5E Adventure Review: Confrontation at Candlekeep

The adventure Confrontation at Candlekeep was premiered at GenCon 2013 as a multiple-table event. How many tables? Oh, quite a few. The adventure, as written, assumes that there is a co-ordinating DM, the “First Reader” – a name of particular significance in Realmslore – for every four to nine tables. Set during the Sundering, the adventure sees the players defending the great stronghold of lore known as Candlekeep from an attack by cultists of Asmodeus. (This attack is related from a different viewpoint during Ed Greenwood’s novel The Herald). Eight areas need to be defended by the players, which is how you can run eight groups through it at the same time: each group defends a different area. With fewer groups, you just omit areas.

The individual encounters of the first part of the adventure are a lot of fun and there’s a lot of inventiveness on display. Ghost dragons, doppelgangers, ogres on boats, an alchemist’s lab where you have to brew a potion… yep, this is D&D at its best. There’s combat, but there’s also thinking and role-playing, which would have made the adventure quite replayable for those at the convention: each group only saw one of the eight areas!

Once this encounter is completed, all the groups are summoned to the central towers where they must defend against the leader of the attack, a Chosen of Asmodeus. The towers are magically linked, allowing players to move between groups and offer aid to those who need it; meanwhile spined devils are dropping off skeletons to engage everyone. The Chosen moves between groups and is controlled by the First Reader, so that everyone gets a chance to die from his attacks!

As this was released in 2013, it uses a playtest version of the rules, and the monster statistics are significantly weaker than those in the full rulebooks. For instance, the playtest Spined Devil had 10 hit points; the final version has 22 hit points. The adventure was designed for four to six 2nd-level characters and is playable in 2 hours. It’s quite likely that you could use the weaker stats with a 2nd-level party – the balance won’t be too far wrong. If you wished to replace the monster’s stats with the final versions, I’d prefer to have 3rd or even 4th level parties participating.

It was designed to be difficult, and it is. If you wanted to run it at home, you could quite easily run several of the first lot of encounters in sequence – the party being summoned to each area in turn – before running the final attack; although in this case either higher-level characters or a way of magically refreshing the party between encounters would be required. It just isn’t fun being attacked by a Chosen of Asmodeus when you’re out of spells and on 1 hit point! A DM of a single group would likely need to do a little adjustment of the hit points of the Chosen, but that wouldn’t be that difficult.

I played in Vault of the Dracolich which had a similar sort of multi-table experience (and shared a writer, Teos “Alphastream” Abadia), and was incredibly entertaining. This looks even better, and more adaptable to home play, with Shawn Merwin and Greg Bilsland also contributing. Now that it’s been released, I’ll have to see if I can run it at my local store. This is a missing piece of the Sundering adventures, and one I’m very happy to see released.

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  1. Pingback: Making Confrontation at Candlekeep Interactive | Alphastream

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