D&D General WotC Reveals New Information and Covers for 'Keys from the Golden Vault'

Due in just a few weeks, Keys from the Golden Vault has receoved little fanfare so far. However, a cover and descrioption has appeared on the Wizards Play Network site. Wizards Play Network (WPN) is a network of WotC-approved stores.

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An anthology of 13 heist-themed adventures for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.

Some jobs require more than simply wielding a sword or slinging a spell. Whether it’s procuring a well-guarded item or obtaining crucial information from an imprisoned contact, these tasks require careful planning and flawless execution. The secretive organization called the Golden Vault specializes in hiring crews for such jobs, and for the most daunting assignments—pursuing fabulous treasures and stopping dire threats—that crew is your characters.
Keys from the Golden Vault™ is a collection of 13 short, standalone Dungeons & Dragons adventures designed for characters levels 1–11. These adventures can be placed in any setting and you can run them as one-shot games or link them together into a campaign. This book also includes in-world maps to help players plan their heists, plus advice for running nontraditional games with high risks and huge rewards.

Contents:
  • Book of 13 stand-alone adventures spanning levels 1–11, each focused on a single heist
  • Adventures can be set in any D&D or homebrew world and can be played individually or as part of a full campaign
  • Introduces the Golden Vault—a mysterious organization for which the player characters can work as heist operatives
  • Each adventure includes a map to guide Dungeon Masters and a map to help players plan their heists
  • Adventures emphasize player choice with each heist having multiple paths toward success
  • Includes advice and detailed information for Dungeon Masters running nontraditional adventures with high risks and huge rewards


There's also an alternate cover.

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Magister Ludorum

Adventurer
It truly is amazing there is no movie tie in product, as far as we know.

What a wasted opportunity to bring new people into the hobby. There should 100% be a boxed set with maps and minis from the movie. Like, 100%.

And if it were a boxed set, I wouldn't be buying it. I hated boxed sets back in the day and I've grown no fonder of them over the decades.
 

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Maccwar

Explorer
So, I was about to write a rebuttal to @Ruin Explorer regarding having such an absolutist view about WotC adventure design, but then I looked up Arcane Library. I concede before I start. Wow, just the quick views of the Arcane Library look great.

I have enjoyed running quite a few Arcane Library adventures. We had great fun with the Bundle of Horror series.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
It's not about "tight design" either, I'm not sure where you're getting that from - I'm talking about high-quality explanations and well-outlined plots and so on.
Yes, that's precisely what I mean: those are the features away from which extensive playtesting seem to have moved WotC. Based particularly on what the designers have shared from stories about the 100+ table playtests each book goes through. I won't fault you or even disagree with thinking those features are "good design" per se, but vague and loose plots with thin descriptions seem to me to be the result of extensive playtesting rather than the other way around. Granted, this is counter-intuitive, but that's my conclusion from listening to discussions of their internal aytrsr process.

(As far as Drsgon Heist not having any Heist, though it has plenty of Dragon coins, do note that the names are chosen by marketing well after the book is finished)
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Better layout of adventures doesn't necessarily require testing.

I have a hard time believing senior WotC designers don't own a copy of Ptolus or haven't at least looked through it. (I suspect a lot of the doubters on this thread have done neither.) It is transparently a better design for a sourcebook.

Likewise, the Arcane Library adventures are formatted in a way that you take one look at it and say "oh, I get what the reviewers were saying now."

Everyone wanting to go to the wall for WotC adventures (that many of you also gripe about in different threads), go download one of the free Arcane Library adventures so everyone can be discussing the facts at hand, rather than reflexively defending WotC, which seems to be happening in at least some cases.

I'll check those out, thanks for the recommendation. Still have to conclude that many of the totally valid complaints people have about the WotC 5E Adventure philosophy emerge from their uniquely huge playtesting apparatus, not from a lack of it.
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
Still no info for this book on Amazon, but it jumped 6,000 places in all books since this morning, compared with the currently hot Zweihander and Call of Cthulu core books:
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Screenshot_20230125-165250_Amazon Shopping.jpg

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EpicureanDM

Explorer
Once you step out of trying to imagine a Platonic "Well Designed Adventure" and look at the more practical al question of utility for how most people apparently play, the perspective shifts a fair bit.
There seems to be an idea here that every building is perfectly built, that every THING needs to be perfect and optimized. That's just not how the works works.
It's funny that my analysis of this encounter from Radiant Citadel is characterized as a desire for a Platonic ideal (no small comparison from an Action Philosopher) or an overdeveloped need for optimization. All I did was read the environment that Justice Arman asked me to imagine and refer to the rules he told me to use. Right away, I saw problems with what he proposed and the instructions he gave me to run this encounter.

If the designers of the game don't want me to use the rules they're telling me to use in their published products, then they shouldn't make specific references to those specific rules. As I said earlier, just tell me that everyone's using a "flying carpet" rather than a carpet of flying. If I were a game designer, though, I'd want my professional reputation to rest on the ability to create fun using the rules of the game. Isn't that the point of being a game designer? If some DMs out there want to use my published design loosely, ignoring the parts they don't like, there's nothing I can do to stop that. But I wouldn't be trying to design with those DMs in mind. Why not write for the people that do use the rules? You're serving more of the audience that way.
This is all very nice but have you stopped to consider that maybe these mages don’t have misty step and fly? They have a flying carpet… so why would they waste a spell slot with fly when the flying carpet isn’t requiring concentration and can hold multiple people.

I understand designing heists that assume players might have access to key spells. However the NPCs capabilities are entirely within the DMs capabilities. Criticising an adventure for this is a bit weaksauce in my opinion. One of the my biggest criticisms of wizard discussions in 5e is that they assume all spells are ubiquitous. Just because PCs simplify their growing spell knowledge by gaining 2 spells per level it doesn’t mean NPCs act the same.
You may not have understood what I wrote. Maybe you don't have Radiant Citadel.

I know that the wizards have misty step and fly because WotC tells me they do. There's a CR6 Mage stat block published in the Basic Rules that is being referenced by the designer in this encounter. When I go to the published stat block to run these mages, I see those spells listed as their standard memorized spells.

As for the carpet of flying, the wizards didn't arrive with it. Part of the text of the adventure reads:

"These two [wizards] have squeezed through a window in the [backroom] that's disguised from the outside. They've riffled through the space and found not just the samovar they've been searching for but also a carpet of flying [the merchant] has been trying to sell for months. The rug merchant foolishly scribed the rug's command word , 'baalaa', on the carpet's tag."

They only have the carpet because they conveniently found it in the shop. Of course, for this bit of narrative to work, the wizards would have had to cast detect magic to notice the magical carpet. Fortunately, detect magic is one of the spells listed in the Mage stat block and it would make sense for them to cast it, since the samovar/McGuffin they're looking for is magical.

What's frustrating is that Arman could have made this point without wasting much space. He might have written:

"These two [wizards] have squeezed through a window in the [backroom] that's disguised from the outside. They cast detect magic and found not just the samovar they've been searching for but also a carpet of flying [the merchant] has been trying to sell for months. The rug merchant foolishly scribed the rug's command word , 'baalaa', on the carpet's tag."

It's a small change, but it signals that the game designer knows they're designing an encounter to be used with the rules of D&D. EDIT: What I mean is that it would signal that the designers understand the rules they're telling the DM to use.
I agree that the encounter described sounds... "under optimized." But locate object is not an "I win" button -- you get 10 minutes to get within 1000 feet of something you have seen within 30 feet. Hope they did not put it in a lead-lined box!
Agreed, but "let's use locate object" is the right mindset to design for. An earlier comment suggested that D&D's design team shouldn't be expected to design scenarios or encounters that function as puzzles that need to be solved. I agree that some scenarios don't need that sort of design, but heists seem like a bit of an exception. The heists we love from TV and movies do present a sort of puzzle that the protagonists have to defeat in a clever way. Remember how elaborate the plan is in Ocean's Eleven? It requires that an acrobat with an oxygen supply be smuggled into the vault to work it from the inside. They detonate a small EMP device, for Pete's sake.

I certainly don't think that the Golden Vault designers need to have a specific, particular sequence of actions for success in mind when designing their heists. But they need to have tried their best to account for the spells and resources that a D&D party might bring to bear. EDIT: The best designs would those where the designers do understand that the PCs might want to use a particular spell or ability and call that out to the DM. In other words, understand what tactics the players might use and explicitly build paths to success based on those tactics (and be sure to tell the DM about it so that they can be on the lookout for opportunities to reward the PCs).

They have to give me the sense that they tried, a feeling that I absolutely didn't get in this encounter from Justice Arman. Show me that you thought of some (most?) of the ways the players might throw a wrench into my plans. Well, they've not even my plans, are they? They're the plans that the designer has given to me! That's what I need as the DM behind the screen when I'm actually running the scenario.

Unfortunately for them, D&D's design makes this a difficult thing to do! So they get some leeway. But if I'm going to leave it to the professionals, I want a professional job.
 
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Parmandur

Book-Friend
It's funny that my analysis of this encounter from Radiant Citadel is characterized as a desire for a Platonic ideal (no small comparison from an Action Philosopher) or an overdeveloped need for optimization. All I did was read the environment that Justice Arman asked me to imagine and refer to the rules he told me to use. Right away, I saw problems with what he proposed and the instructions he gave me to run this encounter.

If the designers of the game don't want me to use the rules they're telling me to use in their published products, then they shouldn't make specific references to those specific rules. As I said earlier, just tell me that everyone's using a "flying carpet" rather than a carpet of flying. If I were a game designer, though, I'd want my professional reputation to rest on the ability to create fun using the rules of the game. Isn't that the point of being a game designer? If some DMs out there want to use my published design loosely, ignoring the parts they don't like, there's nothing I can do to stop that. But I wouldn't be trying to design with those DMs in mind. Why not write for the people that do use the rules? You're serving more of the audience that way.

You may not have understood what I wrote. Maybe you don't have Radiant Citadel.

I know that the wizards have misty step and fly because WotC tells me they do. There's a CR6 Mage stat block published in the Basic Rules that is being referenced by the designer in this encounter. When I go to the published stat block to run these mages, I see those spells listed as their standard memorized spells.

As for the carpet of flying, the wizards didn't arrive with it. Part of the text of the adventure reads:

"These two [wizards] have squeezed through a window in the [backroom] that's disguised from the outside. They've riffled through the space and found not just the samovar they've been searching for but also a carpet of flying [the merchant] has been trying to sell for months. The rug merchant foolishly scribed the rug's command word , 'baalaa', on the carpet's tag."

They only have the carpet because they conveniently found it in the shop. Of course, for this bit of narrative to work, the wizards would have had to cast detect magic to notice the magical carpet. Fortunately, detect magic is one of the spells listed in the Mage stat block and it would make sense for them to cast it, since the samovar/McGuffin they're looking for is magical.

What's frustrating is that Arman could have made this point without wasting much space. He might have written:

"These two [wizards] have squeezed through a window in the [backroom] that's disguised from the outside. They cast detect magic and found not just the samovar they've been searching for but also a carpet of flying [the merchant] has been trying to sell for months. The rug merchant foolishly scribed the rug's command word , 'baalaa', on the carpet's tag."

It's a small change, but it signals that the game designer knows they're designing an encounter to be used with the rules of D&D. EDIT: What I mean is that it would signal that the designers understand the rules they're telling the DM to use.

Agreed, but "let's use locate object" is the right mindset to design for. An earlier comment suggested that D&D's design team shouldn't be expected to design scenarios or encounters that function as puzzles that need to be solved. I agree that some scenarios don't need that sort of design, but heists seem like a bit of an exception. The heists we love from TV and movies do present a sort of puzzle that the protagonists have to defeat in a clever way. Remember how elaborate the plan is in Ocean's Eleven? It requires that an acrobat with an oxygen supply be smuggled into the vault to work it from the inside. They detonate a small EMP device, for Pete's sake.

I certainly don't think that the Golden Vault designers need to have a specific, particular sequence of actions for success in mind when designing their heists. But they need to have tried their best to account for the spells and resources that a D&D party might bring to bear. EDIT: The best designs would those where the designers do understand that the PCs might want to use a particular spell or ability and call that out to the DM. In other words, understand what tactics the players might use and explicitly build paths to success based on those tactics (and be sure to tell the DM about it so that they can be on the lookout for opportunities to reward the PCs).

They have to give me the sense that they tried, a feeling that I absolutely didn't get in this encounter from Justice Arman. Show me that you thought of some (most?) of the ways the players might throw a wrench into my plans. Well, they've not even my plans, are they? They're the plans that the designer has given to me! That's what I need as the DM behind the screen when I'm actually running the scenario.

Unfortunately for them, D&D's design makes this a difficult thing to do! So they get some leeway. But if I'm going to leave it to the professionals, I want a professional job.
Yeah, I wasn't really referring to your specific example, personally, and hadn't intended to. However, since you ask, it seems fairly plausible to me that 100+ tables would have run this bit as written without having these issues.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
Nothing. I mean, I've had "D&D Dicelings" in stock for a few weeks, which are kinda neat., but I think those would count as tie-in swag. Nothing for the game, no promotional items at all.
In addition to all the other reasons for WotC to have movie-branded D&D stuff, it would have also been a great way to drive new customers to FLGSes.

This whole thing is baffling.
 





Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
On Arcane Library, you can see the style for running the adventures by clicking on the image for each adventure. You'll get a multi-page preview that gives you a sense of how they're organized. It really does make running one easy.
It makes them easier to understand. I personally found it so bare bones that it was not easier to run.
 



Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
It makes them easier to understand. I personally found it so bare bones that it was not easier to run.
It definitely is a much lighter style that either forces improvisation or requires at least a read through ahead of time, jotting down some ideas to flesh things out for each encounter area. I am very comfortable with improv, but I know not every DM is equally comfortable with it.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Now you're being silly. The cartoon characters are background Easter eggs and not the stars of the movie. No one new to D&D is going to see Stormwreck Isle and think "hey, this is connected to the movie!"
It sounds like they get a pretty extended action scene cameo. More people will probably recognize uze them from HAT by year's end than the cartoon!
 


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