The release schedule for Dungeons & Dragons is packed with some meaty new adventures this year, but publisher Wizards of the Coast is subtly changing how they’re constructed. Gone are the clockwork, nearly linear campaigns like Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. In their place are books that just as easily can be torn apart at the seams, shredded by players and Dungeon Masters alike to make their own unique, homebrew campaigns.
“As we create products we learn from our fan base,” said product manager Chris Lindsay. “And we learned from our fan base that what they really want are things that they can pull apart and use as they want in their games.”
It’s easy to see the origin point of this particular shift for 5th edition. Anthologies like Candlekeep Mysteries, Keys From the Golden Vault, and Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel have been hits in part because they contain excellent adventures able to be run across multiple settings at multiple levels. They’ve been piling on accolades from outlets like Polygon, but also from other writers voting on the 58th Nebula Awards. Even reboots of old D&D franchises, like Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft and Spelljammer: Adventures in Space, have been designed more to be buffets of content rather than scripted epics. 2023’s slate of releases will build on that foundation.
The publishing calendar kicks off on Aug. 15 with Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants, a big ol’ book of big ol’ giants. It should have roughly the same format of Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, the majority of content geared toward DMs, with a smattering of new character creation options and the like. During a press briefing earlier this month, its developers said that it will pair well with existing adventures like Storm King’s Thunder, but that its true intent is to inspire creativity.
Next comes Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk, which hits the street on Sept. 19. It’s inspired by the tiny, rural town from the original 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set — hallowed ground for fans of The Adventure Zone, but also the first point of contact for many 5th edition devotees. While it’s a linear jaunt as written, product manager Hilary Ross said it’s also built to be cannibalized for other purposes.
“Even with a straight-up adventure,” Ross said, “you want to make sure that we [...] invite all of those DMs who really are homebrewers. We really want you to lean into writing your own stories in that space, to have that opportunity. [...] We wanted to really open it up and welcome everyone.”
On Oct. 17 fans will have access to Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse, the tremendously popular TSR-created setting from the 1990s that spawned an iconic video game, Planescape: Torment. While you can still enjoy that classic thanks to Beamdog’s excellent modernization, the setting hasn’t received a proper tabletop update since fourth edition’s Dungeon Master’s Guide 2.
For this next iteration, fans should expect the same sort of three-volume approach used for Spelljammer, with all three books together serving as a kind of creative workshop for ambitious DMs. Sigil and the Outlands will set the stage for the famous donut-shaped City of Doors, a mysterious location that serves as an intersection for the entire D&D multiverse. Morte’s Planar Parade will include 64 pages of all-new rules for monsters. Finally, Turn of Fortune’s Wheel will be a hardcore experience with a massive level jump for players mid-campaign — but once again, the slim adventure has been designed for groups to take it in many different directions.
“One of the most important [reasons why we] put these adventures in there, though, [is] not just for you to play them,” emphasized Lindsay. “Because we do want you to play them. They’re absolutely incredible experiences. However, a setting like Planescape can seem a little overwhelming to newer Dungeon Masters, or even just Dungeon Masters who haven’t had the opportunity to engage with a setting that’s as wide open as this. So having an adventure in there that gives you a specific example of the types of things that could happen to you in a Planescape setting, and then of course your imagination can roam from there as you create.”
The transition to more open-ended products will conclude in 2023 with The Deck of Many Things, which is a toolkit for DMs rather than an anthology of adventures. The eponymous Deck of Many Things is a legendary artifact that goes all the way back to the creation of D&D in 1975. Drawing from the deck brings powerful rules or events into the game world, and its 22 cards are just as likely to kill off the party as anything else. Wizards will include an additional 44 cards for DMs and players to choose from when making their own custom decks, along with a guide book filled with tips, tricks, and inspiration on how the Deck can be used at your table.
“One of the things we provide is a way that you can lay the cards out that will allow you to gain inspiration and build your own adventures,” Lindsay said. “I am particularly excited about that, as it brings all of our homebrew players into focus and allows them to take this product and really make something of it for themselves.”
Lindsay stressed, however, that The Deck of Many Things is for advanced players only.
“That toolbox builds upon a skill set that Dungeon Masters should already have,” he said.
The Deck of Many Things, which includes all 66 cards and a decorative slipcase, arrives on Nov. 14. Only Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants is currently available for pre-order, and includes Wizards’ new, higher price point of $59.95. Wizards of the Coast offers the book with a digital version, while Amazon does not. You can also pick the book up with a special variant cover at friendly local game stores.