Based in Southern Oregon, Fiddleback is a blog and portfolio by Brian Casey. His posts explore tabletop gaming and other topics through examination of RPGs, boardgames, and more. He is a freelance tabletop game editor and writer, and podcaster.

Fiddleback vs. The Sunless Citadel, Part 1

Fiddleback vs. The Sunless Citadel, Part 1

At last we begin the first adventure in Wizards of the Coast’s Tales from the Yawning Portal. As always in this series, keep the book by your side to follow along and BEWARE SPOILERS (I’m not going to warn you again).

This article covers the Sunless Citadel itself, forty-one rooms of semi-perilous dungeon crawl right up to the descent into The Grove. Except in very limited spots, I have not referred to the original adventure itself. I’m treating this version of Sunless Citadel as its own unique thing.

In the introductory article to this series, I laid down some ground rules and a bit of explanation of the project. You should read that, before starting this.

 

Poem

The poem that opens Sunless Citadel is an excerpt from a larger work titled Blackcurrant River by Arthur Rimbaud, although Bruce R. Cordell used a translation titled The River of Cordial. It is one translation from the original French.

Another translation reads as follows:

Everything rolls with the sickening mysteries
Of olden-day lands;
Dungeons inspected, substantial parks;
On these banks you hear
The dead passions of knights-errant—
But how the wind restores!

While yet another translation provides this:

Everything flows with [the] horrible mysteries of ancient landscapes;
of strongholds visited, of large estates:
it is along these banks that you can hear
the dead passions of errant knights:
but how the wind is wholesome!

Essentially, it is a nice bit of evocative scene setting only slightly spoiled by the fact that this exact quote as presented in Yawning Portal seems to have first appeared in a gaming context in the manual for Blizzard’s Diablo.

The full text of the original poem however, has more to do, seemingly, with an old soldier returning to a former battlefield from his past and remembering the battle fought there with some measure of regret. Fortunately, he still retains a fondness for these memories and the valor and camaraderie once experienced there; as hinted at by the reviving wind and a later line about offering up a salute of sorts, both to things remembered and things lost.

Thanks to TheAngryGM for helping me track down some of this information.

Page 9 – Adventure Synopsis

2. Kobold Den is very important. If you have PCs who might prefer to avoid as much combat as possible, or who simply enjoy being clever, remember the kobolds can be negotiated with. The goblins, too, if they are particularly lucky or particularly bright.

Page 9 – Mapping

As a new player, or even a new GM, it is all well and good to explain the need for detailed descriptions in order for someone to properly map the Sunless Citadel. However, it might not hurt to also explain not just the need to carefully listen to description, but also some basics on how to actually map. Especially since this is intended as an intro / teaching / learning adventure for all involved and has been heralded as such. Double especially important since neither the 5e Player’s Handbook, nor the Dungeon Masters Guide, make any mention of how players are supposed to begin mapping things if they have never done it before. As the GM, you’ll be required to provide, at a minimum, room measurements and door placement if your PCs have any hope of accurately mapping things. Add in details about furnishings or traps discovered and this can really begin to slow gameplay down as players make the map. There are certainly methods of mapping that don’t require as much precision, and you could just make the map for them as things go along. Just be aware that part of the ‘fun’ of dungeons crawls like this used to be letting the PCs make their own maps and then letting them rely on them, mistakes and all, to navigate the dungeon. Especially in an emergency.

Page 10 – Adventure Hooks

Solving a Mystery clearly offers the most potential hooks for engaging a variety of players and their characters. Unfortunately, it gets something wrong right at the last. It is enough to set the mystery in front of the characters without also telling them which bits of it they should be interested in. The players are perfectly capable of deciding which things are of interest to their characters without having to point them right at it. Those who love mysteries will grab the mystery. Those who like money have the fruits to pursue. Those who like fighting baddies have the goblins to kill. No need to spell out what they should be interested in.

Also, pursuit of the tree for its healing properties feels like it should be a hook in its own right, rather than tacked on the end of Solving a Mystery.

Page 10 – Oakhurst

Oakhurst is pretty much a pitstop. All your basics are here: a few basic supplies, low level healing, and simple forge-work. The inn provides drink and sufficient rumors to kick adventurers in the right direction.

Of course, you already have sufficient excuse to go looking for adventure if you used the Adventure Hooks provided earlier, so the best use of these rumors is probably to reinforce the hooks you’ve decided to use and possibly provide a hint at further developments. Choose accordingly with an eye towards requirements for later conversations in the dungeon itself. Try not to drop any needless sidetracking into the PCs laps. No one says you have to use them all.

Page 11 – Wilderness Encounters

Travel pace (normal) is 3 miles per hour according to the rules. To get from Oakhurst to the area of the citadel is 7 miles (noted in the beginning of The Citadel section), or just over two hours of travel time. It seems extremely unlikely that PCs would experience the Wilderness Encounter as written, which is unfortunate as it provides an important hint about what the PCs will face in the adventure to come and, perhaps, how to deal with it. It also cuts off a later line of questioning in the citadel that may be useful to the party. Consider running it once anyway when the PCs set out for the first time, regardless of how long they take to travel.

Page 11 – Sunless Citadel Overview

Possibly the most important bit in this sidebar is the “Monsters on Alert” section. Since Oakhurst is so close, and since there seems to be nothing preventing the PCs from returning to it in the early part of the adventure, it is possible that the GM will need this info should the PCs decide to do so. The rest is mostly background info you should keep on hand for players who like to exercise things called Knowledge Skills.

Fortress Level  - Original size 3-5/8" x 7-5/8"

Fortress Level  - Original size 3-5/8" x 7-5/8"

Page 13 – Fortress Level Map

Jumping the order a bit for this one.

The Fortress Level Map is a nice map with lots of nice little, some might even say important, details. It’s a darned shame you can’t see any of them thanks to it being so small. After breaking out my magnifying glass, I was finally able to see the white on grey numbering and the red on slightly different grey markings which indicate trap locations and secret doors. Not to mention the various details of furniture placement, hiding spots, cover, and so forth.

Speaking of traps and secret doors, nowhere does the adventure mention that T and S are meant to mark the locations of Trap and Secret Doors. This is or was meant to be a learning adventure, remember. And this is the first map encountered. Not a brilliant start and certainly not a great help to those who are also trying to help their players map. (Worth noting: The original adventure’s map contained a key to its symbols and was just over half a page in size. Much more useful if you can find it and identical in all other respects.)

Page 11 – Ravine

PCs searching for the lost adventuring party may miss the significance of the rope tied here. If they don’t make the connection, don’t force it on them. Just move along.

Note: From here on, for the rest of this adventure, I switch to numbering things by location followed by area name and then page number.

1 -3 Ledge, Switchback Stairs, and Crumbled Courtyard – Page 12

The Switchback Stairs, particularly at location 2 and the stair descent from the third landing, provide an overview of the fortress that mapping PCs may wish to take advantage of. Certainly, they should be able to get the general outline of the fortress level at least including the two towers. Depending on your level of GM lenience, it may even be possible to map some of the interior rooms general shape due to roof structure and layout.

3 Crumbled Courtyard – Page 12

A trap at the front door. Well, start as you mean to go on. Though it does beg the question, Why not trap the far more treacherous stairs down to this location, too? They are much more restricted and dangerous.

At least this trap can serve as a warning to the PCs to go carefully from here on out. This trap also serves as the pattern for many other pit traps located throughout the Citadel. Hopefully the PCs will take note of its features and learn to identify other trapped locations as well as how to deal with them.

4 Tower Shell – Page 13

The needle trap on the secret door seems particularly… pointless, doesn’t it? Someone went to the trouble of setting up a fairly elaborate trap mechanism just to do exactly one point of damage. Just one. It’s almost as if some sort of important piece of information is missing, isn’t it?

5 Secret Pocket – Page 13

There is a hint here about the nature of the cataclysm that dropped the citadel into this hole initially. Powerful necromantic magic, perhaps? Why would it help preserve the citadel, too? We may never know.

6 Old Approach – Page 14

Initially I considered that the key to the dragon door was placed too far away from the door itself, potentially leaving the rooms beyond the dragon door unexplored (presuming some poor checks or some other inability to bypass it). Room 21 is too far into the citadel for most parties to want to backtrack to 6 (or even to remember to do so) without some incentive.

However, what saves it is the presence of a way to determine where to use the key found in 21 thanks to the kobolds found there. Presuming the PCs take a careful approach to them. If they don’t, it is their own fault if they can’t work out where to use the key.

8 Pressure Plate – Page 14

There might be a lot of arrows nearby if a clever rogue could figure out how to get at them considering the trap is meant to fire every time someone steps on the plate.

9 Dragon Riddle – Page 14

Other answers which fit the riddle:

  • Werewolves (and other creatures subject to night transformations or only able to appear at night)
  • Various night-shift workers
  • Late tavern goers
  • Bats
  • Other nocturnal animals…
  • ...and insects….

The problem is, riddles need to have clues that avail themselves of only one correct answer. The clues can obfuscate that one answer as much as you like, or the answer can be as obscure as seems necessary, but riddles that don’t get things right are about as good as asking What am I thinking of or that one password hint you set up to be a jerk and now doesn’t make any sense.

Anyway, be prepared for your players to never guess the answer.

10 Honor Guard – Page 15

Jot the quasit seems a bit odd. Or at least his Development does. It seems strange that Jot would stick around to harass the PCs when his safest, most secure course of action is to leave the citadel entirely. Especially as he has just been wounded, given his goal.

12 Tomb of the Failed Dragonpriest – Page 15

Sequester is a 7th level transmutation spell whose duration is “until dispelled.” It can have a condition set to trigger the dispel.

Now, given that, consider the Dragonpriest and his sarcophagus. Here he is, offensive to his people, so much so that they entomb him alive (Not killing him, weirdly. Presumably because of the honor due his station). They put the Sequester spell on him, suspending the Dragonpriest in a timeless state and leaving him imprisoned for all eternity. Unless someone comes along and opens the sarcophagus, the apparent trigger for dispelling the Sequester spell. Which seems odd given how outraged they all were in the first place. Were they just saving him for later? I can’t imagine he’d be at all happy about being released after all that.

Also, who keeps putting magic scrolls in the tombs of powerful magic users? Seems like a bad idea.

13 Empty Room (x4) and Sidebar “Random Encounters” – Page 16

The Random Encounters sidebar says one random encounter occurs every 12 hours in the halls of the citadel. Now, there are a lot of rooms here, but it seems unlikely that more than one of these encounters occurs in the course of the adventure. They aren’t essential encounters, but it might be interesting to give a chance, say about 10-20%, of these encounters occurring in rooms 13 instead.

14 Enchanted Water Cache – Page 16

This is such a ‘gotcha’ trap. There is no hint or suggestion of what might occur, the PCs will just blunder into it all unawares. There is literally no way for them to even suspect something might be up.

Some folks will tell you that’s the point of a trap. To catch people unaware or unprepared. Those people are wrong. Notice how almost every other trap in the adventure gives you some chance to spot it or notice it or see its effects? This doesn’t even get off the hook as a combat encounter. This is a trap because it requires the PCs to interact with it directly in some manner in order for it to have an effect. This is bad trap design. Do not do this to your players.

Give them a DC 15 Perception check to hear something moving around inside the barrel. That will be good enough for now.

Besides that, how is this thing supposed to work? Why are these mephits bound to a keg of water intended as a supply of drinking water? Did the people who set this up initially really intend to have to fight mephitis when they used it? Did they have to rebind new mephitis each time they finished drinking?

It’s very silly all the way around.

15 Dragon Cell – Page 16

It’s vitally important that Meepo appear to be as pathetic and non-threatening as possible if the PCs are to have any hope of securing the help of the kobolds. If your PCs are more the bloodthirsty sort, good luck with this part of the story.  Chances are they’ll simply kill their way through the adventure anyway.

Killing Meepo here will virtually guarantee that no negotiations are possible later. If that’s not a problem for you or them, carry on. However, be aware that the key they need to get to the Dragonpriest will largely go unexplained and likely not get use, the goblins encountered later will be more of a problem, and the entire adventure becomes that much more difficult. So, to prevent all that, play Meepo pathetic and in need of help.

Oh, and try to remember he is likely with the party from here on out. Never forget party NPCs. They’re handy for ready explanations, assistance in various tasks, and comedy relief. Or seriousness. They totally do seriousness, too.

16 Kobold Guardroom (x3) – Page 17

Note that, even if successfully negotiated without Meepo present, the guards do not provide the safe passage password that Meepo does. Unless you decide otherwise.

17 Dragon Chow – Page 17

If there are enough rats for a swarm and they’ve been stuck in here for a while, the smell here is very obvious in the entire southern half of 15. I bet a DC 10 check against an appropriate skill would tell someone exactly what’s on the other side of the door.

19 – 21 Hall of Dragons and Dragon Throne – Page 18

This is, essentially, two areas in one room. Be aware that what happens in one end of it can likely be heard or seen in the other.

19 Hall of Dragons – Page 18

It is extremely likely that the patrolling kobolds here could hear sounds of combat from the earlier open areas up to the door to 15 depending on where they are in their patrol route. That’s up to the GM though as the route isn’t specified. Maybe a percent chance to be in the right portion of the hall followed by a percent chance to hear the combat.

The adventure doesn’t specify any of this for the very good reason that this group of kobolds could trigger off a chain-reaction of incoming combatants. If the PCs are finding things too easy in combat this could be a way to make them tread more carefully, or just flat out kill the party. Use cautiously.

20 Kobold Colony – Page 18

If the PCs have elected to fight the kobolds and are therefore in need of rest, this room — with its one entrance and meager amenities — may make a decent resting place if the door is secured in some way.

Be prepared for PCs to try to chase down all the non-combatant kobolds, though. No one likes a loose end.

21 Dragon Throne – Page 18

A lot goes on here and it is important to make sure the PCs have the opportunity to access it all based both on what they’ve done here and earlier.

The goblin / fruit / Belak questions can only potentially be asked if either the Solving a Mystery Adventure Hook was used, the goblin apple rumor is heard in Oakhurst, or Garon’s rumor about Belak is picked up at the inn.

The twig monster question can only potentially be asked if the PCs encountered the twig blights on the way to the citadel from Oakhurst. Other hooks or hints are too vague to suggest ‘twig monsters’.

The Lost Humans question can only be asked if the Rescue Mission Adventure Hook is used or if the GM bends the rumor in Oakhurst about them slightly to make it more of a hook than additional information. It’s just barely possible that the rope on the pillar in the Ravine, the one the PCs climbed down on, could provide the vaguest hint that someone else may be in the citadel currently, may be human, and may be lost and the PCs should be somehow interested in all this enough to ask a question, but it seems unlikely.

Adjustment to the above should be made accordingly if the PCs have somehow taken a different route to this encounter that avails them of more hints and clues.

Note that the Development section says the GM determines the nature of the aid the PCs receive if they secure the help of the kobolds (by recovering the dragon). Good advice for GMs here, especially new ones (which is what this adventure was designed for, remember) is to take a look at what the party lacks or has been struggling with and consider filling that in. This could be anything including a shortage of healing portions, a particular piece of equipment, a set of skills, or even some fighting strength if you’ve got a party of bards and beginner wizards trying to entertain their way through the dungeon. As the GM, you’ll have read the adventure beforehand, right? So, you know what is coming up and what the party will need to deal with it. Don’t give them everything and don’t trivialize the rest of the adventure; pick one or two reasonably common things (No magic swords!) that could be useful but not ruinous and use those as the kobold’s help here.

There are a number of keys here in the Treasure section. Not all of them are really useful and if you hand them out with no explanation you are almost guaranteed to slow the adventure down as PCs try every key in every locked door or chest between here and the Sword Coast. Either have Yusdrayl explain their use or give them some other means to know what they are for. Maybe little labels tied to them.

Make sure to read Yusdrayl’s write-up on page 248 for more about her attitude to the PCs and more.

22 Larder – Page 19

Probably best not to eat anything here. Word to the Wise.

23 Underdark Access – Page 19

Try not to let the PCs get sidetracked in the Underdark here if you expect to run the entire Citadel adventure. The Underdark, if you are new to these sorts of things, is a big place with lots of bad things going on. And your PCs certainly didn’t come prepared to go there. You could use rumor, lore, half remembered legends, or clearly marked warning signs to deter them. Or you could just not mention the access here at all. Unless you are one of those GMs. Then go right ahead.

24 Trapped Access – Page 19

The L-shaped corridor on the other side of this room is unlabeled and unnoted. You could put something in here. Or not. Are you a helpful GM or a hurtful one?

25 Empty Chamber – Page 20

The humanoid footprints here are a clue to the path of the lost party, just in case it isn’t entirely clear.

26 Dry Fountain – Page 20

Let’s all play with fire! Which is nice. Before they do though, consider they might need to hang on to this potion for area 55, later. Potions of Firebreath should work just like the dragonborn breath weapon racial ability in the PHB.

Aside from that, it’s worth remembering that rules for the armor class and hit points of objects, such as doors, are located on pages 246 and 247 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. You know, just in case PCs can’t get a door open.

27 Sanctuary – Page 20

This is the second source of continual flame so far in the Citadel — the first being the torch in area 12 where the Dragonpriest rests. Notice, both include ‘dead’ guys and sarcophagi. Provided the PCs are careful, they may never need to buy torches again (see PHB page 227).

Night Caller is interesting. Once a week someone can create one undead. The description as written (page 228 in this book) doesn’t suggest the undead is under control when created, but the spell it mimics does. Fun if the party needs an extra, if limited, combatant, but also handy for packing extra luggage. Also a delight to use for trap testing. At least once, anyway.

Always thinking.

28 - 29 Infested Cells and Disabled Traps – Pages 20-21

Between the footprints in 28 and the prints and disabled traps in 29, this is the first real, verifiable sign and indication of the lost adventuring party itself. Again, depending on the rumors and Adventure Hooks in use, the PCs may or may not make the connection. If the party is in earnest about finding the lost adventurers, the GM may need to emphasize the findings. Odd they didn’t peg the trap back in area 3.

29 Disabled Trap – Page 21

GMs wishing to see their PCs act in humorous ways should play the fountain here exactly as they played the fountain in 26. Try not to make it sound, as you explain things, any different than you did then. Otherwise the PCs will know something is up. It helps that they got something nice from the earlier fountain.

30 Mama Rat – Page 21

At least the lost adventurers seem to be labeled. That’ll make them easier to sort and catalog. Seems odd that he lost party would leave functional weapons behind. And a healing potion. Clearly these people are amateurs. Definitely inexperienced considering they didn’t peg the trap at area 3 in case of quick exit.

Oh hey. Your current PCs did that, right?

Remember the rats are definitely in ambush if the party activated the fountain in 29 or hung out there for very long. Unfortunately, ambush doesn’t provide a direct benefit, it just triggers surprise checks which you can read about on page 189 of the PHB.

31 Caltrop Hall – Page 21

Note that the North wall of this chamber is only a half-wall. It’s not easy to know by looking at the tiny map. Nor does the description of the room make that entirely clear until you get into room 32.

Oh look! Lots of free caltrops.

32 Goblin Gate – Page 21

You notice we’re getting into goblins now. While it is, of course, possible to negotiate with the goblins, it is much more difficult at this point as we were warned about earlier. They’re hostile and probably even more so if your PCs have brought kobolds with them. Not to mention kobolds being aggressive in return. You’ll probably want the Social Interaction rules starting on page 244 of the DMG if the PCs want to sweet talk their way through.

33 Practice Range – Page 22

Another low wall bisects this room. Again, hard to tell on the map.

34 Goblin Stockade – Page 22

The PCs should have experienced enough in the citadel so far to be able to ask about everything but the twig blights and the fruit, depending on their starting rumors and Adventure Hooks.

The kobolds chained here are unlikely to join the party given their attitudes and the likelihood they will be dragged into combat if they do. Probably best to just have them leg it out of there as they seem quite likely to flee to safety at the first opportunity anyway.

Erky Timbers shouldn’t be relied on to fill in for a cleric properly prepared. He does one thing and one thing only. It’s nice to have two chances are turning undead if you have a regular cleric as well, but Erky is basically a 5th level commoner with limited use. The party can kit him out with a few found weapons and armor, but he is unlikely to be a significant combatant. He knows things though, and — for GMs with an acting bug — could interact with Meepo in amusing ways. Just don’t steal the show.

35 Trapped Corridor – Page 23

Tired of pit traps yet? No? Carry on then.

36 Goblin Bandits (x3) – Page 23

Here is a lesson for GMs making their own maps. To fill space on the map and save writing time, create multiple similar rooms and one description for all of them. This is the third such set of rooms just in this map so far. They have a sort of purpose, but they can get very same-y if you don’t spread them out with other, different, more interesting encounters in between.

For a laugh, put a bathroom in your own maps. No one ever includes bathrooms.

37 Trophy Room – Page 23

I wonder if Meepo knows the names of the wall kobolds here? Wouldn’t that be interesting?

The scroll case found here is the first link to further adventures in Forge of Fury later in the book, so it might be best to ensure that the PCs at least look at it if you intend to run through it.

Have fun with the dragon fight. Keep in mind the PCs only get help from kobolds and Yusdrayl in 21 if they return with the dragon alive.

PCs may realize that the dragon is targeting Meepo and use this to their advantage. This is called tactics and is perfectly acceptable. It’s not like Meepo is a full member of the party, is it? Remember that the kobolds don’t particularly care about Meepo’s wellbeing, so if he dies, no biggy. I wonder what that will say about the PC’s alignment if they allow that to happen?

39 Dragon Haze – Page 24

Clever PCs could try dragging fights in any surrounding rooms to this room to take advantage of the slight obscuring effect (PHB 183).

40 Goblinville – Page 24

This is, of course, essentially the same encounter as area 20, except with goblins. The twist here is bringing in the shaman, Grenel (read area 41 for the full story on Grenel), from the adjoining room. To challenge the party if they’ve been having an easy time of it so far.

If they’ve been having an exceptionally easy time, consider converting one or two non-combatant goblins into fighters just for fun. Be careful, though. If you hit them too hard here the PCs may not have enough juice for the final encounter with the bugbear chief and friends in the citadel’s last room.  Remember it is possible to circumvent this encounter through the hallway from 39.

41 Hall of the Goblin Chief – Page 25

If the PCs have been having a hard time of it, on the other hand, it might be best to let the shaman from here be pulled into area 40 if combat occurs there. I realize this seems counter to what I said in 40, but you have to decide which way to go with it based on the party’s performance so far. Removing the shaman from this room reduces some of the things that can happen to the PCs during the bugbear fight, but increases the difficulty of the fight in 40. Try to find a balance if you feel the need to do either of these things.

Of course, all of this is moot if the PCs can manage to negotiate their way around, and there is some complex potential negotiation here if it gets right down to it. Clever and glib-tongues PCs might be able to play Durnn and Grenel against each other. Perhaps they can even come up with a mutually acceptable solution to avoid the majority of combat. This presumes all sides can express their particular difficulties in some manner.

Finally, a near guaranteed encounter with a twig blight. I suppose PCs could back track and ask questions about twig monsters and such if they wanted to, but that seems an unlikely course of action. At this point it's probably best to just carry on.

No fair pushing people down the shaft. Unless you push them really hard and really fast. That’s 8d6 potential damage if you can manage it; enough to seriously wound or kill most PCs at this level. And then they have to deal with everything in 42 of The Grove, if they survive.

Good luck to PCs attempting to get proof of another lost adventurer’s death off Durnn if you’ve negotiated a ‘peaceful’ conclusion to this encounter. Unless the PCs notice and think to make it part of the negotiation. Maybe they’ve had the signet ring or the armor described to them at some point? Maybe a DC 15 Perception check could help?

This concludes the Fortress Level of Sunless Citadel. PCs should have enough experience to make level two  and then some by now. Might be a good idea to take a breather before heading into the next section.

Summary

The Sunless Citadel Fortress Level as presented in Tales from the Yawning Portal isn’t too bad as dungeon crawls go. Aside from the final encounter, if negotiated, there’s nothing terribly complex about any of it. Despite some minor logic holes — which clever GMs will take as cues to fill in some details specific to their own campaigns or worlds — everything hangs together fairly well and provides a consistent experience. Some players and GMs may find certain sections of it to be a bit tedious, particularly when they start running into the three different sets of duplicated rooms and repetitive pit traps, but it does slowly ramp up into more and more interesting things, clearly leading into the second half of the adventure.

It doesn’t feel as if we are learning much about the citadel itself and what happened here. The most interesting feature, it’s sunkenness, is only so far explained as the result of some sort of undefined magical cataclysm. It’s interesting that it sunk, but once inside it, it doesn’t seem to matter aside from the fact that some minor details of it are used to explain the presence of a few NPC critters. There’s no twisted hallways, fractured rooms, or other things to suggest that something bad happened here. Perhaps that gets developed further, later, but it doesn’t seem so.

I realize we’re a couple of years into the release of Dungeons Dragons 5e and that Sunless Citadel was meant as an introductory adventure to a previous edition but, they still do bill it and praise it in Yawning Portal as a brilliant beginning adventure. The problem is, there is enough left out, between book references and details it would be useful for the GM to have, that many new GMs will spend time looking up rules instead of playing the adventure. Pushing all the stats for some major NPCs into the appendices will mean flipping back and forth to get the information a GM needs to properly run them. This promises to be a problem for the entire book. Add to that the need to not only look up other creatures in the Monster Manual, but to also then adjust their stats in many cases and what you end up with is a decent adventure that is fiddly to run.

Average care by the PCs should see them successfully through the Fortress Level in one or two sessions depending on exactly how methodical they want to be. Careful parties will, of course, take longer and they likely won’t be much better off for it. Hasty players will actually run into some problems that may see them a little worse for wear by room 41.

In the next Fiddleback vs. Tales from the Yawning Portal, we’ll head into the Grove Level and see what awaits us there.

Fiddleback vs. The Sunless Citadel, Part 2

Fiddleback vs. The Sunless Citadel, Part 2

Fiddleback vs. The Yawning Portal - Intro

Fiddleback vs. The Yawning Portal - Intro