Sunless Citadel: Session 5

Greetings, my group recently played our 5th session of The Sunless Citadel. This particular session, while having some cool moments, was very unfocused, which caused the players to not get as much done. My group and I had not hung out for a while, and so we kept derailing into conversations with each other, eventually deciding to give up on play and just hang out a bit.

Also of note Milbee was unable to make this session, which according to Aldo’s player, deprived the party of Milbee’s unique form of focused chaos.

After a long rest, the party scaled down the vine covered walls of the gaping pit, descending even deeper into the Sunless Citadel. The vines they clung to were pale and glowed weirdly iridescent, lighting up the area in an shimmering glow.

The circular pit emptied into a compost filled room, with hundreds of glowing fungi within. Two robed figures stood in the corner of the room, mechanically shoveling and spreading compost from a large pile. The entire floor was covered in a squishy, earthy, and gooey layer, but the robed figures seemed unaware of the party. After a few seconds evaluating the situation the party attacked the robed figures, which slowly turned around farming implements raised.

The robed gardeners revealed themselves to be ghastly skeletons, and combat ensued.

skeleton

When combat started several Twig Blights popped out of the layer of compost and ran to assist the skeletal gardeners; however, three twig blights and two skeletons were no match for the party, which handily smashed the creatures apart. I did scratch Noble with a twig blight dealing 3 points of damage, but other then that the party largely conquered with no trouble.

The noise of the combat drew the attention of the neighboring room’s occupant, Durthu the Hunter, a bugbear, and his two hulking giant rat hounds Rip and Fang.

Bugbear 01a  The party quickly formed an excellent plan, in which Starfall used a spell to rapidly retreat down an opposite passageway, purposefully drawing the attention of Durthu and his hounds, while the rest of the party laid in wait hoping to ambush the hunter.

This was partially successful, with the bugbear cautiously entering the room, sending his giant rats rushing after Starfall. The party then sprung their trap and dealt some respectable damage to the bugbear.

Not intimidate a large combat ensued, with the giant rats Rip and Fang turning around to team up against Aldo, nearly knocking him out, while Durthu attempted to smash up the party with a wickedly barbed javelin. Some great threats passed between Durthu and Aman, with Aman claiming he would take the bugbear’s skull and drink out of it, brutal!

Despite the bugbear’s large reservoir of hitpoints the party quickly slew Rip and Fang, and knocked out Durthu for questioning.

Starfall while in wolf form, in a sadistic turn of events, bit off the bugbear’s ear attempting to intimidate him. Aman, piggy backing off of Starfall’s threats reminded the bugbear, and the party, that he would drinking ale from the bugbear’s skull.

On a side note, what is it about taking an enemy prisoner that turns nearly every D&D character into a twisted torturer!

Aldo and Noble using words and reason drew some information out of the bugbear, nothing really new; however, they did get him to agree to lead them through a backdoor, bypassing several guards on the way to the Twilight Grove.

Starfall, not satisfied with the deal, took the bugbear’s antler helmet, a trophy he had taken during one of his hunting trips. Incised the bugbear demanded his helmet back, and an argument ensued between the party. Eventually the party convinced Starfall to give the helmet back, while I only half jokingly contemplated giving all my creatures fake teeth filled with cyanide to avoid similar issues in the future.

Durthu then led the party through the dungeon, as he agreed, after which the party released him, after another brief argument, of course.

Here the party to my surprised pulled their act together and utilized an excellent combination of stealth and spells. Aldo, sneaking ahead, viewed many rooms similar to the first mushroom garden they found; however, in these bugbears dressed in floppy straw hats, equipped with rakes and hoes, tended to the crop. Several rooms branched off these gardens, with both skeleton and goblin workers doing odd jobs.

Aldo then used the Sleep spell to put two bugbear gardeners asleep, allowing the party to bypass not only these gardeners, but also the side rooms of enemies, moving directly along the path to Belak, and the end of their quest. Along the way Starfall took samples of the unusual plant growth to study later.

Sleep Spell

After a short hallway, the party came upon a room completely empty of the glowing plants they had grown accustomed to. All that could be seen were to glowing red circles, almost like eyes watching them.

Cautiously entering the room, the party saw the red light came from gaping holes in place of the eyes of a skull statue, which Aldo rightly guessed once housed precious stones. Several creepy statues stood around the room, and Starfall investigated one which had the inscription “Fear is the mind killer, Death is only the beginning.”

With that the flickering shadows created by the party’s torches reached out and attacked. One roughly human shaped shadow reached out of the statue clawing Starfall, two others sprung up attacking other party members.

Shadow

After the initial assault, and Starfall coming dangerously close to being turned into a shadow herself, the party struck back utilizing several radiant damaging spells, which quickly destroyed the dangerous creatures.

With both Noble and Starfall drained of a lot of their strength the party decided to take a long rest, and it is here we decided to stop.

I am curious, do other players (or even my players) find that captives often become points of contention between characters? If so does anyone have suggestions on how to solve this beyond making taking prisoners impossible? It is something that frequently pops up in my games and I always struggle with how to keep the questioning moving, character interactions reasonable, and then get the game back on track. If you have some thoughts on this, or anything else I have mentioned please post in the comments, I would love to hear from some of my readers :).

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed  this recount of my fifth session of The Sunless Citadel, it is my guess that next session will be the final one of this adventure, and lead into the next phase of this campaign :).

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10 thoughts on “Sunless Citadel: Session 5

  1. When a group takes captive, this is when you find out what individuals are actually planning and how much the group is working together. Some groups appear to work together well together but when different individual objectives for the future are exposed that is when CCHHAAAOOOOOSSSSS is released. And that happens no matter how good or bad a group is.

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  2. I could totally be wrong in this, seeing as I’m still a new DM, but one of the first things I told my players was they are going to have to do a lot of things in this campaign as a team. That means they have to be able to find their own in-character reasons for working together. I find that encouraging them to make decisions together on how to handle a situation works really well, along with giving them a time limit for the discussion (which can be from their prisoner starting to stir awake, or constantly rolling my dice to indicate the prisoner is trying to break free from bonds). It can create chaos if everybody has differing opinions and outlooks, but I like to focus on the team building part of the game and it can bring a new dynamic than just letting the torturer torture and everybody stays back. I will sometimes ask a quiet player “Do you agree with this character?” to encourage discussion and involvement – I have a handful of quiet players since this is the first time all of them have played. I try to emphasis working as a team doesn’t mean conceding, it means understanding your team.

    I hope that is somewhat helpful, or at the very least some viable input XD

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    1. Some great suggestions there mickeypanda thank you! A timer is a great idea, perhaps before said prisoner passes out and too vicious torture will cause this quicker. I think I should begin to work on the torture victim lying to get the torture to stop. Player team work is something I emphasize, but occasionally my players clash. They know each other well so it never leaves actual hurt feelings but it does bog game play.

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      1. Lying is a really great tactic I think. Especially if you want to test how confident your players are in their torture tactics. I have also seen some DMs have the prisoners just outright refuse to give information and the torture became so brutal that the NPC just died and nobody wins. In those situations, usually the NPC uses their dying words to say things like “You’ll never defeat [insert villain name here]” or “You’ll never survive the [insert situation/location here]”. I think that’s a good tactic too because it reaffirms a level of danger for the players and maybe force them to think of other ways to gain information than torture NPCs.

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  3. I had a situation recently where I where the prisoner took a crossbow bolt to the belly during the fight, so I put some pressure on them since he was dying similar to what MickeyPanda was saying. Someone just finished him off before they got anything useful out of him really though. The gift of mercy if you will.

    I have the most trouble when a character seemingly changes alignment just during interrogations. It’s happened so much with one player that I recently changed his alignment! But the way the party as a whole handles it is the important part. If you have any good characters in your party it’s tough to justify them just standing around while someone is tortured. Maybe depends on just how good they are, or how bad the enemy is I guess. Or what their sense of right and wrong is that makes them “good”. Anyway, I think it’s important to have a pulse on what your players think about this as you design encounters. If you know the party devolves into cannibals during interrogation you can plan accordingly (maybe you don’t have any interrogations, or give them an important reason to be cautious).

    Also I’ve seen players be very impatient during interrogations before. If they don’t get an answer to the first question they immediately give up or want to kill the captive. In fact I’ve had them kill captives they SHOULD have left alive but didn’t have the patience for. It might be important to reinforce that the interrogation is important and part of the game.

    wow, that turned into a ramble. haha. lost my focus somewhere in there.

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    1. I think I need to practice more with captives dying from to torture, giving unreliable info, or just passing out a lot. I may have to start switching alignments. Starfall though is a chaotic good Druid so changing into a wolf and biting a prisoner seems not too out of alignment.

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