A Look at Candlekeep Mysteries for D&D – The Full Review

Candlekeep Mysteries is a D&D campaign add-on that provides 17 side quest for character levels 1-16. Not every level is represented here, but it is still quite an ambitious endeavor. With that in mind, did they succeed and should you purchase this book?

Candlekeep Mysteries gives 17 optional side quest for players at levels 1-16. THIS BOOK IS NOT INTENDED AS A SOLE CAMPAIGN!! The mysteries here are fun, and can be completed in a few short sessions. The quality of these side quests vary, but as a book that is just meant to be an additive to your campaign, it does what it intends.

With all of this in mind, does Candlekeep Mysteries provide worthwhile adventures for your group, and should you use it? We will go over the setting, integrating the book into your games, and giving our personal ratings to each mystery on a scale.

Should You Use This Book?

I have already run a few mysteries with different groups and have come to some conclusions that will help you decide if you should use this book.

Candlekeep Mysteries is purely optional. You do not need to get it, but might still be wondering if you should. Here are a few reasons why you should, and why you should not get this book.

Buy this book if:

  1. You want to run multiple adventures in Candlekeep Mysteries.
  2. You are fine purchasing an entire book for just 50 pages worth of content.
  3. The players need extra downtime activities, items, loot, or if you are just ‘missing’ something from your campaign. That does not mean that this is the missing component to make your campaign great, but it is an amazing asset to help you get there.
  4. The world needs to be bigger! Have more places just feel more alive.
  5. You just some extra side adventures to run in between planning for the main campaign or in downtime.
  6. You want to get some ideas on what makes good or great small adventures.
  7. Not everyone shows up, but you still want to have a session. Instead of cancelling, run one of these!
  8. You want players to have an extra resource. This is helpful for players who fail plot related checks and need something to give them more information.

Avoid this book if:

  1. Your players are not interested in research. If they don’t want to research, then this book will be extremely hard to put into your campaign.
  2. You expect to get an entire campaign out of this book. It is not designed for it.
  3. You just want to run 1 adventure but are trepidacious about buying a whole book for just 1 adventure. If you are having these thoughts then don’t buy Candlekeep Mysteries. It is most likely just going to sit on a shelf and garner resentment for purchasing a full book that you have only used 50 pages of.
  4. The momentum of the campaign is so fast that players are not allowed to have downtime. That is essential for most of these quests to be successfully integrated into your game.

Setting

The intro is a little confusing since it doesn’t give a clearer idea of who the guides and great readers are, but that can let DMs make these characters their own. It depends on the type of DM you are. Most of the Candlekeep residents will need to be fleshed out more in order to use them. Luckily, you should have enough information to make it not a difficult task.

Candlekeep is basically the library of Alexandria. If you don’t know what that is, think of a fabled library in ancient times that housed almost all of the world’s knowledge. It was a place of learning, had thousands of books, and this was well before the printing press. Candlekeep is the D&D variant of this place which makes it extremely appealing for most players. Especially players who value information on what they are about to face.

Candlekeep can be a very nice place to research and read books on any topic but you are playing an adventurer! Or at least, the players are. As an adventurer trouble just comes to you, and that is where the main draw of Candlekeep Mysteries comes into play.

The setting will change quite drastically in each adventure. The hook almost always starts in Candlekeep, but it doesn’t have to stay in Candlekeep. Most adventures go into different parts of the world and make the players learn about the world on a grander scale. Little by little.

Integrating the Book

Integrating Candlekeep Mysteries into your game is fairly easy for most adventures.

The book itself gives ideas on how to integrate an adventure into your game. For example, the group is researching the planes in anticipation of what to expect. In doing so, a book that gives information on the planes just happens to fall into the player’s lap and they are sucked into an adventure!

Most of the mysteries have a strong call to action that immediately pushes the players to accomplish these tasks or else! The hook is there, and the information is fairly straightforward. There isn’t a lot to these mysteries as most are 9-15 pages. This makes the side quests nice and short so the players wont tire of them and you can get back to your campaign.

Later mysteries just give up on subtly integrating them into your game and make a forced plot hook that can be put into any campaign. You can do this to an extent with other mysteries, but these sidequests also try to constantly add something to the greater narrative. Many prompt DMs to add, foreshadow, or give information about the main plot just by taking part in these sidequests.

These mysteries can blend extremely well into your campaign without much effort, but some do take a bit more work than others depending of course on what is happening in your campaign.

Rating the Adventures

We will give each adventure a subjective rating and will not spoil more than the first 30 minutes of each adventure. (What the players will know or be easily able to figure out right away after getting the initial quest hook.) The rating scale will go like this:

Don’t bother:

This is an adventure that upon reading or using the adventure is just not designed well. The notes are all over the place, not enough detail was given, and it just won’t be a fun adventure.

Bad:

An adventure that needs a lot of work. It just doesn’t seem fun, is designed poorly but has either too much detail or too little in far too many areas. Also, very hard to incorporate into your campaign. It can be too easy, difficult, or just not good for that level.

Ok:

Take it or leave it. The overall plot is weird and subjective to your tastes. The adventure is designed well and is still hard to incorporate into your campaign, but it isn’t ridiculously hard to do so. It is also debatable if the difficulty is too easy or too hard.

Good:

These have interesting premises and will be likely to catch the attention of most DMs out there. The plot is well done, easy to incorporate into your game, and can provide a lot to your campaign.

Almost Perfect:

These adventures immediately gripped me, made me want to play them, and will most likely do the same to you. The narrative is straight forward, not convoluted, and will most likely provide a great experience to all.

The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces

A fairly good first level adventure. The name already tells you that the players will be going into an extradimensional space which opens up a lot of potential for your players. Most level ones get to fight rats, kobolds, or some other weak thing but this one has some potential combat, well done puzzles. Most importantly it teaches players that D&D is not just a murder simulator!

A very good level one adventure that I would recommend, want to play and is leagues above most first level adventures. Obviously, this wouldn’t be too amazing if it was a higher level, but getting this at level 1 would be a grand treat!

Mazfroth’s Mighty Digressions

This adventure without spoiling it is…. not well designed. At times it seems like the adventure is trying to guilt the players into letting the ‘villains’ continue to do what they are doing. The adventure itself seems extremely open ended, which can be good, but it doesn’t seem like the DM has a clear idea of where the players should go.

Yes, it has a decent plot hook that is applicable to many campaigns but the adventure itself is best described as….unimportant. If your players don’t do something, who cares. Do the players have an easy way to figure out the motivations of the villains? Only in a less than ideal situation to do so.

Definitely one that I wouldn’t use.

Book of the Raven

This book is a strange part of Candlekeep Mysteries. Right away you are given a map to follow which seems like it will be a fun treasure hunt, but that is not the main focus. In fact, you could just warp the players to the end and you wouldn’t miss anything. Getting there is easily done in the first 30 minutes of a session unless you really work hard as a DM to make it more complicated.

After that, the rest of the adventure is unclear. Most sections at the end have a conclusion piece based on what the outcome is, but there isn’t one here. The reason for that is because the goal is lost right away and the adventure is just… vague. The only prompt is the map and once they reach the map’s destination they can call it quits. The goal isn’t clear and it is just a bit confusing to end or even know what the players are looking for.

Not one that I would recommend, but if you work on fixing out some of the kinks you should be able to make this adventure work.

A Deep Creeping Darkness

We have at the beginning of this adventure a mystery! It forebodes a deep creeping darkness which already tells you what to expect, and holds up. The mystery itself is not solved in 1 scene! The players will have to take their time and solve this which makes the mystery work very well.

Mysteries are not supposed to be solved right away, and they seem to have taken quite a bit from our article on how to make a D&D mystery. I am kidding of course, but they really implement quite a few of our techniques. I can’t say that this is a bad adventure if they are using what I have told people to do afterall!

Shemshime’s Bedtime Rhyme

Shemshime is another of Candlekeep Mysteries that is an actual mystery! I ran this with a group and it worked out well. The rhyme, quarantine, all of it works out well. It reminds me a little of real life since we are also in a plague, but this one is far more deadly and has a much more exciting finally.

Here the players are constantly thinking, figuring out what to do, and talking to each other. It is a puzzle, mystery, and horror story all in one. Both of these level 4 adventures are done extremely well and I would highly recommend to run either for your group!

The Price of Beauty

We all want to be beautiful! At least, the is the premise of this adventure. If your players don’t care about beauty or want something to change within themselves then this will be a chore to run. Most of the themes are about changing oneself, and what complications may occur when doing so.

Not a bad lesson, but it is very hit or miss. Just like the lesson, the adventure is a hit or miss. The structure is confusing for the players, not a lot of direction is given, and either the players stumble onto something or the DM gives them a hand. There is not real progression throughout the adventure that the players go through and it is too open ended.

The second half is great. Once the players figure out what to do, but getting there is definitely a problem and a chore. Sadly, getting there is the core of this adventure so I wouldn’t recommend this adventure.

Book of Cylinders

This adventure is a bit open ended, but it ties things together neatly. Unlike the orange adventures, this one actually has a direction for the players. It is just that part of the adventure is not going to be used depending on what the players want.

Sandbox adventures are great, but when you have a sandbox contained in 8 pages there are going to be problems. While everything is tied together and the idea has potential, the meat is just not there. It is an okay adventure and by no means bad, just not one that is amazing.

Sarah of Yellowcrest Manor

This adventure has a bit of everything! Mystery, linear plot progression, a strong hook, and it is well thought out when it needs to be. I at no point thought that any sections were underdeveloped or too much. It seemed like the adventure was just right in almost every way, and I loved the concept.

Admittedly, I wasn’t strongly hooked in the beginning. It has a decent hook, but as the story progresses it just gets better and better until you are left with an amazing adventure that can impact your world to an impressive extent. It is easily accessible and thus can be tied to any campaign.

Lore of Lurue

I ran this adventure for my group and it worked out wonderfully. There is almost no way adventurers could resist the hook and going into a linear story is an amazing adventure. It is fairly short, but even so your players will have a lot of fun in it.

While this is a good adventure, it isn’t perfect. Lore of Lurue doesn’t have the depth that other Candlekeep Mysteries have and that keeps it from being almost perfect. Aside from this though, it is a great adventure to use in your game.

Kandlekeep Dekonstruktion

The only concern with this adventure is the timer. How are you going to implement it, will the players complain about it, does it really matter? I get that it adds tension but how this is handled can make the adventure be a problem. Aside from the timer, there is one object that is also confusing on how to find it.

These 2 problems alone are big enough to keep it from being almost perfect, but the rest is great. You are in for a whacky adventure of pure insanity. This adventure lastly is great for giving the players a silly reprieve while also making them have to deal with a somewhat stressful situation.

Zikran’s Zephyrean Tome

This part of Candlekeep Mysteries is hard to sell to the players in the beginning. Getting the book is not going to work for many groups, and the adventure for the first half just seems like something is missing. The second half is short and sweet, but is this really a great adventure?

While reading I was never truly hooked. This adventure seemed bigger than 9 pages and the climax was a bit funnier than intended. It seemed a little stupid and not in a good way like Dekonstruktion. There are flaws, but it is an okay adventure that at least has a good structure for you to run.

The Curious Tale of Wisteria Vale

I want to rate this one higher. I love the idea that this adventure has, but how it is executed is questionable at best. The hook is easy enough to give. Some parties might not care for it, but I think it is good. The design of the adventure is the problem. When I started reading this adventure I loved it, but as I got further in the more I wished that it was just a bit more thought out.

The adventure could be done in a session, or it could take a few. If this adventure takes a few sessions then it could be infuriating. There aren’t many steps to solving this mystery, but getting there is a real problem. This, combined with that fact that if players fail to fix an important plot point they will be stuck for a long while.

While I love the idea, I Just can’t make it go a rank higher. I love the idea so much that it pushed the adventure to where it is currently, but you will have to make sure things go right in order to have a good experience.

The Book of Inner Alchemy

Have you ever wanted to be in a bad kung fu movie? Where they jump down from a high building, state their name, and then scream their fighting style or fighting move? If so, this is your chance!

This adventure is done well, but it is bad cheesy kung fu movie ‘well.’ The adventure is easy to get and put into your campaign, but it is up to you if you want to run a cheesy kung fu movie. If so, run it. If not, then skip.

The Canopic Being

While this barely makes the ‘almost perfect’ category, it really is almost perfect. Objectively, it is well written, has an interesting premise, great ways to find out the information players need, extra ways to solve the problem, and adds a lot to your main campaign. There is even more praise I can give this, so definitely give it a look!

The reason why it barely makes the almost perfect category is because I just didn’t feel that interested in the whole premise. I believe this is more of a me issue than the adventure itself, but if you read it and feel that something is off as well I fully understand. Objectively though, it is extremely good and it should be more fun than I am giving it credit for.

The Scrivener’s Tale

There is a lot of extra information in this adventure. Sooo much extra information that didn’t seem to be needed. With all that information, it still wants you to improvise the first half quite a bit. Only in the final stages does it get great.

Combining this with what happens when you read the Scrivener’s Tale and the progression by player choice, it seems a bit much. Especially for a side adventure. The mystery is easy enough to get, quite well done in framework, and doesn’t leave the players confused most of the time, but it just feels lacking.

If you are willing to put in some effort in the first half to fix the open endedness, then this adventure might be good for your group. Otherwise, skip.

Alkazaar’s Appendix

I was completely hooked on the premise and just wanted to get to the end to see what the potential rewards did. I am a bit biased since I love the civilization that is mentioned in this adventure, but we have to be a bit objective. How you get the mystery, easy to incorporate. The framework of the mystery, top notch. The climax is also great. Almost everything seems good, but there is a problem.

There are so many steps to this adventure! The steps seem almost like they could be just put into one place, some can be taken out, and more problems arise. This adventure could be shortened. It should be shortened. That problem makes the whole adventure seem a bit long, and not well thought out. Still, a great adventure if you can condense those long parts of the story.

Xanthoria

Oh yes! I want to run this adventure so badly. The premise is amazing. The story is amazing. The structure of the adventure is amazing, and what it means for the world can propel a campaign itself. The players are also able to see magical progression instead of stagnation, and this can make them want to experiment themselves!

Right at L1, the entrance you have a great thing going. I cannot say more, but I love all of it. There is a short mystery, constant reveals, emotions like there were in Alkaazar;s Apendix, and it is just fantastic. If you are ever level 16, it is so easy to make happen and an adventure that I would suggest you run.

In Conclusion

Candlekeep Mysteries is an optional book that has some excellent side adventures! This book is not for everyone. That is why it is optional. See our pros and cons in the should you use this book section for more detail.

The adventures it provides are mostly ok or good with a few almost perfects. There is only one extremely bad adventure in our subjective opinion and just a few bad ones.

I am not disappointed that I got this book and my group loved it! You cannot make a campaign with just this book alone, but it is a great addition to your campaign. Especially if you are going to constantly use it throughout your game.

I hope that this has helped you decide if you should get this book, and I would love to hear your thoughts on Candlekeep Mysteries in the comments down below!

With that, this has been Wizo. Keep rolling!

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