Dungeons & Dragons' New Adventure Anthology Ups the Vibrancy

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Dungeons & Dragons will send players to over a dozen new worlds this week, each with their own vibrant artwork and style. Wizards of the Coast is set to publish Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, a new adventure anthology centered around the Radiant Citadel, a vibrant hub/refuge built around a giant floating crystal in the Ethereal Plane. The Radiant Citadel serves as a melting pot for over a dozen different new cultures, written by a team of people of color and inspired by a plethora of real-world cultures. The artwork in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel is bright and vibrant, celebrating these brand new places and people in a hopeful, optimistic manner.

To get an idea of how the art of Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel came to life, ComicBook.com corresponded with Dungeons & Dragons principal art director Kate Irwin and Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel art director Emi Tanji. During our email interview, they revealed how the anthology's two covers came to life and why Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel feels brighter than the standard D&D book.

(Photo: Tom Babbey/Wizards of the Coast)

ComicBook.com: The Radiant Citadel is not only a brand-new setting for Dungeons & Dragons, it's also a melting pot of over a dozen different cultures with roots from all over the real world. How did you decide on the inspirations for the architecture and culture of the Radiant Citadel?

Kate Irwin: Our intent for these was to stay true to the folklore and traditions that served as the inspiration. But even though the stories have their origins in our world, this is still D&D and these are still fantasy stories. Everything is balanced for exciting game play and exaggerated towards the fantastic.

Based on the preview art we've seen for the book so far, Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel uses a lot of pastels in its art in a lot of different ways. Did you decide on an overarching color palette for the artwork, and if so, why did you choose to go with such bright colors compared to the darker, more grandiose palettes we usually see in fantasy art?

Kate Irwin: I wouldn't say it has a pastel palette but I do understand where you're coming from. The stories all start in The Radiant Citadel which is an optimistic and welcoming starting point and I think that attitude permeates the book. The adventures themselves add color with lively locals like a festival or bustling night market and colorful characters, plus monsters you haven't seen before. It all adds up to a more vibrant book than one set in a torch-lit dungeon with leather-clad NPCs.

Emi Tanji: That vibrancy really came from all sides – the writing inspired the artists, which sparked brilliant design and layout from our graphic designers. I love it when artists infuse an unexpected color palette to a piece or expresses things in a way I would've never expected.  

(Photo: Alfven Ato)

Was there a general feeling or emotion that you were generally trying to evoke when directing art for this book?

Kate Irwin: It all begins with the words. The emotion has to fit the story and, in an anthology, there are many flavors. I think overall this book has a feeling of discovery and a richer gaming experience.

As for the cultures themselves, each culture seen in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel is based on real-world cultures. How did you balance authenticity within fictional scenes and characters, while also trying to avoid a sense of appropriation? 

Kate Irwin: Again, it starts in the stories themselves and the diverse group of writers who drew upon their varied backgrounds. Then the artists bring their point of view to the mix as well. We worked with consultants throughout the process as well. Our goal is to end up with something that is magical that also has authenticity.  

Emi Tanji: Right. Like a good D&D party, a challenging task can be accomplished with much success when you have a variety of skills, views and experience all working together. There is a lot of thoughtfulness living within these pages and we look forward expanding the stage of D&D to even more voices.

(Photo: Evyn Fong/Wizards of the Coast)

How did you decide on the Night Market as the cover art for the book? 

Kate Irwin: A good cover has focus  -- that's where the wynling on the front comes in. But you can lose yourself in the market itself as you notice the charming interactions among the peoples. It certainly sets the stage for the unique experiences you'll find inside.

Emi Tanji: Our artist, Evyn Fong, added many of those little details on her own accord and it was an absolute delight to discover those thoughtful elements.

One of the interesting things about the alternate cover is that it incorporates so many different themes from the setting itself, from the Dawn Incarnates to the Radiant Citadel itself. What was the art direction for the cover and why choose to focus on the Radiant Citadel instead of the adventures?

Kate Irwin: The alternate cover really sets up the whole anthology. It starts with the Citadel but there are also creatures, plants and gems worked into the design that are important to real-world cultures represented in the individual stories.

Was there a particular favorite piece of art you had for the book?

Kate Irwin: My favorite is the stiletto! For the story Wages of Vice, we asked for a chaotic scene with a performer holding a long, thin dagger called a stiletto but stiletto is also the name for high heel shoe -- that's what the artist Ejiwa "Edge" Ebenebe had the character wielding in the sketch. We loved it so we kept the shoe as a weapon.

Emi Tanji: It's so hard to choose! Jessica Fong's gemstone creatures are so magical, and I can't get enough of April Prime's Kusa, the Kobold Seafood Queen. But do take a peek at Adrián Ibarra Lugo's festival piece – it will feel as though you have just stepped into that scene and my oh my is it thrilling!

(Photo: Ejiwa "Edge" Ebenebe/Wizards of the Coast)

Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, featuring adventures by Justice Ramin Arman, Dominique Dickey, Ajit A. George, Basheer Ghouse, Alastor Guzman, D. Fox Harrell, T.K. Johnson, Felice Tzehuei Kuan, Surena Marie, Mimi Mondal, Mario Ortegón, Miyuki Jane Pinckard, Pam Punzalan, Erin Roberts, Terry H. Romero, and Stephanie Yoon will come out on July 19th, and you can grab a copy here on Amazon. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the tabletop game in general right here.