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We played the new DnD adventure book (and nearly died)

Our Infinite Staircase preview answers one obvious question: what happens when a horribly optimized DnD party tests an old-school dungeon?

Wizards of the Coast art of a DnD adventurer exploring a dungeon

After an early look at Quests from the Infinite Staircase, the next D&D adventure anthology, I’m left feeling conflicted. I almost died exploring its very first adventure, yet the experience felt suspiciously safe for an old-school dungeon crawl.

My preview of the upcoming DnD book transported me to The Lost City, a levels one to three adventure that was first published in 1982. D&D designer (and our Dungeon Master for the session) Makenzie De Armas tells me the anthology’s first course can be “a really good starter adventure” that showcases “all tiers of play”.

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In The Lost City, your party wanders into a half-buried desert Ziggurat (why? Because why not?) On your journeys, you’ll first encounter a range of strange factions, each with their own ideas and unique masks. There’s apparently a heavy focus on roleplay and social intrigue at this level, but as you descend deeper into the Ziggurat, the dungeon crawl begins.

This is where De Armas started us off for the preview. Wanting to be useful, I’d rolled up a Swashbuckler Rogue that could stab good and plug any skill gaps in our party. Unfortunately, two of my companions had thought the same thing (with one even choosing the same DnD subclass). That left us with three Rogues and a lonely DnD Warlock.

By now, you’re beginning to see why a near-TPK was on the table. It all started well. The group got a ‘Rogues, Rogues, Rogues!’ chant going. Despite the overlap in playstyles, we handled the situation pretty amicably, with minimal elbowing when searching for traps.

We didn’t find many traps. Every door we scrutinized turned out to be, yes, a door. The few environmental hazards we saw were clearly signposted and fairly easy to step around. Maybe it only felt that way because we were all Rogues, but the Warlock managed just fine too.

Given the ‘introductory’ vibe this adventure was going for, these choices all feel by design. After all, this book is releasing right before the new era of One DnD begins, and it might be the first adventure many people play with the new rules. Wizards of the Coast needed an adventure that would suit players learning how to play Dungeons and Dragons all over again.

Wizards of the Coast art of a DnD Rogue

“We wanted to make sure it was as smooth a transition as possible”, De Armas says when discussing the move from fifth edition to future edition.

Combat encounters began piling up as we explored further. A few Eldritch Blasts and stabs were all it took to dispatch some skeleton foes, and our high Perception and Stealth levels helped us escape dangerous beasts on more than one occasion. Sneak Attack ruled the day. As we delved deeper, however, we grew cocky.

Enter the Banshee. On the first turn of combat, this ghostly enemy let out an ear-splitting scream that immediately had two of the party rolling DnD death saves. Our Warlock quickly ran out of ways to heal the group.

The Rogues could do little but feebly stab the Banshee, who was clearly resistant to non-magical damage. Also, we missed her half of the time. As my Swashbuckler lay on the floor, potentially breathing her last breath, all that expertise was feeling pretty useless.

We survived this section of the adventure by the skin of our teeth. Somehow, we picked everyone back up, banishing the Banshee and allowing the ghost in the nearby tomb to finally get some rest. Death almost had us, but the fight never felt too threatening.

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Apparently, this changes further down in the Ziggurat. Further underground lies a secret cult, worshiping an enormous, tentacled monster that’s rumored to be unkillable.

The video above can tell you more about it – and so can we, once we’re able to share our full Quests from the Infinite Staircase review. Keep your eyes peeled for that one. Until then, here’s everything coming up on this year’s DnD release schedule – plus some guidance for picking DnD classes and DnD races.