While it hasn't been too long since Wizards of the Coast released the last Dungeons & Dragons adventure book, Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, already players are able to get their hands on a new adventure in the form of Candlekeep Mysteries. This adventure book is a bit different from previous titles — instead of a long-form adventure with a single storyline, Candlekeep Mysteries is a series of shorter adventures from level 1 to 16 that players can pick up at their convenience.
The book begins by fleshing out exactly what Candlekeep is. This enormous library, guarded by those who study its secrets, has a curious entry fee: entrance costs a book that isn't already present in the library. Even after providing the book, you and your party will only be able to stay for a tenday. Before we even get to any of the adventures within, Candlekeep itself is an interesting location. Candlekeep is filled with life from the Tavern and Bunkhouse to the inner library. The time limit of your stay does add purpose and haste to your character's actions too, so as not to get stuck wandering the halls and forcing your DM to create book titles as they peruse.
Each of the adventures in Candlekeep Mysteries follows the basic premise of having the players find a book that might detail tragedy, be cursed, or draw them into another dimension. Once kicked off it's then on the party to get to the bottom of the mystery. Because the focus on the adventures is based on mystery most offer more opportunities for roleplaying and logical thinking (don't expect to get away without a fight or two though). The concept of a single book starting the adventure also makes inserting these adventures into your campaign extremely easy. Your party might not even be in the same realm as Candlekeep and the Sword Coast, but what if they stumbled across a suspicious-looking book while clearing out a den of thieves? Or purchased it from a store not realizing it held a secret map? The flexibility that is offered on these adventures is incredible, almost like an official homebrew one-shot to throw into your official campaign.
Of the 17 adventures not all of them are the heavy hitters that you could hope for, but each adventure is brimming with enough content that a few tweaks here and there can make any fit where you'd want. Some standouts are the level 1 adventure "The Joy of Extra Dimensional Travel." Containing a healthy mix of exploration, combat, roleplaying, and a neat puzzle or two, it's everything a new player would need to get their feet wet in Dungeons & Dragons.
Level 4's "Shemshime's Bedtime Rhyme" focuses heavily in roleplay and problem solving as an evil entity is working to bring itself into the mortal realm by infecting players' minds. What begins as a tune stuck in your players' heads evolves into something much more sinister. This is the kind of adventure I was really hoping for coming into Candlekeep. There isn't a dungeon to wade through, or a series of enemies to fight, but things to learn and a large area to explore. A "murder hobo" (i.e. a player who only wants to kill monsters and loot treasure) would probably find this adventure the least engaging, but it's extremely unique in comparison to other adventures.
In the higher levels adventures include stopping a bomb plot in Candlekeep itself, exploring alternate planes, and there's even scripted level 15 and 16 content, something a lot of players have been after. Even some of the less interesting adventures can be used as settings to propel players towards the next item required for your home game.
Candlekeep Mysteries - The Bottom Line
Whether played as a string of adventures (thereby turning this Adventure Book into a lvl 1--16 adventure), or using it to augment and improve your current home game, Candlekeep Mysteries does offer a level of variety that other Adventure Books aren't able to boast. If the chapter you're reading doesn't capture your imagination then flip forward a few pages and give the next one a shot.
Get this game if:
- You're interested in some short D&D adventures where combat isn't always the focus
- You need a small adventure to break up your current home game
- You want to encourage a player to let you take a break from being forever DM
Avoid this game if:
- You like your party of murder-hobos
- You're still stuck three Adventure Books back
- You don't like the idea of an anthology Adventure Book
The copy of Candlekeep Mysteries used in this review was purchased by the author.