Over the last few years, Dungeons & Dragons’ fifth edition publications have largely alternated between exploring established locations like Icewind Dale and Ravenloft, and crossovers with other licenses like Magic: The Gathering and Critical Role. Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel lands on the scene as a true exception—in many ways.
First, the titular Radiant Citadel is an entirely new setting for Dungeons & Dragons. Situated in the Ethereal Plane, the citadel can easily be integrated into campaign settings of all kinds. Whether your party hails from the Forgotten Realms or a homebrew creation, Dungeon Masters only need to introduce a Concord Jewel—a crystalline vessel that transports people to and from the citadel—to teleport them to this new locale.
Once there, players will find an exotic city like no other, befitting of its interplanar home. It’s more than a hub or tool DMs can use to bridge planes. It’s a fascinating cross-section of new, unique areas to explore, drawn from real world mythologies that Dungeons & Dragons has never explored with such accuracy.
Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel’s first chapter details the new site itself: leaders, lore, society, and other base-level info for running sessions there. Each subsequent chapter is a standalone adventure with a different cultural flair. A handy “Gazeteer” segment caps each chapter by providing a rundown on the culture it presented. These are great references for DMs for making NPCs, or even players who want to use the new setting in a different way.
“Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel’s first chapter details the new site itself: leaders, lore, society, and other base-level info for running sessions there.”
The beauty of this arrangement is that each chapter is authored by a person of colour, drawing upon their heritage and experiences to present new realms. In creating “The Nightsea’s Succor” and its Djaynai region, D. Fox Harrell specifically drew inspiration not only from various African peoples, but from reading classic sword-and-sorcery like Michael Moorcock’s The Elric Saga that portrayed the harsh treatment of slaves. Similarly, Erin Roberts looked to her great-uncle’s book Growing Up Black in Rural Mississippi when crafting the adventure “Written in Blood.”
This mindful approach makes Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel one of the most unique sourcebooks in Fifth Edition, if not all of Dungeons & Dragons. These adventures and settings draw from new wells and are infused with copious character and purpose. While Wizards of the Coast achieved similar success with last year’s anthology of mystery standalones, Candlekeep Mysteries, Journeys pays off bigger dividends.
Naturally there’s an equally refreshing smattering of new artwork to express these new locales. A talented team of artists does wonders to bring them to life and set them apart—no small feat when each setting only gets so many pages.
Despite the unique approach beneath the surface, Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel is presented like any other 5E book. Wizards of the Coast seem to have learned their lesson after the controversy surrounding the heavy-handed editing of Candlekeep Mysteries, leaving the authors’ visions intact.
“My only real complaint with Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel is that they didn’t go just a touch farther and introduce more character options unique to these new realms.”
That being said—and this is a gripe with the overall product line, not this book—part of me is growing a little weary of the current 5E layout. It’s largely a difference in how I lay out my own homebrew or adapt premade adventures, but I would appreciate more formatting to make referencing the text easier in the heat of the moment. Narration text is still set aside, but there are some things that would benefit from being bulleted or highlighted in other ways.
My only real complaint with Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel is that they didn’t go just a touch farther and introduce more character options unique to these new realms. Magic items, subclasses, unique spells… Each new locale might’ve offered something new and interesting to the mechanics of the game, to be used beyond their introductory adventure. Instead, we only get the guidelines to make characters from these places, and not tools to equip them with an authentic piece of home.
Two realms are unceremoniously introduced at the very end, including Umizu, which is inspired by coastal Japanese villages. Perhaps Wizards of the Coast is saving space for a book set in Magic: The Gathering’s Kamigawa, but there was a prime opportunity to explore a desirable design space, and instead Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel ends abruptly there.
With any luck, Wizards of the Coast will take us back to the Radiant Citadel soon to explore these rich new horizons in more depth.