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D&D’s next book includes an adventure inspired by the Black experience in the American South

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Image: Sija Hong/Wizards of the Coast
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, the next anthology of adventures for Dungeons & Dragons, will be the first book written entirely by people of color in the nearly 50-year history of D&D. Sixteen writers gave their time and expertise to Wizards of the Coast, among them author and game designer Erin Roberts. Her adventure is called “Written in Blood,” and it will immerse players in a new location called Godsbreath, a land inspired by her own family history.

“Godsbreath is really my personal love letter [and] homage to the Black experience in the Southern United States,” Roberts said during a presentation for the press. “It’s really exciting to me to get a chance reach back to my family’s own past and legacy in Mississippi, Florida, and Georgia.”

Roberts is an early career fellow at The University of Texas at Austin. Her past gaming work includes several products for Paizo, where she contributed to both the Pathfinder and Starfinder lines, and writing for the mobile game Zombies, Run! In writing for Wizards she said she was initially inspired by a book written by her great uncle, professor Chalmers Archer, first published in 1991.

A Black man with natural hair strides confidently from left to right. His purple coat has a yellow lining, and his scarf is a rainbow.
Proclaimer Tungsten
Image: Jabari Weathers/Wizards of the Coast

“The first thing that I did when I got the chance to do this was run to my great uncle’s book, Growing Up Black in Rural Mississippi, the one that is actually inscribed to me and my sisters,” Roberts said. “I flipped through it — there’s pictures of my family on it, [pictures of] my great grandmother — and really to get a chance to ground myself in what the sort of experience was in Black, rural South [in the 1930s and ’40s] and how I can make that magical and amazing in a D&D context.”

Godsbreath is more than just a singular city or a tiny village. It’s an entire region, one that makes use of geographical analogs that map closely to the American South. There’s a murky area called Nightwater Cove that was inspired by the Louisiana bayou country. Each of its many islands have their own culture and trade specialty, but the waters that surround it are infested with dangerous monsters. There’s a port city, called Promise, that serves as a stand-in for bustling urban centers like Biloxi, Mississippi, or New Orleans. But the real action of this adventure will take place in a rural area called The Ribbon, a rich swath of land that supports a vibrant farming community. Environmental pressures are causing farmers to break new land and plant crops in the uncharted wilderness, and an unwholesome supernatural force is rushing out of that wilderness to meet them.

During the adventure, players will get the opportunity to travel with several different non-player characters. These NPCs, Roberts said, will be instrumental in helping the players to discover Godsbreath and the people who live there. One of the most important NPCs, named Tungsten, is a kind of historian known as a Proclaimer. Roberts described Proclaimers as being part cleric and part bard, and their job is to enshrine people and deeds into the history of Godsbreath by adding new stanzas to The Awakening Song.

“It is an oral history through song of basically everything of note that has happened since the very early days of this region,” said Roberts. “Every year people come together and sing it together and celebrate and think back on what’s happened and how they’ve gotten here, and who are the people they’ve lost along the way, and where does the future go.”

“I love that [players] can sort of get a chance to understand the region [through these NPCs],” Roberts said, “and maybe people will want to be Proclaimers themselves and figure out ‘how can I be someone from this region who’s now gone out and is exploring the wider world?’”

“Written in Blood” is an adventure for third-level characters. Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel will arrive in stores and online starting June 21 and will cost $49.99. It will also be available in digital formats, including on Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, and through the D&D Beyond toolset.

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