Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel is the latest collection of official Dungeons & Dragons adventures, following in the footsteps of Tales From the Yawning Portal and Ghosts of Saltmarsh. Each of those prior collections of adventures had a theme, and so does Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, although the most defining feature here is not anything thematic but the length of the adventures.
As it says on the back of the book, these adventures are short – Radiant Citadel packs 13 adventures into fewer pages than Yawning Portal or Saltmarsh took to deliver about half that many. Ultimately, I think that whether you’re interested in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel will turn on whether you want those shorter adventures.
Each of those 13 stories also introduces some new land. It’s up to the DM where these lands might be located – each has several suggestions for dropping them into existing settings, and all of them have a connection to the eponymous Radiant Citadel. Each of the adventures serves to introduce one of these lands (including a small gazetteer). This impacts the structure of the adventures – dungeons aren’t generally a great introduction to a new nation, so the adventures rarely feature them (or anything dungeon-like). Instead, the typical adventure in Radiant Citadel features the PCs arriving at a city, running into a problem, and then hopping from NPC to NPC to figure out what’s going on, possibly with a fight at the end (or maybe not; it’s possible to go through some of these with very little combat).
Which brings us back to the “short” part. The already limited page count for each adventure loses a few pages to the gazetteer, and it takes a lot more game time to do a string of combats than the same page count of NPC interactions. Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel promises short, stand-alone adventures, and that’s what it delivers. You want adventures you can play in a single session, either as one-shots or thrown into an existing campaign? Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel will give you that.
Personally, I would like a bit more complexity in these sorts of adventures, a bit of an opportunity for the players to do more than just follow the single trail of bread crumbs. That’s probably why my favorite is Justice Ramin Arman’s “Shadow of the Sun,” which presents a city under the strict rule of an angel. Characters there have actual options about whether or how they want to be involved in an internal conflict between the forces of law and order and citizens who think that maybe there’s a little too much law and order. It’s the sort of story you might be able to make a series of adventures out of. On the one hand, I want to say I wish we could’ve gotten a smaller selection of more complex adventures. On the other hand, I’m not sure how fair it is to criticize a book for being exactly what it set out to be.
My single favorite thing in the book is the skybridges from Pam Punzalan’s “Between the Tangled Roots.” If I actually made my own adventures anymore I would definitely add these in the next time I wrote one – what a way to add a touch of high fantasy!
You may note I haven’t gotten back to the theme of this book. I imagine that the theme is part of the reason Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel is structured like it is. Saltmarsh had aquatic adventures. Yawning Portal had updated versions of some classics. Radiant Citadel’s theme is that all of these new lands pull in elements from outside traditional European fantasy, mixing elements of real-world mythology and culture in with traditional D&D elements. I’m not in a position to judge how effectively it represents those things (here’s a link if you want to see what the various authors of the adventures were trying to portray). But it contributes to the structure of the adventures. If you want to have a bunch of aquatic adventures you’re going to have to brush up on the rules for boats and underwater combat. If you want to tell stories about locations that introduce new setting elements, it requires adventures that let the characters actually meet and interact with people, not just delve into a dungeon. And it pushes you towards a lot of adventures so you can introduce more.
In addition to the adventures, there is a write-up of the Radiant Citadel itself. It seems to primarily serve as something of a home base if you want to play a campaign where the characters portal into all of the different stories in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel. I guess that’s why it’s Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, not In the Radiant Citadel. The vibe of the citadel itself is something in the ballpark of “socialist utopia” – not really designed to be somewhere that one has adventures, but rather a home base that one launches adventures out of. This is a fantasy setting, so I’m mostly not concerned with whether governmental structures are realistic, but I note that one of the elements here is that every member of the ruling council has the magical ability to unilaterally shut down the entire city. This is presented as a positive thing because it forces everyone to work things out diplomatically. But if you think that giving any one member of a group the ability to shut down everything is a good idea, I would suggest that you take a look at the modern iteration of the United States Senate.
Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel probably isn’t going to wow anyone who isn’t looking for this type of content. Ultimately, the book succeeds at what it’s trying to do – provide a plethora of short adventures that introduce a stack of new places.
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