Hello to all you fabulous followers of the Grand Geek Gathering! Usually I opine about independent label comics in my week-to-week article Jeff’s Picks. I give you some solid choices from some smaller publishers in the hope that you broaden your horizons when reading your comics. As you all can tell, this is definitely not an adjunct to the usual indie comics commentary that I give you. No, this is a new quest that I am starting on. One in which I hope to review selected materials that continue to enrich the gaming atmosphere of Dungeons & Dragons’ 5th edition. I present to you the maiden voyage of my new series of articles…A DM’s Review!

This week, Wizards of the Coast released the most recent literary addendum to the game in the form of a new anthology entitled “Journeys through the Radiant Citadel.” Numerous writers, developers, artists and more have pieced together a narrative surrounding a feature of the Ethereal Plane known as the Radiant Citadel. Thirteen separate adventures await those that find this precious tome, giving a wide array of options to gamemasters and players alike to experience. Each adventure ties in to the Citadel itself, and offer enough versatility to connect to established realms or homebrewed worlds as one wishes.

Truly, this location is as much a wonder in of itself as is the tale of how it came to be! In days gone by it was a stronghold created by numerous civilizations which had subsequently abandoned the cosmic structure for reasons unknown. In recent times many of these civilizations have come back to the Citadel and have repopulated it and settled it in the name of bringing it back to its former glory. It has since become a hub of interdimensional travel that adventurers, travelers, scholars and more use on almost a constant basis. Whether it is sought for its commercial wealth, the promise of healing and renewal, or because it is the epitome of sanctuary, the Citadel draws so many individuals from across the Material Plane, making its importance to the multiverse all that much more apparent. Its greatest strength is its rich and harmonious fusion of distinct cultures from across various realms, each one different yet all devoted to the same purpose of maintaining the Citadel’s prominence. One might almost see this location as a grand central station for the Material Plane, if not the entire D&D multiverse.

Color is practically synonymous with what makes this anthology so great. And its usage is second to none in the cover as well as interior artwork. Whether in distinct maps, individual character designs, or even monster stat blocks, this selection offers breathtaking pieces of art to capture the reader’s senses. They act almost as an essential supplement to the written narrative. They help convey imagery to the reader where simple paragraphs might not be enough to stoke one’s inspiration. And with regard to the representative civilizations and cultures of the Citadel, the artwork centers itself upon color as well as style to drive the message home. This anthology is as much about color and its myriad of wondrous variety.

But in addition to its art, the book’s structure as a compilation piece is where its other greatest strength is most apparent. One could easily fall into the temptation of making the Citadel be a simple sandbox experience. This work doesn’t do that though. The creators intend for adventurers to start at beginning level in one of the story-bound adventures, and upon completion they ascend to the next level and can partake in another one at their leisure. This makes this compendium a rather comprehensive module whereby adventurers gain not only experience, but a deeper understanding of the Citadel and its lore. Players become enamored of the Citadel and all the promise it holds, and it’s all at the grasp of their fingertips in this compilation.

Finally, the Citadel’s adaptability and versatility make this work an essential piece to any tabletop gamer or game master. In terms of the former, the Radiant Citadel can be connected not only to established realms within D&D lore such as Eberron, the Forgotten Realms, and Ravenloft, but also to homebrewed worlds that have been created from the ground up by the lore masters that take pride in running the game tables. Enough direction is given by the creators to allow the reader to integrate the Citadel into their on worlds in whatever creative fashion they choose. As far as the latter, the book is a joyous piece of tabletop literature that can be enjoyed by new or experienced DM’s or players. Its application to the gaming table is almost an essential ingredient to the modern tabletop scene.

Now, for the hard part. The DM in me of course demands it. Every work is a work in progress and no doubt even the Citadel has a shortcoming or two. In my particular case it is almost a nitpicking criticism, but one that I think still warrants some discussion. Namely, the anthology suffers from a lack of a plethora of creatures, in my humble opinion. Maybe it’s not so much a criticism as it is an opinion, but it would seem that a compilation work that offers thirteen separate adventures linked to thirteen separate civilizations would boast a rather sizeable bestiary. The Citadel offers stat blocks for only eleven such creatures, however.  Not that there’s necessarily a specific number requirement. The tabletop gamer in me though absolutely loves to see oodles and oodles of creatures of all kinds, but then again this is coming from one who buys the Monster Manual before even buying the Players Handbook or Dungeon Master’s Guide. So simply put, I just wish there could’ve been more in the way of beasties!

This book makes me excited for the future of fifth edition, however. The very nature of the Citadel’s connection to other worlds leads me to believe that D&D is going to bring together its grand multiverse into an even tighter knit existence. It seems to pave the way for future works such as Spelljammer and Dragonlance. Its art, structure, and player/story adaptability are its greatest assets. Sure, it could’ve used more beasts but so what? It’s an amazing title, and one that I highly recommend for all of you out there. Get yours today, and let’s enjoy that journey through the Radiant Citadel together!