D&D 5E Revel's End... magi-tech that jumps the shark!


From a worldbuilding point of view, what doesn't make sense about the Forgotten Realms is how come there isn't far more of this stuff, since the setting is crammed full of massively powerful spellcasters.
It is more of an inequality problem, just like real world. You have places like Halruaa or Thay that magic is everywhere, or basically live in dirt (or ice) like Icewind dale.

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Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
That was based on a Hollywood romantic idea of knights in shining armour history that was already going out of fashion when D&D was created in the 1970s. It's not surprising it's pretty much dead by now.
Yes. Cat people with laser tails for the more grounded/historical win!

In all seriousness, there were medieval arms and armor. I am not advocating for “knights in shining armor” per se.

It’s a taste thing—-so ymmv but I don’t find the newer art direction to be to my liking.

Edit: Thanks to the discourse below, I realized that I missed that Revel's End was previously covered in Rime of the Frostmaiden, and that almost all of the issues I have with its portrayal in Keys From the Golden Vault already existed verbatim in that previous publication. That doesn't really change my opinion, but I do want to acknowledge that this means it's not a Golden Vault issue.

I was excited for Golden Vault's promise of 13 heist scenarios, but after perusing the 'Prisoner 13' scenario on D&D Beyond, I fear not only for the quality of this product, but for the fate of D&D's interpretation of fantasy gaming as I know and love it. Granted, I'm getting long in the tooth, but this is getting ridiculous.

My observations require spoilers, so:
You can't just slap an 'it's magic!' label on everything and still hope to maintain some verisimilitude and continuity. Yes, I am aware of Clarke's quote ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”), but that doesn't work in reverse... high technology concepts shouldn't be inserted into fantasy and then just accepted as magic.'Prisoner 13's' egregious violations of this include:
1. A quest monologue shamelessly stolen from 'Mission: Impossible.' (OK, that's not a direct magic-tech issue, but it paves the way.)
2. A holographic interactive map that shows patrol routes and unlocks doors
3. Prolific and convenient continual flames, magical heating, arcane locks, and anti-magic fields
4. A surveillance hub with what is essentially a computer console that controls gates, doors, and a public address system.
These aren't magic, this is unjustifiable technology that is anachronistic (even in the context of the FR) hiding behind a cheap label of 'magic.'
It's lazy.

I feel the same effects could have been accomplished while honoring magic as magic. How about a small staff of wizards using scrying and a crystal ball for surveillance? And the wizards have to cast and dispel their arcane locks?
Anyway, this is just another step in D&D moving from fantasy to heroic fantasy to fantasy superheroes to now science fiction without lasers. Ugh.
To me what this says is that they've actually done a little world building using the D&D rules and haven't decided that wizard hats should all have the letter D painted on them.

If we look at the spells Arcane Lock and Continual Flame we find the duration "Until Dispelled" on both of them. In literally any controlled environment in D&D 5e where money isn't an issue these two spells should be staples. A cheap lock costs 10GP and is DC15 to pick for anyone proficient in thieves' tools, while adding Arcane Lock is 25GP in reagents and raises that to DC 25 while increasing the break DC by 10. Not going for arcane locks for anything significant (or even interesting) is simply penny pinching. The lack of a canon cheap permanent method of heating (either for heating buildings or cooking) feels more like an oversight than anything else.
And Anti-magic fields are a D&D staple - and holding prisoners is absurdly hard in D&D without.
Yes it's a magi-tech system. It's D&D magic.

As for "a small staff of wizards using scrying and a crystal ball for surveillance"? The prison itself is based on Bentham's Panopticon so it doesn't need it. Having wizards continually casting and dispelling their arcane locks at 25GP a throw when they are explicitly able to be opened under set conditions would be silly and unjustifiable. Scrying offers saving throws - and things that shut down magic as you might want to do to prisoners also shut it down.

As for D&D moving into science fiction without lasers people have mentioned Barrier Peaks and I'd add to that the sheer reproducible and consistent nature of D&D magic with no backlash is a science fiction thing. But that line was crossed with a vengeance with 3.0 in 2000 definitively putting the enchantment of reliable magic items under the control of the players. 3.0 wasn't just trying to be science fiction but hard science fiction, ensuring that almost everything was a feat or a spell-like ability. 4e and following it 5e walked that back. This isn't trying to shut the barn door after the horse has bolted. The horses have not only bolted, but bolted long ago some of them have grandchildren.

Yes. Cat people with laser tails for the more grounded/historical win!
It's a win in that by not pretending to be historical, it's not perpetuating an untruth.
In all seriousness, there were medieval arms and armor.
There was a vast mishmash of arms and armour from a wide range of periods and locations, as well as things, like studded leather armour, than never existed.
I am not advocating for “knights in shining armor” per se.
Shining armour was a thing. But it was sports equipment.
It’s a taste thing—-so ymmv but I don’t find the newer art direction to be to my liking.
It's also a fashion thing. D&D is subject to cultural changes, just like everything else.
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What bugs me with this sort of thing is when the worldbuilding implications aren't taken into account. All the magitech is very fine, but tech is tech - is this tech that the PCs can use, or learn, or make themselves,
In the case of the Everburning Torches and Arcane Locks, very explicitly yes they are standard spells. In the case of anti-magic fields they can definitely use it but there can't make them themselves. I'm fairly sure it's easy for the PCs to throw together an amplify spell. It's only the map that's the problem - and the PCs can not only use that they are given it.
or is it just lazy arbitrary 'it's magic!' handwaving? If the whole thing was put together by wizards using the magic item creation and spell permanency rules, who were these wizards and why did they devote such a horrifying amount of their time and energy into making something like this?
Why do you think it's "A horrifying amount of time and energy"? I mean Arcane Lock and Everburning Torches take seconds to cast, and this appears to be a Panopticon-style maximum security prison.
Can my PCs find them and bribe them into giving up the secret entrances? Why aren't all these precautions standard in every prison/vault/dragon hoard/evil lair in the world?
Because a dragon considers itself to to be the main security its horde needs; why would the cheese in a mouse trap need more security than the trap itself. Why aren't all prisons maximum security? That should answer itself. Evil lairs want to be a bit more secretive so don't build on Panopticon lines (a real thing btw).
I'm all for fantasy heists, but if I'm running a fantasy heist i want to run a FANTASY heist, not a scenario stolen from a modern-day movie with all the tech replaced on a one-to-one basis with magic items. D&D has been around long enough to have its own toolkit and set of options and limitations to run a heist with, enforcing a completely different genre on it by DM fiat seems lazy.
The only thing I noticed as having been stolen rather than being a D&D staple was the map. If you're mad at tech being replaced by magic get mad at D&D.


I just took the time to sit down and read this thoroughly, and I really don’t see what all the fuss is about. The only thing that‘s notably sci-fi is the design of the player-facing magic map. And in-game, the only interactive element is its ability to unlock doors.

There’s also no computer in there. Just a console with switches that control the cell doors, a dial that controls the room‘s lighting, and a magic trumpet PA system. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary there – and not hugely different to, say, the console found in the Tomb of the Nine Gods in Tomb of Annihilation.

I‘m also not bothered by the magical heating, lighting, etc. That makes sense in the FR context, where one can also find things like magical plumbing.

The elevator on the outside reminds me of the one on the Wall in Game of Thrones, which is fine by me. It was probably built by priests of Gond, like the cranes used on the docks of Baldur’s Gate.

The only bit that bothers me is the idea that the guards are able to do a full 8-hour shift in subzero temperatures on the exposed roofs of the guard towers. Judging by the picture, the tops of the towers should be enclosed (and also have some magical heating/lighting).

Another comment: in the promo video, Amanda Hamon says the player-facing maps aren’t always 100% accurate. In this case, I can’t see anything “wrong“ with the map. Have I missed anything?

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