Dungeons & Dragons kicks off 2021 with its first wheelchair-accessible dungeon

Image: Clint Cearley/Wizards of the Coast

The next Dungeons & Dragons book published by Wizards of the Coast will include the franchise’s first official adventure that is wheelchair accessible. Titled Candlekeep Mysteries, the collection of 17 one-shot adventures will be published on March 16 and will feature the work of 19 different designers.

Candlekeep Mysteries will be different from any other book released so far for the 5th edition of D&D. Rather than a single campaign that takes characters from level 1 through levels 5 or 10, it’s a collection of much shorter, unconnected experiences. Each one will be designed to serve as a one-shot, a common term for an adventure suitable for just one gameplay session (between two and four hours).

They also all share a common theme: books.

“It originated out of the need to provide Dungeon Masters with short adventures that they can easily integrate into their Forgotten Realms campaign — or into any campaign, really — that has in it a library,” said Chris Perkins, D&D’s principal story designer, in a press briefing. “Each adventure is built on the premise of the characters finding a book. That book is what propels a mystery, a mystery that the characters feel compelled to solve, which then leads them on a grand adventure.”

For the past several years now, Wizards of the Coast has been welcoming more and more freelance designers into the fold through The Dungeon Masters Guild. Built in partnership with OneBookshelf (makers of DriveThruRPG), it also offers revenue sharing with independent creators. Perkins tapped into this burgeoning ecosystem of new voices, as well as the wider freelance marketplace, to build the team behind Candlekeep Mysteries.

Authors include the following:

Image: Wizards of the Coast

Among the designers on hand to give the press a preview of their contributions was actor and producer Jennifer Kretchmer, part of the Silver & Steel actual-play group. Last summer, Kretchmer put lots of energy into creating the Accessibility in Gaming Resource. She said it was important for her to make sure that her adventure was available to everyone.

An alternate cover, which will only be available through friendly local game stores.
Image: Wizards of the Coast

“This is not something that’s new to tabletop gaming, or new to D&D, but it was important to me to make accessibility part of my dungeons,” Kretchmer said. “As an ambulatory wheelchair user, I wanted people to have the opportunity to see themselves represented in-game. We have the ability in fantasy to imagine things. We don’t have to pay to make those accommodations. This is something we can imagine in our brains, and it’s there. So it’s something that was really important to me to put in, into my design.”

In fact, there was quite a bit of buzz about accessibility in tabletop role-playing games last year. That was thanks in part to Sara Thompson, who goes by the handle @mustangsart on Twitter. The designer and consultant created the Combat Wheelchair, a D&D supplement available for free online. It has since been incorporated into the official canon of Matt Mercer’s Critical Role. There’s even a line of figures suitable for at-home 3D printing from Strata Miniatures.

Wizards has published several anthologies for the 5th edition, including Ghosts of Saltmarsh and Tales from the Yawning Portal. However, those books included adventures that were much more substantial — and tended to be revised versions of older material. Candlekeep Mysteries promises to be all-new content. Most important to Perkins, however, is the opportunity to kick off the year with creative, inspiring adventures for fans of D&D to riff on throughout 2021.

“What’s wonderful about it is, you know, with so many adventures, you get to see a huge variety of what D&D can be,” Perkins said. “Every adventure is unique. Every adventure’s got a weird twist or take. I think that people will be able to pick up this product and find one or more things that they’re just gonna be aching to want to play, to put in their games.”

Candlekeep Mysteries

  • $45

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This anthology of 17 different one-shot adventures only requires Dungeon Masters to place a library somewhere in their world. Well, that and 3-5 hardy adventurers to find it.

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Each one will be designed to serve as a one-shot, a common term for an adventure suitable for just one gameplay session (between two and four hours).

I have yet to run a one-shot that took less than eight hours. Players just refuse to walk in a straight line sometimes. And god forbid they find a suspiciously unhidden chest, it’ll take them the next half an hour of prodding and poking to finally decide it isn’t a mimic.

It’s a classic joke that any "one shot" will inevitably take at least 3 sessions.

DM: "heading in your direction, you see a young peasant girl walking down the road. In her arms, she is holding a basket filled with loaves of bread. You surmise that she is heading into town to sell them."

Warrior "I draw my Hellblade and prepare to attack"
Wizard "I prepare to cast fireball"
Ranger "I shoot an arrow at her, aiming several feet in front of her as a warning"

Importantly, this also makes the dungeon accessible by centaurs.

Wheel chairs….I’m positive there are multiple spells that could fix those legs up.

"But I love being disabled in a game where you’re constantly using cobble stone stairs, rugged mountain paths, and rocky wooded river beds!"

Regenerate literally regenerates limbs. Chop those old legs off and regenerate brand new ones.

Eeeh. How many lvl13 divine casters are around? Even if they’re plentiful, the spell explicitly recovers HP and regrows limbs. Perhaps spinal cord damage is the domain of Wish.

The point is, it’s a game where 1m tall, 30 kg people can go toe-to-toe with ogres and dragons. Physical limitations are flavor and backstory (and yes, I realize it wasn’t always like this and it’s not the way everyone plays D&D, but it is 5e’s philosophy since halflings came out with no Strength penalty).

Exactly, and that doesn’t even account for the possibility of disabilities as the result of a powerful curse — something that your typical healing spell can’t handle.

Also? It’s D&D, so all a group needs to do if they want to include a character in a wheelchair is say "this character needs a wheelchair." The whole point of the game is that we’re not beholden to the published material if we decide that we want to tweak or adjust something.

I feel like a wheelchair would give an unfair speed advantage on flat smooth surfaces. Is it a STR or DEX check to see how fast I can speed myself down the alley to crash into the group of thugs!?

If you read the linked item description above, that’s an optional feature the DM can allow – but it’s somewhat balanced by the difficulty in stopping safely.

I can’t wait for the puzzle-solving experience of how to get this goddamn crippled orc up the side of this mountain! Why did we all have to be rogues! Can’t anyone cast FLY?!

"uwu, sorry guys, but we’ll just have to take the long way up the mountain where the dragon built a ramp…"

you must be one of the least imaginative people i’ve ever encountered on the internet, congratulations

If anything is unimaginative it’s taking a real-world thing like a wheelchair and putting it into a fantasy world.

Why not just create a whole new class that not only taps into physical disabilities but mental disabilities as well!

Considering that the rules as written don’t actually account for the existence of these things, I’d say that it would actually be quite imaginative to do so.

Yeah can you imagine someone creating a fantastical depiction of someone with a disability? What an idea!

I see what they are going for here, I really do.

Making feel people included is a good thing.

But the idea of a villanous antagonist maintaining a wheelchair ramp deep down in his nefarious dungeon is pretty funny. All snarling Kobolds, deadly traps, and dim torch light is ADA compliant!

Also, as an aside: I am not wheelchair-bound, but it seems like D&D would be a great place to explore escapist fantasy for someone who more than likely would not prefer to be in the damn chair at all. I mean, it’s D&D for gods sake! Have some imagination, you can be anyone and anything you want.

Ramps in a dungeon make so much sense. Traps that involve rolling rocks? Better with a ramp. Deliveries across multiple levels? Better with a ramp.

Also not all disabled people want to wish away their disability.

exactly! saying "lol why would a bad guy make their dungeon ADA compliant" demonstrates a huge lack of imagination

A lawful evil bad guy would maintain an ADA-compliant dungeon/lair.

They’re hoping to age-into their forever dungeon. Not everyone plans to become a Lich.

Or maybe the villain uses a wheelchair, and wants to be able to move around their own dungeon, even.

I have a hard time believing anyone that is permanently in a wheelchair for their whole life isn’t gonna wish they could use their legs if they could.

Maybe but I’d assume many more see being in a wheelchair as much as part of their identity as any other attribute and would like to see that reflected in game.

Yea, just like anyone who adopts something they have no control over as apart of their identity. The main point being, they had no choice.

All the more reason for representation, no?

That was never the question. The question was would someone change their physically strenuous and debilitating physical handicap if they could.

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