Quests from the Infinite Staircase preview — Adventures across the D&D multiverse

Wizards of the Coast’s next adventure book for its Dungeons & Dragons line is Quests from the Infinite Staircase. We had a chance to hear from Justice Ramin Arman, senior game designer at WOTC, about this upcoming anthology. Like Tales from the Yawning Portal, this set of six adventures features updated adventures published under previous editions of the game. The collection of adventures starts at first level and culminates at thirteenth level, so they can be played straight through as a campaign. Additionally, the overarching design of the campaign allows for the adventures to be played in succession as provided for in the book, or a DM can swap out adventures that match at corresponding levels. A warning to players interested in playing the adventures contained in this book, the following preview contains minor spoilers. As the name of the book implies, the thing that ties all these adventures together is the Infinite Staircase.

The noble genie Nafas sits amid myriad possibilities.

Because it is integral to the book and not extensively detailed in other publications, the Infinite Staircase itself is the focus of the opening chapter. The Infinite Staircase, which has been part of D&D lore for a while but never detailed, finally gets some additional information here. It is a staircase that winds endlessly through an extra-dimensional space connecting an infinite number of doors. The doors lead to all places – hard to get to places – every plane, every world. The Staircase provides DMs with an accessible form of planar travel that doesn’t involve the perils of the city of Sigil or the level requirements of Planeshift spell. The look of the Staircase and the doors, which could be reminiscent of M.C. Escher’s work, is demonstrated in the art of the book as well.

Quests from the Infinite Staircase has both dungeons and dragons.

In the first chapter, you will find out details about the Staircase, like how gravity works, what happens if a character or an object falls off, what characters might encounter while traveling between doors and how long that trip would take, how to find a specific door, what doors look like, and where they lead. For DMs, there is a table of sample doors, so if players open a random door, the DM can roll on that table for a quick setup to an unplanned adventure. Also detailed in the first chapter, is a palace called the Sensor of Dreams. This location is the home of a noble genie named Nafas, who was created by the planar winds that blow in through the staircase’s infinite doors. His connection to the multiverse allows him to hear spoken wishes from creatures across its expanse. He hears wishes and endeavors to make them come true by enlisting the aid of others, which is where the player characters come in. Nafas can be a warlock’s patron as well. Noble genies can cast the wish spell without the same restrictions that are listed in the spell in the Player’s Handbook, meaning a noble genie can more easily grant a wish, and would be much tougher to fight. Noble genies will have a stat block in the appendix of the book.

Just one of the infinite doors on the staircase.

Nafas is the quest giver that ties the adventures in the book together. While dealing with Nafas and the Infinite Staircase is the basis of the book, each adventure also comes with a more general alternate, non-staircase quest hook. If you stick with the structure provided, each adventure happens behind a door on the Staircase, which has corresponding artwork in the book. So, when they are about to go through the door at the beginning of an adventure, the DM can show them the illustration and say, “You start before this door.”

The first adventure, for 1st through 4th level characters, is the Lost City of Cynidicea, an update of D&D module B4 The Lost City. This module was originally designed by Tom Moldvay for teaching new DMs how to be a DM, so each room was very basic, with the loot, monster, and room dimensions and little else. This updated version has those rooms fleshed out, along with other changes. The PCs will start trapped in a ziggurat and to find their way out, they are going to have to interact with one or more of the Cynidicean factions. They will find during the adventure that the factions are being strangled by a cult to an elder evil, a supposedly indestructible creature. The cult was a small part of the original module, but now plays a larger role in the setting. The adventure, which has intrigue and a dungeon crawl, includes the remnants of a bygone civilization of Cynidicea which has split into factions vying to restore their former glory. In an update from the original, the factions are easier to join, there are clearer rules for how PCs can join up, and what rewards they get for doing so (tattoos, magic item, fancy mask). There are two stat blocks for each major faction and rewards have been updated. They added some new monsters and updated encounters for existing ones. For example, an encounter with some pixies in a fireworks room now includes more thought about what the pixies are doing in this room, what they want, what information they might have for the PCs, what the rules are for the fireworks, etc. The adventure also has a mapped underground city, where the PCs can keep adventuring after they finish the published one.

Mysterious rituals happen across the multiverse.

The second adventure, for 4th through 6th level characters, is When a Star Falls, an update of D&D module UK4 with the same name written by Graeme Morris. The original module was highly regarded and stood out for having a more narrative style than other TSR publications at the time. The updated version sticks to that structure. In this adventure, the PCs are going to retrieve a fallen star to protect the power of prophecy from evil sages who wish to twist it to accomplish nefarious deeds. The original kicked off with an encounter with a memory web, a weird living web that feeds on memories and when it is slain, it releases the memories in a flood to the creatures around it. The memory web still kicks off the adventure and has a stat block in the appendix. Also appearing in the adventure are some Dero, who are stealing corpses and reanimating them to serve their sinister purposes. The adventure will also see the PCs visit a clan of Svirfneblin. The two dragon wrymlings at the end of the original adventure have had the challenge rating tweaked by combining them into one dragon.

Some artwork was inspired by the original adventure.

The third adventure, for 6th through 7th level characters, is Beyond the Crystal Cave, an update to the module UK 1, Beyond the Crystal Cave. Inspired by Romeo and Juliet, this adventure has the PCs searching for two young lovers that have run away from disapproving parents. The original was different for an adventure in the 1980s – with a focus on non-combat resolutions to conflicts. Like Wild Beyond the Witchlight, which also has a no combat option, this update leans into that. The original setting of a magical garden has been moved to the Feywild. Here, the PCs get to meet all manner of fey creatures, including Leprechauns (which come with a stat block). Leprechauns are industrious and productive little pranksters updated to more closely match their mythological origins, including clothing them in red rather than green. Players find themselves debating some philosophical, pipe-smoking unicorns in a rolling meadow and DMs will find guidance for roleplaying a debate with unicorns. There is an archfey called the Gardener for this domain of delight updated from the Green Man in the original.

A pack of Dero up to no good.

The fourth adventure, for 7th through 9th level characters, is Pharoah, originally module I3 by Tracy and Laura Hickman in which the PCs are asked by the ghost of long-dead pharaoh to lift two curses: one on their soul; and one on the land. To undo the curses, PCs will need to go into a tomb and obtain a staff and a star gem. The update has made the dungeon more deadly, added new and improved diagrams to interpret the pyramid in three dimensions, and added full color maps. Through the course of the adventure the PCs can translate hieroglyphs that feature the pharaoh’s story. PCs will meet a knight fighting some ghasts who also came to the pyramid to help the pharaoh’s ghost, but her party has mostly succumbed to the dungeon. Players will deal with a group of historians and priests trying to bring a river back to the lands the pharaoh once ruled. A new magic item, the Staff of Ruling, will be statted out in the book.

The fifth adventure, for 9th through 11th level characters, is Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, originally module S4 by Gary Gygax. This adventure, located in Greyhawk’s Yatil Mountains, places emphasis on the dungeon being the former lair of the witch queen Iggwilv. Like the original, there is a wilderness adventure setting as well as a dungeon delve. This dungeon is where Iggwilv probably penned parts of the demonomicon. Characters may find out what kind of strange demons and devils can be encountered in places infused with the energies from the book. They will likely encounter Iggwilv’s daughter Drelzna, the vampire in a spherical chamber inspired by Iggwilv’s cauldron.

The original module S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

The sixth and final adventure, for 11th through 13th level characters, is Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, originally module S3, also written by Gary Gygax. This adventure was selected to be the final adventure in the book due to its status as an iconic adventure in D&D history, similar to the Tomb of Horrors in Yawning Portal. The players will explore a crashed spaceship in Greyhawk’s Barrier Peak mountains and deal with interesting, and quirky denizens. This adventure, both the original and the update, leans into science fiction, with androids, laser guns, and unique creatures throughout. The android stat block in the appendix has specialized designs to create different androids. Combat robots and worker robots wander the spaceship the players are exploring. The retro-futurist look is retained from the original along with a silly yet deadly tone. The PCs will find all manner of futuristic technology, including small spaceship trinkets (there’s a table for it) and charge-based tech devices updated to use energy cells from DMG (but with a different looking spaceship. To help, there are two-pages of tech in an appendix with new grenades, needler pistols, laser pistols from DMG and more. The maps for the adventure have been made a little smaller and some encounters have been moved around to place more memorable encounters where PCs are likely to go. The narrative has been updated to be less of a sandbox and have more structure. They have added some encounters to rooms that had nothing in the original. There were many unique creatures in the original module, such as including the wolf in sheep’s clothing, not all of which return in the update, but many do.

Laser weapons can be found behind the right door on the Infinite Staircase.

Mike Dunn: In addition to Steven’s deep dive look into the book, I attended a preview session of the final adventure, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. D&D Game designer Makenzie De Armas was the DM of our motley group, with our only prior instruction to show up with a level 11 character.

Naturally, I rolled up a wizard. They’re real fun at higher levels.

Admittedly, my nostalgia meter was off the charts- this was one of my favorite modules when I was a kid. Honestly, I think it was everybody’s. Even though we zipped through it pretty quickly, I’m happy to say that it still holds up as a fantastic adventure (if you want a detailed account of the session, check out Andrew Stretch’s preview).

A very zoomed out map from the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks on D&D Beyond

More surprising, however, is how far the maps VTT on D&D Beyond has come. Currently in alpha, the maps tool on the player side boasts a simple interface and intuitive menu of tools, with no-brainer additions like WASD controls for tokens and auto scaling. Not to mention the fact that WOTC is importing the maps from the full collection of 5E adventure books (In fact there is content for Vecna: Eve of Ruin that was made just for D&D Beyond). Very impressive for an alpha, which is actually available to use at the Master Tier subscription level if you want to try it out yourself.

On the technical side, the publication Quests from the Infinite Staircase falls just before the 2024 updated rulebooks are published. The designers had an eye on the future and the past, hoping to eliminate points of friction between old and new rules. The adventures in this book are designed to be usable regardless of which 5th edition rulebooks you are using. Language has been updated to avoid referencing abilities to not cause confusion between old and new terminology. Rather than specifying a specific ability or trait that a creature uses, the text doesn’t name the ability, it just says what the creature does.

The authors also took the opportunity to have an inclusion and sensitivity review process over art and material. Various parts of the older adventures were updated to address the way things were depicted. For instance, the genie wears no headdress, has legs, and is not bound to an iron flask. In the Lost City, the Cynidicean factions are no longer divided by gender. In Pharoah, with the help of a person who specializes in ancient Egypt, they removed culturally insensitive things, or repositioned them.

Worker robots.

Players can get early access to the digital edition on D&D Beyond on July 9th. The universal release of the hardbacks will be on the 16th of July, with two cover variations, both depicting Nafas the noble genie, available depending on where you shop.

Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

Steven spends his days working deep in the bowels of a government building and evenings with his wife and daughter. He spent the last quarter century working in and around the US military. His passion is tabletop games. You can catch him playing, talking, reading and writing about RPGs, wargames, board games, party games and card games. Steven is from Texas, but currently lives in Virginia.

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