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Sunday, May 16, 2021

A Guide to Candlekeep Mysteries


by Clint Cearley

This guide is a collection of notes designed to help DMs quickly understand the adventures in this book, and refer to during play for essential information. Basically I'm trying to prepare this adventure for you. I'll also try to identify possible problems that could arise when running these adventures and ways to work around them.

I'll be slowly working on this article over the next few weeks, changing it as needed.



by Mike Schley
Fortress on a peninsula. Famous for its library containing a vast collection of books, including the prophecies of Alaundo the Seer.

  • Entrance: Double gate (made of black metal, 3x the height of a human) connected to the only road - the Way of the Lion.
  • Guards: 5 Avowed priests (MM pg 348) of Deneir.
  • Caretakers: The Avowed, a legion of scholars and sages.
  • Entrance Fee: A work of writing not already contained within. 
  • Guide: Visitors can request a guide/research assistant. Roll on the chart on page 7.

Defenses and Decorum

If trouble occurs 1 archmage (MM pg 342) and 4 mages (MM pg 347) arrive immediately. If necessary, 4 more archmages can be brought in.

Wards: Many magical effects protect Candlekeep:

  • You can't teleport in to Candlekeep, or use magic to get in. You must go through the front gates. 
  • Fire: Fires larger than a candle are magically suppressed, so spells like fireball do not function.
  • Theft: Books stolen from Candlekeep immediately return there via magic. 
  • Mythal: The keeper of the Tomes can activate a mythal which blocks everything but air and sound from getting in or out of Candlekeep.

Rules: Those in Candlekeep must follow certain rules:

  • No fighting.
  • No stealing.
  • No copying. You can take notes, but getting a copy requires paying scribes to make one.
  • No damaging/marking/modifying works.

The Avowed 

About 300 priests live here, most of which are commoners (MM pg 344).

The Keeper of Tomes: Highest ranking member/governor. Janussi, a human archmage (MM pg 342).

Readers: Master Sage (pg 9) and Sage (pg 9)

First Reader: "Bookwyrm" Skoda Valanaster - dragonborn master sage (pg 9). Job: Acquire unique tomes and scrolls.

Great Readers: 8 scholarly experts in a certain area of study.

  • A'lai Aivenmore: Human master sage (pg 9), worships Oghma. Expertise: Divinity.
  • Alkrist: Bronze dragonborn master sage (pg 9). Expertise: Politics/military battles.
  • Daral Yashenti: Human master sage (pg 9), poet. Expertise: Music/poetry/literature.
  • Fheminor Scrivenbark: Lightfoot halfling master sage (pg 9). Expertise: History/folklore/cultures.
  • Kazryn Nyantani: Human master sage (pg 9). Expertise: Natural world/celestial navigation.
  • Sylvira Savikas: Tiefling archmage (MM pg 342). Expertise: The planes.
  • Teles Ahvose: Human archmage (MM pg 342). Expertise: Magic items, curses, and the Weave.
  • V'ziir-Ag: Githzerai master sage (pg 9). Expertise: Aberrations/undead/Far Realm

Master Readers: Oversee scribes and teach adjutants. Sages (pg 9) and master sages (pg 9). 

Gatewarden: Kalan Strong, human archmage (MM pg 342). Maintains security at the front gates.

(pg 17) The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces

by Kieran Yanner

Adventure Summary
  • The group needs to find a sage named Matreous.
  • He went into a hidden Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion.
  • The group can find the command word to open the entrance to the Mansion in The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces.
  • The group goes in, meets Matreous, who exits through the portal.
  • The portal then shuts. The group is trapped in the mansion.
  • In room M5., the heroes learn that a different command word activates the exit portal. This command word is hidden on the spines of 7 puzzle books scattered throughout the mansion. 
  • Once the heroes figure out the command word, they activate the exit portal. Stepping through, they see that an imp has slain Matreous and attacks them.
Puzzle Book Locations
  1. M3. Library: Letter "R", found in stacks of books, guarded by swarm of animated books.
  2. M5. Study: Letter "I", sitting on an armchair.
  3. M11. Laboratory: Letter "T", among the books on the middle table. 
  4. M13. The Chained Library: Letter "L", on the desk by the chained library.
  5. M14. Trophy Room: Letter "Y", guarded by 2 flying swords.
  6. M15. Bedroom: Letter "E", Sitting on a chest of drawers.
  7. M17. Alchemical Laboratory: Letter "B", propped up against a large beaker.
  • Mage who spent many years in Candlekeep
  • Disappeared (the group may learn that she is still alive, somewhere).
  • She bequeathed her books, including The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces, to Candlekeep in her will.
The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces
  • Cover: The cover of this book is decorated with gold filigree, depicting the bust of an imposing spellcaster (Mordenkainen).
  • Contents: Treatise on extradimensional spaces similar to the Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion spell (PH pg 261).
  • Margin Notes: Contains notes on making a permanent magnificent mansion, with command word to open doorway.

Matreous the Sage

  • Expert on curses. Discovered the entrance to this mansion - it's actually in the study room in Candlekeep.
  • He found the command word in other books that Fistandia had donated to Candlekeep.

Beginning the Adventure:

  1. Curse: The adventurers have come to Candlekeep to aid a town that is cursed - its crops have failed/rain has dwindled.
  2. Seeking Matreous: The heroes seek Matreous, an expert on curses who stays in Candlekeep.
  3. Entering Candlekeep: Remember, in order to enter Candlekeep, the heroes will need to offer a book or writing that is not currently in the library. You could say that the people of the village knew this, and gave the group a book that would qualify.
  4. The Study: Matreous is said to be in a certain study. Go to study. He's not there.. but there is an open book - The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces. Arcana DC 13 = Find the command word to activate the entrance portal to the mansion: "scepter."
  5. Quick Note: We are told that the command word is found in 'other books', but the group finds it in The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces itself. I guess you could say that Matreous wrote it in there.
  6. Speak Command Word: Magic doors appear, will fade in minutes. Step through = appear in room M1.
  7. Matreous Found: Matreous is indeed in this mansion, and the group meets him just as they step through the portal.

(pg 18) Fistandia's Mansion

  • Walls: Stone.
  • Floor: Wood, mostly covered in carpets.
  • Light: Lit by oil lamps.
  • Outside the Mansion: Swirling indigo miasma. Enter = 1 level of exhaustion per minute.

Puzzle Books

Opening the portal from the inside of the mansion requires a different command word, hidden in seven puzzle books. These books also bear the image of Mordenkainen.

Imp Figurine

If the group removes this item from the mansion, it becomes an imp that Fistandia had once summoned. In this adventure, the intention is that Matreous takes the figurine out and is attacked by the imp as the portal shuts, trapping the heroes in the mansion.

The Big Pitfall: The biggest thing to be careful about when running this adventure is this scene where the group meets Matreous. He needs to leave this place (exiting through the entrance portal that the group just opened) but the group is meant to stay. The whole deal with this scenario is that the group is trapped in the mansion and needs to find a way out.

If they exit with Matreous, then we have a problem. The tricky part here is... wouldn't Matreous say "we need to get out of here before the portal closes"?? I guess we need to run it where Matreous is so shocked at the group's arrival that he chats them up, steps through the portal, and then is shocked as it closes. Before he can say anything, the imp figurine becomes a real imp and attacks him.

(pg 18) M1. Foyer and Hallway:

The group steps through, the portal does not close right away! Matreous is here, and once he interacts with the group, he steps through, screams (the imp figurine becomes a real imp) and then the portal shuts.

  • Matreous (sage pg 9): Is happy to see the heroes. He explains that there must be a way out. Has a imp figurine he wants to take back to Candlekeep for study.
(pg 19) M2. Patio: Don't forget ,the swirling miasma causes 1 level of exhaustion per minute.

(pg 19) M3. Library: Heaps of books. The swarm knocks a bookshelf on the characters (DEX save DC 15 or prone and restrained). Use an action to make a STR check DC 13 to free self.
  • Swarm of animated books (pg 19)
  • Treasure: Jeweled letter opener (20 gp), puzzle book with letter "R" on spine.
(pg 19) M4. Exercise Room: An animated broom is sweeping the floor. It will ignore the group unless they try to grab it/mess with it.
  • Treasure: 4 daggers (1d4 piercing dmg), 4 quarterstaves (1d6 bludgeoning dmg), 20 darts (1d4 piercing dmg).
(pg 20) M5. Study: (Room full of books. Friendly cat (befriend it = Animal Handling DC 10).
  • Cat (MM pg 320)
  • Investigate room for 30 minutes: Almost all books written by Fistandia. She was a powerful mage, worshiped Mystra. Mystra gave her the mansion. The group can learn from a book in here that the command word to the magical exit is hidden on the spines of seven books in the mansion.
  • (Secret Door): Pull book on bookshelf, bookcase slides forward, reveals staircase down to M17-M19,
  • Puzzle Book: Letter "I", sitting on armchair.
(pg 20) M6. Kitchen: 2 homunculi (MM pg 188) named Cumin and Coriander. They are friendly. They have a list of clues/hints they can give the group.
  • Cats (MM pg 320) are in here, eating.
  • Homunculus facts: Arcana DC 15 reveals that a a master can only have on homunculus at a time (Coriander's master is a spellcaster named Freyot). Both masters are alive, because a homunculus dies when its master dies.

(pg 21) M7. Pantry: Sacks of flour, vegetables, meats.

(pg 22) M8. Dining Room: Table, chairs, tapestries depicting process of making wine.

Chair: One chair in here is actually a weakened mimic (MM pg 220). The mimic escaped from its glass container in M19.

Weakened Mimic: AC 12 HP 30 Spd 15

  • Pseudopod: +5 to hit, 7 bludgeoning dmg + target grappled (escape DC 10)
  • Bite: +5 to hit, 7 piercing dmg + 4 acid dmg. 

Treasure: Silverware worth 20 gp.

(pg 22) M9. Arboretum: Shrubs, small trees, flowers lit by two glowing globes that hang above the plants.

2 faerie dragons (MM pg 133).  These dragons start off invisible. They will each use their euphoria breath on a different character: DC 11 WIS save. Fail = Can't use reactions for one minute, and must roll a d6 on each turn to determine its behavior.

  • 1-4: Takes no action or bonus action, uses all its movement to move in a random direction.
  • 5-6: Target doesn't move, can make a WIS save DC 11 to end the effect.

Spells: These dragons are orange, which means they are only 6-10 years old. They can cast the following spells once per day each:

  • Dancing Lights (PH pg 230)
  • Mage Hand (PH pg 256)
  • Minor Illusion (PH pg 260)
  • Color Spray (PH pg 222)

Treasure: The globes that light the room are driftglobes (DMG pg 166).

(pg 22) M10. Stairs: There is a mundane suit of armor here. Above it is a trap door that leads to an attic. From the attic, floorboards can be removed that allow you access to room M13.

(pg 22) M11. Laboratory: There is a star map on the wall (which gives the solution to the puzzle in M12) and on the middle table is a puzzle book.

Treasure: Puzzle book with letter "T" on the spine.

(pg 22) M12. Planetarium: This room is an illusion depicting a grassy knoll on a moonless night. 5 telescopes pointed at the night sky, and a sphere of clear crystal.

  • Puzzle: If the telescopes are pointed at the 5 brightest stars (the ones shown on the map in M11) then a secret door to M13 is opened.

(pg 23) M13. The Chained Library: A bookshelf covered in chains, a bench, and a reading desk (with a puzzle book on it). 

The Animated Chain Library (stats pg 24): This thing attacks anyone who comes within 5 feet of it.

Treasure: Puzzle book with a letter "L" on the spine, Defeating the chained library nets the group a nifty +1 flail (1d8 +1 bludgeoning dmg) - a chain with a book attached ("Martial Attack Techniques").  

(pg 24) M14. Trophy Room: Chair, table with books, lit fireplace, pair of swords, heads mounted on the walls (if anything in the room is touched, the swords animate and attack).

  • 5 Heads: Stag, wolf, peryton, hell hound, black dragon.
  • 2 Flying Swords (MM pg 20)

Treasure: Puzzle book with letter "Y" on the spine.

(pg 24) M15. Bedroom: Canopied bed, washbasin, black cat napping, painting of a gold dragon.

Cat (MM pg 240): The cat wakes up and follows the heroes around the room. 

Treasure: On a chest of drawers is a puzzle book with the letter "E" on the spine.

(pg 24) M16. Balcony: Overlooks the arboretum.

(pg 24) M17. Alchemical Laboratory: Tables with vials and 4 clay figures, stacks of books, paper charts, and blackboards full of complex formulas. 

  • Examine Formulas: INT check DC 13, learnt hat goal was to transmute various materials into gold. 
  • 4 Clay Figures: Arcana DC 13, learn that these figures are used for creating homunculi (MM pg 188).

Treasure: Puzzle book with the letter "B" on the spine, reagents worth 50gp, and a potion of healing (heals for 2d4+2).

(pg 24) M18. Summoning Room: Circle of runes.

A "Toad": Actually a quasit (MM pg 63), which will attack when approached.

(pg 24) M19. Preserved Menagerie: Glass containers holding creatures. One 4-foot tall vessel is empty (the mimic in M8 escaped from here).

Dead Creatures in Glass Containers: Here are the creatures and some descriptions of them for your players:

  • (Cockatrice, MM pg 42): "A small hideous hybrid of lizard, bird, and bat."
  • (Flumph, MM pg 135): "A small plate-shaped jellyfish with two eyestalks and a mouth on its top side, and many tendrils dangling from its underside." (If the group messes with it, you could say it still has one stench spray chambered, which can shoot a 15-foot-cone of foul-smelling liquid).
  • (Giant fire beetle, MM pg 325): "A beetle roughly the size of a dog with and orange glow emanating from the underside of its carapace."
  • (Small grell, MM pg 172): "A small, bulbous floating brain with a wide sharp beak. Its ten long tentacles are made of ring-shaped muscles sheathed in tough, fibrous hide. Sharp barbs line the tip of each tentacle."
  • (Myconid sprout, MM pg 230): "A humanoid made of fungus, with a vaguely mushroom-shaped head."
  • (Pseudodragon, MM pg 254): "A tiny dragon with red-brown scales, horns, and a maw filled with sharp teeth."
  • 4 Severed Hands 
  • (Slaad tadpole, MM pg 276 - which is actually alive): "A tiny, white, bulbous reptilian head with a very long tail." AC 12 HP 10 Spd 30 ft. Bite: +4, 4 piercing dmg.

(pg 25) Assembling the Books: Once the group has the puzzle books, they'll need to solve the anagram. The word must be spoken within 10 feet of the double doors in M1. to open it. 

(pg 25) Return to Candlekeep: The first character through the portal is attacked by the invisible imp (MM pg 76), Matreous is dead (killed by the sting of the imp). 

Running the Imp: Remember that the imp takes half damage from non-magic weapons, is immune to fire and poison, and it has magic resistance! In order to avoid a swift death, you could have it hover 15 feet above the group, and on its turn fly down, try to sting one character, then fly back up (provoking an attack of opportunity). If it stays within melee reach, it could die in a single round.

Some Items Vanish: The adventure says that certain things the characters might take from the mansion vanish and reappear back in the mansion. Items that remain in their possession:

  • "Treasure"
  • Books
  • Specimens
  • Weapons

(pg 26) Mazfroth's Mighty Digressions

by Mark Behm

Adventure Summary

  • The group needs to find information in Mazfroth's Mighty Digressions.
  • They find it in Candlekeep, but after reading just a bit of it, the book transforms into a gingwatzim and attacks the group. When slain, it is destroyed.
  • The Avowed inform the heroes that this is the third book to turn into a monster in the last few months. They ask the group to figure out what is going on. The reward: A helm of comprehending languages (DMG pg 173).
  • Still needing the info in the book, the heroes can find the person who donated the book (Yalerian Highscroll) in the House of the Binder in Candlekeep. There's also another donor of a "monstrous book" in Candlekeep - a tiefling named Valor.
  • Yalerian tells the group that the journal was purchased in Baldur's Gate, from a market stall with the word "dune" in the name.
  • The heroes can travel to Baldur's Gate and easily find the stall (Amberdune Books).
  • From there, the groups can track the sellers (jackalweres trying to save up money to raise a lamia from the dead) to their lair.
  • At the lair, the group can either attack or negotiate, possibly obtaining 6 books total. They can learn the names of a total of 6 books that are actually gingwatzims.
  • If successful, the heroes can return to Candlekeep and be rewarded with a helm of comprehending languages.

Yalerion Highscroll

  • 26-year-old Scholar (acolyte MM pg 342) from Waterdeep.
  • Bought the book in the markets of Baldur's Gate.
  • Donated the book to Candlekeep.

Mazfroth's Mighty Digressions

  • Worn brown leather cover. Book looks like it could come undone at any moment.
  • Author: Mazfroth Gethur.
  • It's a journal. The writing inside is messy and hasty.  Writings discuss the Weave, Malar/lycanthropy and demon lords of the Abyss.
  • 151 pages long. 
  • Note: Once you finish reading a passage in the journal, the book attacks you.
  • This book is a copy of the original, that has merged with a magical creature known as a gingwatzim, created by a jackalwere named Korvala.


  • Stat block on page 27.
  • A sphere of ectoplasm 3 feet in diameter. 
  • Can also assume the form of Mazfroth's Mighty Digressions, and the form of a bat. 

Journey to Baldur's Gate 

Takes 5 days. On the 4th night, a wererat and 3 giant rats attack the group. He keeps back and fires his crossbow, fleeing if the rats are defeated.

  • Return: If he survives, he returns to attack the group again in Baldur's Gate.

The Wide: Streets illuminated by magic lights, expensive restaurants, etc. You can use my Guide to Food and Drinks for menus.

  • Nightly Curfew: You can't legally be on the streets at night unless you have a special token.
  • The Watch: 10 veterans patrol the Wide.

Finding the Stall: The group can easily find the stall (called "Amberdune Books"). If they have no clues, they can make a Persuasion check DC 10 to ask around and find it. Fail: They find it after an hour of searching.

Other Stalls: Let's flesh these out a little bit, just for fun.

Autumn's Breads: Fresh pastries, breads and cakes for 1 sp.

  • Shortcrust Pastries: Apple Pie, Strawberry tarts, Chicken pot pie.
  • Filo Pastries: Apple Strudel, chocolate cigars, baklava, samosas, and crispy tarts.
  • Choux Pastries: Cream puffs, eclairs, churros!!
  • Flaky Pastries: Cherry danish, apple strudel, almond braids, pecan roll-ups.
  • Puff Pastries: Puff pastry pizzas(!), Napoleons (has layers of pastry cream in it - we probably need a different name for this - in French it is known as a mille-feuille), and apple turnovers.
  • Other stuff: Cinnamon rolls, biscuits, scones

Coppers to Crowns: Trinkets! Cost for each: 2d10 cp. Let's pull trinkets from Trinkets of Baldur's Gate, which is just one dollar on the DM's Guild.

  1. A bronze amulet bearing the holy symbol of Lathander.
  2. A steel belt buckle in the shape of a skull and bones.
  3. An unfinished manuscript detailing the taxonomy of the clams and mussels that grow along the local docks (could be used to re-enter Candlekeep, right?).
  4. A brown leather book entitled "The Tales of Sir Gorthoram the Valiant."
  5. A one inch wide, heart-shaped locket containing hair (from the former owner's lover).
  6. A black cloth cloak with red trim.
  7. A smoking pipe for narcotics.
  8. A monocle on a fine brass chain.

Gems for All: A shop with a variety of gemstones worth up to 50 gp. Let's pull them out of the DMG.
10 gp gems:

  • Blue Quartz (transparent pale blue)
  • Hematite (opaque gray-black)
  • Malachite (opaque striated light and dark green)
  • Moss Agate (translucent pink or yellow-white with mossy gray or green markings)
  • Rhodochrosite (opaque light pink)
  • Turqoise (opaque light blue-green)

50 gp gemstones:

  • Bloodstone (opaque dark gray with red flecks)
  • Jasper (opaque blue, black, or brown)
  • Moonstone (translucent white with pale blue glow)
  • Sardonyx (opaque bands of red and white)
  • Star rose quartz (translucent rosy stone with white star-shaped center)

Heath's Hot Drinks: Stall offering cups of mulled wine, hot cider, and strong teas for 2 sp.

Wizards of the Wide: Dozens of arcane foci and spell scrolls for 25 gp each:

  • Comprehend languages (PH pg 224)
  • Detect magic (PH pg 231)
  • Feather fall (PH pg 239)
  • Find familiar (PH pg 240)
  • Mage armor (PH pg 256)
  • Magic missile (PH pg 257)
  • Shield (PH pg 275)
  • Unseen servant (PH pg 284)

Amberdune Books

Has commonplace books (25gp each) and Rare books (250 gp each - but they are illusory!). No spellbooks.

  • Staff: 2 jackalweres (MM pg 193).
  • Korvala: Checks in every two hours.

Staff/Pack: Humanoid forms have dusky brown skin and brown or blue eyes.

  • Avani: Middle-aged, keeps pack from attracting attention.
  • Inbar: Quit, wears spectacles.
  • Marliza: Petite, clever.
  • Ramah: Inbar's brother, outspoken, reads from books aloud.
  • Theryn: Young, repairs books, pick pockets.
  • Zan: Oldest, hums quietly.

Korvala: Tall and imposing.

  • A (jackalwere MM pg 193) woman with brown skin, sun-streaked brown hair, and piercing hazel eyes.
  • Knows the ritual to create gingwatzims.
  • Wants to bring Nidalia, a lamia, back from the dead. Needs money to do so.

25 gp Books (all of these tomes appeared in other 5e adventures/sourcebooks):

  • Book of Drow Poetry (Out of the Abyss Page 173, Treasure)
  • Tome of Universal Harmony, Most holy book of the Deneir faith (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide Page 28, Deneir)
  • Volo's Guide to Monsters (Tomb of Annihilation Page 24, Volothamp "Volo" Geddarm)
  • (in Draconic) Treasures of the Fire Lords (Tales from the Yawning Portal) Page 29, Belak's Study)
  • One Hundred Years of War, a famous manual of dwarven battle tactics (Volo's Guide to Monsters Page 35, On Defeating Gnolls)
  • Book of Dwarvish Phrases (Waterdeep: Dragon Heist Page 157, Teleportation Circle) [A character who doesn't speak Dwarvish can use the book to communicate on a rudimentary level with friendly dwarves]
  • The Occult Properties of Gemstones by Archmage Tenser (Ghosts of Saltmarsh Page 80, Minister's Sleeping Quarters.)

250 gp Books (illusions)

Speaking with the Manager: Insight check DC 15 reveals that Korvala isn't being truthful. She invites the group to the pack's hideout as long as they are willing to talk peacefully.

Tailing the Jackalweres: Group Stealth check DC 13, follow them back to their lair.

  • Blackgate: The jackalweres live in Blackgate. The wererat Mulishka (MM pg 209) might try to attack them again, accompanied by a swarm of rats (MM pg 339) and 2 human thugs (MM pg 350).

Amberdune Hideout

Hovel with wooden walls.

  • Night: All jackalweres present. All sleep for 8 hours.

A1. Common Room: Charis, tables, mugs and plates.

  • Rug: Rug on the floor is a rug of smothering (MM pg 20) friendly to the jackalweres.
  • Commotion: Sounds of combat draw Marliza (jackalwere MM pg 193) from A2.

A2. Kitchen: Fireplace, cutting board, pots, plates.

  • Marliza and Theryn: 2 jackalweres (MM pg 193) happily chatting.

A3. Corridor Dormitory: Wide corridor with 6 cots.

  • Avani: (jackalwere MM pg 193) is here napping. Sneak = Stealth check DC 10.
  • Commotion: Sounds of combat draw Zan (jackalwere MM pg 193) from A5.

A4. Korvala's Office: Desk, journal, decorative swords, bed.

  • "Decorative Swords": Are actually 2 gingwatzims (pg 27)
  • Journal: Korvala's ledger documenting all book sales.
  • (Trapdoor): Under the bed is a trapdoor leading down to A6.
  • Keys: Korvala has the keys to the two trunks in A6.

Talking: If your group aren't murder hobos, then Korvala will tell them she's doing all this to resurrect Nidalia. She lies and says she's under a geas spell (PH pg 244). If she thinks she's going to get killed, she will hand over the original copies of Mazfroth's Mighty Digresions, The Dark Hunger, and Fallen Tethyamar to the group. Without the threat of death, she wants 250 gp per book. All of these books (and 3 more) are stashed in A6.

A5. Storage Room: Bookshelves.

  • Zan: (jackalwere MM pg 193) Is here picking out books.
  • "Storage Trunk": It's a mimic! (MM pg 220)
  • Bottom Trunk: Has 50 gp.

A6. Hidden Vault: Circular chamber with two padlocked trunks.

  • Pick Lock: DEX check DC 15. Smash with STR check DC 17.

Trunk 1: Nidalia's dessicated heart, and 450 gp.

Trunk 2: Six books:

  1. Mazfroth’s Mighty Digressions
  2. Fallen Tethyamar
  3. The Dark Hunger
  4. Castanamir’s Guide to Gingwatzims (describing what gingwatzims are but not how to create them)
  5. Wanderings of a Humble Aasimar (a treatise on the Outer Planes)
  6. Daughters of Graz’zt (about the origin of lamias).

Conclusion: If the heroes return to Candlekeep with the books, the Avowed reward them with a helm of comprehending languages.

If the group actually helps the jackalweres revive Nidalia, they will have a lamia as an ally.

(pg 35) The Book of the Raven

by Irina Nordsol

Adventure Summary

  1. The group finds a map in the Book of the Raven, which leads to Chalet Brantifax.
  2. At Chalet Brantifax, a band of (lawful good) wereravens are watching over a shadow crossing (portal to the Shadowfell).
  3. The group can explore the chalet. They might run into a poltergeist, and they'll meet the wereravens, who are trying to figure out what to do with an evil item linked to Orcus.
  4. The heroes can actually go to the Shadowfell via the shadow crossing, fighting hordes of undead and exploring a small crypt.

Book of the Raven

  • Covers are cracked.
  • 33 pages.
  • Written by hand (author is anonymous).
  • Pages flutter and rustle if the book is left open.
  • Contents: Author spent 3 months with the vistani. Describes Dasha and Darzin, vistani who healed the author's wounded leg. Provides details on the Vistani way of life. End of the book describes a dark castle.
  • Vistani Lore: Reader can learn about planar travel, Vistani customs, the Vistani's gift to use the mists to travel, and their belief that ravens carry lost souls.
  • A raven brought this book to Candlekeep.
  • 60 years later, a visitor named Anil Zasperdes hid a treasure map in it.

Alternate Hook: The book could also be delivered to the group by a raven.

  • The raven actually contains the soul of Heluthe, a dead daughter of Baron Brantifax.
  • She wants to frighten away the squatters (the wereravens) in Chalet Brantifax (her former home).

Anil Zasperdes

  • A wereraven.
  • Founder of Scarlet Sash - wereravens who steal magic items from evil people.

The Map: The group can easily find Wytchway, a village that has been abandoned for years, and from there make their way to Chalet Brantifax.

The Situation at Chalet Brantifax

  • The Scarlet Sash (wereravens) have been staying here.
  • They monitor a nearby shadow crossing (a portal to the Shadowfell).
  • Day: The ravens lurk in the graveyard.
  • Night: The wereravens creep about Chalet Brantifax, often spending time in area C14.
  • When the group arrives, four members are present at the Chalet: Madrina, Taspar, Rennick, and Vinique.

Members of the Scarlet Sash (they are all lawful good)

  • Madrina Natterask (wereraven pg 47): She is calm and appreciates good manners.
  • Taspar Hatchhill (wereraven pg 47): Tall, old, timid. Polite but nervous.
  • Rennick Groka (wereraven pg 47): Morose, cautious, wise.
  • Vinique (wereraven pg 47): Wry wit, cackles. She brought the Orcus figurine to the chalet.

Orcus Figurine (pg 44)

  • Vinique stole this from an evil merchant and the good-aligned wereravens are trying to figure out what to do with it.
  • It is tiny
  • AC 17 HP 3 immune to all types of dmg except radiant.
  • Undead within 30 feet can't be turned.
  • Dead creatures within 30 feet can't be brought back to life.
  • If you hold it and pray to Orcus for 1 hour, there is a 10% chance of summoning an avatar of Orcus (has wraith stats MM pg 302).

Chalet Brantifax

  • Brick Walls
  • Sturdy wooden doors
  • Oak floors
  • Roof and attic have holes (wereravens use them to come and go).
  • Windows shuttered.

(pg 40) C1. Storage Cellar:  Chairs, small desk, 2 hutches, an ottoman.

Characters with a Passive Perception of 14+ hear someone whisper "I can't get out."

(pg 40) C2. Servants' Quarters: Door is stuck (STR check DC 13 to open). Empty room.

(pg 40) C3. Haunted Well: There is a well in the middle of the floor. A whispering voice comes from it, asking “Brorn! Where are you, boy?”

The former owner of this place fell in the well and died while looking for his dog, Brorn. Searching the well:

  • Climb Walls: Athletics check DC 11.
  • Shaft is 70 feet deep (10 feet of water).
  • Search for 15 minutes: Find a holy symbol of Sune worth 25 gp. If this is given to the spirit in C9., the baron's spirit is laid to rest and the character gains a charm of heroism (as an action, gain 10 temp HP and gain +1d4 on an attack roll or saving throw within the next hour).

(pg 41) C4. Cloakroom: Door is sealed (STR check DC 23). Cloak hanging on a hook (in pocket is key to the padlock in area C16.)

(pg 41) C5. Den: Furnishings covered in dusty sheets. Hunting trophies are on the wall (antlers, wolf heads).

(pg 42) C6. Dining Room: Dining table, chairs.

(pg 42) C7. Kitchen: Rations, spices, dirty dishes.

(pg 42) C8. Parlor: Six-foot-tall harp, gold-inlaid low table.

(pg 42) C9. Graveyard: 4 graves, each with an engraved headstone.

  • Baron Brantifax (Father, buried with signet ring worth 25 gp)
  • Brorn (Dog)
  • Heluthe (Died at age 9, corpse stolen by hag, replaced with scarecrow MM pg 268 and 2 crawling claws MM pg 44)
  • Syplphene (Died at age 6, other daughter, her grave is the shadow crossing). The shadow crossing is detailed further below. Basically, the group can dig up the grave. At night, fog fills the hole and is a portal to the Shadowfell.

(pg 43) C10. Guest Room: Door is open.

(pg 43) C11. Guest Room: Door is closed.

(pg 43) C12. Study:

Rolltop Desk (locked, DEX check DC 13 w/ thieves' tools). In it is the Baron's wife's journal. Takes on hour to read. You learn:
  • Baron was a hunter who loved his dog.
  • Baroness didn't like the chalet.
  • Sylphene was born with deformities. Baroness may have killed her as a "mercy killing."
  • Haeluthe was a tomboy, killed by a wolf on her 9th birthday.
  • Baroness hears "evil whispers" in the graveyard, plans to leave the Chalet forever.

(pg 43) C13. Master Bedroom: Has a secret door that links to C14, where the wereravens are likely discussing what to do with the Orcus figurine.

(pg 44) C14. Baron's Loft: The wereravens are here trying to figure out what to do with the Orcus figurine. They're going to bury it in this room.

Unlocked Wooden Chest: Contains a potion of mind reading (DMG pg 188) that also causes your skin to sparkle for the duration.
The chest also contains 6 trinkets. let's pull them from Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft:

  1. A wineskin that refills when interred with a dead person for a night.
  2. A necklace formed of the interlinked holy symbols of a dozen deities.
  3. A small mirror that shows a much older version of the viewer.
  4. A tiny spool of black thread that never runs out.
  5. A vial of perfume, the scent of which only certain creatures can detect.
  6. A black wooden die with 1’s on all the faces.

(pg 45) C15. Attic Nursery: If the dolls are disturbed, Sylphene manifests as a poltergeist (remember, she's invisible - MM pg 279).

Here's the stat block:

AC 12 HP 22 Spd 0 ft., fly 50 ft. (hover)
STR 1 (-5) DEX 14 (+2) CON 11 (+0) INT 10 (+0) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 11 (+0)
Dmg Res: Acid, Cold, Fire, Lightning, Thunder; Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Nonmagical Attacks
Dmg Imm: Necrotic, Poison
Condition Imm: Charmed, Exhaustion, Grappled, Paralyzed, Petrified, Poisoned, Prone, Restrained, Unconscious

  • The poltergeist is invisible.
  • Can move through creatures and objects, takes 5 dmg if ends turn in object.
  • Sunlight gives it disadvantage on to-hit rolls.
  • Forceful Slam: +4 to hit, 10 force dmg.
  • Telekinetic Thrust: One creature within 30 ft. must make a CHA check opposed by the poltergeist's -5. If the character fails, they are thrown 30 ft. and take 1d6 dmg per 10 feet.
  •        OR it can hurl an object 30 feet: +4 to hit, 5 bludgeoning dmg.

(pg 45) C16. Servants' Attic: Door is stuck (STR check DC 13 to open).

Padlocked Trunk: (key is in C4, pick lock: DEX check DC 12).

  • Suit of studded leather (AC 12 + Dex mod)
  • Leather helm
  • Heavy crossbow (1d10 piercing dmg, range 100/400)
  • Wooden case with the monogram B.B. In it are 15 crossbow bolts.
  • 2 hunting traps.

Wardrobes: 5 dusty black robes, 5 pairs of leather sandals, 5 scarlet sashes.

(pg 45) C17. Storage Attic: 2 holes in the roof. Objects covered in canvas sheets (mirrors and paintings).

  • 1 unbroken mirror worth 50 gp.
  • Painting of 3 deer. Worth 50 gp.
  • Painting of a gray mastiff. Worth 50 gp.
  • Painting of a human knight on a hippogriff. Worth 50 gp.
  • Portrait of Baron Brantifax, his wife, and his dog. Worth 50 gp.

(pg 46) Shadow Crossing

Sylphene's grave is a shadow crossing. To use it, dig up the grave at night and remove the coffin. Fog fills it. Enter the fog and you'll appear in the Shadowfell where creatures attack you in waves:

  • 2 gargoyles (MM pg 140)
  • 12 ghouls (MM pg 148)
  • Drovath Harrn, a wight (MM pg 300). He has a ring of jumping (DMG pg 191).

(pg 46) Harnn Mausoleum

Once the monsters are dealt with, the heroes will find themselves in a necropolis. Here is the Harrn Mausoleum.

  • 1st and 2nd sarcophagi: Contain inanimate human bones.
  • 3rd sarcophagus: empty. (Perception Check DC 13 = find secret compartment containing Drovath's saddle of the cavalier (DMG pg 199). if taken, three warhorse skeletons (MM pg 273) animate and try to slay the thief.

Back to the Material Plane: When morning comes in the Shadowfell, the group can use the grave to return. But the wereravens have filled it in. Crawl out: Athletics check DC 13.

(pg 48) A Deep and Creeping Darkness

by Mark Behm

Adventure Summary

  • A Deep and Creeping Darkness is a journal which tells the tale of a mining town that suffered a disaster and a series of abductions. The town has been abandoned for decades.
  • The heroes are approached by a mining company that wants to get that mine going again. They ask the group to check out Vermeillon and make sure that it is safe.
  • On the way to Vermeillon, the heroes can stop at a town where a few people who lived in Vermeillon now reside. They can pick up a side quest involving a man's deceased wife.
  • Once they arrive at Vermeillon and explore, the heroes begin to hallucinate. At night, they suffer freakish nightmares. This is the doing of the meenlocks.
  • The group might go in the mayor's house, where they can learn what the monsters are and what really happened in the mine.
  • The group goes in the mine. The meenlocks try to pick them off one by one.
  • The climactic battle against the meenlocks occurs in a room rigged with dynamite to explode. The meenlocks will try to set off an explosion if they think they're going to be defeated.
Before You Start This Adventure: Write down everyone's passive perception score! The meenlocks might have to use stealth while menacing them (the meenlocks have +6 to stealth checks).

Finding the Book

A mining/exploration group hires the heroes to find out what happened to Vermeillon.
The mining group knows that the book in Candlekeep has clues.

A Deep and Creeping Darkness

  • Cover: Black leather, with the title embossed on the spine.
  • Neat but not flawless, some spelling errors.
  • Not the work of a professional scribe.
  • Contains eyewitness accounts of what happened.
  • Vermeillon was a village near a platinum mine: Raw ore and refined metal.
  • Nearest settlement is a mountain town called Maerin, which is 3 days away by horse.
  • Mayor of Vermeillon was Mayor Lei Duvezin (who is now a meenlock).
  • 70 years ago, there was an explosion in the mine that killed about 46 miners out of 60.
  • After that, people in Vermeillon began to disappear.
  • People began to believe Vermeillon was cursed and left. 
  • The last page of the book has a rough map of the village's location, with directions to Maerin, the closest town.
  • The book was brought to Candlekeep by adventurers, who acquired it from the bard's grandson.

Meenlock Lore: Let's look at the Meenlock (pg 60) so we can understand how all this works.

  • They are deformed fey that seek to destroy all that is good/innocent/beautiful.
  • Spawned by Fear: In locations where the Feywild is strong, Meenlocks magically form. A lair also magically forms.
  • Their lairs are coated in black moss, which muffles sound.
  • They can teleport from shadow to shadow.
  • They communicate telepathically.
  • Meenlocks can project hallucinations into other creatures - Terrible whispers or fleeting movements.
  • Meenlocks come out at night, paralyze creatures with their claws, then drag them back to their hidden den and psychologically torture them.
  • Telepathic Torment: Up to 4 meenlocks can fill the victim's mind with dreadful imagery and disturbing sounds. The creature must make a WIS save each hour or take 10 psychic damage. Those who die from this instantly become a meenlock. Creatures immune to being frightened cannot be tormented in this manner.
  • Small: One other note. Meenlocks are size small! That means they are 2-4ft. tall and weigh a maximum of 60 pounds.

A Stake in the Mine: Check out page 49. What a cool idea - the heroes can own a stake in a mine. And not some boring mine... a PLATINUM MINE! I'll whip up a "Downtime Activity" based on the running the mine at the end of this chapter in case your group wants to go in on this.

Truth Behind the Tale

  • Meenlocks spontaneously manifested in the mountain.
  • Their lair formed in the mountain.
  • They tortured trapped miners, turning them into more meenlocks.

(pg 49) Maerin

  • Nestled at the foot of a mountain range.
  • Large, but not a city.
  • Has an open-air market.
  • 2 Former Residents of Vermeillon: Lukas Grosvenor (owner of the Bored Weasel tavern and Inn), and Astra Vorn (flower vendor int he market).

(pg 50) The Bored Weasel: You can rent a tub here by the hour!
Salty Fish Surprise: Cup 1cp, Stew 3 cp.

Lukas Grosvenor

  • Human, 95 years old.
  • He worked as a miner. His wife died in the disaster.
  • Asks the group to put flowers on his wife's grave and to find her old necklace in a hollow of the tree in the center of the village and bring it to him. (the necklace is in area V4. on page 53, and the grave is at area V5. on page 53).
  • He will draw a map of the village for them.

(pg 50) The Central Market: Jewelers, clothiers, bakers, farmers, enchanters & alchemists.

Enchanter: The book mentions that an enchanter might be in the market. Seems like a fun thing to flesh out! It would also be fun to link this NPC to a future adventure in this book, so I'll leave it vague until I get through more of this guide.

The enchanter stats are on page 213. (The PH has prices for casting spells on page 159 "Spellcasting Services")

Spells they offer:

  • Mending (PH pg 259)
  • Message (PH pg 259)
  • Mage Armor (PH pg 256)
  • Invisibility (PH pg 254)
  • Tongues  (PH pg 283)
  • Stoneskin (PH pg 278)
Ethically, the enchanter might not be keen on getting paid to cast charm person [PH pg 221] or suggestion [PH pg 279], but maybe a shady back room deal could be worked out.

Alchemist: Let's base this person on the Alchemist/Artificer

They use the experimental elixir, and figured out a way to make them last longer than a day).
Expiration date: Each elixir comes in a glass container that clearly has a labeled expiration date, which is 2 weeks from now.
  1. Elixir of Healing: The drinker regains a number of hit points equal to 2d4 + your Intelligence modifier.
  2. Elixir of Swiftness: The drinker's walking speed increases by 10 feet for 1 hour.
  3. Elixir of Resilience: The drinker gains a +1 bonus to AC for 10 minutes.
  4. Elixir of Boldness: The drinker can roll a d4 and add the number rolled to every attack roll and saving throw they make for the next minute.
  5. Elixir of Flight: The drinker gains a flying speed of 10 feet for 10 minutes.
  6. Elixir of Transformation: The drinker's body is transformed as if by the alter self (PH pg 211) spell. The drinker determines the transformation caused by the spell, the effects of which last for 10 minutes.
Astra Vorn (Doesn't really have any useful info)
  • Half-elf, age 78.
  • Was a child when their family left Vermeillon.

The Road to Vermeillon

Vermeillon is 3 days' ride by horse from Maerin.

(pg 51) Vermeillon

Quiet. Houses covered in vines and vegetation. Trees protrude from fallen roofs.

Important Notes on Using the Meenlocks

OK. This is not easy. Your job here is to use the meenlocks to menace the heroes, using the hallucinations listed on page 51. If they can get one character alone, they will try to attack them, paralyze them with their claws, then drag them to area M9 (pg 59) in the mine.

One thing I'm worried about is, if you succeed, then one player will just be sitting at the table bored for a long time.

Another thing is... players don't split the party that much. It's a running joke in D&D: Never split the party. This seems difficult to do.

I would say that you should have one meenlock stay in the Mayor's House. Two other meenlocks menace the heroes in town. The final three lurk in the mine. Make sure to save at least two for the final fight in M9., which is rigged to explode.

Pairing Up: Meenlocks are small, right? So, if they're going to drag a heavy character to the mine, it would probably take two of them to do it (Meenlocks have a STR of 6). 

Describe Shadows: Make sure to describe the village as very shadowy, even during the day. There are shadows everywhere. That way, it will be more plausible to have the meenlocks move around without being spotted. They can teleport to a shadow (dim light or darkness) within 30 feet. That will make moving around easier.

Spotting a Meenlock: Characters might try to find the source of these hallucinations. Remember that darkness = heavily obscured:

A heavily obscured area blocks vision entirely. A creature effectively suffers from the Blinded condition (auto-fail any ability check that requires sight) when trying to see something in that area.

Bright Light: If a character lights an area that a meenlock is lurking, don't forget that the meenlock has light sensitivity (disadvantage on attack rolls/Perception checks).

Creeping Around: It's very possible that a hero will walk in a shadowy area within 10 feet of a meenlock. This will put the character in the meenlock's fear aura (WIS save DC 11. Fail = frightened for 1 minute). The character might gain the frightened condition and have no idea why. The meenlock can use a bonus action to teleport to another shadow within 30 feet.

Meenlock Plan: Here's my initial idea on running the meenlocks.

Once the group arrives, have two meenlocks lurk in the shadows, teleporting around, creating hallucinations. Ultimately, it seems like the best time to try an abduction is when the group goes to sleep. They'll have to try to paralyze a character and then drop them to 0 HP. The meenlocks don't want to kill them - they want to torture them and then transform them into meenlocks.

The third meenlock stays in the Mayor's House and harasses them in there. This meenlock was the mayor, and still wears the mayor's ring. The group might put this together if they see the ring on the mayor's portrait or the symbol on the ring on the sealed envelope in the mayor's room. 

The other three meenlocks stay in the mine. One harasses the group, probably ultimately trying to trick one character into stepping into the alcove in area M6. on page 58. 

The last two, along with any surviving meenlocks, face off with the group in M9. on page 59, and likely try to blow the whole room up and shadow teleporting to safety.

(pg 51) Lurking Danger

6 meenlocks (pg 60) lurk in the mines. Remember, the meenlocks are out in the day only because it is overcast (When in bright light, they have disadvantage on attack rolls and Perception checks).

One or more characters hallucinate as they explore the town (see the hallucination list on page 51)

Running the Meenlocks: You are meant to run the meenlocks as stealthy foes. They don't run up and hack the group. They creep in the shadows, cause hallucinations, and sneak away. I would suggest saying that only one meenlock is nearby menacing the group - that way, if the heroes find and kill it, there's still 5 more out there, somewhere.

Nightmares: Sleeping in the village: After finishing a long rest, each character must make a WIS save DC 13. Fail = gain 1 level of exhaustion (PH pg 291).

Places of Interest

(pg 52) V1. The Wand and Hammer: Blacksmith's anvil, workbenches.

Search: Investigation check (the higher the group rolls, the more they find) DC 13: False panel in the floor his a shield worth 50gp, 2 short swords worth 25 gp each, and 10 iron bars worth 1 gp each.
If the roll is 18 or higher: Find a dust-covered ring of swimming (DMG pg 193) under the workbench.

(pg 53) V2. Stonemason's Workshop: Headstones, sign that says the Stonemason is in the back. In the back of the house is a half-finished headstone.

(pg 53) V3. Mayor's House: (This place is big, and described more fully in its own section below) Two-story brick house, still in good shape. Huge tree in front of the house (see area V4.).

  • We learn on page 54 that this area is the domain of a meenlock (pg 60) that was once the mayor. She still wears her platinum ring emblazoned with a snowdrop blossom (worth 75 gp).

(pg 53) V4. Tree: In the hollow of this tree is a the necklace that Lukas from Maerin asked the heroes to find.

(pg 53) V5. Graveyard: Headstones and cairns. Most of the graves are of people who died on the same day - the day the mine collapsed.

  • Lorna's Grave: Lukas asked the group to put flowers on his wife's grave here. If they do so, they hear a contented sigh on the wind.

(pg 53) V6. Merchant's Cart: The cart  has stuff in it:

  • Salted dried meats (edible)
  • 3 bolts of fabric (10 gp each)
  • 2 small casks of wine (25 gp each)

Survival Check: The higher you roll, the more you learn:

  • DC 15 This cart has been here only one year.
  • DC 18: Scratches and tooth marks likely caused by animals.

Investigation Check: DC 15 - Find a compartment. In it is a pouch containing 15 gp and a ledger listing sales made in the area.

(pg 54) Mayor Duvesin's House:

(pg 54) H1. Entryway: Dim Light (creatures have disadvantage on Perception checks that rely on sight)

(pg 55) H2. Assembly Room: Bookshelf has old books, painting of a mountain range (worth 2 gp), and a chunk of raw platinum (25 gp).

(pg 55) H3. Meeting Room: Painting of the mayor. She's wearing the ring (which is now on the finger of the meenlock/her).

(pg 55) H4. Dining Room: Just an old dining room.

(pg 55) H5. Parlor: Chairs have mouse holes and rodent droppings. 

(pg 55) H6. Upstairs Landing: Doors to the bedroom are shut.

(pg 56) H7. Daughter's Bedroom: Just an old bedroom.

(pg 56) H8. Master Bedroom: Crumpled papers, envelope, journal.

  • Crumpled Papers: The mayor wrote these letters, asking for aid from other settlements.
  • Sealed Envelope: Letter from the mayor to Maerin, asking for aid.
  • Journal: This is the journal of Mayor Lei Duvezin. She wrote of the mine disaster, sending her family away to Maerin, and how she insisted on staying in the town. The last few entries detail her fear and nightmares.

(pg 56) H9. Library: Books on history, business, folktales, planes of existence.

Open books on table: 

  • Books about trauma and nightmares
  • Feywild Book: A book about the Feywild (with a note on a page about meenlocks: "Could this be the answer?"). The note is on the meenlock section, which details meenlock lore.

(pg 56) H10. Guest Bedroom: Just a bed and a fireplace.

(pg 56) H11. Son's Bedroom: Under the bed is a toy bugbear that has been partially eaten by rodents.

(pg 57) Platinum Mine

A few carts sit outside the cavern. 

(pg 57) M1. Main Tunnel: Once the group enters, each character must make a WIS save DC 14. Fail = disadvantage on INT and WIS checks as they begin hallucinating and hearing whispers.

(pg 57) M2. Southern Wing: There are 3 swarms of bats (MM pg 337) that attack if the group is louder than a whisper. 

(pg 58) M3. Northern Wing: This is where the miners stopped digging.

(pg 58) M4. Cave-In: Attempt to move the rocks: DEX save DC 15 or take 7 bludgeoning dmg from falling rubble.

(pg 58) M5. Entrance to the Meenlock Lair: Black moss cover walls/floor/ceiling (muffles sound - no echoes).

Arcana Check DC 14: These tunnels were made by magic.

  • Succeed by 4+: The meenlocks made these tunnels.

(pg 58) M6. Chamber of Weeping: Deep alcove in the wall.

  • Step Into Alcove: Tentacles of black moss try to grapple the character. DEX save DC 14. If a character is alone and grappled, meenlocks enter this toom and begin to psychically torment them.

(pg 58) M7. Mossy Maze: The meenlocks try to pick off characters who wander off alone.

(pg 58) M8. Pools: 2-foot deep pools of water that look black and in light show strong reflections.

The text says you could put a black pudding (MM pg 241) in one of the pools.

(pg 59) M9. Transformation Chamber: Many stone slabs, 4 pillars (with dynamite affixed to them), and all remaining meenlocks (pg 60)

Any characters taken by the meenlocks are here on a slab.

Pillars: Passive Perception Check DC 18 (or a regular Perception check DC 14) spots sticks of dynamite on each pillars all attached to a trigger.

  • Cut Fuse: Costs an action.
  • Dynamite Stick: If it takes damage, it explodes. DEX save DC 12, take 10 bludgeoning dmg, half on save.

If Meenlocks Sense Defeat: Meenlock runs to trigger, uses action to set off explosion, then bonus action shadow teleport to escape.

Explosion: If you are within 5 feet of a stick of dynamite, DEX save DC 12, take 10 bludgeoning dmg, half on save.

If All 4 Pillars Are Destroyed: Cavern's ceiling partially collapses. DEX save DC 15. Fail = 22 bludgeoning dmg, fall prone, and restrained by rubble. Success = half dmg, not prone or trapped in rubble.

  • Free Self From Rubble: Athletics Check DC 20.

Treasure: In piles of refuse are 50 gp, ivory drinking horn (120 gp), and goggles of night (DMG pg 172).

(pg 59) Fate of Vermeillon

If the group wipes out the meenlocks, settlers will come to Vermeillon and get the mine running again. The characters are local heroes.

(pg 60) Shemshime's Bedtime Rhyme

by Zoltan Boros
Adventure Summary
  • The group ends up staying in the firefly cellar for the night.
  • The next morning, the heroes and the Avowed awake with a curse - they can't stop humming/singing a song.
  • A member of the Avowed, Varnyr, seals them in the cellar, realizing they've been cursed. She doesn't want it to spread all throughout Candlekeep.
  • A series of increasingly dangerous magical events occur, caused by the curse.
  • Eventually the group finds the book (hidden in area F11) and repairs the music box attached to it. Doing so summons Shemshime, who attacks the heroes (note that Shemshime can't be dropped to 0 HP unless crushed by an object weighing 1,000+ pounds!).
  • The heroes can defeat Shemshime by dropping the huge book sculpture from area F1. onto Shemshime.

DM Notes: This adventure is different than the others in the book so far. It is situational! The group is sealed in a cellar, and they'll have to deal with a series of events. When the events happen is up to you!

The trick here is pacing. You can't let this drag, but you want to give the group the space to roleplay. I'd suggest throwing a situation at the group, let them react and respond, and once it feels like everyone's had a chance to say their piece, move on to the next event.

A lot of this one involves roleplaying. If your group is into combat, you might want to throw the 3 shadows on Shemshime's Influence table more than once.

The final encounter might frustrate some players who might not be expecting a "think outside the box" scenario. As the group first enters the areas with heavy objects that can be used to crush Shemshime later on, that you go out of your way to point out how massive and heavy the sculpture in F1 is.

(pg 62) Background

  • Has been in Candlekeep for 600 years.
  • Children's book.
  • Yowen Pilt: Insane person who brought this to Candlekeep. Spread a 'singing madness' among the Avowed.

The Firefly Cellar: Windowless basement underneath the House of Rest. Has lamps lit by fireflies.

(pg 62) The Book

  • Mechanical, made of wood and copper. Front depicts a round millstone.
  • Silver music box set into the book's spine.
  • Book opens to reveal a pop-up cutaway illustration of a watermill - animates 4 serparate scenes while music plays.
  • Scenes depict members of a family dying.
  • Final scene doesn't play out until the built-in music box is repaired (shows the daughter crushing the shadow under a millstone).

Crinkle: Kenku member of the Avowed, took the book to her room and has become cursed by it. Crinkle doesn't tell anybody what is happening! If things play out, the kid will end up beating Crinkle over the head with the book in event 6.

The Song: Always skips back to the beginning of the song before playing the last stanza.

Shemshime's Curse: Anyone who hears the song is cursed to hum or sing it (no save). Resisting the rhyme:

  • Concentration (PH pg 203): If you concentrate as if you cast a concentration spell, you can stop yourself from singing.
  • Silence (PH pg 275)
  • Remove Curse (PH pg 271)

Cellar Inhabitants: All are members of the Avowed:

  • Varnyr (noble MM pg 348): Sun elf scribe. She loves books.
  • Ebder Smallstone (commoner MM pg 344): Human scribe. Anxious, pessimist. His daughter, Gailby, tries to help him keep it together.
  • Gailby Smallston (commoner? MM pg 344): She is a kid, daughter of Ebder. Wears a yellow cape. Imaginative, curious.
  • K'Tulah (druid MM pg 346): Tabaxi. Gregarious, researches folk magic.
  • Crinkle (kenku MM pg 194): Grumpy, lives in the cellar. Has no patience for others. Ring of the ram (DMG pg 193).

(pg 64) Starting the Adventure

You'll need to come up with a reason for why the heroes need to stay in the cellar.

Book Delivery: Once they enter, they see Varnyr on a ladder, who asks the heroes to bring a stack of books to Ebder. Ebder is in F2., who explains that the books are actually for K'Tulah in F13. The group is offered areas F8 and F12 as rooms to stay in.

(pg 65) Event 1: Quarantined

The heroes wake up and are now humming the rhyme. It spreads to K'Tulah and Ebder. Varnyr seals the hatch in F1. and explains that they've been cursed - she's heard the story about the book from 600 years ago.

Exit Hatch: Arcane lock (PH pg 215) Pick Lock: DEX check DC 25. AC 21 HP 60 Imm: Poi/psychic

Shemshime's Influence: We will be prompted to roll on this chart in certain event sections.
3 Shadows (MM pg 269)

(pg 66) Event 2: Ebder's Outburst

Ebder becomes and is cold to the touch. He sings for 5 minutes, then.. roll on the influence table.

(pg 67) Event 3: Singing Skull

The skull of Yowen is hidden in area F4., begins singing. AC 15 HP 4 Imm: poison dmg. It stops singing if destroyed.

(pg 67) Event 4: Escape Attempt

K'Tulah tries to break out. She knows Varnyr has a key to the hatch, and attacks her. The group can make a Persuasion Check DC 15 to calm her down.

(pg 67) Event 5: Puppets

Half of the characters and NPCs must make a CHA save DC 15. Fail = charmed by Shemshime for 1 minute - they are under Shemshime's control and will try to cause harm to others. A charmed creature can repeat the save at the end of each of their turns.

(pg 68) Event 6: Shemshime

Gailby grabs the book and knocks Crinkle out with it (one of them was possessed). Inspecting the book, the heroes can see that its music box was damaged long ago.

(pg 68) Repairing the Music Box

INT check DC 15: The music box is damaged, and it doesn't play the song all the way through. It skips near the end and starts over.

Fix the Box: Requires 3 successful DEX checks DC 15 (each requiring an action). With each attempt, the character must also make an INT save DC 13, taking 14 psychic dmg on a failure, half dmg on a success.

Once Fixed: The tune plays to the end. In the book's scene, Shemshime is crushed beneath a millstone.

New Scene: A new scene appears in the book, depicting the characters in the cellar. It also depicts a replica of the sculpture in area F1.  Shemshime appears and attacks the whoever has the book.

Destroying the Book: Does not have any effect on Shemshime.

Defeating Shemshime: The group needs to drop something heavy on it. Either the sculpture in F1, the bookcases in F1 and F2, or the stone table in F2 (although the table is specifically described as weighing only 300 pounds, and Shem's stat block says the object must be over 1,000 pounds).

Topple Object: Use an action. Shemshime must make a DEX save DC 15 (Shemshime has +3 to the roll).

Reward: The Avowed give the heroes a bag of holding (DMG pg 153)

(pg 70) The Firefly Cellar

3 Floors: No windows! Lit by bottles of fireflies.

  • Top Floor: Area F1. Balcony overlooking F2. Book collection.
  • Middle Floor: Areas F2. - F5. Book collection.
  • Bottom Floor: Areas F6. - F12. Kitchen and living quarters.

What Do Fireflies Eat? How do the Avowed keep these fireflies alive? I looked it up. Some adult fireflies don't eat at all. Some eat nectar, pollen, or... other fireflies. In this adventure, the fireflies are fed vials of nutrients, stored in area F4.

(pg 70) F1. The Stacks, Balcony: Books, statues of scholars, chairs, Sculpture hanging from ceiling.

Bookcases: 10 feet tall, each has a rolling ladder.

Book Lift: Lidded wicker basket, holds up to 50 pounds. Can be lowered to the Middle Floor.

Sculpture: Looks like an open book. Suspended by 3 chains (AC 19 HP 5 Imm: Poison/psychic). This will probably be used to kill Shemshime.

(pg 72) F2. The Stacks: Bookcases, heavy granite table.

(pg 72) F3. Scriptorium: 3 writing desks, moldering tapestry, door. Ebder makes copies of books here.

  • Locked Door: Pick Lock DEX check DC 15. Door leads to F4.
  • Behind the Tapestry: Writing on the wall - the final stanza of Shemshime's song (see pg 63).

(pg 72) F4. Firefly Room: Thousandas of fireflies in terrariums.

  • Boxes: Contain vials of liquid nutrients for the fireflies.
  • Writing on the Floor: Perception Check DC 12: "FINISH THE RHYME"
  • Secret Compartment: Investigation Check DC 20 reveals a compartment in the floor containing bones of two humanoids - Yowen and the Avowed who killed him.

(pg 73) F5. Bindery: Where books are repaired.

  • Workbench holds 3 books: Festivals and Festivities of Ancient Cormyr, Living a Dream: Three Years Among Stone Giants, and Halfling Superstitions
  • Ledger: (reveals titles of 4 books in need of repair - the 3 books on the bench and Shemshime's Bedtime Rhyme).

(pg 73) F6. The Worm Tunnel: Hallway connected to stairs from F2.

(pg 73) F7. Kitchen: Oven enchanted with heat metal (PH pg 250).

(pg 73) F8. Avowed Quarters: 2 beds, unused room.

(pg 73) F9. Gailby's Room: Gailby, the kid, sleeps here. She's been making creepy drawings (scenes from the book).

(pg 74) F10. Ebder's Room: Under the bed is a box containing keepsakes of Ebder's late wife.

(pg 74) F11. Crinkle's Room: Locked (Pick Lock: DEX check DC 20).

Passive Perception 15+: Spot a secret storage space containing Shemshime's Bedtime Rhyme, along with an amber ring (25 gp), dagger (25 gp) 4 bottles (5 gp each), potion of gaseous form (DMG pg 187), potion of heroism (DMG pg 188).

(pg 74) F12. Avowed Quarters: Painting of Candlekeep.

(pg 74) F13. K'Tulah's Room: Clockwork oyster plays soothing music.

(pg 74) F14. Varnyr's Room: Many books, candlesticks lit by continual flame (PH pg 227).

(pg 75) The Price of Beauty


by Caroline Gariba


I'll be working on this guide for the next few weeks! Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft Review

by Anna Podedworna

Curse of Strahd seems to have been the most popular adventure in 5e thus far, so it makes sense that the D&D people decided to create a new product linked to Strahd: Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft.

This review is going to contain spoilers. 

The Review

by Scott M. Fischer

Most of this article involves me digging through the book and looking for cool and interesting lore. I figure I'll just get the "review" part of this review out of the way right here at the top. 

What is in This Book? Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft is more of a setting book than anything else. It has a good chapter on player stuff (new subclasses, and very cool lineages). There is a large section on monsters, many of which are great. Most of the rest of the book describes the places located in Ravenloft, and advice on running horror adventures. 

The Maps: There are a lot of maps in this thing, by a number of different artists. I learned a new name: Francesca Baerald. This cartographer did absolutely tremendous work here, acheiving the seemingly impossible feat of standing out with work alongside Mike Schley and Jared Blando (the two premiere D&D mappers in recent years, in my opinion at least). 

Francesca poured in a ton of detail, including extremely intricate borders, text, and additional graphics, which is very much appreciated. Check out the map of Borca on page 77 or Falkovnia on page 101. I really appreciate the extra effort that went into these maps. They are both functional and inspiring to look at. 

These maps add value to the book, in my opinion. This thing wasn't slapped together - care and thoughtfulness was applied. 

The Art: The art in the book is good. Some pieces stand out. A fair amount of the artwork feels off somehow. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the style and tone of a lot of the pieces don't quite match the horror theme. I don't really like many of the full-page pieces. Also, we're still getting a lot of art that comes out too dark on the printed page. This article contains some of the art that looks so much better on your computer screen than it does in the book.

My favorite art in Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft: 

Ez by Nikki Dawes on page 4: I just love the style. It doesn't necessarily match up perfectly with your classic D&D painted stuff, but it looks so good that I don't care. I'd love to see a whole book full of work by this artist.

The Bagman by Stephen Oakley on page 7: This is the kind of gnarly, horror art I was expecting to see throughout the book. This is some heavy metal cover undead coming out of that bag. Love it.

Incarnations of Tatyana by Nikki Dawes: Again, I just love this artist. It's real, yet looks a bit like stained glass. The brighter colors look good on this paper. 

Ivana Boritsi by Irina Nordsol on page 78: I love the kind of sea-green background and the gothic dress. This woman looks like classic, gothic Ravenloft to me. 

Ivan Dilisnya by Shawn Wood on page 80: This is just great. Very freaky, very clear, I love the watercolor-type style. 

The Deceitful Fey by Olly Lawson on page 85: That's just beautiful. The colors! 

Gravedrinker by Robin Olausson on page 117: A giant monstrous worm covered in runes. So good.

Elise by Irina Nordsol on page 141: OK. This one is hurt by the darkening effect of the printed page, but the red/blue background is very striking and Elise looks iconic. This is a really cool image that helps the DM envision Elise and how she could be used. 

The Brain by Katerina Ladon on page 143: Freaky! So well-done! The picture is almost too real-looking despite being a fantasy creature. Fun, gross, perfect!

Jacqueline Renier by Nikki Dawes on page 152: I guess I'm a Nikki Dawes fan. Again, love the bright colors, love the expression on her face. Just tremendous. It's very clear, bright art in a book full of dark, sometimes muddy pictures. 

Vistani Wagon by Titus Lunter on page 177: Is this a companion piece to that image in Curse of Strahd where the sky is orange? This looks very similar. Love the sky, love the light coming from the windows. I can imagine the characters in that wagon, perhaps recuperating from some horrible battle. 

Skeletal Archer by Dawn Carlos on page 199: This is just really good. Lots of detail. The skull looks perfect. I love the thickness of the bow and the "worn" look of the gear. 

Survivor by Nikki Dawes on page 200: This is just badass. A bit of a nod to Ready or Not, maybe? 

The Bagman by Stephen Oakley on page 225: Horror! Freaky horror. Love the little circle eyes. This is right out of a scary movie. Showing this art to the group will be much more effective than trying to describe the creature. 

Dullahan by Helder Almeida on page 232: Best art in the book? Look at that glow! 

Gallows Speaker by Scott Murphy on page 234: The blue! The blue works so well, giving the sense that this is a slightly insubstantial creature. A skeleton in robes is as horror as it gets.

Nechrichor by Stephen Oakley on page 238: My favorite piece of art in the whole book, easy. So evil! Love the gold plating, love the shadowy skeleton, this is just 100% modern Ravenloft. 

I should note that I love the cover art by Anna Podedworna. I really appreciate the use of named NPCs in D&D art, and while I've never been thrilled with the look of 5e Strahd, he looks very cool here. 

Things This Book Doesn't Have: Just to be clear. There are NO magic items in this book. For me that's a drawback, as magic items tend to be the easiest things to place in your current game. I think every new D&D book has at least one magic item that I immediately decide to put in my campaign the very next session.

Also. No poster map! I was wondering if we'd get a huge map that shows all of the domains in relation to each other, like in the 2e boxed set. Nope. Not really a big deal to me, but I'm mentioning it in case you're expecting a poster map.

Is This Book Good? It's hard to compare this book to others. I really liked Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. Is this book better or worse? I don't know. I guess it depends on how much you like Ravenloft. 

The majority of this book contains a setting. If you're going to use it, then obviously this book is of great value. But if you're looking for stuff to pull out and use in your home campaign, I'm not sure if this is a necessity. 

It does have some very cool player stuff. It also has some great monsters. You could definitely use the adventure in here easily - the heroes can be drawn into the mist from anywhere.

In my opinion, many of the domains are strong enough that they're worth placing in your campaign world in some form. Particularly Hazlan, the magic-ravaged realm ruled by wizards. Also, Falkovnia, the domain where armies of undead are specifically trying to kill the ruler of the realm. 

There are very few domains of dread that aren't worth using. I feel that most of them are very inspired and a lot of thought went into actually running them in a game. 

For me, this book is great partly because it takes the old Ravenloft stuff that I used as a kid, cleans it up, updates it, and presents it in an easy-to-digest format. 

This book is somehow both extremely dense yet easy to read because so much of it is full of charts containing brief concepts and ideas. You can read any domain section in no time at all. Very breezy.

So for me, personally, I really like this book a lot. I would say that even if you are not interested in running a Ravenloft campaign, this book still has a lot of good material that you can incorporate into your home game.

Ravenloft Background

by Clyde Caldwell

Now with that out of the way, I want to ramble a bit about Ravenloft in earlier editions. I'm writing this before going through the book. Ravenloft as we know it began in the heady days of 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

"Ravenloft" was a single adventure, released in the 80's. The 5th edition D&D adventure Curse of Strahd is basically a "remake" of that Ravenloft adventure, with a lot of added material and expanded surrounding lands.

The 1st edition Ravenloft adventure was so popular that it spawned a sequel (which was not so popular) and then, in 2nd edition, it became an entire campaign setting. Ravenloft: Realm of Terror was a boxed set that described horror-centric "domains of dread" that adventurers could get pulled into by the supernatural Mists of Ravenloft. Heroes would then have to figure out a way to escape, or (often) they'd just stay there and the campaign would become a Ravenloft campaign.

The setting was very popular, and spawned a ton of sourcebooks, adventures, and other products. I remember loving the Forbidden Lore boxed set, although now that I think about it, I can't remember what was actually in it other than a deck of cards.

There were a few books and adventures that really made an impact on my 2e campaigns. I am dying to see if they've been updated to 5e in Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft. These old products include:

Ship of Horror: A Ravenloft adventure that partly takes place at sea. My group's shenanigans on the boat had long-lasting repercussions (a character ended up wearing a hat of stupidity).

Thoughts of Darkness: An adventure about vampire mind-flayers! My group bailed out after the very first encounter.

Book of Crypts: This horror anthology was incredibly handy, giving me piles of fun, shorter adventures. My friend Barry had made a homebrewed "klingon" D&D race, and I have fond memories of his shenanigans as we played through these scenarios. I also remember thinking that the "living wall" monster was really cool.

From the Shadows: This adventure had the worst opening scene I've ever run. Even as a kid, I knew it would be a disaster and made adjustments. As written, the group encounters the Headless Horseman who proceeds to decapitate them all no matter what they do. Then, the characters awaken as severed heads in a lab.

Fun idea, but the railroad-y murder was too much of an outrage to my players. 

When Black Roses Bloom: This one is a forgotten gem. It's about the villain of Dragonlance, Lord Soth (!), who has been pulled into Ravenloft. 

Darklords: This supplement detailed new villains. It included Ebonbane, the evil sword that first appeared in one of the best adventures I've ever run - Bane of the Shadowborn, from Dungeon Magazine #31 (which I wrote about here).

Black & White Movies: The thing I liked least about the 2e Ravenloft content was that a lot of it drew inspiration from old black and white movies, which just didn't appeal to me. I remember in particular one domain of dread based on Frankenstein's monster - I think it featured a guy named Dr. Mordenheim and his 'monster', Adam. It was too on-the-nose and cliched for me. 

Many of the old domains of dread were rip-offs or re-skins of things I wasn't into to begin with. It was weird to me that there was this horror boom in the 80's with villains like Jason and Freddy Krueger, but we were hearkening back to the early days of cinema for some reason. Maybe this was done to avoid the ire of angry parents, which was a major concern at the time.

3rd Edition Ravenloft: In 3e, Ravenloft was farmed out to another company who made a number of supplements and hardcovers. Because it wasn't "official," I didn't really look into it. Late in 3rd edition, there was an official book: Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, a really fun adventure which sort of sets up Curse of Strahd. Now that I think about it, Expedition is basically a 3e Curse of Strahd.

4th Edition Ravenloft: Ravenloft received a few nods here and there through the short lifespan of 4e. Strahd was detailed in the great Open Grave supplement. There was a Strahd-based adventure, very much a Curse of Strahd prequel called Fair Barovia, which I wrote about extensively here.

There were five domains of dread detailed in Dungeon and Dragon Magazine, and one bonus domain:

  • Sunderheart (Dragon #368): A tiefling-centric realm where all children have "twinning deformities", ruled by Lady Dreygu, who transforms into "The Ghoul" at night. 
  • Graefmotte (Dragon #375): A domain ruled by a Lord who accidentally killed his son while trying to prevent him from going off to war. The son's ghost haunts the place and Lord Graef refuses to admit to the murder. 
  • Monadhan (Dragon #378): This domain is ruled by a dracolich named Arantor (who accidentally killed thousands of refugees during a war and then covered it up). Who else is here? Kas! Apparently he once had his own domain of dread called Tovag. Monadhan is featured in Betrayal at Monadhan, part of the 4e Scales of War adventure path which I ran way back when.  
  • The Endless Road (Dungeon #174): This is a revamp of the 2e version of the Headless Horseman. His domain is a road that seemingly goes on forever. 
  • Timbergorge (Dungeon #207): A cold valley (originally located in the Feywild) where werewolves battle the Darklord - a treant named Silvermaw, who has SILVER TEETH which obviously the werewolves are vulnerable to.
  • Histaven (Free RPG Day booklet): A settlement ruled by a Count, who the mysterious Rag Man hopes to overthrow.

There's a great "let's read" thread on that goes over all of these articles.

OK! Now that we're all loaded up on what came before, let's dive into the new book and see what's in it.


by Paul Scott Canavan

The Dark Powers: In the introductory section, we are told that "Sinister entities known as the Dark Powers manipulate the domains of dread and all who dwell within." I wonder if we'll get confirmation that the Dark Powers are indeed the vestiges trapped in amber in the Amber Temple from Curse of Strahd? I'm dying to know more about some of those vestiges.

Wait... page 8 gives us the answer! "Although some of their names whisper through sinister lore - Osybus, Shami-Amourae, and Tenebrous - domain inhabitants know almost nothing about the Dark Powers." So there you go! Tenebrous, aka dead Orcus, is a Dark Power.

Chapter 1: Character Creation

by Andrew Mar

This short chapter details 3 new types of character lineages you can make, some Dark Gifts (special powers/curses), 2 subclasses, and a bunch of character backgrounds, and a pile of trinkets.

Lineages: "Lineages are races that characters might gain through remarkable events."

Dhampir: A vampire, basically. You can bite people to do damage and heal yourself (if you're missing half your HP or more). 

Hexblood: A magic being, often raised or created by hags. You have a telepathic token that you can scry with. You can also cast disguise self and hex once per day. I love the hag lore in D&D.

Reborn: "Individuals who have died yet, somehow, still live.

Dark Gifts: Characters can be tempted by the Dark Powers, given special boons that also have a drawback. The first one seems very harsh - you gain two proficiencies and one language, but every time you roll a 1 on a d20 something horrible happens (you're charmed by a creature you can see, or you are incapacitated, etc.).

I wish I had these rules in my Dungeon Academy campaign. One of the heroes, Seraphine, actually became a Darklord for a short time.

Living Shadow: Wow. Now we're talking. "Your shadow occasionally moves out of sync with you." You roll on the shadow quirks table.. some of these are hilarious. "When I'm distracted, my shadow panics and tries to get other people's attention, as if it's desperate to escape me."

The shadow can be used like a mage hand spell and it can increase your reach for melee attacks. When you roll a 1 on a d20, "your shadow exerts a will of its own." Amazing. Love this one!

Mist Walker: You can pass through the Mists to escape a domain, but if you remain in one area for too long, the Mists can "drain your life force" (you start gaining levels of exhaustion after 1-4 weeks of being in the same place). 

Second Skin: You can take on a second form, which might be a slime creature or an angelic form (!). The drawback involves a certain trigger, such as the sound of ringing temple bells, which can force you to shift forms involuntarily. These are all great. 

Symbiotic Being: These just keep getting better! This could be a tiny humanoid attached to your body or a living tattoo. Amazing. The symbiote has its own agenda and can force you to do things if you fail a save. This is a recipe for a legendary character.

Death Touch: You can do damage via touch! 1d10 necrotic damage if you hit. "The deathly power within you is beyond your control, afflicting any who touch your bare skin." This is stellar. I am loving these dark gifts so much. You can make such a cool, tortured hero with this gimmick, a Raistlin-type character. 

Watchers: "Something is always watching you and draws ethereal spirits... that follow you and gather in your general vicinity." Could be bats, ghost orbs, shadows, or "otherworldly voyeurs." You can use them to aid in Perception checks, you are immune to blindness, but when other people notice the watchers you have disadvantage on certain checks. Love this one, too.

Subclass Options: We get two of them. 

Bard: College of Spirits: You can commune with spirits, who let you cast guidance, let you use certain tools, and use bardic inspiration for different effects - deal force damage, grant temporary HP, etc. Once you hit level 6, you can conduct a ritual to "...learn one spell of your choice from any class" (must be divination or necromancy). 

Warlock: The Undead: You make a pact with an undead entity, probably a lich. At 6th level you no longer need to eat/sleep breathe, at 10th level "...when you would be reduced to 0 hit points, you can use your reaction to drop to 1 hit point instead...

These subclasses are OK. 

Backgrounds: We get some quick new backgrounds, along with lists of ideals, bonds, and flaws. 

  • Favorite Bond: "I'm desperately seeking a cure to an affliction or a curse, either for someone close to me or for myself."
  • Favorite Flaw: "I'm convinced something is after me, appearing in mirrors, dreams, and places where no one could."

Haunted One: I think this background is from Curse of Strahd. 

Investigator: Now you can be like Van Richten! There's a list of possible first cases. My favorite: "You helped a spirit find peace by finding its missing corpse. Ever since, other spectral clients have sought you out to help them find rest."

Favorite Trinkets: We get a list of 100 new trinkets. Here are my favorites:

  • "A lock that opens when blood is dripped into its keyhole."
  • "A black executioner's hood."
  • "A candle made from a severed hand."
  • "A straightjacket covered in charcoal runes."

Chapter 2: Creating Domains of Dread

by Irina Nordsol

We start off with advice and rules on creating Darklords and domains. The part I find most interesting is the idea that a Darklord can't really die! Defeating them might involve exploiting a weakness, but in the end, the Dark Powers can bring them back. 

In my experience, creating a Darklord is difficult. Seems like the best way to do it is to take a popular NPC/villain from a campaign and have them get sucked into/be reborn in Ravenloft. I think that straight resurrecting a big bad guy that your group already defeated might feel cheap, but by having them reborn as a Darklord, now tormented and flawed, it might be really cool and fresh for your players.  

Genres of Horror: Whoa, wasn't expecting this! We get a list of different types of horror and villains/settings/plots you can use. The first one is "body horror", which immediately makes me think of old, gross David Cronenberg effects like in The Fly.

Body Horror: We are given a list of monsters appropriate for this genre, and included is the chain devil (a nod to Hellraiser, I assume).

Some of the villain ideas are great. "A monarch who feeds their cannibal children, no matter the cost."

Cosmic Horror: Favorite plot: "Help a parent recover a child who's gone missing in the impossibly vast space underneath their bed."

Dark Fantasy: Favorite villain: "A god who killed all their peers and now rules the mortal realm.

Folk Horror: What is this? It's about traditions and beliefs. Like The Ritual. Favorite setting: "A telepathic collective that townsfolk join by ingesting a rare fungus.

Ghost Stories: Lots of murder-solving in this one. Favorite torment: "All spirits obey a Darklord who can't touch anyone without stealing their soul."

Gothic Horror: Favorite villain: "Someone who loves a monstrous creature and does anything to keep it fed and safe."

Chapter 3: Domains of Ravenloft

by Katerina Ladon

This chapter takes up most of the book. It details piles and piles of domains of dread. I am really curious to see what old ones have been updated. Very interested to see if new ones have been created, too. I bet there's going to be all sorts of fun nuggets in here.

The Mists: We get rules for wandering the mists. The Dark Powers can manipulate the Mists, allowing them to open or close borders to a certain domain. If the borders are closed, the Mists look menacing and start dealing out exhaustion left and right until you back off or die. 

If the borders are open, you wander for d6 hours and then roll on a chart. It is very difficult... nearly impossible... to emerge from the Mists onto a world on the Material Plane.

Mist Talisman: These are non-magical objects linked to a specific domain. You can walk into the Mist, use the talisman to focus on that domain, and travel there. 

Prison of Souls: If you die in Ravenloft, your spirit is probably trapped in Ravenloft forever, even if you are raised from the dead. 

Ezra, God of the Mists: Denizens of many domains worship this entity. "Whether she's a manifestation of the Dark Powers, an aspect of the Plane of Shadow's mysterious Raven Queen, or something else entirely is for you to decide."

I think it would be cool if the people of Ravenloft worshiped the Raven Queen, and the Dark Powers were her enemies. I mean, the vestiges are basically cheating death, right?

Domains: Now we get to the main stuff. Pages 66 to 183 cover this chapter! I am dying to see what's in here. We start off with the big one...

Barovia: A lot of this looks the same as in Curse of Strahd. There is a mention in the Vallaki section of "priests of Osybus" which seems new. 

The Amber Temple is described as "...a nexus of secrets underpinning the nature of the Domains of Dread." Then it says: "The priests of Osybus (detailed in the "Other Groups" section later in this chapter) have particular interest in this site."

Want to skip ahead to read about Osybus? Let's do it. Page 178. "These cultists channel the might of the Dark Powers and steal souls to gain the ability to transcend death." They are working to try to free Strahd from Ravenloft! 

We get charts full of ideas/hooks on a number of subjects. In a list of 8 Barovian adventure ideas, there's this: "Priests of Osybus (see chapter 5) have gained a following in Vallaki. They consider Strahd a demi-god of their faith and drain the blood of nonbelievers in their name."

There's a big section on creating an incarnation of Tatyana (Strahd's would-be bride). Love this. 

Bluetspur: It's here! The vampiric mind flayer place! My group wanted absolutely nothing to do with this realm. The Darklord of this domain: The God-Brain of Bluetspur. This section is too short! We get an overview of the realm and the basic story, but I'd have liked some detailed locales. 

Borca: A realm of feuding nobles. This domain has two Darklords who rarely meet. I really like Ivan Dilisnya and his clockwork pram. Very, very cool-looking villain! I feel like, even with the info provided, I'd have a hard time making a fun adventure here. This is a more "social" realm, not your typical D&D locale.

The Carnival: This is a domain that actually travels. I've never been into carnivals in D&D, but there's very cool ideas here. There's a guy whose worst impulses grow into creatures that he keeps in bottles and puts on display. That's so weird and deep, I love it. 

Darkon: Hey! This has Castle Avernus from From the Shadows. That place was loaded with magic items. This domain was once the home of the lich Azalin, who I remember being a very big deal in 2e Ravenloft. I'm constantly surprised he hasn't been mentioned more in future editions. 

It looks like Azalin actually escaped his own domain and now the place has changed. Now, the realm is slowly crumbling. Anyone who dies rises up the next night as a mindless zombie. 

Castle Avernus blew up, but the pieces of it are hovering in the air and slowly re-forming. Sections of it are still intact. Don't want to spoil too much, but there's a ton of cool details here. 

Three people are battling for control of the realm. One of them is related to Baron Metus, the vampire that killed van Richten's son. 

Dementlieu: This realm is all about masquerade balls. The Darklord has a whole thing about exposing liars, and even has actual flavor text when unmasking an intruder. I still maintain that players always love balls/parties in D&D. It just always works. I don't know why. 

Falkovnia: This is a war-torn land where armies of undead are coming after the Darklord. All of the undead are soldiers who died under the Darklord's watch. Awesome, right? This is a perfect domain of dread, in my opinion.

Har'Akir: The Mummy! Mummies are a little under-utilized in D&D. This place has "a vast dungeon underworld that connects every tomb and monument..."

Hazlan: I LOVE the map to Hazlan. The colors! Amazing. This is a realm ruled by wizards who use the entire place to conduct magical experiments. There's a forest where everything has been turned to stone, a wasteland where meteors and otherworldly creatures fall from the sky, all sorts of stuff. I really like this place, maybe my favorite one so far. It even has its own wild magic table.

I'Cath: This is a city whose populace sleeps forever. The city layout changes every night, making escape nearly impossible. 

Kalakeri: Two factions vie for control. The Darklord is a death knight and there's a tower that grows taller every night.

Kartakass: A collection of settlements inhabited by performers. This is basically a Bards & Werewolves setting. I believe this is the locale of the very first 2e Ravenloft setting adventure Feast of Goblyns

Lamordia: Heyy this is the Frankenstein domain! In 2e, the Darklord here was "Victor Mordenheim" and his creation - Adam. Now the Darklord is a woman named Viktra Mordenheim. If you read my Guide to the Brain in a Jar, you know that the original Victor Mordenheim also created "The Living Brain." Viktra can swap people's brains. Her "monster" is a woman named Elise. This domain is really cool - they took all the old stories and brought them forward.

Mordent: This domain originally appeared in the 1st edition Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill adventure, which I wrote a lot about here. In that one, there were two Strahds running around, along with Azalin the lich and all sorts of other stuff. 

Reading this 5e version, we see that this is where van Richten's herbalist shop is located. The Darklord is a ghost who lives in the House on Gryphon Hill, who commands a horde of undead. He is trying to use the Apparatus (the huge device from the 1e adventure that Strahd hoped would help him escape from Ravenloft) to escape his torment, but it always has some disastrous malfunction.

I really enjoy how they've embraced the old stuff and cleaned it up. Some of these concepts didn't really work well in older editions, but instead of discarding them, the designers have repaired them and made them fun and functional. 

Richemulot: This is wererat central. The Darklord is a wererat. The city has swarms of rats wandering the streets like packs of dogs. And there's a "gnawing plague" that is spread by the rats. Most of this section details how the plague can become an epidemic with the dead littering the streets.

Tepest: The Darklord of this realm is a green hag who trapped her two sisters in a magic cauldron. The people of this domain revere the hag and offer her tributes. 

Valachan: A jungle teeming with displacer beasts. The current Darklord is a weretiger named Chakuna. 

Other Domains of Dread: Over the course of a few pages, we are presented with many more domains of dread. There's one from Eberron, Markovia (based on the Island of Dr. Moreau, I think), the Sea of Sorrows! (from Ship of Horror), and... well look at this. The Shadowlands, home to the Darklord Ebonbane! It's only a paragraph. Here it is:

  • Darklord: Ebonbane
  • Hallmarks: Falls from grace, heroic sacrifice

"Within this forested land of peasants and heroes dwells an order of questing knights known as the Circle. These knights seek to vanquish evil, following the example of their founder, the paladin Kateri Shadowborn. Even long generations after Kateri's death, members of the Shadowborn family still number among the Circle, their heroics known across the Shadowlands and in other domains. Yet despite their victories, the foes and failures of these knights are ever drawn back to the Shadowlands, filling it with vengeful souls and monsters. These include villains such as the necromancer Morgoroth; the fallen paladin Elena Faith-hold; and Ebonbane, Kateri Shadowborn's accursed sword."

In my campaign, Ebonbane became the main villain of my entire setting and one of my players made a character who was a member of the Shadowborn family. 

Tovag: Wow, here's another big one. Tovag is home to Kas. "Notorious across the planes, the vampire Kas was once the champion of the lich Vecna. Wielding the artifact that bears his name, he betrayed his master and the resulting battle supposedly destroyed them both." Kas builds armies here, then sends them into the Mists to destroy Vecna. Unfortunately for him, the armies never make it out of the Mists.

Travelers in the Mists: This section details NPCs and organizations that might be allies with the heroes.

Keepers of the Feather: The wereravens from Curse of Strahd.

Vistani: Includes notes on making Vistani characters. 

Mist Wanderers: We are given extensive descriptions of many NPCs. One that sticks out is Erasmus van Richten, Rudolph's ghost son. 

Ezmerelda "Ez" d'Avenir, from Curse of Strahd, is here as well. She has split off from van Richten, not wanting to become obsessed like van Richten has.  

Chapter 4: Horror Adventures

by Trystan Falcone

We go over session zero stuff - checking to see what your players are and aren't OK with. Pacing, setting the mood, all that stuff. 

I think the only horror adventure I ever played that really felt scary was when we played a game in high school called Beyond the Supernatural (our characters were high school kids who stumbled onto supernatural elements in town), by candlelight. 

It was awesome, scary and fun... until my min/maxing friend had his character somehow obtain a shotgun, track down the school bullies, and completely ruin the tension.

Horror Toolkit: We go over curses and effects of fear. As far as fear mechanics go, basically your character has a trigger such as "I can't stand heights." Then, when that comes up in the game, they must make a DC 15 WIS save or become frightened until the end of their next turn. 

We also get a few haunted traps, and some new NPC sidekick "survivor" types. There's 4:

  • Apprentice: Can cast burning hands and fire bolt.
  • Disciple: Can cast sacred flame.
  • Sneak: Can disengage.
  • Squire: Can use a shield to shove as a bonus action.

The House of Lament: Wow.. we get a whole 19-page adventure in here. This scenario takes characters from level 1 to level 3. It's a haunted house that acts as both a domain of dread and a Darklord. 

You're given a ton of options as far as what NPCs are in the house and which spirit the group will be dealing with. Rudolph van Richten is an option as far as investigators go. 

Basically, the group will have to survive in the house and periodically do a seance to learn how to help the spirit trapped in the house. 

I guess I shouldn't spoil too much, but the ending is very, very cool. 

Chapter 5: Monsters of Ravenloft

by Stephen Oakley
Always a highlight of these books is the new monsters. Let's go over some of them and see what weird new things we can throw at our players.

Bodytaker Plant: It can create duplicates of people. It's basically an Invasion of the Bodysnatchers style monster. I really like the art of this thing. 

Boneless: "Undead remains devoid of skeletons." They can crush you with their embrace. 

Carrion Stalker: A disgusting tiny creature that bursts out of corpses to attack you.

Carrionette: Murder puppets. They can swap consciousness with creatures that are struck with their needles! Crazy. I think these are from an old 2e adventure called The Created.

Death's Head: Disembodied heads that fly around and bite you. There are different bite effects, including a bite that turns you to stone. These grow on death's head trees, which sounds really awesome.

Dullahans: Undead humanoids who were decapitating and now roam about seeking their heads. 

Gallows Speaker: An undead that forms at sites of mass death, a sort of manifestation of the combined suffering. Great art on this one! 

Gremishka: Evil little cat/rats created by magic gone awry. When spells are cast around them, you roll on their allergy chart - they might heal, do force damage to enemies, or explode. Awesome stat block! Swarms can actually redirect spells cast near them.

Jiangshi: Undead that come out at night to consume life energy. If it does so, it damages the victim, heals itself, doubles its speed, and gains the ability to fly!

Necrichor: Probably my favorite piece of art in the whole book is of this creature, a vial of red liquid. It is a being of living blood, with the ability to be a "blood puppeteer" - controlling another humanoid's body. "A necrichor is a being of living blood, formed from the ichor of evil gods or the sludge in crypts of failed liches."

Nosferatu: Vampires "without grace." These things vomit blood in a 15-foot cone. 

Priests of Osybus: Aha, let's see what these people are all about. Through magic tattoos, they steal souls to power their magic and to become undead. Osybus was a mortal who invented the practice, and then actually tapped into the energy of the Dark Powers to become a lich.

After a whole series of betrayals, Osybus became a Dark Power and the priests are trying to free Strahd from Barovia. The priests actually hate Osybus now.  

Star Spawn: I feel like the star spawn are due for a special adventure or something. They seem to appear in quite a few books. I personally don't really "get" them, but it feels like someone at wizards of the coast is really into them and has a story to tell. 

The two types in this book are very powerful. They shoot psychic orbs and can change shape into small or medium creatures. "Heralded by ominous astrological events, these ravenous invaders make worlds ready for unimaginable masters..."

Ulmist Inquisitor: These people harness psionic powers and use them to eradicate evil. "Today the inquisition rules the city of Malitain, a vast city state to the north of Barovia's original site, and the inquisition sends its members throughout the multiverse..."

You can do a lot with these inquisitors and the priests of Osybus. While I don't like it when there are a million factions to keep track of, this book introduces just a few, and they're unique enough that it's easy to remember who does what.

Zombies: New zombie types! 

  • Swarm of Zombie Limbs: This is a medium-sized thing made of grasping limbs. Handy!
  • Zombie Clot: A huge-sized undead that can fling a detached clump of corpses at a creature it can see within 30 feet of it. If a creature is hit, it is entombed in the dead flesh! Gross.
  • Zombie Plague Spreader: This stiff can release toxic gas once per day that does poison damage. It also has a "viral aura."

Thanks for reading!