One of the co-creators of the latest official D&D adventure, Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, Ajit George, compares the setting of the book to solarpunk. I wrote about solarpunk in issue no. 8 of the newsletter. Wikipedia defines it this way:
Solarpunk is a genre and art movement that envisions how the future might look if humanity succeeded in solving major contemporary challenges with an emphasis on sustainability, climate change and pollution.
In D&D, of course, we are not dealing with climate change or sustainability (typically), but there is a sort of bright, organic aesthetic that comes along with solarpunk. It has kind of the opposite energy of grimdark. A definition of grimdark (again, Wikipedia):
Grimdark is a subgenre of speculative fiction with a tone, style, or setting that is particularly dystopian, amoral, and violent.
If your experience with tabletop role-playing games and specifically Dungeon & Dragons or Warhammer 40,000 goes back a ways, you will remember when grimdark was the main, if not only, aesthetic involved with those types of games. The introduction of a more positive vibe in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel is a nice change. I can still remember when D&D adventures were hack n’ slash dungeon crawlers. More of an emphasis on cooperation and thoughtful strategy still takes adjustment, but is welcome.
Another focus of this adventure module that breaks from tradition is the emphasis on multiculturalism. In addition to the inclusion of typical fantasy character races such as dwarves and elves, the human population is made up of different ethnicities. Some of those ethnicities bear resemblance to those in our world that have traditionally been underrepresented in fantasy worlds. The module brings their traditions into the D&D world. It’s refreshing to see this representation in the playgrounds of our imagination.