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Dungeons & Dragons kicks off 2021 with its first wheelchair-accessible dungeon

Candlekeep Mysteries includes 17 adventures from 19 different designers

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Cover art for Candlekeep Mysteries includes a pair of adventurers perusing forgotten tomes deep beneath Baldur’s Gate. Image: Clint Cearley/Wizards of the Coast
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The next Dungeons & Dragons book published by Wizards of the Coast will include the franchise’s first official adventure that is wheelchair accessible. Titled Candlekeep Mysteries, the collection of 17 one-shot adventures will be published on March 16 and will feature the work of 19 different designers.

Candlekeep Mysteries will be different from any other book released so far for the 5th edition of D&D. Rather than a single campaign that takes characters from level 1 through levels 5 or 10, it’s a collection of much shorter, unconnected experiences. Each one will be designed to serve as a one-shot, a common term for an adventure suitable for just one gameplay session (between two and four hours).

They also all share a common theme: books.

“It originated out of the need to provide Dungeon Masters with short adventures that they can easily integrate into their Forgotten Realms campaign — or into any campaign, really — that has in it a library,” said Chris Perkins, D&D’s principal story designer, in a press briefing. “Each adventure is built on the premise of the characters finding a book. That book is what propels a mystery, a mystery that the characters feel compelled to solve, which then leads them on a grand adventure.”

For the past several years now, Wizards of the Coast has been welcoming more and more freelance designers into the fold through The Dungeon Masters Guild. Built in partnership with OneBookshelf (makers of DriveThruRPG), it also offers revenue sharing with independent creators. Perkins tapped into this burgeoning ecosystem of new voices, as well as the wider freelance marketplace, to build the team behind Candlekeep Mysteries.

Authors include the following:

Adventurers pore over a book with a magnifying glass deep withing the dim confines of Candlekeep, in Baldur’s Gate. Image: Wizards of the Coast
  • Graeme Barber (@POCGamer)
  • Kelly Lynne D’Angelo (@kellylynnedang)
  • Alison Huang (@Drazillion)
  • Mark Hulmes (@sherlock_hulmes)
  • Jennifer Kretchmer (@dreamwisp)
  • Daniel Kwan (@danielhkwan)
  • Adam Lee (@adamofadventure)
  • Ari Levitch (@AriLevitch)
  • Chris Lindsay (@ravens_watching)
  • Sarah Madsen (@UnfetteredMuse),
  • Michael Polkinghorn (@MiketheGoalie)
  • Taymoor Rehman (@DarkestCrows)
  • Hannah Rose (@wildrosemage)
  • Derek Ruiz (@ElvenTower)
  • Kienna Shaw (@kiennas)
  • Brandes Stoddard (@BrandesStoddard)
  • Amy Vorpahl (@vorpahlsword)
  • Toni Winslow-Brill (@vorgryth)

Among the designers on hand to give the press a preview of their contributions was actor and producer Jennifer Kretchmer, part of the Silver & Steel actual-play group. Last summer, Kretchmer put lots of energy into creating the Accessibility in Gaming Resource. She said it was important for her to make sure that her adventure was available to everyone.

The alternate cover for Candlekeep Mysteries looks like a leather-bound book with gilded accents.
An alternate cover, which will only be available through friendly local game stores.
Image: Wizards of the Coast

“This is not something that’s new to tabletop gaming, or new to D&D, but it was important to me to make accessibility part of my dungeons,” Kretchmer said. “As an ambulatory wheelchair user, I wanted people to have the opportunity to see themselves represented in-game. We have the ability in fantasy to imagine things. We don’t have to pay to make those accommodations. This is something we can imagine in our brains, and it’s there. So it’s something that was really important to me to put in, into my design.”

In fact, there was quite a bit of buzz about accessibility in tabletop role-playing games last year. That was thanks in part to Sara Thompson, who goes by the handle @mustangsart on Twitter. The designer and consultant created the Combat Wheelchair, a D&D supplement available for free online. It has since been incorporated into the official canon of Matt Mercer’s Critical Role. There’s even a line of figures suitable for at-home 3D printing from Strata Miniatures.

Wizards has published several anthologies for the 5th edition, including Ghosts of Saltmarsh and Tales from the Yawning Portal. However, those books included adventures that were much more substantial — and tended to be revised versions of older material. Candlekeep Mysteries promises to be all-new content. Most important to Perkins, however, is the opportunity to kick off the year with creative, inspiring adventures for fans of D&D to riff on throughout 2021.

“What’s wonderful about it is, you know, with so many adventures, you get to see a huge variety of what D&D can be,” Perkins said. “Every adventure is unique. Every adventure’s got a weird twist or take. I think that people will be able to pick up this product and find one or more things that they’re just gonna be aching to want to play, to put in their games.”

Adventurers pore over a book with a magnifying glass deep withing the dim confines of Candlekeep, in Baldur’s Gate.

Candlekeep Mysteries

  • $35
  • $50
  • 30% off

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This anthology of 17 different one-shot adventures only requires Dungeon Masters to place a library somewhere in their world. Well, that and 3-5 hardy adventurers to find it.

  • $35 at Amazon

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