Reviews You Can Use: The Secret Vault of the Queen of Thieves

Written by Carlos A. S. Lising

Veteran Game Masters and Players of RPGs often approach published adventures with jaded eyes. They’ve seen it all before, and experienced just about everything the hobby can present them. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that such folks often greet the release of newly-published adventures with a mild sigh and a shrug of their shoulders. It would be a mistake to respond in such a manner to The Secret Vault of the Queen of Thieves, however. Not only does the clever design of the adventure promise a fun and exciting session at the game table, it offers a couple of interesting hooks that just might even catch such hardened veterans of the game by surprise.

The Secret Vault of the Queen of Thieves is a short adventure written by Thor Olavrud for the Torchbearer RPG, recommended for 3rd level characters. The premise for the scenario is a simple enough trope that GMs and Players of all experience levels will recognize. They are hired by a patron who expects them to break into a guarded location and steal an item of significance. However, there are wheels within wheels – of which the Players are unaware – turning behind the scenes in this adventure that changes its topology considerably. Without spoiling the fulcrum on which the scenario pivots, the Players will eventually learn that all is far from what it appears to be at first blush…but by the time they do so, it may be far too late for them to do much about it.

On its face, The Secret Vault of the Queen of Thieves echoes modern day “heist” movies. This is part of its clever design. The nature of the scenario easily lulls Players into believing it to be something it’s very much not. At its heart, the adventure is actually much more like one of Hollywood’s classic “con job” films. Designer Thor Olavrud deserves credit for disguising the scenario’s nature so as to turn the tables on prospective Players; springing its surprise upon them with expert timing. Though the most-savvy of them might well see through the premise, I’ll venture to say that far more will be caught off-guard by its true nature than not. It’s the kind of adventure that makes for a memorable session, particularly when placed within the context of a Campaign, and it creates lifelong adversaries for the Players to square off against in days still to come.

Perhaps the only real weakness to be found in The Secret Vault of the Queen of Thieves is the uneven artwork featured within its pages. Peter Mullen’s cover artwork is stellar, full of a great old-school vibe that brought a smile to the lips of this veteran gamer. Likewise, Dyson Logos’ cartography is outstanding as per usual; his unique style a compliment to any RPG product. However, I received Todd James’ cartoonish contributions to the interior artwork with much less enthusiasm. It might have grown on me, had more of it been included, but with only sparse examples offered, I found it ill-suited to the general tone of the adventure.

That’s just a minor quibble, however. The Secret Vault of the Queen of Thieves is a rare bird in a sky full of similar products; an adventure of a like you just might not have seen before. Recommended.


  1. Shane

    Important to mention that the events timer in the adventure is directly integrated into Torchbearer’s turn mechanics. Players will find themselves battling against The Grind in order to intercept or alter the flow of events. That combined with the clever traps, intrigue, and punchy story hooks makes this a great module for setting expectations about the game for new players as well as Torchbearer veterans looking to refresh a campaign.

    Folks should look more into Todd James’ work as well. I’d recommend picking up his adventure for Torchbearer, The Hand of the Pit, or if you are feeling festive his collab with Lauren Bilanko on holiday themed D&D gauntlet Smoke House Lodge. He’s an internationally recognized artist, and he has an undeniable presence in the rpg hobby of late. If you want a feel for his attitudes toward the hobby and why he plays, see the feature on him in D&D magazine and his redesign of the iconic D&D ampersand. I’d encourage you to dig a little deeper because there’s a trove of inspiring fantasy artwork to uncover.

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