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Confrontation at Candlekeep (5e)
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Confrontation at Candlekeep (5e)

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Candlekeep is under siege, and it needs adventurers to help protect it! Heed the call to defend the legendary monastery and stand against the tide of evil.

Product History

"Confrontation at Candlekeep" (2013), by Teos Abadia, Greg Bilsland, and Shawn Merwin, is an RPGA Dungeon Delve that was used as a playtest for D&D 5e (2014). It was released to RPGA Dungeon Masters in August 2013, but only made available to the general public in October 2015.

Introducing D&D Next. D&D 5e had a long, public history as D&D Next before its official publication. Playtest packets were released beginning in May 2012, then D&D Encounters started offering 5e options with "Against the Cult of Chaos" (2013) in February 2013. However, the 5e playtest really hit the mainstream during the summer of 2013: on June 15 the 5e adventure "Vault of the Dracolich" was run at D&D Game Day (2013). An even bigger preview of 5e followed at Gen Con Indy 2013 with the release of the adventure "Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle" (2013) exactly a month later, on August 15.

Because "Dragonspear Castle" was a big public release that included playtest rules, it got the most attention. However, two other 5e playtest adventures also appeared at that Gen Con. The second was the fifteenth Encounters adventure, "Murder in Baldur's Gate" (2013), which went on sale on August 20th following its August 17th launch weekend. The third is now the least-known. That's because it was only released to Dungeon Masters at the time and has been mostly unavailable since.

That isn't to say that "Confrontation at Candlekeep" wasn't a big deal. It was the other half of Wizards of the Coast's Gen Con 2013 plan, intended to draw players into D&D 5e without the benefit of a traditional booth. On the one hand Gale Force Nine was selling "Dragonspear Castle" to long lines of fan. On the other hand, Wizards reserved much of Hall D at the Indiana Convention Center so that the RPGA could run "Confrontation at Candlekeep".

And, run they did! The two-hour adventure was scheduled for 28 separate sessions, the first running from 8am to 10am on Thursday, August 15th and the last running from 2pm to 4pm on Sunday, August 18th. Each session could seat up to 176 players, which meant that Wizards had the capability to run almost 5,000 players through the D&D 5e adventure — enough to generate a great seed of interest when those players brought word of the new edition home to their own gaming groups.

"Confrontation at Candlekeep" was run again at Pax Prime (2013), from August 30th to September 2nd. It then was run in some game stores as an event over the next couple of months.

Components of Note. Players of the Gen Con "Confrontation at Candlekeep" also got a freebie for spending their $4 and two hours: a set of beige dice with elegant blue ink.

Adventure Tropes. As the preliminary adventures for D&D 5e trickled out, they started to answer the question, "What does a D&D 5e adventure look like?" And the answer for "Confrontation at Candlekeep" is … unclear. That's because it's very much a convention adventure. An event coordinator (called a First Reader) manages the overall game, which includes 4 or more groups of players. Groups then split up to play through different sections of the adventure.

As a result of this split, each group got just two pages of adventure, meant to be played over 45 minutes. This means that clues as to what 5e adventure design would look like were pretty scant. However one thing was obvious: Wizards was moving away from the tightly crafted tactical encounters of the 4e era. Most of these two-page spreads included a couple of different encounters; they were focused on fighting, but also featured some locales to explore and perhaps even some roleplaying.

All of the "Candlekeep" groups come back together for a final fight against a very dangerous blue dragon. Rather than powering down the dragon (as you might have seen in 4e), the Event Coordinator of "Confrontation at Candleekeep" allows all the players to fight it simultaneously!. It's a rather elegant end to a convention adventure that makes the best use of its many players.

"Vault of the Dracolich" had previously used an Event Coordinator to similarly good effect. However beyond that "Confrontation at Candlekeep" is the odd man out among the early D&D 5e adventure. Though its focus on combat matched the other early 5e adventures, its general adventure style didn't. "Vault of the Dracolich" was a dragon crawl in the classic style, while the longer campaign of "Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle" contained no less than four major dungeon crawls — with GM-directed encounters adding just a tiny bit of variety. "Confrontation at Candlekeep" is overall more focused on encounters than either of its predecessors.

Expanding the Realms. "Confrontation at Candlekeep" was the first D&D adventure to bill itself as being part of "The Sundering", a time of upheaval in the Forgotten Realms that was intended to move the setting into its next major era.

Beyond that, it's most notable for its (somewhat scattered) details on the library at Candlekeep. This locale was frequently mentioned in the core Forgotten Realms books, starting with the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1987) and including Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast (1994). However, it had never previously been a locale for tabletop adventure, though it had gotten quite a bit of attention thanks to computers.

That started with Baldur's Gate (1998), the classic Bioware computer game, which begins in Candlekeep. This resulted in a "Candlekeep" article in Dragon #255 (January 1999), which detailed the locale by leaning heavily on the video game. Meanwhile January 1999 also saw the creation of another computer-based Candlekeep: the candlekeep.com website, which went on line a few months later, on March 9th. Candlekeep.com is an online repository of Forgotten Realms lore that's only expanded and improved over time. 16 years later, it remains the first online stop for many Forgotten Realms fans.

Future History. "Confrontation at Candlekeep" is a prequel to The Herald (2014), Ed Greenwood's sixth novel of the Sundering, which was published about a year later. Meanwhile, the Sundering also ran through the last four Encounters adventures, from "Murder in Baldur's Gate" (2013) through "Dreams of the Red Wizards: Dead in Thay" (2014).

About the Creators. Abadia had previously worked on "Vault of the Dracolich", the other early D&D 5e adventure that featured cooperation between tables. Bilsland meanwhile was one of the contributors to "Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle", which was released simultaneously with the "Confrontation at Candlekeep" tournaments. Finally, this was Shawn Merwin's first work on D&D 5e, though not his first D&D work, which included a couple of adventures in 2012.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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Reviews (0)
Discussions (2)
Customer avatar
Johnny L May 15, 2016 3:46 am UTC
i would like to know what is actually in the product before making the purchase decision. the history of the edition really isn't what most DM or Players are looking for in an Adventure
Customer avatar
Tim G April 22, 2016 12:18 pm UTC
OK, that's a substantial history lesson, but this isn't the place for it. It'd be more helpful to have, at the top of the page, something about what the product is and what we can get out of it. As it stands I have no idea. Most of the history can be moved inside the product itself.
Customer avatar
May 12, 2016 2:03 pm UTC
I was just thinking the same thing... and, the previews are not working for me. Found a review of this on another site. It sounds interesting.
Customer avatar
Mitchell A May 25, 2016 6:20 pm UTC
I agree with you here. Was looking for what was actually included in the campaign. Especially if you read the sundering series how it relates to that.
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File Last Updated:
October 05, 2015
This title was added to our catalog on October 06, 2015.