On a Tuesday during the depths of winter Wizards of the Coast announced their latest product release for Dungeons & Dragons — Candlekeep Mysteries. The adventure anthology format is not new to 5th edition. Previous releases Tales from the Yawning Portal and Ghosts of Saltmarsh were both collections, rather than full paths that are designed to be a campaign.
Candlekeep Mysteries is different though. The design intent is that the 17 adventures can be completed in just a single session of a few hours. That’s a great tool for people who struggle to keep a group of players together meeting regularly for a massive path that takes months. Getting 2-4 others together for just 2-4 hours is much easier than planning a weekly session that lasts years.
That’s one of the key reasons to get this book. As someone who designs a massive world, I lean towards the campaign format. But that means throwing together a single session as more and more friends want to try to game is difficult.
Now, I’ll have a resource of shorter content than the Starter Set or Stranger Things Boxed Set. Neither of those are able to be completed in 4 hours, though the Stranger Things box can probably be done in ten or so, even with someone as verbose as me.
Having a book of one shots on hand will be an excellent addition to my DM tool chest.
The Alt Cover Is Art
Put that on a shelf in a public space, and your non-gaming friends will think you own a fancy tome. It’s brilliant and evocative. The only way you can get it is by supporting your local gaming store. You should always support your local, and particularly so in the current pandemic-economy which threatens their very existence.
Yes, the other cover is more like your other books, and certain completionists might like that look. Me, I’m no longer interested in hiding my passion for D&D. I want fancy books and knickknacks that inspire people to ask me about my shelf space — whenever they can enter my home safely again.
Embracing Critical Diversity
Looking over the 19 authors behind the tome you see people who not only come from diverse backgrounds, but who are vocal in their critique of D&D’s history and present. These voices were not shunted aside, but instead featured in official product.
And that diversity shows up in the adventure details that were released already. Kretchmer’s adventure features a wheel-chair accessible dungeon. This is a historically accurate detail that makes sense within a realm of magic. Official products embracing that design decision is wonderful. If you are creating adventures or other RPG content Jennifer’s reference Accessibility in Gaming is vital.
Barber is a Black veteran from Canada who has critiqued Wizards, D&D, and other games for the way they address issues for his communities. Kwan is one of the voices behind Asians Represent. His voice has elevated the discourse regarding Asian themes within gaming. Now, both will feature in official product.
As Jeremy Crawford states so often, “a diverse group is a strong group.”
This collection of authors, editors, artists, and more embraces that concept and provides the DM with content that breathes that very statement. It is a brave and responsible action by a company to not only accept the often harsh criticism, but to take those critics and give them a larger voice.