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In this episode of the RPGBOT.News, we discuss the newly-released adventure compendium Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel. We discuss the setting of the interesting process to create the book, the radiant citadel as a setting, and the included adventures.
Materials Referenced in this Episode
- DnD 5e
Image by __Jasmin__ from Pixabay.
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Welcome to the RPGBOT.News. I’m Randall James and with me is Tyler Kamstra.
And Ash Elie. All right, Tyler, what news are newsing today?
Well, today we’re going to talk about the recentlty-released Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel. This is the new adventure from Wizards of the Coast for fifth edition D&D. It’s been delayed for a bit over a month. And yeah, hotly anticipated. Delayed for a bit due to, you know, COVID-related supply chain issues. But yeah, this is a really exciting adventure and I’m happy to finally have it in my hands.
It’s a little crazy, like, okay, we’re nowhere near the end of COVID. It’s just life now. But given how far we’ve come through it, help me remember. Have we had any other delays like this?
Yes, the Rules Expansion Gift Set was delayed until after the Christmas holiday season due to COVID-related production issues. Wizards actually did a bunch of stuff after that to try and avoid stuff like this. Like they, they bought a massive amount of paper stock and started distributing all of their manufacturing so it wasn’t all in one place in China. And now this time around, the only place that they have production issues was in the United States, so they had to delay the worldwide release.
Oof. Yeah that… That hurts. Okay, but I tried. I know people who can’t get whole kitchens right now. So I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised if it’s if it’s getting hard to get books out.
So what’s special about Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel?
Well, there’s a lot of special things about this. Probably the most, like, high-profile thing about it. This is the first time that Wizards has published on an official adventure written entirely by people of color. So they really wanted to embrace the diversity of the community, diverse ways of storytelling, diverse cultures, and that really shows up in the book here. Also, less important, but kind of personally fun. My brother-in-law helped edit the book, which is neat.
Oh, that is neat. Yeah, that’s what really stood out to me, because for a long time, I think that D&D has had a Western focus problem. And this is kind of just a general sort of tabletop fantasy thing is that we… our fantasy tends to focus more on a Western European cultural center of fantasy. You know, the Tolkien elves, knights in armor, that kind of stuff. And we don’t really get the other… The other side, like the other, the other coins of cultures. I believe what it was, was black, indigenous, and people of color were the people who worked on this. So you can see very interesting, non-european inspired mythology. And I just think that’s really cool. Anything that we can do to shake up the paradigm is, is always welcome.
But I think part of the difficulty of telling stories like this… and so maybe we could talk a little bit about what’s in Radiant Citadel. So there are, there are 13 adventures, spanning from 1st to 14th level. The first adventure covers levels one and two, every other adventure is assigned to a level. So 2, 3, 4, all the way to 14, you get to 13 that way. Each of them are connected to a civilization. And we’ll dive a little bit deeper into the idea of civilizations and how they’re tied to the Citadel. But basically, each of these civilizations has a culture. Attached to each of the adventures. And this is one of the things that I think is really cool about the book is it gazetteer. The gazetteer gives a in-depth guide to that civilization. I didn’t look at all of them, because I wanted to save some of the adventures that hopefully allow people to DM for me. But I picked a couple of to look at thinking maybe I would run these stories. And what jumped out at me is when you look at the gazetteer, you could see clearly what cultures likely influenced this culture. And then the places where maybe it deviates from the history of that culture. And maybe they’re trying to tell a richer story, a more forward-looking story. And I really liked that about it. But I say that to say you talk about a lot of fantasy literature, fantasy gaming being based in western fantasy. I think one of the hard parts of doing this is telling a story about a culture that you don’t know a lot about. The only thing you can do is start doing research today. You would always be concerned that you couldn’t do it justice. And that’s why it was so important to gather people with diverse backgrounds who have history in the area, who understand these cultures and their history, to then adapt it to tell the stories they’re telling this book.
Yeah. And related to that, I think one of the things that people are probably going to ask, one of the immediate questions that people are going to ask is, oh, so is this just for people of color? Like, can I not use this because, you know, I’m not of that culture, and I don’t want to offend anyone? Well, fortunately, it is a sensitive issue and Wizards of the Coast chose to address it in a little disclaimer that they said. And they said, look, you’re not a dragonborn in real life, but you can still play one, just like you are not part of these cultures. But you can still play a person from one of these cultures. But just don’t stereotype, don’t punch down, lift up, and try to just see people as people, and never approach a character or culture as a way to sort of make fun of that culture or make it derivative. So I think, in some ways, it… don’t be afraid to pull from this, if you’re, you know, white cis male. There’s something for people here, anybody who wants to delve into it. And that’s what’s great about this kind of book.
And that brings us back to the gazeteers, because the guest here is give you enough depth of knowledge about the region about the culture, that you could build a character that lives in that culture that isn’t based on just stereotypes. So even if you recognize where it’s coming from, you don’t necessarily feel like well, the only thing I know are the stereotypes. The only, you know, if I want to do a voice, the only thing I can think of is, you know, an accent I saw from a cartoon. You don’t have to do that, because the gazeteer is going to give you the information you need to respectfully play somebody from the culture in this game.
Yeah. And the more we get of this kind of stuff, the more that people can stop bringing in stereotypes for their systems, like, you know, the classic trope of Arabian Nights, that desert sort of region. Or the Mayan Cuttack sort of thing, like, the more that people are exposed to this stuff and are more educated on the mythology and the culture of the people who actually live that, the more that you can use that without being derivative or stereotypical, like you were saying, Randall.
Alright, so I think we should actually spend more time talking about the Radiant Citadel.
So what is the radiant citadel?
It’s a building that glows. No?
No. Well… kind of.
Hey Ash, why don’t you take this one?
So the radiant Citadel is an extraplanar city. It is located in the deep ethereal, which, so there’s the ethereal plane, where if you cast etherealness on this on yourself, that’s where you end up. Like it’s sort of like the border between the the planar Prime Material plane, and the the realm of the dead. The deep ethereal is like you have to actually cast plane shift to get to the etherial realm. The deeper ethereal, it’s way deep there, you’ll find ghosts, spirits, sometimes they’re malicious or malevolent. But this is located… it says that if you try to look for it, you will find it rather quickly. Because it is meant to be a refuge for people. Specifically, they… it it acts as a refuge for people from the around these different cultures that created the Radiant Citadel. It was founded by 27 different civilizations. And at some point, something happened and they abandoned the city. But they were led by another explorer, who I don’t want to talk too much about because I don’t want to get into spoilers. But she led a group of descendants of 15 of those cultures to reclaim the Citadel and sort of, you know, make it… sort of rebuild it, sort of rebuild it. So they have these different ships, I want to call them? They’re more like islands with little crystals that pop out of them that represent different one of the different cultures that helped build the Citadel so they can at any point, get people onto that and go to those places. And usually they will try to send out their military called the Shieldbearers to try and save people who are being victims of a calamity and bring them to the Radiant Citadel to hopefully offer them a new home.
Yeah, so one of the coolest ideas for the Radiant Citadel is that it is really meant to be a refuge for all. One of the cool places that’s listed in the noteworthy sites is the Palace of Exile. So let’s say you’re from a society or from a civilization that has fallen or is falling or it isn’t safe for you and your people in the place where you formerly lived. There’s this idea of the Palace of Exile, it’s a place for you to go. And it is held explicitly for people in exile from their homeworld.
Yeah, there’s a lot of different areas of interest on the Radiant Citadel. One of the major ones is a giant diamond that sort of pierces through the center of the island that the radiance is always floating on. It’s called the Auroral Diamond. And one of the cool things about it is that it changes colors every so often to a different color for a little while before it will change color again, and it very rarely picks the same color twice. And a lot of people don’t really know why it’s doing these colors. But people have speculated that each of the colors represents a new civilization that’s being born somewhere. And then if it comes back, that’s that same civilization falling. But no one’s quite sure. But the cool thing about the Auroral Diamond is what’s underneath it. Inside the diamond, is a structure called the Preserve of the Ancestor, which is just… it’s kind of like a huge greenhouse of just all these different plants and animals, people. It doesn’t have a lot of animals that were native to it. But people have brought endangered species and other things from their planes where, you know, things were being threatened. So it’s kind of like an ark in a lot of ways. And in that same preserve of the ancestors, first, that’s where the council that runs the city, one representative from each of the 15 nations that has been rediscovered, meets. And there are these really cool things called the Dawn Incarnates. So the Dawn Incarnates. So each of the civilizations has a gem that is connected to it, that I mentioned before about the ships that have a gem piercing it much like the same way the Auroral Diamond does. And so those gems are also found inside this preserve, in a collective of different spirits from that culture that are sort of bound into the crystals and form a hive mind collective and form different animals. So there’s like the amethyst tiger or the onyx bird. And they’re, they’re meant to be a repository of knowledge and wisdom about these different cultures and their histories. And when a new person is elected to the council, they first have to go to all of the surviving dawn incarnates and face different tests from them in order to be… in order to fulfill the requirements to be added to the council. Now, they have found one of the dawn incarnates is innert from one of the other civilizations that hasn’t been rediscovered yet. And so they’re hoping that if they find the rest of these, the dawn incarnate comes back.
Yeah, so the implication. We talked about, we know 27 civilizations founded it. We know 15 of those civilizations we can confirm are alive and well. And the Radiant Citadel doesn’t the book itself doesn’t define what the remaining 12 civilizations are. The details that they give you. One is that we have the saphire wyvern, which is one of the… it’s the dead dawn incarnate. And so they see this and immediately, okay, well, now I know it can die. In the lore that they’re giving you. They gave what Ash had mentioned a second ago as well, this, this thought that maybe when a color repeats itself, in the Auroral Diamonds, that maybe the means of civilization ended. So it’s kind of tying that theme together that this is a… it is a home for all people that puts no person above one another. It’s very egalitarian, you know, taxes are meant to take care of everybody. They’re super progressive taxes to make sure that, you know, if you have lots you give lots, if you have little, you give little. There’s a home for exiles, right? All of this is tying into the idea of a civilization and a place for all… I can’t use the word humanity in this case, what do I… what woed do I use?
All peoples. We can borrow from Shadowrun and say metahumanity.
Meta? Maybe. Human-oidity? Is that…
But yeah, so seeing that one of the dawn incarnates can be dead, like, what caused what? Did this civilization disappear and therefore it’s dead? Or did it die and was that tied to ultimately that civilization not surviving? But now the implication is, there’s still 11 more dawn incarnates you would expect to exist, that aren’t here. And so exactly towards Ash’s question. What’s interesting, and I think as a DM, as a storyteller, what you can put together here, are there other places in the material plane where we should be looking to finding these societies and the civilizations? And when we find them, will we find their dawn incarnates as well?
Now I think the dawn incarnates do appear in at least one of the adventures, I want to say it’s the seventh level adventure, but I’m drawing a blank right this second and I’m not going to spend the next 10 minutes flipping through the pages. I’m getting… I’m getting thumbs in various states.
Actually, one of the civilizations I read, er, one of the civilizations, there you go. One of the, one of the very few adventures I read was seven because I have a bunch of level seven characters flaoting around me that I was thinking it’d be fun to run this one shot for. I don’t think they appear in it.
But, but your points don’t advance. We’re not going dig in, we’re not going to answer it right now. But they do appear in the story.
Well, the dawn incarnates are kind of like quest givers in a way, like, they… They… one of the things that the book states is that the dawn incarnates, not all of them are willing to talk to you. Like some of them, just flat out won’t talk. Some of them will only give you the information that you want if you do something for them. Like if you go on a quest, or a journey of self-discovery, or something like that. And then if you want to talk to a specific spirit, that’s part of this collective consciousness, that’s even more difficult. Um, you have to like, know who you want to talk to and you have to cast powerful magic in order to do it. But yeah, it’s sort of the thing that… this is going to be funny, but the thing that the Radiant Citadel kind of reminds me of is the encyclopods from Futurama. It’s not a living thing. But it does it sort of acts as an ark, both for animals and cultures, so that those cultures don’t die out.
Okay, so I have a Fry-sized brain. When you say the encyclopods, are these the brains that…?
No, the encyclopods are the thing in the Into the Wild Green Yonder. They’re, the big manta ray things that take any of the endangered species and put them in this huge dome on its back so they can just run free. Yeah, Futurama is wild.
It’s fantastic. I’m going through a watch with my kids nowm I feel like it’s time.
Yeah. So I’ll say, when I read this, a lot of what I was reading reminded me of Eurutheru from Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, which to me was really cool, because I’ve always read that series and thought, I would love to play a game in this setting and I’m not quite sure how to make it happen. A lot of the coolest mechanisms that you saw in the book series are present here. Now, for folks who maybe haven’t read all of the books, and for folks who haven’t read radiant Citadel, I don’t want to ruin any of it. But essentially, the Citadel itself, as well as the idea of like a travel mechanism, where I can essentially plane shift to other places in the material plane to immediately get there. And the implications of that for storytelling, for trade, for politics, are all really interesting to me.
So you mentioned travel. And so the question that you have to ask is, so if someone wants to put this in their world for players to like visit. You don’t, you don’t want to start them out there. How do they get to the Radiant Citadel? So there are three methods. The first is the concorde jewels, which I already mentioned, which are those sort of planar ships that they can use to… which they will sometimes appear to a civilization that’s in need or going through a catastrophe. Then there are… you can be taken there by the Shieldbearers, if they choose that you’re worthy of saving or help, which kind of goes… goes hand and foot with the concord jewels, but it doesn’t always have to. And the last way is to go through the Passage of Respite, which is the main entrance to the city through the ethereal plane. So if you find yourself in the ethereal plane, you can go through the Pasage of Respite, and that’s very important. You have to go through the Passage of Respite. Don’t just fly over the walls, don’t Plane Shift into the city, because you could be slapped with huge fines. And if you keep doing it, they’ll they’ll banish you from the city. You have to go through the Passage of Respite because you have to pay a toll to enter the city.
Now people might be thinking, “hey, that’s kind of mean to charge a toll to get into the city.” But from what I understand, in many, like, medieval era cultures, er cultures. Medieval era places in the real world, a gate tole to get into a large city was a pretty common method of taxation.
Yeah. And again, it goes back to the egalitarian thing. If you are a person who is desperate, who doesn’t have a lot to offer, they’re probably not going to charge you at all. But if you’re a person who is wealthy, they’re going to charge you a lot. So it just kind of depends on who you are. It goes back to that egalitarian. But there is a blemish on this perfect society, or at least a threat to it. And that is the Keening Gloom. Randall, you want to talk about the Kenyan gloom?
Yeah. So really neat idea and I, I couldn’t completely grasp it as I was reading it. There is this almost, like, glowing cyclone hovering next to the city. It never goes away. It’s always there. Sometimes it moves closer, sometimes it moves farther away. And there’s a real concern. Some people who live in in the Radiant Citadel over a period of time eventually choose to leave because they are afraid that eventually the keening gloom is going to collapse onto the city and destroy it. One of the things they talked about in the book is when the explorers first rediscovered it… right, so there was this rumor that this place existed, they needed a refuge to get to, they they finally get there. And it was actually surrounded by this cyclone. It wasn’t clear on how they got through eventually, but apparently they were able to get through. Maybe it moved off to the side again, but it’s this ever-looming threat to the to the city itself.
Yeah. And there’s also a threat that if so, like I’ve mentioned, before, the Council of Ancestors. I believe that’s what it was called. You’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong, but feel free to @ me. But the council is composed of 15 people, each from the rediscovered cultures.
The speakers ?
The speakers, thank you. There, the Speakers. And so if one of them steps down… they serve for a term of 10 years. And if one of them steps down or dies, and that person isn’t replaced within 30 days, everything in the city starts to shut down. The ways for it to generate food, light, water, all of that starts to shut down. The same thing happens if those speakers leave the Citadel for longer than 30 days. So the Citadel is very much tied to those, those speakers and that’s kind of why… it does… It comes back to the idea of well, it’s not just a ceremony, why you have to get permission from the dawn incarnates to be a speaker. It’s not just ceremony, it’s an actual functioning part of making sure that the Citadel actually functions.
Okay, so yeah, about the speakers. There’s a lot of really cool stuff. Yeah, it’s really cool. They are elected. So there is democracy. If you are from a society which that speaker is representing, you would vote for that speaker. But let’s say you’re from a society that isn’t part of the original 27, and therefore, isn’t part of this 15. You get to choose who you… basically what Speaker do you want to vote for, essentially, what society do you want to align with, and then you still get to have a vote for who’s the speaker. If, if that person wins the speaker through democracy, they then have to go and talk to the dawn incarnates to ultimately get the final approval. So it’s kind of a two stage. First, the politics and then they judge your character. Maybe we should flip it, but here we are. And, as I pointed out, like, it’s super critical that these people be, let’s say, good of heart. One of the things they talk about is they fight violently. They argue violently, I shouldn’t say they fight violently, because that’s literal violence. Let’s let’s try that again. They argue vivaciously. Yeah. And each one of them gets… gets a very strong veto power. So essentially, if they… that way, you can sort of get rid of any sort of alliances that form within, like, between different cultures. If the if people are trying to abuse their power, that way, the speaker can just be like, “cool, I’m gonna go to another plane for 30 days.” So that is a very strong veto power that they have. I read it as more than that, but they can literally, they can make the decision to shut down all of the concord jewels, and therefore not allow goods to travel back and forth from other societies into the city. Did you read that the same way? Yeah, no,
Yeah, that is another power that they have. I just forgot about it. But what… the last interesting thing that I want to say about the speakers is that the way that they meet is also really interesting. So remember, I mentioned the preserve of the ancestors. It’s not just a greenhouse, it’s also their state building, because in the center is a large amphitheater. And that’s where the counselors will meet and argue, and anybody who lives in the Citadel is free to come in and watch and to give their opinions. So it is very much a democratic sort of system, not just a representative sort of system.
An open democracy.
An open democracy.
Yeah, so, to talk through the implications of that, though. So the ability that if I don’t like something that’s happening, if I disagree with a decision that’s being made, I have the ability to shut down the city effectively. To not allow goods to come and go, which means that all taxes and tariffs are also there. We can’t fund what we’re trying to accomplish. They say that the shutdowns aren’t something that happen often because the threat of this are enough to make them have their conversations, have their disagreements, come to a conclusion. Two interesting pieces. And this is where like, I really see this as aspirational, I think that they were trying to write something beautiful. And I think in your storytelling, you could use this to put together really beautiful stories. Each of the speakers represents a different society with different culture. And it would be very difficult ultimately to find like homogeny in in the conversation, to agree to ultimately what are they trying to accomplish. In addition to this, each speaker is loyal to the Radiant Citadel, not to their home civilization. So if you are a speaker, you are trying to represent your people as best as you can, but putting the interests of the Radiant Citadel first, while also dealing with all of the politics of your home society pushing on what they need from the Radiant Citadel. That’s a super stressful situation, if you think about it.
Yeah, I think it even mentions, sorry, it even mentions that the speakers if given the choice between aiding their… the civilization that they came from or the Citadel, they must always choose the Citadel.
Exactly. Yeah. So I think there’s a lot here for storytellers. I think if you’re a person wanting to put together a story that kind of fits within what we’ve talked about, 100% just for the lore, Radiant Citadel is pretty awesome.
Yeah. Yeah, the lore is really great. And it’s a great jumping off point for the remainder of the book, which is the adventures, which is probably why people are looking at the book. Like, the Radiant Citadel as a setting is absolutely fantastic. But the way this thing is pitched is “here’s your anthology of planes-spanning adventures.”
To be clear, we didn’t want to go super deep into the adventures because we figured a lot of you at home might actually want to play them. So what we’re gonna do here, we’re gonna try to stay spoiler free. Stick with us, come all the way through with us. We’re going to talk in vagueness about some of the things that we liked and didn’t like. But yeah, we’re not going to ruin any stories for you.
Yeah, the… so we mentioned earlier that the adventures run from levels 1 to 14, there are 13 adventures. They do a lot of things very, very well, like the adventure design has improved since the beginning of fifth edition, and it’s really showing here. NPCs almost always have the traits, ideals, bonds, flaws to help you describe them. Almost every NPC has accompanying art. Every adventure comes with a gazeteer for the setting like we said earlier. Each one of these adventures is completely standalone. So you can run them as standalone adventures or just back-to-back as a series of short adventures. I wouldn’t quite call it a campaign because there’s… there’s nothing actually linking the plots of the individual stories together. So this is very similar to other adventure anthologies like Candelkeep Mysteries or Tales from the Yawning Portal. But each of the adventures is self-contained and a lot of fun, honestly. They take you to some really, really cool places. You get to see some cool stuff. You get to do cool things. Like the first one has a Wild Beyond the Witchlight-style… I don’t want to say carnival, because it’s kind of a like, game thing at a night market. There’s like an Iron Chef thing where you have to kill and cook a giant shrimp. The, like, one of the adventures takes you to the far realms. There’s a couple of murder mysteries, and like a lot of interplanar travel. One of the adventures you get to dance with capybaras. Like, there’s some cool stuff in here. There’s a lot of fun ideas. There’s a friendly skeleton.
Friendly bones! Some of the things that I liked from the adventures you talked about fitting it into your own game, one of the things that I thought was cool, is depending on the setting you’re playing in the adventures will give you ideas for hooks for like, well, here’s here’s where this particular city state or this particular society might exist in Eberron, or where it might exist in Forgotten Realms. So the idea being that there are multiple settings in D&D 5e. Not everybody’s playing in the same setting. But if the lore of the Radiant Citadel is that it links you to places in the material plane, here’s where you might put this place. And so immediately, it can fit without kind of, you’re not going to have to do a lot of twisting to make it fit the lore that you’ve already been building. It’s just gonna fit.
Yeah, weirdly, the adventures actually don’t do a lot to directly tie themselves into the Radiant Citadel. Like, each adventure begins with possible player hooks to bring the player characters into the adventure. And the one sentence thing for Radiant Citadel is just “if you come from the radiant Citadel, you arrive here.” That’s it. Considering how much detail they put into everything else, that seems kind of shallow, but, like… if your players are here for that kind of episodic, self contained adventure feel like yeah, that’s gonna feel fine. And just say that the Radiant Citadel is where they go home to at the end of the adventure.
Well, actually, um, I believe in the Radiant Citadel section they do have a table that gives adventure hooks for each of those different adventures in the Radiant citadel. I could be wrong about that. But it is not as detailed as some of the others for sure. Yeah, no, I like that you can just kind of plop these down into whatever setting that you want. And it is important to note, the Radiant Citadel is not multiversal. So it’s not going throughout the multiverse. It is specifically on one universe. And it is connected to different civilizations on the prime material plane. So all of these civilizations exist or existed on the prime material plane. So yeah, if you’re if you’re like, Ooh, this is sort of a soft Planescape sort of thing. It’s not that.
All right, so let’s go around. Let’s talk impressions. I really liked it. From a DMing standpoint, I would love to use the Radiant Citadel as much as I would like to actually use the adventures themselves.
Yeah, I’m… So I’m currently wrapping up a campaign that I had been running for a long time. And I’m doing a sequel in Pathfinder. And I’m pulling inspiration from Radiant Citadel for this. Obviously, I can’t, you know, import it directly. Because it’s Pathfinder as opposed to 5e. But yeah, like, this is just such a cool concept that I really want to just use. And it makes a lot of sense to just… you can, because it is not bound by any specific location, it is just the deep ethereal, like every world has it an ehtereal plane. So yeah, you can just kind of put this wherever and it probably won’t affect your lore too much.
yeah, I like this a lot as something keep in my back pocket. Like all those adventures, they’re not one… like they’re not one session length. Like maybe two to three sessions each. But that’s a great thing to keep in your pocket for like, oh, yeah, my my regular DM is out of town for a couple of weeks. So somebody can grab an adventure and run it for the group. You can drop in brand new characters, and it’ll work just fine. So I love having that option. I love good self-contained, short adventure, so I’m really excited to have this on hand.
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Well, someone picked the perfect time to flush that toilet.