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SYFY WIRE Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons' next book, Candlekeep Mysteries, is a literary anthology of adventures

By James Grebey
Candlekeep Mysteries _ Key Art_ Artist Credit_ Clint Cearley

Dungeons & Dragons next official published adventure is a book. Well, all of the modules are, literally, but the upcoming release, Candlekeep Mysteries, will offer adventuring parties a whole bunch of intrigue, thrills, and twists when they enter the Forgotten Realms’ largest library and discover what lurks between the pages within. 

Candlekeep Mysteries, which comes out on March 16, is an anthology of 17 short adventures meant for parties that are between levels 1 and 16, depending on the adventure. All of the adventures are largely standalone, meant to be played in one or two sessions. The titular Candlekeep serves as a hub of sorts, as its libraries house the books that spark whatever comes next.

“Each adventure is built on the premise of the characters finding a book, and that book ... leads them on a grand adventure,” Chris Perkins, D&D’s principal story designer and essentially Candlekeep Mysteries’ lead editor, tells SYFY WIRE during a press reveal. 

Candlekeep itself is a location that has appeared in every edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Perkins describes it as “a huge fortress that perches on the edge of a sea. It’s this magically warded fortress that houses the greatest trove of lore that the Forgotten Realms has ever had.” However, there is deliberately nothing about Candlekeep in this book — nor anything in the various adventures contained within — that are specific to the Forgotten Realms setting, as the team wanted to make the book usable to DMs who play in a different or homebrewed setting.

“We summarize very quickly in some detail who the movers and shakers of Candlekeep are. These are figures who are customizable and can be plugged out and plugged in,” Perkins says. “The details we’re providing about Candlekeep — as a DM, there isn’t anything that’s going to stop you from dropping it in somewhere else.”

Candlekeep Mysteries is the second adventure anthology for D&D’s fifth edition, a follow-up of sorts to Tales From the Yawning Portal, a collection of revamped short adventures from D&D’s past. Candlekeep, which features all-new adventures, was born from Yawning Portal’s success. Notably, while the lower-level adventures are better suited for beginners or new players, the higher-level adventures are meant to remedy a little issue. The vast majority of D&D campaigns don’t go past level 10, and as a result, there understandably isn’t too much official published content geared toward the minority of players who make it to the top. Some of Candlekeep Mysteries’ adventures, given their flexibility, are great for more established campaigns.

“We have somewhat underserved that need [for higher-level adventures],” Perkins admits.

Candlekeep Mysteries_ Alt-Cover (3)

As for Candlekeep Mysteries’ 17 mysteries, Wizards isn’t revealing too much yet. All of the adventurers do indeed contain a mystery for players to solve, and Perkins and the team worked hard with various contributing adventure-writers to pull them all together. At the press reveal, Wizards previewed three adventures. 

“The Canopic Being,” by Jennifer Kretchmer, deals with “a mystery surrounding some organ transplants that happened,” the author teases. The adventure takes parties to Tashluta, a merchant area built on the side of a volcano that Kretchmer was happy to bring into Fifth Edition. The adventure features a complex, non-linear dungeon that she likened designing to “the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia meme,” and Kretchmer, who is a disability accessibility advocate and ambulatory wheelchair user herself, notes that the dungeon is fully accessible, with plenty of ramps and elevators. 

“Zikran's Zephyrean Tome,” by Taymoor Rehman (who went from intern to full-time Wizards employee over the course of the book’s development), features a powerful genie — a djinn — who is trapped in a book and offers players a wish if they’re able to free him. (Or perhaps adventurers will forgo the wish and gain a new friend instead.)

“There’s a lot of depth to djinn and genie characters in Muslim mythology and you don’t get to see much of that," Rehman says emphasizing that this genie is a lot more than the Robin Williams one that Aladdin made famous.  “It’s a wonderful way to see mythology and modern gaming meet.” 

Finally, “Candlekeep Deconstruction,” by Amy Vorpahl, takes place within Candlekeep itself, as the book that launches the adventure is, in fact, the castle’s blueprints — and they reveal a threat to Candlekeep itself. Vorpahl and Perkins note that this adventure showcases the variety of tones that Candlekeep Mysteries’ adventures span, as this is a more intentionally comical story. (Vorpahl notes that her telling efforts to name an NPC “Dog Nuts” were foiled.)

“It’s a quirky take on what Candlenights could be, she says of the adventure, teasing that it could also be “a way to trick your players into playing Spelljammer.”

Graeme Barber, Kelly Lynne D’Angelo, Alison Huang, Mark Hulmes, Daniel Kwan, Adam Lee, Ari Levitch, Chris Lindsay, Sarah Madsen, Michael Polkinghorn, Hannah Rose, Derek Ruiz, Kienna Shaw, Brandes Stoddard, Toni Winslow-Brill, and Perkins himself penned the other adventures. 

As is typical of a D&D adventure book, Candlekeep Mysteries also features new magic items and monsters, including a ghost dragon who lives underneath Candlekeep.  

Candlekeep Mysteries will be available on March 16.