Beyond the Golden Vault went beyond my expectations. To call this title a D&D supplement would be technically accurate but woefully inadequate. In addition to supplying everything a DM needs for a heist, we find within these pages enough material to create a series of missions or even a short campaign. Ironically, this book about thievery ends up being a steal when you consider how much material is packed between the covers.
The 9 writers involved in this project rank amongst my favorite content creators, and after a thorough read-through, I wasn’t surprised that this undertaking required so much talent. The pros are well-crafted, the mechanics balanced, and you would need a metaphorical microscope to analyze the attention to detail.
I have wanted to run a heist campaign for a long time, but a real opportunity never presented itself. Campaigns ended up running for years, other systems needed trying out, and life ended up doing what it does best, it got in the way. I shelved that desire in my mental library under “Eventually”. Beyond the Golden Vault bumped up that goal up to “Gotta Do”.
Get to know the crew.
What’s this caper all about?
We see an unusually large amount of story development for a supplement. The writers provide 3 fantastic locations which are asking to get robbed. Each location comes with a stack of NPCs, plot hooks, and valuables ripe for becoming a top-shelf McGuffin. The details and backstories behind these elements are fleshed out, detailed, yet concise.
Beyond the Golden Vault doesn’t so much supply a singular heist to follow. Rather, it provides individual elements required for crafting a quality mission or campaign. These story components are well-crafted and complex, yet somehow highly modular. The writers made room to snap these plot hooks, villains, and locations together in countless ways.
We get everything needed to piece together a mosaic of crime.
A D&D Heist Campaign
Each location provides flexibility by adhering to quality campaign writing structure. For instance, the writers provide multiple entries and a way to scout them. This is a classic dungeon-building technique remastered to fit a heist setting. The players can strategize, scheme, and devise a plan based on their strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t have to go one way.
We also find thematically distinct yet familiar motifs in each setting. The Resplendent Repository is a complex museum filled with priceless artifacts. This location provides dynamic environmental challenges which align with the “high-stakes heist” theme. Think, Catherine Zeta-Jones elegantly slipping between lasers in Entrapment.
Can you guess what trope Zephyr Casino and Hotel delivers? If you’re looking for that complex plan where every burglar brings a unique skill to the table, this is the caper for you. As I read through the details of this opulent setting, I couldn’t help but think of Oceans 11. The NPCs are tough and intimidating but complex. They have weaknesses ready for exploitation and misdirection. There are dozens of ways a party could plunder this casino and even more ways the whole thing could go sideways.
The Archive of the Minds is spooky and provides a real sense of suspense. The setting is the domain of an otherworldly, Lovecraftian villain that really deserves his comeuppance. His motivations are sinister, and his henchmen are frightening. A serious and dramatic tone feels appropriate with this locale. Something along the lines of Heat or The Town. The stakes are high, maybe even personal. The villain is worth hating, but he’s too powerful to take on directly. If you can’t take him off the board, maybe you can take something else…
Heist (game) Mechanics
The storylines provided by Beyond the Golden Vault are a lot of fun and fit well into classic heist themes, but that’s not where the aesthetic stops. This book is packed with mechanics that support and enhance this type of story. They even found a realistic way to make a paladin subclass that fits with the rest of the crew.
The book introduces a stack of NPC thieves that embody tropes found in any good heist flick. They also give the DM and players a glimpse at the archetypes for this type of character, the Architect, Con-Artist, Burglar, etc. These are also new backgrounds designed specifically for a heist adventure. The NPCs offer an example of how these backgrounds and characters can be utilized mechanically and in role-play.
The backgrounds offer truly useful features that will get employed by the PCs. Your player’s will actually want to pick these when building their characters. Since they fit so well with the tropes and themes of this genre, developing a backstory around these backgrounds will be easy.
Beyond the Golden Vault also supplies 6 solid subclasses that must be used in a heist campaign. They’re too good to leave on the shelf. As I already stated, they managed to make a paladin oath that makes sense in this type of game. That alone should tell you how much thought went into these builds. They are well balanced, useful, and will support the story. Checking all three of those boxes isn’t an easy task.
In addition to solid backgrounds and subclasses, the writing team churned out a cornucopia of magic items. Several of these enchanted items come with multiple stat blocks depending on the power level you want to supply the adventurers. You can also steadily increase the power as the story progresses.
Magical equipment isn’t the only stats that come with a variety of options. Several NPCs and villains come with a series of an ever-ascending CR level stat-blocks. You don’t need to worry about the adventurers reaching the big bad too soon or too late. With these options, you can find the power level that’s just right for any encounter.
You can tell the minds behind the math are DMs. They clearly want to make your life easier. If you want to run a heist campaign, you don’t have to worry about where your players are at or what level everyone needs to be at. You don’t have to rethink the math to make sure an encounter would work for your needs. They covered a lot of bases in this book.
Who is this heist for?
Me, that’s who! I am literally going to use this book to run a heist one-shot. I’m lucky enough to be a DM and player, but the DM I play under has been tied up with work lately. I considered running a one shot or short mission while he was on hiatus. After reading this book, I’m convinced. I want to run a heist mission.
Oh, but it’s probably for other people too…
Obviously, Beyond the Golden Vault falls under a specific niche, heist campaigns. Any dungeon master thinking about running that type of game should grab of a copy of this book. It’ll make their life a lot better. The diverse settings hit all the classic themes and will satisfy the PC’s need to sneak, smash, and steal. Beyond the Golden Vault provides the tools and structure for an unforgettable experience.
I can think of a couple of other uses for this book, however. The highly modular nature of the settings heist structure allows for mechanical cannibalization. How they built these settings can be utilized for a variety of stealth missions. If you’re want to get your players to think outside the box, these 9 writers drew you a map.
Seeing as I’m planning on using this supplement to run a short heist adventure of my own, it should be obvious that I like this book. I’m really impressed by the highly immersive and detailed locations, the flexible nature of the stat blocks, and the excellent writing. This book was a pleasure to read, and I expect it’ll be even more fun to play.
One other point I’d like to touch on is the “Heist Structure”. This supplement provides an outline of what goes into a great burglary. From scouting out the location, to planning, and all the way to the twist at the end, Beyond the Golden Vault gives you the pacing necessary to run a heist mission or campaign. It then gives you a examples of how you can use this structure for each location.
This supplement is so robust and well thought out, you can craft a full campaign with the tools it supplies. I would start with the Resplendent Repository. The gang may need some McGuffin hidden in the Repository before infiltrating the next objective, Zephyr Casino. Then the Casino job would lead a highly motivating event. Perhaps, a favorite NPC gets taken by the big bad and now the motley crew must travel to a Lovecraftian dimension to get them back. The preceding heists prepared them for the big fish, the Archives of the Minds.
Or you could just pick each of these locations apart and do your own thing. That’s the beauty of this book. Beyond the Golden Vault gives you the tools to easily run a heist, any way you want.
If you’re interested in picking up Beyond the Golden Vault you can do so here.