D&D’s next adventures are being designed to come apart at the seams

The release schedule for Dungeons & Dragons this year is packed with meaty new adventures, but publisher Wizards of the Coast is subtly changing how they’re built. Gone are the clockwork, almost linear campaigns like Waterdeep: Dragon Raid And Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. Instead, there are books that can just as easily be torn apart, shredded by players and Dungeon Masters alike to create their own unique, custom-made campaigns.

“As we make products, we learn from our fans,” says product manager Chris Lindsay. “And we’ve learned from our fanbase that they really want things that they can take apart and use however they want in their games.”

It’s easy to see the origin point of this particular shift for 5th Edition. Anthologies like Candlestick mysteries, Keys from the golden safeAnd Travel through the radiant citadel have been hits in part because they contain excellent multi-level adventures that can be played on multiple levels. They have been piling on accolades from outlets like Polygon, as well as other writers voting for the 58th Nebula Awards. Even reboots of old D&D franchises, such as Van Richten’s guide to Ravenloft And Spelljammer: Adventures in space, are designed more as buffets of content rather than scripted epics. The series of 2023 releases will build on that foundation.

Cover art for Bigby presents: Glory of the Giants.
Image: Cynthia Sheppard/Wizards of the Coast

The publication calendar starts on August 15 with Bigby presents: Glory of the Giants, a great old book of great old giants. It should be about the same size as Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, most of the content aimed at DMs, with a few new character creation options and such. At a press conference earlier this month, the developers said it will go well with existing adventures like Storm King’s Thunderbut that the true purpose is to inspire creativity.

Next comes Phandelver and below: The shattered obeliskwhich will be released on September 19. It is inspired by the small, rural town from the original 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set — hallowed ground for fans of The Adventure Zone, but also the first port of call for many 5th Edition enthusiasts. While it’s a linear jaunt as written, product manager Hilary Ross said it’s built to be cannibalized for other purposes as well.

“Even with a straight-up adventure,” Ross said, “you want to make sure we […] invite all those DMs who are real homebrewers. We really want you to lean into writing your own stories in that space, to get that opportunity. […] We really wanted to open it up and welcome everyone.”

On October 17, fans will have access to Planescape: Adventures in the Multiversethe hugely popular TSR-created 1990s setting 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 gotten a proper update since its fourth edition. Dungeon Master’s Guide 2.

The qLady of Pain from Planescape: Torment stands motionless, a sun-like mask covers her face in a circle of thorns.  The sky is pink and the horizon line is blue.  Strange marks frame her face.

Cover art for Sigil and the Abroad.
Image: Tyler Jacobson/Wizards of the Coast

For this next iteration, fans should expect the same sort of three-part approach as before Spell shamewith all three books together serving as a kind of creative workshop for aspiring DMs. Sigil and the Abroad will set the stage for the famous doughnut-shaped City of Doors, a mysterious location that serves as the crossroads for the entire D&D multiverse. Morte’s flat parade contains 64 pages of all-new rules for monsters. Finally, Spin the Wheel of Fortune will be a hardcore experience with a huge leap forward for players in the middle of the campaign – but again, the slim adventure is designed for groups to take it in many different directions.

“One of the most important [reasons why we] put these adventures in it though, [is] not just for you to play them,” Lindsay emphasized. “Because we want you to play them. They are absolutely incredible experiences. However, a setting like Planescape can seem a little overwhelming to newer Dungeon Masters, or even Dungeon Masters who haven’t had the chance to engage with a setting as wide open as this one. So having an adventure that gives you a specific example of the kind of thing that could happen to you in a Planescape setting, and then of course your imagination can wander from there as you create.

The transition to more open-ended products will be completed in 2023 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 dating all the way back to the creation of D&D in 1975. Drawing from the deck brings powerful rules or events to the game world, and the 22 cards will kill the party just as much as anything else . Wizards includes an additional 44 cards for DMs and players to choose from when creating their own custom decks, along with a guide full of tips, tricks, and inspiration on how to use the deck at your table.

A product photo of The Deck of Many Things, including a slipcase with a goblin shaman inside.  The cards are tarot sized.

Image: Wizards of the Coast

“One of the things we provide is a way for you to lay out the cards that will help you get inspired and build your own adventures,” Lindsay said. “I’m particularly excited about that because it brings all of our homebrew players into the picture and allows them to take this product and really make it into something for themselves.”

Lindsay emphasized that, though The deck of many things is only for advanced players.

“That toolbox builds on a skill set that Dungeon Masters should already have,” he said.

The deck of many thingswhich includes all 66 cards and a decorative slipcase, arrives November 14. Only Bigby presents: Glory of the Giants is currently available for pre-order and includes Wizards’ new higher price of $59.95. Wizards of the Coast offers the book with a digital version, while Amazon does not. You can also pick up the book with a special variant cover at friendly local game shops.