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Candlekeep Mysteries Review Round-Up – What the Critics Say

Candlekeep Mysteries is out and so are a lot of reviews. Let's take a look at what other critics think of D&D's literary adventure anthology and how it compares to my E.N. World review.

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The Positive​

Just like I did, Polygon praised Candlekeep Mysteries as being a resource for DMs with tools, tricks, and maps that can be repurposed as well as adventures that can be expanded or placed wherever you want. Polygon also points out that each book is its own character with a history and a look that is just waiting for someone to sell replicas on Etsy. The adventures themselves are called “tremendous” with its diverse team praised for producing some of the best writing in this edition of D&D.

Mush like the other reviews, Tribality praises CM's flexibility in addition to offering good mystery adventures. It also likes the advice for how DMs can set soft and hard limits to ensure everyone at the table is comfortable, which is necessary since some story aspects could be disturbing. The anthology aspect with Candlekeep as its hub is praised, along with requests for similar anthologies with five-room dungeons, short wilderness adventures, and more. Tribality breaks down each adventure and then calls CM a “must have.”

Geeks of Doom likes that each adventure could be worked into an existing campaign, with or without the link to Candlekeep. It also emphasizes how wide the net is that this book casts with its many locations and range of adventure styles and tones.

Nerdvana thinks that Candlekeep Mysteries has enough material to keep DMs “busy for ages.” As a brand, D&D is praised for trying new things. The review also reflects that the individual adventures in CM are about the same size as the slim modules of the old days but get a fresh perspective from the diverse creative team. Nerdvana also agrees that Candlekeep is a compelling location around which to set adventures.

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The Not So Positive But Still Positive​

Strange Assembly also praised Candlekeep Mysteries, especially for being different than the typical dungeon crawl and focusing on mystery and investigation adventures instead of combat-heavy ones. It notes that the book doesn't offer new rules, and the adventures require less mechanical skill from the DM, but that DMs who can set a tone, especially for the creepy stories, will do well with CM. SA thought the level 2-3 adventures were the weakest while singling out Canopic Being as particularly good.

The Gamer considers Candlekeep Mysteries both a fun book and a big step toward making the game more inclusive. The Gamer's only real complaint is that it doesn't have a connecting plot between the stories.

Bell of Lost Souls also praises both The Book of Inner Alchemy and Canopic Being as well as the overall variety of adventures. In fact, it labeled CM as a “much-needed break from your typical D&D adventure” and not the standard adventure with the standard reward. BOLS would like to see what these writers can do with a full adventure, not just short, self-contained ones.

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Overall Grade: A+​

None of these reviewers provide an official grade but with the extensive praise each one lavishes on the book it's reasonable to assign A grades to the reviews except for Polygon and Geeks of Doom, both of which praise the book without any hesitations or reservations, so they would be A+ grades. I would also give Candlekeep Mysteries an A+ grade because it's so solid and imaginative in all categories. That means D&D's newest book averages between A and A+.
 
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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

JEB

Hero
Individuals have alignment, ancestries do not. Seems pretty clear they are saying alignment is specific to Individuals, not every member of a race/ancestry.
Quite probably the idea, but they're not consistent about it, from a quick page-through. Some examples:
  • Miirym the Sentinel Wyrm and Shemshime are unique NPC undead... who have no described alignment at all. (Though Shemshime is described as "malevolent".)
  • The meenlock still describes them as "cruel fey" that "seek to destroy all that is good". Still sounds like "evil" to me, but I guess removing alignment fixes that, somehow?
  • Overall, most adventures seem to have alignments for everyone, but fewer have no alignments, just some general personality.

One wonders if the changes to alignment happened in the middle of development. It also makes one wonder what their actual approach will be going forward.

I'm going to guess the Panzer cut ran into a hard page count imposed by the editor.
Probably, but it seems like they chose poorly on what to cut/simplify. They should have consulted with the author first.
 

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Interesting. So paging through the book, alignment is gone from the stat blocks... but they do provide alignments separately from the statblock, when specific NPCs are described, often earlier in the adventure. (Other creatures still lack alignment, however.)

I'm kind of fuzzy as to what the advantage of this arrangement is, compared to how it was before. If you disliked alignment, it's still there. But if you did like alignment, it's become more inconvenient to find.
I see it as a basic guideline on how the NPCs character or actions would be. I can see a no name Drow NPC not having anything and can adjust accordingly. If the stat block was Lolth herself and I wasn't familiar with her at all, seeing Chaotic Evil or something would help me plan accordingly how to portray her.

But it did confuse me when the book seemed to go back and forth on the approach.
 
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FitzTheRuke

Legend
My players enjoyed most of them. A few of them they thought weren't very creative. The only ones they didn't like from start to finish was the inner Alchemy and the 16th level one at the end. They love the gnome rocket scientist
You've run all of them already? I assume you did playtesting? (Either that or you had one hardcore week of gaming!)
 

pogre

Legend
@brimmels - I was surprised by how much I liked the book. More importantly, I wanted to express how much I like this round-up of reviews style of article. I hope for more in the future! Well done.
 




FitzTheRuke

Legend
I sold out of the game store exclusive cover already, and I ordered more of it than I did of most other Adventure Books. (I still have copies of the Saltmarsh one available - I think the design-y covers are more popular than the Saltmarsh one, but also this book must have been hotly anticipated by comparison.) It's nice to see that this many years in, 5e can still make non-crunch books that out perform earlier books. (This did NOT regularly happen with 3.x or 4e. Hey, I've been selling D&D books since 2e was still the edition! Man, I feel old!)
 

The Glen

Hero
So both early access AND hardcore gaming. I see. Sounds like fun.
A lot of them played quick because they are fairly linear. That's not a complaint some of the best ones were just point A to point B. There was only two that the players didn't like, and about four they absolutely adored. Kandlekeep Dekonstruction seems to be the break out hit.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
A lot of them played quick because they are fairly linear. That's not a complaint some of the best ones were just point A to point B. There was only two that the players didn't like, and about four they absolutely adored. Kandlekeep Dekonstruction seems to be the break out hit.
How's "A Deep & Creeping Darkness"? I am thinking about running it here on ENWorld in Play by Post.
 


Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
It certainly seems like it, though I still definitely don't agree with that. There's nothing, nothing wrong at all with being inherently evil/chaotic/good/whatever, really. This is another step to make themselves seen as more and more politically correct while there would be no need for that, at all. Races, alignments, and all the more recent things changed recently were good just the way they were.
Total liberal here who is pro-LGBT, minorities, and feminists, but I could not agree more with ibenny. The word police are really getting strict, what a turn-off. It's a game, not some legislation for equality or other important document. I believe in political correctness, but it just seems like it is getting obsessive.
 

It reminded us a lot of aliens exploring a mysterious abandoned facility with all the people gone. Well I replaced the monsters with setting specific ones, the fact its the same monster over and over can be repetitious. If nothing else vary up their hp.
It would benefit from some kind of meanlock queen. It's high on horror, low on interesting fights.
 

mcmillan

Explorer
Being angry that the PC race, background and magic items are cut, is just being petulant. Outrage over those two elements is uncalled for.
That seems to be missing what is bothering him about the cuts. This tweet seems to summarize how he feels about the specific things that were cut

My Adventure:
Ancient gods stirring from their slumber bring the ancient past to the modern day, imperiling the local Grippli village as factions of Yuan-ti battle.

Edited/Developed Adventure:
Primitive frog people need rescue by players, Yuan-ti are evil because evil

I don't have the book so can't judge how close it is to that description, though when the official wizards account tweeted a preview description it seems to have a pretty different emphasis

Engraved cylinders contained within a book tell a gripping tale when rolled across wet clay. This adventure updates the grippli (distant relatives to bullywugs) for fifth edition and sheds some light on grippli society.

If changes were needed it seems communication to ensure key aspects were kept was missing
 

The Glen

Hero
It would benefit from some kind of meanlock queen. It's high on horror, low on interesting fights.
In my revision we added a lot of traps, but that was because those are common to the creature that we replaced the bad guy with. Which would have been a great idea except the Rogue took the observant feat so traps were not even an inconvenience. But you do have to do something to avoid repetition in encounters
 
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HawaiiSteveO

Blistering Barnacles!
So much for the thread
You know what would be nice? To read more about reviews of Candlekeep adventures in this thread, as advertised.

The discussion over The Book of Cylinders and its editing is definitely important, but that needs its own thread, so as to not completely overrun this one, to the detriment of the other 16 adventures in the book...

Shemshimes Bedtime Rhyme - can’t wait to play it, the art really grabbed me 👍 just plain fun to read.

The lower level ones are a little bland, but totally subjective of course .

Kandlekeep looks like a hoot with the right group, and everyone into it and aware of mood.

Canopic Being is just excellent 👍👍 can’t wait to use it
 

The Glen

Hero
So much for the thread


Shemshimes Bedtime Rhyme - can’t wait to play it, the art really grabbed me 👍 just plain fun to read.

The lower level ones are a little bland, but totally subjective of course .

Kandlekeep looks like a hoot with the right group, and everyone into it and aware of mood.

Canopic Being is just excellent 👍👍 can’t wait to use it
From a DM perspective, extra dimensional spaces finally did something I've been calling for since the beginning by putting stat blocks next to the sections that the monster appears in. And then nothing for the next 16 adventures
 

My players enjoyed most of them. A few of them they thought weren't very creative. The only ones they didn't like from start to finish was the inner Alchemy and the 16th level one at the end. They love the gnome rocket scientist
How... Have you played through them all??! The thing's been out for like a week...
 

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