Deep in the forest of Cormanthor lies the hoard of the dracolich Dretchroyaster, the prize of which is a diamond staff rumored to unlock the secrets of an ancient elven kingdom. The sage Imani is seeking dozens of adventurers to launch an all-out assault on the undead dragon's lair. The dracolich is a powerful foe - too great for even several parties to conquer - so it's going to take all of the heroes' courage, cunning, and speed to survive the dracolich's deadly vault.
"Vault of the Dracolich" is a Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game adventure designed for the June 2013 D&D Game Day. The challenge draws inspiration from the interactive format used at some gaming conventions.
The adventure includes one full-color, double-sided battle map.
“Vault of the Dracolich” (2013) is a marvel. Designed for the June 2013 D&D Game Day, it's playable in two to five hours with D&D Next rules, and is built for four to six 4th-level heroes. The adventure is designed to accommodate up to four tables playing the game at once; in a convention scenario, players and DMs have the option of communicating with other game tables, while the event coordinator takes on the role of the dracolich to menace each group.
Sound unusual? It is, and it's tremendously fun.
Together, Yet Separate. In order to have up to four different tables playing this adventure simultaneously, each group of adventurers enters the dungeon in a different location. There are four different areas an adventuring group can use for access. The heroes must find idols that give them access, conquer the local monsters and guardians, all while assiduously avoiding the dracolich as it pursues intruders. It's an unusual and innovative approach to adventuring.
How's it work? Judging by post-game-day reports? Superbly. The convention organizer moves about, threatening adventurers when the dracolich tracks them down; tables briefly come together and then separate, exchanging resources and coordinating plans; and, in the role of the sage who organized the assault, offering limited advice.
Interestingly, the scenario works equally well as a single-party experience, although some of the novelty is lost. But this is how most groups at home will experience the adventure, I expect. There's some comfort in that the adventure is stated to be lethal; should a group fall, their new heroes can come in from a different approach.
Multiple Approaches. Not only are there multiple ways to close in on the dracolich's central lair in the heart of the underground complex, but there are also a variety of strategies that the heroes can use to get there. Groups that rely solely on one strategy, whether sneakiness or smacking monsters, will probably have some difficulty. The adventure is exceptionally well-designed, and various creative approaches are required for PCs to move through the complex safely. Enemies may be defeated, fooled, or co-opted with role-playing; regardless, it will take canny and aware players to succeed.
The adventure is also notable because it's no longer just the DMs who get the awesome maps. “Vault of the Dracolich” includes a beautiful player map that lacks only details that the DM alone should know about. With luck, it helps the heroes know exactly which way to run when they need to fall back, charge forward, or make a final stand.
This adventure is a showcase for the fast-paced, fun style of play that D&D Next can offer. The feel is quite different from the one-encounter-per-game experience of the D&D Encounters sessions of recent years. If you want a taste of an accessible and exciting introductory adventure that doesn't skimp on danger – or if you just want to see how D&D Next is shaping up – then you'll want to pick this up.
About the Creators. Mike Shea is a writer and game designer who runs Sly Flourish, a website and Twitter feed dedicated to building better D&D 4th edition DMs. He has written three books on Dungeons and Dragons: Sly Flourish's Dungeon Master Tips, The Lazy Dungeon Master, and Running Epic Tier D&D Games. He also writes freelance Dungeons and Dragons articles for Wizards of the Coast and is the author of a few other books, including Seven Swords and Vrenna and the Red Stone and Other Tales.
Scott Fitzgerald Gray is a writer, screenwriter, editor, story editor, script consultant, writing teacher, and designer and editor of roleplaying games. You can find his work at insaneangel.com.
As an organized play administrator and the author and game designer of multiple adventures, Teos Abadia is a freelancer for Wizards of the Coast who also happens to have one of the coolest names in gaming. You'll find him on Twitter at @alphastream.
About the Product Historian
History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.