needs to put out an adventure + guide for tier 4 play. I run high level 5e games, but it is a lot of work and I can understand why most games never go above 15th level and many stop at around 10th. Once you have parties running around polymorphed as dragons, with similacrum's, their own created golems, and access to Wish — it is a very different game.
Most games don’t go above 10th level or 15th level if they’re lucky because of time, not because of the rules. You’re talking multi year commitments that most groups can’t pull off or people get burnt out on the same type of game or they’re playing, due to how 5e was marketed, official adventures that end at 15th level and then pick up the next one. I’d like to see the average length of time a group meets but Critical Role for example meets every week for 4 hours and takes 3 years to get to about 14th level but they get paid. My group has played 2 years now but we’ve played Theros, Starfinder (level 6) and now DCC for 5 months and about to hit level 2 (every other week, 3 hours, missed 3 sessions and had a baby causing some missed sessions too). So it’s really a variety of factors beyond difficult to create high level adventures. I don’t think we need WOTC to write anything to tell us how to do something. That was the problem with 3.x.

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What would you do to change it?
I would change pretty much the entire setup and I would very definitely not have this supposedly good-guy prison (structural ACAB but whatever) be the target, nor would I make it so that if things went wrong, the most likely scenario was 70+ CR3 monsters rapidly descending on the players.

I would keep Prisoner 13 however. She can stay.
Safer? I'll admit to not having a lot of experience with OSR, but there is a lot more save-or-suck situations.
Definitely safer, yes. OSRs often have sake-or-suck stuff, what they don't tend to have is "Unless DMs runs this extremely well and the players follow the plan closely, it will be a TPK or equivalent thereof". You were, imho very incorrectly suggesting a newer DM would have an easier time with this than with some random OSR adventure or whatever. I could not agree less. Most OSR stuff, it's like, things tend to be isolated - screwing up in one room doesn't usually screw the whole dungeon. There's no massive super-alarm the controls the whole place. There's no precise plan the DM has to convince the players to follow, and so on.

So if we had a newbie DM and was running this with a bunch of new/new-ish D&D players, vs. a newbie DM running some 3PP OSR-ish 5E dungeon aimed at a similar level group (L4) with a bunch of new/new-ish D&D players, I would say, and we repeated this experiment, say 100x, then I'd expect to see massively more TPKs or equivalent in this dungeon. It wouldn't even be a comparison.


Yeah, more accurate to say that it can be rules light. You can simply play with the free basic rules. Even the PHB without feats isn't that heavy, it is mostly the classes and spells that add to the heft.

But compared to Index Card RPG, Dread, InSPECTREs, Hackmaster...yeah, D&D is far crunchier. For folks that have been playing TTRPGs for 30 years, they may forget how daunting D&D can be for new players.
Building on this, perhaps we tend to underestimate just how much information we veterans take for granted. I get kids who honestly have nothing but the vaguest idea of what D&D is. It takes them awhile just to tell the different dice apart. And in order to get through their first session, they have to wrap their heads around some conceptually abstract ideas, such as hit points, attack rolls, and saving throws. Spell DCs always cause confusion. The action economy often confuses veteran players, let alone newbies (see some of the threads on this sub-forum). And that's before we get into the spell lists.

None of these things is particularly difficult by itself (well, maybe the way spells interact with action economy). But in aggregate, it really adds up!

Conversely, I can teach (and have taught) Dread to a group of 20 high school students in less than two minutes.

As a rule of thumb, I think that if it has an index, it probably isn't "rules lite."

Going back to the thread topic, it looks like Golden Vault is building on D&D's complexity by adding some new heist-related mechanics. Cool!

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