Within the Radiant Dome, written by Gavin Norman, is the second module in Geoffrey McKinney’s Psychedelic Fantasies line, which focuses exclusively on original adventures filled to the brim with new monsters, spells and items. The modules are home printed and devoid of any artwork, keeping the cost down, though a map of the Radiant Dome is featured on the inside of the detachable cover.
Fairness compels me to state that a) Gavin is my friend and GM of several years and b) I’ve recently written a module of mine own for the Psychedelic Fantasies line, so obviously I’m not going to be trash-talking either! So why write this review? Two reasons. Firstly I genuinely believe Within the Radiant Dome is an original and most importantly fun module that you should pick up, you’re missing out every minute that you don’t! Secondly I can write this review from the unique position of having played through the adventure twice with the author, which has given me a good feel for how the module can be/is intended to be played. How much enjoyment you get from any role-playing session is of course dependent on the people you play with and the quality of the GM; but reading through the module afterwards it’s clear to see Within the Radiant Dome is just a very well-thought-out product! Now on to the review proper shall we? A warning for my more erudite readers: this is a module designed for use with any basic (clone) D&D ruleset, and not, as the title would suggest, a Percy Bysshe Shelley pen & paper game!
Any adventurer worth their salt has heard of the Radiant Dome, a fabled place filled with riches that on certain occasions materializes in the earthly realm for a brief period of time. Some enterprising adventurers return as very wealthy men and women, some never return at all... tying it all together are rumours of a wizard that had a hand in the construction of the Dome.
The Dome features three distinct levels, each with their own feel and unique encounters. Some of these can be rewarding, others quite dangerous, but they’re all exciting and once you get your head around the oftentimes weird logic of the place, clever players who enjoy puzzles and a different approach to dungeons than simply loot/smash/kill should have a field day. There are quite a few social encounters, something which is always a nice change of pace in a dungeon crawl, which put the player characters’ alignments to the test. I think it’s possible to run the module more ‘straight’, but playing and reading it I very much got a funhouse dungeon vibe. Your enjoyment of the module may vary depending on how much you desire ‘realism’ in your D&D game. As anyone reading this blog may have noticed, I’m a fan of wacky fast-paced adventures and all things gonzo, so for me it is an excellent fit.
Once the party makes it way down to the lower levels of the Dome, they start running into a variety of the more dangerous inhabitants of the Dome. I felt the combat encounters work well and are quite memorable thanks to the monster design. Players will do battle with a necrotic flesh golem, happen upon clockwork automata, flush a fetid fecal fiend back to the nether realms and run into a nasty beastie which the locals worship as a god. The adventurer who braves these perils will find him or herself rewarded with a number of interesting magical items which you could easily incorporate in other science fantasy games.
A minor gripe for me was that there are one or two instances where the adventure as written does not allow a save to prevent something from happening, something which I would change if I’d run the module, but on the scale of “screwing players over” it still registers quite low, and as it is easily changed to your personal preference it doesn’t matter much. Also as written there are occasions where the adventure might go off the rails if the players were to decide to take certain actions (i.e. boarding a space ship prepped for departure). Such eventualities should be prepared for beforehand, but otherwise the adventure is ready to be played out of the box, so to speak.
In conclusion, if you’re still reading this and haven’t already rushed over to Psychedelic Fantasies to get your copy of Within the Radiant Dome this instant, then I advise you to take the rest of the day off to do some soul-searching and find out why you hate fun so much, you poor creature.