Your heroes arrive in the city of Zinda, and it’s a festive atmosphere. It’s time for the March of Vice, a Carnival-like celebration where revelers sweep their sins and vices into the sea. It’s loud and colorful. There’s street food and rides and a huge Mardi Gras-style parade. And then they trip over a dead body.
That’s the basic hook for “Wages of Vice,” a fifth-level D&D adventure written by T.K. Johnson in the upcoming Journeys through the Radiant Citadel. Throughout the adventure, players will encounter betrayal, political assassinations, the dangers of a plutocratic ruling class, an avaricious new guildmaster, labor organizers, and a vampiric creature called a biza.
The eponymous Radiant Citadel, a massive floating city in the heart of the Ethereal Plane, provides the launching point for new voices in the world(s) of D&D. The Radiant Citadel was founded long ago by peoples from 27 different civilizations, mysteriously abandoned, and then rediscovered by 15 of those civilizations. The city is a vibrant setting in its own right, but it also creates connections to the Material Plane through something called Concord Jewels that link the Radiant Citadel to new peoples and places D&D’s official settings haven’t explored yet.
Wizards of the Coast welcomed writers to bring their own stories to Radiant Citadel and celebrate their “lived heritage and our communities, not just racial but cultural as well,” said Johnson. Everything from the festival to the vampire to the setting of Zinda draws inspiration from Johnson’s own family history in places like Louisiana and the Caribbean, along with Gullah Geechee folklore.
“I was very pleased to be on a project where we got to celebrate our identities instead of making them into the sort of exotic other,” Johnson told Polygon. “I’m very excited for us to have all of these new settings.”
Johnson’s adventure is a story of unsolved murders set against a backdrop of greed, power, and control. “Wages of Vice” explores, as Johnson put it, “how far people go to indulge in their vices.” While the capital city of Zinda has thrived and grown through export of a unique plant, a new guildmaster named Madam Samira has risen into the ranks of the Kings of Coin, the city’s ruling class. Her connection to that plant, its creation, and the greed of Zinda plutocracy, along with Samira’s own personal grief, creates the backdrop to the adventure. The rulers that Madam Samira has joined “put their family legacies on the line just for a little bit of cash and power.” It’ll be up to the adventurers to discover it all while also dealing with murders and the biza.
But “Wages of Vice” doesn’t have to be solved through retaliatory murder and violence. Throughout Radiant Citadel’s adventures, the writers wanted to step away from punching problems until they’re fixed. Johnson explained, “One of our big things that we talked about as a whole writing group is that there are a lot of ways that our adventures can be resolved without violence. Most of the adventures have nonviolent options for resolving them.”
Johnson wants “Wages of Vice” to fit into Radiant Citadel’s larger solarpunk and hopepunk themes of optimism and community. Sure, D&D can be a “box of knives that you’re given to solve every problem,” but Johnson says they wanted to avoid that where they could. “Even though Samira and the Kings of Coin are trying to use that to their advantage, you don’t have to.”
Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel will arrive in stores and online on July 19, and hardcover copies are priced at $44.99. It will also be available in digital formats for $29.99, including on Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, and through the D&D Beyond toolset.