D&D Ideas — Vaults
Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is vaults, which we discussed in our weekly live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST on Nerdarchy Live to talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. Speaking of vaults in Wooden Dragon a very unusual magic item may just reveal clues to forgotten treasure vaults. Kobolds pilot a wooden dragon construct to terrorize travelers and exact a toll to pass. along with 54 other dynamic scenarios in Out of the Box. Find out more about it here. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy plus snag a FREE GIFT by signing up here.
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Delving Dave’s Dungeon
Vaults in the context of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons instantly make me think of a heist game as in, “How do we get in this vault?” Does your world have a form of banking involving more than NPCs stuffing their mattresses with every copper they can get their hands on? Does every noble person have their own vaults built into their mansions? I mean, Waterdeep: Dragon Heist is an official Wizards of the Coast 5E D&D adventure with just this premise.
You could also use vaults as a form of dungeons. Rows of piles of coins could form passageways to travel. The characters might be able to climb to the top of these piles but can they do it without triggering an avalanche of coins and treasure? What an embarrassing way to go — buried alive under a mountain of coins until you suffocate to death.
Here’s a few plot hooks for running 5E D&D adventures using vaults:
- The Heist. What characters want or need is in a vault. They must get in, retrieve the object and get out.
- The Test. Adventurers are hired to test the security measures of a particular vault. This is very similar to The Heist and the DM can add some twists.
- The Double Cross. The party’s employer doesn’t want to pay, they make off with the characters’ secrets or some other method of leaving adventurers high and dry. They use their security measures to try to kill the party after they find the flaws in the vault.
- It’s a Trap! Adventurers are hired under false pretenses. One of their enemies wants them dead and this was just a trick to make it happen.
- A.I. Gone Wrong. The vault and its security is controlled by Arcane Intelligence gone haywire. Safety protocols inside the vault are turned off for the test. It’s treating the party as a real threat.
- The Morning After. Characters wake up among gold, silver and fabulous prizes. They don’t actually know how they got there. Upon awakening they spot some famous objects they recognize. From this they can speculate where they are and what kind of danger they are in. Someone has figured out how to send a group of adventurers into the vaults in order to have it’s traps set off so they can come in afterwards and claim the goods.
- Lost Vaults of (Insert Name of Dragon, Demon Lord or Deity). The characters are on a quest to find lost vaults. Maybe it’s for a noble cause or just adventurers being adventurers. There could be plenty of high jinx trying to discover its location, then getting there and possibly dealing with agents of the original owner who want it recovered for their boss and finally infiltrating the vaults themselves.
From Ted’s Head
This week we’re expanding on the subject of vaults as pertains to fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. In our modern day we have enormous vaults behind massive walls secured by cameras, guards and any number of other security measures. Modern technology make all of this possible. In a world where magic supplants technology what kinds of things might 5E D&D adventurers encounter when it comes to vaults?
All manner of things could stop would be thieves from breaking into vaults provided access to some serious magic. A wall of force is no joke and there is no getting around such a spell. Areas of null magic or antimagic are great as well. A Dungeon Master will want to make sure there are mundane as well as magical traps guarded the vaults in the game too. Honestly treating vaults as a combat or skill challenge could be an awful lot of fun from both sides of the DM screen.
What could a vault look like as a magic item? We have seen giant cubes in the Transformers movie and there are the Folding Halls of Halas (i.e. Happy Fun Ball) in Critical Role Campaign 2. We even touched on this idea a couple of years ago in one of our videos. I imagine a Rubik’s Cube made of different metals with a variety of arcane sigils. When aligned in a particular way the cube can be accessed. This could potentially incorporate multiple magic items at the same time — just nothing that could be accessed quickly.
Wondrous item (legendary)
This complex series of metal squares moves in a pattern. The cube requires knowledge of the arcane. If you do not have proficiency in the Arcana skill your check to operate the device is made with disadvantage. You can use your action to make an Intelligence (Arcana) check to attempt to access the following aspects of the cube. Once you successfully unlock an aspect of the cube five times you can always go back to that setting with a successful DC 10 Intelligence (Arcana) check.
- (DC 15). You access an extradimensional space similar to a large bag of holding. The cube opens up to a very large opening and contains enough things to fill a small room. Up to 1000 pounds of material may be stored within this extradimensional space. Everything left in this room is temperature controlled and kept is in stasis until removed.
- (DC 18). You access an interdimensional workshop. When this extradimensional space is opened it is prepared for work and contains any tool sets you desire.
- (DC 20). This extradimensional space opens into a research library, which contains books on numerous subjects, perhaps even things lost to the ages. Whenever you make a knowledge based check while in this space you make the check with advantage.
- (DC 25). This extradimensional space is a massive chamber suited for the whatever you needs. It has an indestructible prison, a security vault or anything else.
From the Nerditor’s desk
Nerdarchist Ted and I discussed vaults in the context of 5E D&D from just about every angle I can think of including as a verb and a euphemism for keeping a secret thanks to Seinfeld. And since I’ve got the opportunity here again I’ll point out how jumping distance is a static number in 5E D&D so there’s no Athletics check necessary to vault up to or over something.
Mostly we discussed what probably comes to mind for most folks though and this is breaking into and out of vaults. A vault heist adventure in the style of Oceans Eleven sounds thrilling right? During the live chat we took questions from viewers and shared our own ideas about what this sort of adventure might entail as far as challenging the characters.
One of the things I mentioned feels extremely important so I’ll expand on it here. Planning and executing heists on vaults plays out with much more satisfaction when the DM and the rest of the players work together.
The appeal of this sort of adventure lies in making a plan for how to pull off a daring heist and then setting it in motion. So in addition to preparing whatever treacherous traps and obstacles await within these vaults I think a DM would do well to consider what sorts of stuff characters could, should and would do to prepare. Taking this a step further working with the rest of the players to develop their plan feels like a wise course of action.
- Do they need any special equipment? Who or where can they find such things?
- Does the location allow public access in any way so characters can case the place?
- Does the party need to hire any specialists?
- Who owns or operates the vaults?
- Getting in is one thing but how will the party manage to get away afterwards?
These are just a few questions to think about. I’m focusing on this coordination between DM and players because I think planning and executing these heists on vaults can very easily go horribly sideways. So allowing characters ample time to prepare and guiding them towards the sorts of things they’ll need to do seems like it’ll pay off better for everyone.
All this aside I’m gonna break from editorial tradition a bit and recommend checking out Blades in the Dark if heists, vaults and other sorts of scoundrel behavior is the juice for you and your game group. 5E D&D can absolutely facilitate a fantastic experience and give players all kinds of neat opportunities to use many features, abilities and spells often disregarded because they’re not super duper combat powers. But Blades in the Dark is a game designed specifically for these daring escapades.
Here’s the pitch for Blades in the Dark. You tell me if this sounds like your kind of RPG:
“Blades in the Dark is a tabletop role-playing game about a crew of daring scoundrels seeking their fortunes on the haunted streets of an industrial-fantasy city. There are heists, chases, occult mysteries, dangerous bargains, bloody skirmishes, and, above all, riches to be had — if you’re bold enough to seize them. You and your fledgling crew must thrive amidst the threats of rival gangs, powerful noble families, vengeful ghosts, the Bluecoats of the city watch, and the siren song of your scoundrel’s own vices. Will you rise to power in the criminal underworld? What are you willing to do to get to the top?”
I’ve got two questions: where do I sign up and where are those vaults at?!
*Featured image — Crafty kobold survivors of an adventurer attack make the most of their situation in Wooden Dragon, one of 55 dynamic encounters ready to drop into your game in Out of the Box. [Illustration by Kim Van Deun]