Since the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons launched, their publisher Wizards of the Coast has focused on putting out two main types of additional books.
First, they have done whole campaigns. The books like Tomb of Annihilation, which is set in the jungles of the southern continent Chult, or Storm King’s Thunder, set in the northern mountain regions of the Giants, are designed to take first level characters through an adventure that will culminate in an ending fitting for the epic campaign they have played.
The second kind of book has been rules advancement books, where we gain more insights into races, subclasses, a few spells, and some additional monsters. And both of these kind of books are important and helpful.
But what Wizards has done less is to release adventure anthologies.
Candlekeep Mysteries is the first anthology book that smartly uses a setting as a backdrop to demonstrate a variety of different adventures and stories, across the spectrum in terms of levels. After using the first 15 pages or so to describe the setting, we get the sense that Candlekeep is the uber-library. While it has firm connections to the official D&D world of the Forgotten Realms, it also is wide open enough that you could place it in any world and make it work. It is diverse enough that it really could be anywhere.
And each adventure has a similar set-up, as the party discovers a book that triggers the inciting incident and off you go. Now, for that reason, I think it would be a bit repetitive to run through all 16 of the adventures in the book. But to be able to pull in one or two of them across the course of the campaign, this is an excellent additional resource for campaigns.
How Do You Use Candlekeep Mysteries?
Now, how do you use this book? For me, I am going to lean into it in a couple of ways. First, the setting is fun. If you cannot get excited about the world’s best library, then hand in your nerd card. And especially for characters who want to gain knowledge and lore, Candlekeep is the place to be, not just for the books there but for the people who would gather for the books.
One of their suggestions is creating an NPC who will serve as the liaison for the group and Candlekeep. This adjutant as the book calls them got my NPC creation blood flowing. Maybe it is the young upstart just starting at the Keep. Maybe it is the old stoic scribe that others have decided doesn’t have much worth but the wealth of her knowledge helps the party in ways that are seen and unseen.
Second, find the mystery that works for you and your group and then plot them where they work for your group and their levels. While all set in the Candlekeep, the starting point doesn’t mean all of them have the same feel. Chris Perkins’ 3rd level adventure, “Book of the Raven,” has the dark tones that you would suspect from someone that loves Ravenloft as much as Perkins does.
The 9th level adventure, “Kandlekeep Dekonstruktion”, written by Amy Vorpahl is a fantastic mix of science fiction and adventure fantasy that is hard to balance. (My current game has this level coming soon and I am slotting this in our game.) And the last three adventures are some of the best official high level adventures that we have had Wizards publish since 5th edition came out. (Most of the campaign books stop short of levels 14 and above.)
As expected, the book is very excellent in terms of overall quality. It was very well edited, well designed and, from a DM’s perspective, well laid out. Most of the maps are of the style of Dyson logos and are easy to adapt or share. And in the back of the book is a wonderful full color poster of Candlekeep itself.
I hope this tome finds an audience. While I love the campaigns as a player and a DM, when I am wanting to add a piece to my current homebrew campaign, an anthology book like this is welcome relief. I can find an adventure that I am fairly sure my players will enjoy, that delves into a mystery setting that is always a bit harder for me to homebrew and that gives us a month or more of weekly sessions.
If you are a DM, it is definitely a recommended pick-up. But also, if you had a player that was wanting to give it a try as a DM, they could pick a mystery out of here, everyone could roll up some characters at that level and have a good time.
So, Candlekeep Mysteries isn’t a mystery at all. It is a great value, where Wizards shows that they have the ability to take many diverse writers and creators and put forth a great anthology. You can add Candlekeep Mysteries to your library by snagging it from Amazon here.
[Disclosure: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Candlekeep Mysteries by Wizards of the Coast in exchange for an honest review.]