Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel Review Round-Up: What The Critics Said

Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel was the first truly new – as in not derived from another IP like Magic the Gathering or Critical Role or a revival – setting D&D has had in awhile. Its blend of solarpunk optimism and altruism combined with inspiration from real cultures created something fresh and different from previous 5E adventures, and in my review I talked about why this was the D&D adventure/setting book I had been wanting for a long time. But did the critics think it was delightful, dreary, or something in between? Let's take a look.
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The Good: "Ambitious"​

Bell of Lost Souls called JTtRC “ambitious” – and jokes about how it has more grandmothers than any other D&D book. BoLS really appreciated how JTtRC encourages exploration through both its vibrant settings detailed in each gazetteer and how the adventures for each location are handled. BoLS also praised the citadel itself, and how it's designed to be flexible enough to be added to any campaign and provide a new home-base for players, as well as to treat it as a way-station to any other location. What made JTtRC “sing” in BoLS's estimation is that each scenario truly is a D&D adventure perfectly blended with new settings inspired from real-world lore and cultures. It's easy to do that badly, but the JTtRC designers put in the hard work to do it well. BoLS also added, “This isn’t WotC’s diversity book. It’s an adventure book with many diverse settings.”

Polygon was similarly effusive in its praise of JTtRC, giving it the “Polygon Recommends” badge. Even though JTtRC is fantasy, Polygon favorably compared it to Star Trek, saying that the “setting is simply dripping with a Gene Roddenberry-inspired feel” and it's an apt comparison. Like Trek, players will have the opportunity to explore strange new worlds, and the book's base setting is utopian in nature. The fact that the problems can be solved through diplomacy instead of just combat furthered its comparison to Star Trek. Polygon also agreed with BoLS in praising how JTtRC combines the adventure tropes we're used to in D&D with inspiration from real-world cultures, plots filled with action, and well-rounded NPCs. Polygon praised JTtRC for its DM aids and advice. The scale of the adventures was singled out as being challenging for high-level characters without wiping out starting characters, and encouraging other play styles and clever solutions. Polygon summed up its review of JTtRC by saying it demonstrated “explosive creativity that can come by bringing new voices to the game.” Like me, Polygon hopes WotC will continue to embrace fresh perspectives.

TechRaptor compares JTtRC to Candlekeep Mysteries, considering it an antidote for D&D players who don't have time for long campaigns. While TechRaptor doesn't directly reference Star Trek it does say that JTtRC is “the ideal representation of a melting pot of cultures” as well as “peak magical fiction.” As other reviewers said, TechRaptor liked that JTtRC provided adventure variety, building in investigation, not just combat. In fact, it labeled the low level adventure “Salted Legacy” as possibly the perfect introductory D&D adventure thanks to its blend of role-playing and stat checks to demonstrate what a game can be like without rising a total party kill. It also praised “Between Tangled Roots” for balancing combat and role-playing to heighten tension. TechRaptor called JTtRC both “an absolute delight to read” and “some of the best adventures I've read for D&D” because of how it elevates short form adventure. TechRaptor had no complaints and ample praise for JTtRC.

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The Balanced: "Vibrant"​

Wargamer called JTtRC “vibrant,” “dazzling,” and as having “thoughtful adventures that balance fun and depth.” Part of the reason why Wargamer was so happy with JTtRC was because it managed the difficult task of creating a book that made everyone feel welcome, not just in terms of its diverse settings but also by making the game very approachable for new and veteran players with characters of any level. Wargamer had previously given Candlekeep Mysteries a positive review, and felt that JTtRC took the CM framework and expanded it. Wargamer did have some quibbles, none of which were major. Having the option of a unifying plot or a plot set in the citadel to tie everything together would have been a nice touch. If run as a campaign, instead of an anthology, some story elements in the middle adventures are similar, but Wargamer points out that's not a problem if JTtRC is run as standalone adventures. Like Polygon and BoLS, Wargamer loved how it celebrated the cultures of the writers. It also added that the future of D&D is bright if this is what we can expect from WotC.

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The Quite Not as Good: Too Short​

Strange Assembly liked JTtRC but not as effusively as the prior three outlets. SA liked that the type of the adventures in JTtRC are more conducive than dungeon crawls in allowing characters to get a sense of a country and meet its people. It also singled out the art as inspiring, especially the sky bridge in “Between the Tangled Roots.” Length was SA's biggest complaint, noting that JTtRC is shorter than both Ghosts of Saltmarsh and Tales of the Yawning Portal at 13 adventures, and the space allotted for each adventure has even less room once you deduct the the gazetteer. Still, SA is hesitant to call this a complaint since JTtRC promises 13 short adventures and delivers. SA just wanted ones that weren't quite that short. And instead of loving the setup for the titular citadel as a sort of fantasy analogy of Star Trek, SA was less intrigued by utopian home-base. In fact, SA was downright skeptical that its government could function. Still, SA appreciated a lot about JTtRC and wanting more isn't a bad thing.

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Overall​

If you're looking for something different for your D&D group, the consensus is that Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel is a good choice due to the combination of fresh adventures with a variety of play styles. Its flexibility by design makes it easy to add to an existing campaign, run as individual adventures, or to turn it into one, larger campaign. That's a useful combination for almost any DM.
 
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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

Fallen star

Explorer
I don't have JTtRC, but I've seen a strong trend in recent adventures where nearly every encounter is designed to be solved in non-combat ways. Is this true in Radiant Citadel? I could imagine Wizards explicitly the authors to write that way.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
I'm prepping to run this as an ongoing campaign starting later this month. I do wonder whether more was cut in the publication process. (The fact that we have two more civilizations only lightly fleshed out at the end of the book reads, to me, like contributions that never ended up getting over the finish line in time to be fully included in the book.)

The adventures, for instance, start at level 1 and then jump to level 3, which is odd, especially since we have two adventures of the same level later on.

And after everything we get in the gazetteer, to have no adventures set in the citadel feels strange. I wonder if there was originally a level 1 adventure set on the citadel and Salted Legacy was going to be level 2.

For myself, I'm going to have the player characters start off as Shield Bearers and adapt the first few adventures from The City Watch (which I just received in PDF form) to get them to level 2 and their first "away team" adventure, Salted Legacy.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
I don't have JTtRC, but I've seen a strong trend in recent adventures where nearly every encounter is designed to be solved in non-combat ways. Is this true in Radiant Citadel? I could imagine Wizards explicitly the authors to write that way.
I don't know if all of them can be solved that way, or easily if so, but yes, there appear to be theoretical ways that diplomacy could make it happen. It's probably easier in the lower level adventures than later on, when the stakes are a lot higher and things like volcanoes are in play.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
We were having some good discussions about this elsewhere in the forums; some interesting thoughts came up last week on it.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
So far I am rating it about a 4 but I have two adventures to go. But I think the first 5 are heavy into investigation which is fine. Unless your group makes the Scooby Gang look like Holmes and Company.
 

I don't have JTtRC, but I've seen a strong trend in recent adventures where nearly every encounter is designed to be solved in non-combat ways. Is this true in Radiant Citadel? I could imagine Wizards explicitly the authors to write that way.
I bet WOTC told the writers to do that in order to make it appeal to OSR types more...
 


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