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    Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel and Oerth
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    Wed Sep 14, 2022 10:42 am  
    Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel and Oerth

    The 5th edition hardcover Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel includes a few suggestions for placing the adventures on Oerth, but none are in depth. I thought I'd give the subject some more thought. I also included some maps, using Anna Meyer's map and the Dragon Annual map as a basis.

    First, the Radiant Citadel itself. It's a city in the Ethereal Plane with portals to many worlds, intended as a possible vehicle for transporting player characters to any of the settings detailed in the book. As such, there's no real need to find places on Oerth to place the adventures here. Characters from Oerth can simply use the Citadel to travel, whether their destination is on Oerth or another world. However, in some cases the settings detailed in the book can help flesh out cultures that are largely undetailed, so you may wish to use them that way.

    The Radiant Citadel is built on a giant fossil (of an animal, plant, or something else is unclear, but it doesn't look like an animal) and centered around an enormous magical diamond. It was constructed, supposedly, by a coalition of 27 civilizations thousands of years ago before some cataclysm forced its founders to abandon it, and rediscovered 250 years ago by a brass dragon and "a mighty expeditionary force of adventurers." 250 years ago (roughly 341 CY) would have been around the right time for the Company of Seven, a group of future quasi-deities from Oerth including Keoghtom, Murlynd, Heward, and Zagyg, to have taken part in this if that's a hook that works for you.

    15 of these civilizations are described in the book. 12 of them are still missing, and left to be detailed by the DM. One of the hooks is that the citizens of the Citadel are looking for the missing civilizations, believing that if all of them are found some great power will be unlocked. The likely assumption is that at least one of them is the location of the DM's current campaign; the others should probably be places the players don't know about, or at least don't know were founders of the Radiant Citadel, so that they can go looking for them.

    So. Tying this better to Oerth, one of the 12 missing civilizations could be from the Flanaess. My idea: the Isles of Woe.

    The Isles of Woe were first mentioned in the OD&D Eldritch Wizardry as a civilization ruled by a wizard-cleric in the Lake of Unknown Depths, or Nyr Dyv, in the center of the Flanaess. The wizard-cleric used the Codex of the Infinite Planes to gain knowledge of great power, but this knowledge caused the isles to sink.

    So, right away, we have advanced magic and a connection to the planes. The Ether Threat story arc for the Living Greyhawk campaign revised the story of the Isles of Woe to say that they didn't actually sink into the water. Instead, the wizard-priests of the Isles of Woe banished their own islands to the Ethereal Plane in order to prevent an invasion of ethergaunts from destroying the world by transforming its fertile lands to dust. So that's a connection to the Ethereal Plane.

    I don't think it's a great idea to make the Isles of Woe story overshadow all the other civilizations from Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel. But the Isles of Woe could have been one of 27 civilizations who each contributed equally to the creation of the Radiant Citadel. When a thriving human citadel in the Ethereal Plane attracted the attention of the ethergaunts (or perhaps some other planar threat), some of the civilizations were devastated by the invaders until they sacrificed themselves to stop them, thus causing the civilizational collapse that left the citadel abandoned for thousands of years.

    Obviously, this is completely speculative. In the book, the Radiant Citadel is thought to have been abandoned after the destruction of the First World, and the civilizations that founded it subsequently moved to a different world or worlds. You could, if you prefer, go with that background instead, having at least some of these civilizations move from the First World to Oerth.

    Other ancient civilizations of Oerth that might be associated with the Radiant Citadel:

    The Baklunish, particularly if they're ancestors of the people of Akharin Sangar.

    The Suel Imperium, if they're assumed to be among the ancestors of the people of San Citlán, could conceivably be one of the groups.

    The Olman Empire, if they're ancestors of the people of San Citlán, Tletepec, and Atagua.

    The Empire of Lynn to the far west is supposed to, according to Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, include "Mirrormasters" capable of using magical mirors to travel to parallel planes, and it's conceivable these Mirrormasters may have played a role in creating the Radiant Citadel.

    In The Black Moon Chronicles, the only major group to use planar magic is the sinister Black Moon Cult. It's possible that they were among the builders of the Radiant Citadel, though that would set a grimmer tone than the Citadel generally has.

    Now, on to the other lands described in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel:

    Siabsungkoh, from the adventure "Salted Legacy," is inspired by Thailand, so I'd put it in the southern part of the peninsula labeled "Nippon Dominion" on the Dragon Annual map, maybe the southern triangle surrounded by mountains. Siabsungkoh is a very small region, however.

    Godsbreath, the setting of the adventure "Written in Blood," is a very good candidate to be on a world other than Oerth, as its backstory is that it's a realm populated by a people brought there by the gods themselves. If you really wanted it in the Flanaess, using Godsbreath as Almor makes some sense, as Almor is a theocracy and, since it was largely destroyed during the Greyhawk Wars, Almor doesn't have a lot of canon describing it compared to other lands in the Flanaess. It could conceivably work in the Barbarian Seameast in western Oerik, I suppose, though the climate there is wrong, but I really think it makes the most sense as a separate world entirely, an uninhabited or newly created promised land with no pesky indigenous inhabitants to cause trouble for the chosen people.

    A major problem with placing it anywhere on Oerth is the question of what happened to the earlier inhabitants of the land when the people of Godsbreath took over. If they showed up only after Almor was destroyed in the Greyhawk Wars, then I suppose that's a built-in explanation, with the land becoming fertile again and given a new population by the intervention of the five gods.

    The five gods said to have brought the people of Godsbreath to their new land aren't detailed in the book, leaving them for the individual DM to flesh out. I think this would be a good use for the Touv pantheon, which implies the people of Godsbreath were originally from Hepmonaland. Radiant Citadel says only that they were "plundered by enemies whose names are lost to time." I think they might have been the people of Tolanok, which according to The Scarlet Brotherhood accessory was cursed, with those who could not flee transformed into hungry undead. This backstory gives a happier fate for many, settling in the new land of Godsbreath.

    This topic includes some of my thoughts on adapting Tomb of Annihilation to Oerth, in which I gave Tolanok a prominent place.

    The Five Gods would be Uvot (god of prosperity), Nola (the sun goddess), Vogan (god of weather), Kundo (god of building), and Xanag (goddess of metals and beauty), probably, although other Touv gods could be worshiped in Godsbreath as well, including the more sinister ones. Katay, the Touv god of decay, inevitability, order, and time, might be responsible for the soil growing less fertile, or that may be (and this probably serves the story better) a curse of Meyanok, who cursed Tolanok with famine and may have crossed over to Godsbreath to curse that land as well.

    San Citlán, the setting of "The Fiend of Hollow Mine," is inspired by Mexican culture. It doesn't include a suggestion for placing it on Oerth, but its Eberron and Forgotten Realms suggestions both suggest placing it on the edge of a desert, near a series of hills or mountains. The book describes a "dry, rocky landscape" outside the city of San Citlán itself. We're told its language is related to the language of Tletepec and "the language of previous colonizers," so it might make some sense to place San Citlán in the Sea of Dust, near the Hellfurnace Mountains where they border the Amedio Jungle, and say its culture is a mixture of Olman and Suel (who, of course, ruled the land before their civilization was destroyed and Olman migrants began to settle the wastes). The Sea of Dust is normally portrayed as a more alien place, unsuited for as much civilization (and farms!) that San Citlán is described as having, but I think this is the part of Oerth that fits the realm most logically. Making at least a small southeastern portion of the Sea of Dust less hostile makes it more useful in a typical campaign anyway, and other parts of the desert can still be as described in Greyhawk Adventures. The explorer Citlati, who is supposed to have founded San Citlán, could be an Olman explorer who ventured into the Sea of Dust some centuries ago. The story of the colonizing force might be ignored, or there might have been an invasion from the Hold of the Sea Princes attracted by rumors of valuable mines in the area. The description of the land of Atagua later on in the book suggests that San Citlán and Atagua shared a set of colonizers, but this is unlikely if San Citlán is in the Sea of Dust and Atagua is in Hepmonaland. The Sea Princes and the Lordship of the Isles aren't that different culturally, though the former was dominated at times by Keoland and the latter by the Great Kingdom.

    The patron of San Citlán, a spirit called La Catrina believed to personify Death, could be an aspect of Wee Jas or she could be Mictlanchihuatl, the wife of the Olman death-god Mictlantecuhtli. Or both, I suppose. Maybe Mictlanchihuatl was always Wee Jas.

    Zinda, the setting of the adventure "Wages of Vice," is suggested to be placed in the Hold of the Sea Princes or the Lordship of the Isles. Either would work. The city of Mahan on the island of Ganode might be an appropriate place to use as Zinda, or maybe Port Torvin in the Hold of the Sea Princes or Syber on Sybarate Isle. I think I favor Mahan, personally, given the volcanic nature of the Lordship of the Isles and the proximity to Hepmonaland. The "spirits of jungle and ocean" who created Zinda might be the Touv pantheon, as might the "wicked spirits corrupting the people." They could also just be local nature spirits rather than gods.

    Yeonido is based on Korean legends and unfortunately, because of the decision to place François Marcela-Froideval's Black Moon Chronicles campaign to the west of the Celestial Imperium, there isn't an obvious place for Oerth's Korea. One solution is to simply redraw the map of Oerth. Short of that, one suggestion is to place it in the southeastern portion of the continent of Empyrea, which Frank Mentzer mentioned was full of aliens. He meant human colonists from Alpha Centauri, I think, but there's no real reason they couldn't have Korean and Japanese-style cultures. They could be explained as Spelljamming colonists from Kara-Tur, perhaps.

    If it's not important to you to put Yeonido near other Asian cultures, in theory you could place it in Western Oerik. Maybe the Kingdom of Thalos is Korean-inspired in your world. Maybe the Thillonrian Peninsula in the northeastern Flanaess if your world's Korea. Do what you want. I would probably prefer to place it in a separate world.

    The Sensa Empire from the adventure " Gold and Fools and Princes" is inspired by the Mali Empire of West Africa, but it fits really well with the lands of Kundanol, Kundaxa, and Byanbo in southeastern Hepmonaland. These were once part of a kingdom called Kunda in Sean K. Reynolds' history of Hepmonaland, but using The Radiant Citadel as a guide, they could be three wealthy city-states of the Sensa Empire. Kundanol corresponds roughly to the city-state of Anisa, Kundaxa to the city-state of Tarikh, and Byanbo to the city-state of Niba. I'd place the Azure Dome, the capital of the Sensa Empire, somewhere along the coast near the Ino Hills. The Tomb of the Faceless would be in the Yano Desert. The people of the Sensa Empire would probably worship a version of the Touv pantheon, but filtered through the teachings of the Faceless Prophet, who reformed the faith in some way, perhaps—this is purely speculative on my part—by discouraging the worship of the more sinister Touv gods and banning the veneration of graven images.

    Tletepec, from the adventure "Trail of Destruction," fits pretty well with the geography just south of Xamaclan in the Amedio Jungle, near the mountains there (a branch of the Hellfurnaces) which separate the Amedio from "Zindia" to the west. The book suggests "where the Hellfurnaces meets the Amedio Jungle, just south of Cauldron," but there isn't a seacoast there, and that's not the only place where the Hellfurnaces meet the Amedio Jungle in any case. The seacoast isn't important to the adventure, but it's relevant to the Tletepec Gazetteer. The Radiant Citadel also suggests Tletepec could be on one of the Olman Isles, which seems reasonable.

    The "gods of nature, fire, and renewal" worshiped in the Gate of Illumination would presumably be the Olman pantheon, including Huhueteotl and likely Coatlicue.

    Shankhbahumi, from the adventure "In the Mists of Manivarsha," is based on West Bengal/Bangladesh and should probably be placed in Southern "Zindia" sharing a border with the "Nippon Dominion," corresponding probably with what Anna Meyer's map calls the Raj of Hardesh, which matches pretty well with the geography of Shankhabhumi. The people of Shankhabhumi seem to exclusively worship river spirits known as riverines, so there's no real overlap with the major gods of Oerth.

    The Dayawlongon Archipelago, a Philippines-inspired realm detailed in the adventure "Between the Tangled Roots," doesn't have a suggested place on Oerth. Their suggested place on Eberron and in the Realms basically both boil down to "anywhere it's convenient to put islands." My suggestion for a Philippines-like place on Oerth is the islands to the east of Erypt on the Dragon Annual map. I know a lot of people assume they would be part of Erypt, and Egyptian in flavor, but they're pretty close to the Nippon Dominion and the Celestial Imperium and I think Filipino culture is probably more appropriate for the region than Egyptian culture is anyway. Or you could add additional islands to the Celestial Sea or the Ocean of Storms to the south, and place the Dayawlongon Archipelago there. There's no canon on what those islands are; Erypt may well be limited to the mainland, though it's strange to imagine how those two cultures might influence one another. No stranger than Zindia bordering the Amedio Jungle, anyway. As the book says, you could put the islands anywhere you need them to be in your campaign, but I think placing them on the "Celestial Imperium" side of the "Nippon Dominion" fits best. I wouldn't be too mad if you decided "Nippon" was the Dayawlongon Archipelago, though I think that's less appropriate. It could also be "Dragons Island" if you added a few more islands around it.

    Ankharin Sangar, from the adventure "Shadow of the Sun," is inspired by Iranian legend. The book suggests placing it on "the western edge of the Barrier Peaks and the Crystalmist Mountains," i.e. Ull or the Dry Steppes, but I think it fits better far to the west, on the other side of the Dry Steppes, on the edge of the mountains that border the Celestial Imperium. The book calls the mountains near Ankharin Sangar "the Heavenly Peaks," so that fits pretty well.

    Of course, that depends on whether your priority is to place the adventure close to your main campaign area, in which case the eastern Dry Steppes or Bright Desert may indeed be the best option, or if your goal is to flesh out the larger world, in which case I like the far western Dry Steppes better as a more suitable Iranian analogy.

    The book mentions "the ruins of old civilizations" being scavenged by kenku. These civilizations would presumably include the Baklunish Empire, destroyed long ago by the Invoked Devastation, and perhaps other states that succeeded and preceded it, and the various incarnations of the Celestial Imperium to the west.

    The religion of Akharin Sangar is an unnamed deity called the Sunweaver, which uses gender neutral pronouns. The book suggests the Sunweaver could be a unique deity or perhaps another name for a god such as Pholtus. On Oerth, it might make sense for the Sunweaver to be a sort of amalgamation of Istus and Pelor (Al'Asran to the Baklunish). Imagine a prophet declaring the divine revelation that the sun god and the goddess who weaves the fate of mortals are one and the same. Or perhaps not the same, but worshiped together as a dyad, siblings or a married couple representing the two halves of the divine. It would set Akharin religion apart from the faiths of the eastern lands, for sure. Or the Sunweaver could be Pholtus, as suggested, despite Pholtus being more commonly associated with the Oeridians. It's certainly not impossible for an isolated Baklunish-derived culture to the west to adopt Pholtus' faith, particularly if an angel descends and tells them to.

    The adversary of Atash, Zolmate Shab, is a horned demon associated with darkness and smoke. There are a few official demon lords who he might be identified with: Pazuzu, Lupercio, Rhyxali, Thralhavoc, Ahrimanes. I might go with Ahrimanes, with his Persian inspiration, or one of his servants.

    The adventure involves a phenomenon called Brilliant Night in which the moon blazes like a sun in the dead of night for about a week every three years. This isn't a known phenomenon on Oerth, and might be evidence that Akharin Sangar is another world. It might also be a local phenomenon only visible from Akharin Sangar for some reason. The book says it's a result of "ancient magic," and also says "ancient magic" is what causes a stone disc, the Pedestal of Judgment, to hover above the land, where it serves as a prison, so these two phenomena might be related. Which moon it is, and what time of year this happens, isn't clear. The fact that this specifically happens for a week suggests it's on one of the four festival weeks on Oerth's calendar. The fact that it's said to represent "light triumphing over the darkness" supports it happening in Needfest, during the darkest time of the year. If the week is Needfest, when Celene is full and Luna is new, the moon must be Celene.

    If it's in Richfest, both moons would be full, and both could blaze like the sun, but since Midsummer is relatively bright every year (because both moons are full) this wouldn't be as dramatic as if the relatively dim Celene blazed like the sun alone, during a time of year when the days are at their shortest. So I would go with Needfest, every three years, and make it a local phenomenon related to the "ancient magic" that supports the Pedestal of Judgment.

    Djaynai, the setting of the adventure "The Nightsea's Succor," is suggested in the book to be "along the coast of Hepmonaland or as an influential land anywhere along the Azure Sea." Assuming you don't want to redesign any of the lands along the Azure Sea, the western coast of Hepmonaland makes a lot of sense. I'd place it on the coast of Xuxchan Bay to the south of Chebikav. The history of Djaynai mentions invaders raiding the land and capturing slaves hundreds of years ago. The Scarlet Brotherhood gazetteer says there's a history of Scarlet Brotherhood slavers terrorizing the nation of Xolapeqal, and that raiders from Xolapeqal capture slaves from Cuhuetla, "leaving them bound to appease invaders from the sea," and this could have been part of what happened to Djaynai. What The Radiant Citadel calls the Nightsea would be Xuxchan Bay, and the undersea realm of Janya would be hidden somewhere in its depths.

    The people of Djaynai may be aware of the Touv pantheon, but they've mostly abandoned it, except as parables and stories to tell children, revering instead "forces such as liberation, fluidity, and change." Perhaps they don't even consider themselves Touv. It's possible that some variation of Trithereon is a known patron there.

    Grand Xing, the nation where "Buried Dynasty" takes place, is based on China and would make sense as the "Celestial Imperium."

    I'm not certain where to put the capital city of Yongjing. In real life Beijing is on China's east coast, and quite far north, but again there is no west coast for the Celestial Imperium, so you can pretty much stick Yongjing anywhere. Somewhat arbitrarily, erring on it being relatively close to the Flanaess and the trade route leading from Akharin Sangar, I've put it on the northern tip of the bay next to the Nippon Dominion.

    The land of Atagua in "Orchids of the Invisible Mountain" is inspired by Venezuelan folklore. The book suggests placing it in the Plains of the Paynims or the Great Kingdom (two wildly different suggestions!) but I think to be true to the cultural inspiration it should be somewhere outside the Flanaess, though I'm not entirely sure what Oerth's equivalent of South America might be. It probably can't be south of the Amedio Jungle, since that region quickly becomes Asian, but perhaps the northern coast of Hepmonaland, near the Lordship of the Isles, would be appropriate. A South American inspiration might help distinguish the Olman-derived culture of northern Hepmonaland from that of the Amedio Jungle to the west. The book describes the region as "grasslands, wetlands, and narrow stretches of tropical forests bordering the Holroro River" which could work in Hepmonaland, but doesn't feel like it fits the Plains of the Paynims or Aerdy very well. I think there's room to the north or east of Sharba (a Suel city built over a ruined Olman city), or to the northwest of Zar. The history of Atagua describes "an invading force" which entered the region 500 years ago and then invaded the neighboring region of San Citlán. The invading force is obviously supposed to parallel the Spanish invading Latin America in our world. I suggested elsewhere that San Citlán could be in the Sea of Dust, populated by mixed Suel/Olman people, and northern Hepmonaland is also supposed to be partly populated by the Suel, albeit closer to 1000 years ago than 500. I don't think the Suel savages who inhabit Sharba are a very good analogy for colonizing Spanish, but the Lordship of the Isles or Scarlet Brotherhood could be.

    The book goes on to say that after 300 years of occupation, the mixed descendants of the aboriginal inhabitants, the Flood People, and the former invaders make peace and expel their would-be rulers, so you could end up with a mixed Olman-Suel population rebeling against the government of the Lordship of the Isles or the Scarlet Brotherhood some 200 years ago and establishing an independent state to the east of Sharba. Using the Brotherhood could explain why both Atagua and San Citlán speak Suel-derived languages; the Lordship of the Isles would have been ruled by the Great Kingdom for much of the occupation and likely would have spoken Common. If the Scarlet Brotherhood was the colonizing force, northwest of Zar (and south of the Scarlet Brotherhood colony of Turashar) might make the most sense as a place to put Atagua.

    Ataguan religion revolves around a "shifting pantheon of hundreds of folk heroes," which doesn't really require them to be related to the religions of other peoples of Oerth in any way, though they might incorporate some known quasi-deities alongside native heroes.

    The Tayyib Empire is inspired by India, so I'd make it a fair-sized chunk of the region labeled "Zindia" on the Dragon Annual map, with Shankhabhumi as its southwestern neighbor. It's an entire empire, so it might correspond with all of Zindia that isn't Shankhabhumi. We're told they practice a religion called Iwahhid, "a philosophy that rejects idols and promotes worshiping the source of divinity rather than its fallible manifestations," which is clearly supposed to be a fantasy Islam. It's different enough from the Baklunish faith that there's probably no connection.

    The other culture described in Radiant Citadel is Umizu, which is a sort of fantasy Japan. I don't think there's a good place to place this on Oerth, and I'd be inclined to put it on another world. I know there's an island chain labeled "Nippon" on the Dragon Annual map, and while Umizu is certainly a better name than Nippon, I think the latitude and surrounding cultures mean the islands there work better as a fantasy Indonesia.

    The best option that I can think of for placing Umizu on Oerth is the southeastern portion of the continent of Empyrea, which Frank Mentzer mentioned was full of aliens. He meant human colonists from Alpha Centauri, I think, but there's no real reason they couldn't have Korean and Japanese-style cultures. They could be explained as Spelljamming colonists from Kara-Tur, perhaps. See the map of Empyrea above, which I also incorporated Yeonido into.

    There isn't a lot of information on Umizu in Radiant Citadel, but it doesn't seem to be the sort of colonizing power that "Nippon" is said to be.

    Last edited by rasgon on Wed Sep 14, 2022 7:49 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Wed Sep 14, 2022 6:31 pm  

    This is all amazing, in-depth, and extremely welcome. Can we all chip in to buy Rasgon a special hat or something?
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    Thu Sep 15, 2022 6:42 pm  

    I'd forgotten how much I appreciated your Tomb of Annihilation suggestions a few years ago.

    Where did that map of Empire come from? I don't think I've ever seen it before.

    Joined: Aug 03, 2001
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    Thu Sep 15, 2022 7:54 pm  

    Oh, I made the Empyrea map using Azgaar's Fantasy Map generator.
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    Fri Sep 16, 2022 11:43 am  

    Wow, that's a great little program. (& thank you for understanding that spell correction Empire means Empyrea)

    I appreciate these guides of yours, esp. w/ regard to adventures that have recommended placements, because I do try to work new material into Oerth as much as I can, but it can be especially trying not to contradict earlier versions/other conceptions.

    This may be a question for another thread but I'd be intrigued to hear your opinion on some of the Greyhawk Rebooted material released so far for western Erik—or, for that matter, the Joseph Bloch/Greyhawk Grognard interpretation of some of the same locations.
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