What have I been up to recently? I’ve only gone and published a fricking 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons adventure, that’s what!
It’s taken a monster-load of time. After first writing it in the back end of 2016, and first playing it in the front end of 2017, the adventure then needed extensive polishing to reach a level of quality whereby others could actually enjoy reading it and play it themselves. Then I formatted the whole thing with much difficulty using OpenOffice, before discovering an amazing tool by the name of HomeBrewery which makes formatting your own material in the style of official WoTC merchandise pretty easy. Cue formatting it all over again.
Then there was the player feedback, friends’ feedback and my own critical eye, leading to many revisions, and on top of that a considerable amount of time was given over to editing errors flagged in the final proofs, creating the maps (and then deciding they were not good enough and commissioning someone else to create the maps), and commissioning the front cover.
All in all it was quite a mission. But I must say, it’s damn amazing to see it up for sale on the DMs Guilds. After just over a week it’s sold 25 or so copies, garnered a few nice words, and I really hope people are going to enjoy playing it. To think that gamers around the world will be adventuring in a dungeon of my creation is quite a big buzz!
What’s It About?
Originally designed for 10th and 11th level characters (but with concrete advice on playing it from 5th level upwards… see more below), The Gleaming Cloud Citadel is a centre of arcane research that sits on the heights of the Graypeak Mountains in the Forgotten Realms (or any other mountain range of your pleasing, as location and campaign setting are not too important to play this particular D&D adventure).
The Citadel belongs to the Order of the Gossamer Robe mages, led by Eszteban the Great, however things are not all well in the Order. An ongoing row over intellectual sovereignty has seen the Citadel divide in two, with Eszteban locking himself in his central tower and protecting himself from the rest of the Order with a labyrinth of puzzles, traps and monsters. He believes his fellow mages are trying to poison him.
Depending on which adventure hook you use, your party might have been invited by the acting head of the Order, Lavinia Brightswann, a half elf mage who wears a black mask over one side of her face, and who claims Eszteban has gone mad. She needs the party to disable the labyrinth’s threats and hopefully save Eszteban from himself. Or otherwise the PCs may be driven by their own need for a powerful spell or ritual, kept in the upper reaches of the Citadel, and therefore feel the need to take on the labyrinth for their own purposes. In which case the rest of the Order will take a keen interest in their success.
I think one of the fun parts of this adventure is that each of the mages of the Order have their own motivations, from the ageing Eszteban, to the ambitious Lavinia, through to the infatuated Meredin, the loyal Baelgrak The Bronze, and the scheming dwarf mage Hrimmar Gimgil. There’s also the mystery of what happened to the missing-presumed-dead 6th member of the Order, whose tower now lies empty.
As for playability, after a tricky journey through the mountains, the PCs have a chance to meet all of the Order and delve into the Citadel’s internal politics, before they enter the labyrinth. Once they start their ascent of the Citadel, there’s a varied series of encounters to deal with, very much in the flavour of old school Dungeons & Dragons, with floor puzzles, riddles and magical guardians. The final (or more likely the penultimate fight) pits the PCs against shadowy version of themselves, which of course is about as even a fight as you can get, and as the DM I have to say it is a lot of fun using some of the party’s powers against them!
It’s a bit railroaded in the Citadel itself as I didn’t want to write a whole load of encounters that would never get played… and DM’s probably don’t want to prepare such encounters either, but I think the final resolution is very open and can be played out in a lot of different ways, depending on which of the mages the party side with, if any.
What Level Adventure Is It?
As I mentioned The Gleaming Cloud Citadel was written as a 10th to 11th level adventure for 5th edition, but – in order to broaden its playability – I recalibrated all the combats with options for 5th to 6th levels, and 7th to 9th levels. The only real difference of playing this scenario at lower levels is that the PCs won’t be able to take on the mages, which may actually add to the flavour, as they can’t just swing a sword at every problem they encounter.
I felt it was important that, if I was going to create an Order of wizards dedicated to arcane research, that I should create the rules for a slew of new spells that might represent their body of work. This was a lot of fun, and, if you’ll permit me a little brag, I think I’ve got a good knack for crafting well balanced incantations that you can bring to your game. I named this body of spells The Discoveries, and part of the value of this adventure are the 29 new wizard spells you get with it. You can see a few samples on this blog post (although I polished them up a bit for publication).
Buy The Adventure
You can buy The Gleaming Cloud Citadel on the DM’s Guilds.
50% of the fee goes to the marketplace and 50% to the author. I’m hoping for some good sales to motivate me to find the time to write more in 2018.
If you do invest, please let me know how it goes for you and your party!
Alexander J Struck
Just bought this adventure and excited to run it with my group! Given your previous posts, I’m confident it will be fun, balanced, and creative. I’ll be sure to write an official review on this site and the DM’s guild once completed (may take some time since I’m running a campaign, a player in another campaign, and am expecting my second child soon).
Hey Alexander, legend, thanks man!
I really hope you enjoy it. I am not sure I meant it to be when I started, but in hindsight it’s a homage to my early days playing D&D… with, I hope, some 5th edition realism and back story.
Look forward to hearing your feedback once you find time to give it a whirl on the table.
All the best, and congratulations on number two arriving soon!