Vault of the Dracolich – Not For the Faint of Heart

Vault of the Dracolich

Some dragons take the dieting thing too far…

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The following article is my review of the D&D Next adventure module, Vault of the Dracolich. A word of warning before I start – this review may contain spoilers, so read at your own discretion :).

Please also note at the time of writing, this review is based on what I’ve played so far.

Let’s begin with the plot.

Imani, a retired adventurer, has called upon all capable adventurers to aid in the recovery of an artifact in order to prevent it from falling into wrong hands.

It is currently in the possession of a powerful dracolich and the adventurers are to assault the lair from several different directions at once.

What makes this adventure unique is that it is designed for up to four adventuring parties (possibly seven), working together and exchanging resources or information.

If you don’t have access to several groups at the same time, you can still play it in your regular game session.

While all this is going down, the dracolich will periodically appear and pursue the invaders.

Getting Stuck In

You start the adventure in one of four locations.

One thing you’ll find is that the adventure module takes no prisoners. You might run afoul of a group of giant snakes about 9-strong in number.

Or you might end up in a summoning chamber, only to have three high level demons suddenly right on top of you before you can even get your bearings.

I’ve played through both scenarios, surviving the first and dying in the second (though I managed to kill two of the demons in the process – yay me?).

Some of the other encounters are probably about right for a group of level 4 characters. It’s a large place, so you would be advised to avoid as many of the encounters as you can.

Long rests are out of the question. If you decide to leave and come back later, the whole place will be swarmed with defenders, making it practically impossible to assault the place the second time round.

Deus Ex Machina

If you are put off by the lethal nature of the adventure or if you’ve invested so much into your character that you refuse to accept his or her death, the game offers you the option to revive on the spot, though with a drawback.

It’s not for me, though – not least because I think it’s cheesy for someone to die and then get back up and carry on as normal – albeit with one eye and a leg missing (I made that one up).

It’s also not very logical. If the player characters can spontaneously revive on the spot due to the latent magic of the place, then by extension the enemies should also benefit from this magic.

But they don’t.

Having said that, one of the side effects of spontaneous revival seems tailor made for anyone wanting to avoid the Dracolich (that’s everyone, then), so maybe it’s not a bad idea for those who favour the hack and slash style of gameplay :p.

Is Vault of the Dracolich Any Good?

I certainly had a lot of fun with it, but in order to keep it brief:

Pros

  1. Extremely Challenging – makes it all that more satisfying when you come out victorious :).
  2. Must earn your treasure.
  3. Awakening of the Dracolich will keep things interesting.

You need to be creative in this adventure. If you charge headlong into danger, you will be spent before you reach your goal and, as mentioned before, long rests aren’t an option.

While the treasure is generous, you always get the feeling that everything has to be earned.

For instance, you can find a magic sword and a pile of gems underwater within the cavern, but the surrounding fauna will make you think twice about diving in a second time to collect more treasure should you survive the first time round.

That said, the adventure permits each character to retain only one magic item from the adventure which is understandable, given there is a lot of wealth lying around – especially for low level characters.

Cons

  1. Extremely Challenging – definitely not for the faint of heart.

It says a lot about the lethality of an adventure when a group of characters could suffer a TPK in the very first room they end up in!

Aside from these extremely lethal encounters, many of the other fights can potentially burn up party resources quite quickly.

With that in mind, it’s not an adventure for players who favour one play-style exclusively over all others. Some (much?) creativity is needed and it’s clear you need to have more than one string to your bow as a player if you want to be victorious.

That said, some players – particularly old school junkies – prefer adventures to be lethal.

In fact, it does follow the old school spirit pretty well in that not all encounters are level appropriate encounters.

If this describes you, give this a spin.

Can You Play This By Yourself?

Absolutely.

While this adventure was actually meant for several groups of DMs and players, the format of this adventure makes it easy to keep certain things hidden and show only the bits you need.

In fact, each player or group of players is given a map, so you know roughly where everything is.

It is not wise to completely take it at face value, though. It’s more of a rough guide as to what is actually there in each room, though it is pretty accurate in some places.

Therefore, you know roughly where to go, but the inaccuracies do keep you guessing and approaching without due caution will get you eaten.

Verdict

5

Overall, this adventure should make for a great evening’s worth of entertainment. If you’re looking for a fun diversion away from your regular adventure or campaign, Vault of the Dracolich offers a lot of value for only $4.99 (at time of writing).

 

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