Using Vault of the Dracolich

by Mike Shea on 28 April 2014

Back in 2013, Teos Abadia, Scott Fitzgerald Gray, and I all worked on the D&D Next adventure Vault of the Dracolich. This adventure fueled an in-store multi-table event in wich bands of adventurers infiltrate a stronghold of the Cult of the Dragon to recover an ancient elven staff from the dracolich, Detchroyaster.

Late last year Wizards of the Coast released the adventure on D&D Classics for the low low price of $5. While this adventure was originally intended as a multi-table single-session adventure, the components of it can be stripped, twisted, and reformed to add to your game, whatever its length or format.

Today we're going to discuss a few ways you can use Vault of the Dracolich in your own campaign.

Breaking Down the Dungeon

The dungeon in Vault of the Dracolich is more like four smaller dungeons mashed together. The adventure includes a troglodyte lair, an ancient dragon's vault, a former Bhaalite temple now converted to a temple of the Cult of the Dragon, and an underground river full of nasty beasties. Each of these sections can be taken out and used on their own either as part of another adventure or on their own as a quick area to explore. Some work will be required to tie off connections that you don't plan on making, such as sealing off the sewer entrance from the temple's prison to the underground river, but such work should take little time.

The whole dungeon can also act as a small megadungeon (oxymoron?). Your own adventure may only focus on one of the seeds in the adventure such as an item protected by the hydra, an artifact in the dragon's vault, the ancient elven spelljammer stuck in the rock, or the evil head of the local chapter of the Dragon Cult. You might keep the rest of the dungeon as is so your group has opportunities to explore other areas even if they aren't directly relevant to their quest at hand.

Chambers below the chasms and rifts found in the dungeon might lead to a series of lower levels, making the current Vault of the Dracolich only the upper-most level of a multi-level megadungeon.

Like all published adventures, you should feel free to hack, slice, and steal any part of it to fit the adventure you're running for your own table.

Four Plots

Vault of the Dracolich is full of different plots you can seed into your own adventures. Dretchroyaster's protection of the diamond staff is only one major plot. The plot of the Dragon Cult is always a good one to feed into your Forgotten Realms adventure. If you're not running in the Realms, you can easily convert them to some other evil cult. Remember, as Ed Greenwood says, you can never have too many evil cults! The internal squabbling of the troglodytes is likely to interest roleplay-focused players who can find all sorts of interesting ways to win the trogs over to their way of thinking. The tensions between the lizardfolk in the underground river is also ripe for PC manipulation and good potential for a Fist Full of Dollars / Yojimbo storyline.

Whether you use the seeds built into the adventure or sprinkle in your own, your PCs will hopefully find that the large scale ecology of Vault of the Dracolich isn't simply one of killing every monster.

System Conversions

Vault of the Dracolich was originally written and released for D&D Next but Vault works fine with nearly any fantasy RPG system. The monster selection in Vault is relatively basic. Monsters in Vault are easily wrapped in the mechanics of your game system of choice whether it be Pathfinder, 4th Edition D&D, or even Dungeons of Fate. Dungeons of Fate makes it very easy to build monsters with no real statistics what so ever other than the level of the monster itself.

Just because Vault was written for D&D Next sure doesn't mean it can't be useful to your system of choice.

A Sandbox and Tool Kit For Your Own Adventures

Though written with a very specific goal in mind, Vault of the Dracolich gives you a toolbox of rooms, story seeds, situations, and interconnections that you can tear out and drop into the adventures you want to create at your own table.

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