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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

The Glen

Hero
How... Have you played through them all??! The thing's been out for like a week...
Got a review copy, did a video on it. Many of them took about two hours, good filler for in-between sessions. Mostly converted them to another setting which it does easily. Had to swap out some monsters, but again no problem. From notes:

Loved extradimensional spaces, though players solved it fairly quickly with an informed guess of the password. The layout impressed me as the DM because it put the monster blocks next to their encounters.

Mazfroth's was a little deeper, though the combat went quickly because of some lucky hits in the big fight. Reminded the players of Army of Darkness because of the books.

Book of the Raven we felt should have been a Ravenloft adventure, the extra part about the Vistani to set up the adventure seemed wasted because it never really came up again.

Deep and Crawling Darkness felt like Aliens, module suffers from only one type of monster. We switched them up a bit but still, it needed some variety in the baddies.

Shemshine was fun, and one of the easiest to adapt. More importantly, it broke from the mold of the other adventures.

Price of Beauty took the longest to play, it was one of the more in-depth adventures. Did switch out the baddies with the Witches from Rahasia, as they were more appropriate to my setting.

Book of Cylinders was fairly average, typical save the weak from the strong plot. Similar to Seven Samurai only without the recruitment montage.

Yellowcrest Manor was one of the better ones, we did change the class of the bad guy to warlock, seemed more appropriate. Again, very little conversion to the new setting.

Lore of Lurue needed a fair amount of conversion, the Fey of Mystara are very different from the Fey of the Realms. Added more to the adventure because the players were enjoying playing in the Good Kingdom and loved all the fey.

Kandlekeep was probably the best adventure. My players had a blast, they got an escort through the library in the form of a Shakespeare quoting homicidal undead skull there to keep them on their best behavior.

Zephyrean was quick and light, almost no conversions. Point A to Point B, fairly linear but over so fast it didn't annoy the players.

Wisteria Vale required the most conversion so far, this one ended quickly because of a lucky player. All the planning in the world for the big fight doesn't do jack to a max damage critical. Did have a lot of potential for roleplay though.

Book of Inner Alchemy was one of the two the player's didn't like. Linear, tedious, and they actually laughed at the text box dialogue. When the villain's death triggers people quoting "The Castle Aargh... He must have died while writing it" jokes, there's a problem.

Canopic Being was one of the more interesting ones, and one of the adventures that actually put the party up against a good fight at the end.

Scrivener's Tale took some conversion, again Mystara fey vs Realms fey. Players found it a bit grindy, though they also had to deal with some bad rolls in the end boss fight.

Alkezaar was a crawl, players got through it fairly easily, but mainly due to the fact they are veteran players and managed to get past a few encounters through treachery and stealth.

Xanthoria was considered the worst. A 16th level dungeon crawl was not up to their expectations of a high-level adventure, though solving the issue at the end was different because against Mystara fey are handled differently.
 

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One thing that struck me in the first adventure is that this supposedly well-furnished, comfortable, and magical mansion is lacking any sort of sanitary facilities whatsoever. I mean, I guess when you have a homunculus around, you can use it to empty chamber pots, but I would think a mansion created and cast by high-level mages would have the option for running water! Usually, this would be something to shrug off, but it's relatively likely that the characters are going to want to take over the place for their own use if possible, and awkward questions might arise when handing them the map. I guess it will be a quick modification of the map to include a full bathroom, probably on the south side of the second floor above the steps and between the lab and trophy room...
 

Mazfroth's was a little deeper, though the combat went quickly because of some lucky hits in the big fight. Reminded the players of Army of Darkness because of the books./
I think the "negotiated settlement" is the author's preferred option. I'm pretty sure that would be what my players would go for.

I have a concern that a 2nd level character could easily die right at the start.
Book of the Raven we felt should have been a Ravenloft adventure, the extra part about the Vistani to set up the adventure seemed wasted because it never really came up again./
Yup, very atmospheric, very Ravenloft. Doesn't really stand on it's own.
Shemshine was fun, and one of the easiest to adapt. More importantly, it broke from the mold of the other adventures./
Yes, this has to be one of the highlights of the book.
Yellowcrest Manor was one of the better ones, we did change the class of the bad guy to warlock, seemed more appropriate. Again, very little conversion to the new setting./
I thought this one was a bit of a disappointment. Lots of CoC set up, but no big twist or slimy tentacle monster at the end.
Lore of Lurue, Scrivener's Tale, Xanthoria
These have great boss-monsters that could be repurposed for other adventures.
 
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jasper

Rotten DM
@The Glen … Many of them took about two hours, good filler for in-between sessions. …. TWO HOURS. Would you say your group is average, or fast players? Asking Because Candle is my next book when we complete Icewind Dale. I need to know how far in advance to read ahead and take notes.

Demetrops 1453 Heroes don’t bath or go to the potty unless it is a plot point.
 

The Glen

Hero
@The Glen … Many of them took about two hours, good filler for in-between sessions. …. TWO HOURS. Would you say your group is average, or fast players? Asking Because Candle is my next book when we complete Icewind Dale. I need to know how far in advance to read ahead and take notes.
I would say they are veteran players. My friends have been gaming with me for decades. Most of them have cheat sheets with all of their abilities listed so they never forget what they can do. It also helped that they build their characters with the rest of the party in mind so they can set up combos.

The other half of that is prep work on the DM side. When I go through the module I put Monster cards when the pages of the encounters that they're going to appear in so that I automatically have them laid out when we get to that part. Same thing with magic items. I also don't worry too much about laying out the map that takes a lot of time for each room, just theater of the mind it until you actually need to know where everyone specific location is. I also lay out dice behind the screen representing each monsters hit points far easier way to keep track
 

jasper

Rotten DM
.....

The other half of that is prep work on the DM side. When I go through the module I put Monster cards when the pages of the encounters that they're going to appear in so that I automatically have them laid out when we get to that part. Same thing with magic items. I also don't worry too much about laying out the map that takes a lot of time for each room, just theater of the mind it until you actually need to know where everyone specific location is. I also lay out dice behind the screen representing each monsters hit points far easier way to keep track
My prep work is a title sheet with the name and code and AL adjustment formula. Then the other pages are something like M15 Cat AC 12 HP 2 CR 0 MM 320. And any other notes. It took me about 40 minutes to read and make my notes for the first one. Some of that was adding monsters to my global Monster list.
 

@The Glen … Many of them took about two hours, good filler for in-between sessions. …. TWO HOURS. Would you say your group is average, or fast players? Asking Because Candle is my next book when we complete Icewind Dale. I need to know how far in advance to read ahead and take notes.

Demetrops 1453 Heroes don’t bath or go to the potty unless it is a plot point.
I guess I'm just looking for verisimilitude in these cases, especially in places that are described as luxurious. Like I said, it isn't hard to add.
 


Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
The #PanzerCut discussion has been moved and merged into this thread:

 

Yup, very atmospheric, very Ravenloft. Doesn't really stand on it's own.
Yeah, Book of the Raven really needs some meat on its bones. They're really good bones, but it's really a just lot of atmosphere. It needs a bit more story to bind it all together. I'm working on creating an overarching plot for the book (right now it's basically the mages from the first book have been kidnapped/held prisoner by powerful extraplanar beings, with Zuggtmoy being a prime candidate for this due to the final adventure), and Book of the Raven is being a bit tough to integrate...
 

Yeah, Book of the Raven really needs some meat on its bones. They're really good bones, but it's really a just lot of atmosphere. It needs a bit more story to bind it all together. I'm working on creating an overarching plot for the book (right now it's basically the mages from the first book have been kidnapped/held prisoner by powerful extraplanar beings, with Zuggtmoy being a prime candidate for this due to the final adventure), and Book of the Raven is being a bit tough to integrate...
One suspects that the author, on being asked to create an adventure, took what they considered the best bit from a full length campaign they had run.

Suggestions with major spoilers:
I suggest that you give your party some need to travel to the Shadowfell, either looking for your missing mages, or to find one of the books for a later episode. e.g. LoL, ZZT or TCCoWV might be in the Shadowfell rather than Candlekeep. If you don't want to run a full blown Shadowfell adventure swap one for the rather rubbish magic saddle treasure.

The Scarlet Sash can also be introduced as allies, and alternative questgivers if you want a break from the Avowed at Candlekeep.

It might be even more interesting if your players mistakenly slaughter the wereravens and the organisation becomes an enemy.
 
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pukunui

Legend
One suspects that the author, on being asked to create an adventure, took what they considered the best bit from a full length campaign they had run.
Chris Perkins was the author. He talked recently about how he'd just written it to use as an example for the other authors and then felt it was good enough (or was convinced that it was good enough -- I forget which) to include in the actual book.

That's probably why it feels so barebones -- because it really was originally just an outline ... and there probably wasn't enough space in the book's page count to flesh it out any further.
 

The Glen

Hero
Chris Perkins was the author. He talked recently about how he'd just written it to use as an example for the other authors and then felt it was good enough (or was convinced that it was good enough -- I forget which) to include in the actual book.

That's probably why it feels so barebones -- because it really was originally just an outline ... and there probably wasn't enough space in the book's page count to flesh it out any further.
Raven was a strange one, the first half talked heavily about the Vistani, rewriting their history, but then they don't appear in the actual adventure. That was a bit peculiar, especially for the amount of space devoted to the retcon. Could have used it to fill out the adventure instead of giving us Sir Not Appearing in This Adventure.
 

Doctor Futurity

Adventurer
For the record I've rather enjoyed reading through this book, several of the modules stand out to me (but haven't run any yet so hard to comment on their actual versatility.) The missing alignment thing is a mild disappointment; I consider it a useful metric to help the DM but also admit it's not that important in the long haul, though replacing it with a "Personality" tag with some key traits would go a long ways toward being helpful with each NPC or monster stat block.

As for any of the "controversy" surrounding the book, or any agenda, I honestly can't say I'd have realized this was a thing if not for it bring brought up on the forums....the book stands on its own two legs on its own merit, in other words.
 


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