Just when you thought you could stop getting excited over all of the fascinating things reading through Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep could teach you, we have another Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition release in Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel. Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel is an Anthology of Adventures written by a diverse cast of authors each creating a Dungeons & Dragons adventure based on their own learned experiences or cultural background. In this guide we'll cover some of the Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel DM Tips that you can bring to any game that you run at any table.
Tell a story that's rooted in your own experiences
An amazing part of the 14 adventures found within Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel is the different cultures and world experiences that they introduce. When you picture Dungeons & Dragons you can picture exactly that, medieval dungeons and the dragons that are inside them, courts filled with nobles, and a jester bouncing around telling puns. What if Dungeons & Dragons was traveling to farm country with large estate houses, listening to the verbal history of the land by means of the Awakening Song. It might immediately sound strange but it's a slice of the American South in your game of high fantasy. Author Erin Roberts created the world of Godsbreath to inject her own family history into Dungeons & Dragons and it comes across as a fantastic adventure.
When you're building your own world in Dungeons & Dragons, or need to populate a town or important quest characters for your party's next goal, think about your own experiences, history, and culture and see how you can use Dungeons & Dragons as a vehicle to share those with your party. You're your own knowledge resource when it comes to those, and that authenticity to your players might come across better than you think. When creating your next adventure don't try to be the next George R. R. Martin, just be today's you.
Get down with your details
Ok, this one isn't just for DMs but also for the players out there to help elevate your game. Early on in the book is an incredibly important section titled "Thoughtful Introductions", this section goes over how to introduce yourself as a PC as well as how you as a DM could introduce an NPC.
For the players looking forward to showing off their latest Kobold Rogue don't just go into what makes the look of your character unique and stand out among your friends and peers, but go into what also grounds you in that community, what is it that's common between you and your fellow kin? Don't take the time describing your character to tell two or three features and then move on, take the time to describe the texture of your hair (if you choose to have any), your body type, or other smaller features. While you might have an idea that's clear in your head as to what your character looks like and the way they move it's your job to try to convey that idea with as much detail as possible to the rest of your adventuring party.
For the DMs you're not just responsible for introducing a single character, you're the descriptive vehicle that paints the world and its inhabitants around the players. A perfect example given in Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel is in a tavern scene - don't just describe how musty the bar is, or that there's a shady character looking for halflings in the corner. You can use this time to introduce culture in ways that you might not expect, maybe the locals are all savoring a specially brewed ale that's only available in these parts, or a meat stew that's a delicacy. You can teach so much about the culture of a location by the food they cook and love, and it's an easy and effective way to teach your players more about the world while not stopping to point out signs along the way.
Give players time to soak in the world
When arriving in a new city it's always good to make sure the players are aware of what plot threads you want them to follow so that the pace keeps moving.... but what if it just didn't? What if the players showed up in town and instead of being greeted by a surly guard ready to take them to the most important person in the city for a quest they were met with a Saturday Morning Market? A number of adventures in Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel start this way. At a set time, or when you start to see your players losing interest in the idle shifting from storefront to storefront, you can then activate the next phase of your adventure when a scuffle happens in the market or the party happens across a dead body. It is important to understand that not all players will be as enthused by the fun and games of a "shopping episode" but it's always worth a try (and it gives you plenty of opportunities to work on fleshing out the world through culture, food, music, and more from the previous tip). An easy way to also involve players in the world they see around them is to mention key aspects and how familiar that might look to the players at the table.
Dungeons & Dragons doesn't always have to be combat focused
Something that I've mentioned before in a number of my reviews, including those for Wild Beyond The Witchlight and Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep, is the way that core parts of the game like skill checks and trials don't always just have to be about killing something bigger, badder, and deadlier. The first adventure in this book, Salted Legacy, has the players participate in The Market Games! This is a collection of fun carnival-like activities that the party can engage in. For a Level 1-2 adventure there's chances for players to begin to understand their abilities whether it be constitution checks as they eat chili peppers, or Intelligence/Wisdom checks to find caterpillars. It removes any of the silly tension of a Level 1 TPK that previous Adventure Books like Curse of Strahd are known for and just lets players mess around with their abilities without any of the regular consequence and tension.
What separates Salted Legacy from the other mentioned titles is that this is only a one-shot adventure. This already in my mind makes it one of the best new D&D adventures for someone who has never played D&D before to try out to understand roleplay, exploration, and skill check systems. There is a small amount of battle involved, but it's going to be a footnote on the fun and lighthearted adventure that your players will enjoy. You can then use this as a launchpad to any other adventure.
Go out and explore more of the worlds you know!
Much like Candlekeep Mysteries one of the things that Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel does well is adapt to where you need it. The setting of the Radiant Citadel, a giant crystal city floating through the Etherial Plane and it's unique government, is an incredible setting... but what if I don't want my party to have to end up on another plane of existence to experience the adventures that these authors have thrown together. At the beginning of each adventure there's a Setting section which lists why an adventuring party might end up at this location through the Radiant Citadel but will also always offer up two other alternative locations where it could fit in perfectly. Between Tangled Roots is a 10th level adventure where the players need to learn about recent dragon attacks on an archipelago. While it makes sense for players to use the Radiant Citadel to end up in Dayawlongon another suggestion is for this archipelago to be found in the Sea of Swords. This adventure, built for the incredible setting of the Radiant Citadel is now perfectly placed for any party currently adventuring along the Sword Coast in cities like Waterdeep, Neverwinter, or Baldur's Gate to have an island to vacation at.
While Between Tangled Roots might take players closer to parts of the Forgotten Realms that they're familiar with, other adventures like Sins of Our Elders offer suggestions in Dragonlance, or the city of Yeonido near the Sea of Fallen Stars in the Forgotten Realms. This is a great excuse for some "travel by map" and gets players out to some of the less known regions of the Forgotten Realms where they begin to run out of knowledge of the world of Dungeons & Dragons.
While there are less suggestions for DM Tips in this article compared to my past entries in the series it's hard to argue with the importance of the listed above tips that you'll want to share with your game. I for one know that I won't be sharing that last tip with my own party explicitly, but will instead be sending their characters on an all expense paid boat trip into the Sea of Swords. If you enjoyed these DM Tips and you're interested in checking out more be sure to take a look at previous entries.