Sunless Citadel: Reflection and Review

Greetings everyone! With my party having conquered the rigors of The Sunless Citadel I now want to reflect on this module.

General Overview:

The Sunless Citadel was originally created as an introductory adventure for D&D Third Edition, several parts of the module contained tips and tricks for DMs, as well as some nice explanation of how to run an adventure. These are really nice features for any starting DM, and don’t get in the way for experienced DMs. This adventure also converted really easily to 5e.

If you have been following my blog then you can see how my party did, as they advanced through the dungeon. One important thing to keep in mind is that I tweaked and outright changed some things to make the adventure fit my group and campaign world better, as well as make it more exciting.

Some major tweaks I did included making the Gulthias Tree come to life to attack the party. I felt like while Belak was a decent villain, he didn’t inspire the awe that a giant blood sucking tree would. I also felt like the adventure was written emphasizing the tree rather then Belak, after all the tree was creating the fruit, Belak was just studying the tree. By making the tree able to attack, I gave a better conclusion to the adventure, and created an challenging final combat.

Belak

I also swapped out a LOT of the dragon iconography, which originally filled the ruins, in place for death imagery, so that this would more clearly be the ruins of a Death’s Head Cult base. This was easy, it flowed fine, and allowed some of the monsters to make a bit more sense, like the skeletons.

Finally, I added in the cultist to the town. To see my discussion of how that session went look here: https://theroomfillswithwater.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/the-sunless-citadel-session-2/. While I think my use of the cult was a little clunky, I also think this helped the party view the town and the dungeon as connected, and had them thinking about the region as a whole.

Player Reception:

Overall I think my players had a blast. Everyone got their moments to shine. The adventure provided a nice blend of social, environmental, and combat encounters. I also think the various portions of the dungeon felt different, which kept the party engaged.

Aman’s player had actually played through this adventure before; however, thanks to my subtle tweaks he didn’t realize it, until well into the adventure, and even then he said that he didn’t know what to expect.

The players all voiced that they really liked fighting the tree at the end of the adventure, so for those of you considering running this module I strongly suggest that switch. To create the tree all I did was take the stats of an Ogre, give it the ability to attack twice with either the club attack (branch smack) or the javelin attack (needle burst). The AC and HP were the same, but the tree couldn’t move, took double fire damage, and if a creature was bleeding out on it, it healed 1D8+3 damage.

Cons:

I will start with things I thought were bland or bad in the module, that way I can end on a positive.

Twig Blights

twig_blight

I really like this creature, they are different, they are spooky, and they are good challenges for level one parties. However, with the way the adventure is written, the party will almost never fight these monsters, until they are level 2-3 and by that point they really aren’t scary at all. They fall apart versus a stiff breeze, and make Kobolds and Goblins look like heavy hitters. If I were to run this adventure again, I would seriously consider adding some unnatural grooves earlier in the dungeons, in order to have the party fight Twig Blights when they are actually a threat. Or just have most of the twig blights out in the wilderness to attack the party on the way to the citadel. Later in the adventure I would double or even consider tripling the amount of twig blights if they are all that is being encountered.

Repetition

Due to the wide range of monster groups in the Sunless Citadel, the dungeon itself is HUGE. It also has many, many repeating rooms, basically guard rooms with the same creatures, armed the same, doing the same thing. I get why they are in there, as it makes sense, but it requires some real thought to mix up how these monsters will fight the party, otherwise these encounters will become quite boring! The size of the dungeon also can be a little daunting, but I liked this as it allowed two rival tribes of humanoids to exist in one area, with it still making logical sense.

Lack of Traps

The dungeon itself had very few traps, which I find a little disappointing. I actually added a couple here and there, to reward my party for being cautious. I think traps are something that can allow dexterous characters to really shine, so if I were to do this adventure again, I think I would add a couple more tactically placed traps.

Pros:

Multiple ways to overcome Enemy Tribes

This module had a brilliant twist, in that the party could interact with, and make a deal with the Kobolds. This makes the dungeon easier for them to navigate, and could make the goblin tribe much easier to conquer. This was a really nice addition to the adventure, and sets the precedent that the party should be thinking about NPC creatures as more the bodies to kill for XP and loot. Really nice touch!

Nice Blend of Monsters

This dungeon had a very nice range of different monsters to fight. It wasn’t just Kobolds and Goblins, there were Giant Rats, Skeletons, Hobgoblins, Twig Blights, and others! This made the dungeon very fun for me to run, as there was variety. The creatures chosen also made logical sense for the setting.

There was a Dragon!

White_dragon_Wyrmling

This is a huge pro for me! Most players are fascinated with the idea of fighting a dragon, but have never actually faced them. For a game called Dungeons and Dragons the actual Dragons in the game are quite rare. This makes sense as they are rare and exotic creatures; however, anytime I have the chance to use one in an interesting and unique way I consider that a win. I also think, while the encounter with the Dragon wasn’t particularly difficult, just having it really added something to the adventure.

Perfect Amount of Treasure

Granted I tweaked when and how much treasure the party received, but not by that much. This adventure gave what I see as the ideal amount of treasure and loot. Not too much, but not so little as to be unexciting. Perhaps most importantly it only had a few opportunities where having a magical item available made sense, which works extremely well in 5e.

Conclusions:

Overall, I had a lot of fun DMing The Sunless Citadel. I think it is an ideal introductory adventure, but can also be quite rewarding and challenging for veteran players, with some subtle tweaks. While I don’t foresee myself DMing this adventure again anytime soon, I have no regrets buying it, nor choosing it to be the first adventure for my campaign. If you are looking for a starting adventure module, that is nuanced and interesting, consider giving The Sunless Citadel a try!

 

 

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Product Review: Empire of Imagination Gary Gygax and the Birth if D&D

Empire of Imagination

Hi everyone! I have recently just finished reading Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the birth of Dungeons and Dragons, by Michael Witwer, and I wanted to share my thoughts.

I really enjoyed this book. It was written in a engaging style, really attempting to depict Gygax’s personality, as well as his actions. Each section is broken up by D&D styled descriptions, with a character that clearly represents Gary Gygax in each scene. At first these short narrations were jarring; however, once I grew used to them, they provided a nice start to new chapters of Gygax’s life.

Like many D&D players (or even modern gamers) I have always been aware Gygax helped create my modern gaming lifestyle; however, I knew very little about Gygax himself, where D&D came from, or how it evolved. This book was the answer to my ignorance.

The first half of the book discusses Gygax’s childhood, his gaming life, and the threads which eventually led to the creation of Dungeons and Dragons. A great deal of detail is given to specifically the processes and concepts that created original D&D, and how that evolved into Dungeons and Dragons Advanced. This was completely fascinating, and even gave me some nice reflection on the original concepts of DMing and D&D.

Later details of Gygax’s life are given in a whirlwind, almost like snippets into specific moments in his life, rather then the indepth coverage given to the early years of gaming and creation of D&D. While I would have loved to hear more about Gygax’s later life and career, the title of the book really makes it clear where the focus is going to be. Be prepared to only gain glimpses into what Gygax’s life was like during the glory days of D&D, and his later downfall.

Rather then go further into the details Witwer does an excellent job covering, I will say that this book is an excellent read, and anyone interested in the birth of roleplaying games, and arguably modern gaming, should give this a read. Gygax’s life had controversies, betrayals, hardship, but also great friendships and creativity, the perfect formula for a riveting biography. Rather then getting bored and skipping over parts I found myself looking up additional information after finishing the book, always a sign of great writing!

I would love to hear thoughts on this book. If you have read it did you like it? Are you considering reading it?

Product Review: Out of Print Sources for Character Ideas

Hello everyone! Today I bring another product review, talking about Masters of the Wild, Tome and Blood, and Defenders of the Faith. These books were part of a series, that focused on a group of specific classes, picked them apart, discussed how they would play, and provided new feats, rules, and prestige classes. I don’t actually own the books that talked about Bards and Rogues, or Fighters and Monks, but I am sure they are equally as useful.

defenders of the faith Masters_of_the_Wild_coverthumb Tome_and_Blood_coverthumb

While the new rules in these books is nice, their real value is in the chapters they have which cover ideas and concepts, rather then rules. Each of these books was filled with amazing ideas that can be utilized in any fantasy roleplaying game. For example, Defenders of the Faith has an excellent section on playing an effective Paladin, discussing topics such as the Paladin “Code.” This section talks about different rules you may consider applying to your Paladin, to represent their Lawful alignment.

It should be noted that a lot of the concepts are covered before and during discussions of specific classes, prestige classes, and other very rules centered content; however, unless you are playing 3.0 I suggest skipping over all that and just read for the ideas and inspiration.

These books show why the best D&D books can be useful no matter what edition they were written for. The great thing about D&D is that the majority of the flavor and content for the game comes from free form imaginative exploration, which obviously has no limits based on hard rules. A cool concept for an urban Ranger, even if written with 3rd edition in mind, can easily be used as a springing off point for another edition, or even game!

As a DM I find flipping through these books can be very useful when I hit blocks during planning. I also show certain sections to players looking for ideas.

Well that is it for today, hope you enjoyed my discussion of these blasts from the past!

Product Review: Spellbook Cards for Classes

Hello readers! For many of you that frequently visit game stores you have probably seen this product, the Spellbook Cards for each class. They come in a little box and contain brief mention of what they are. They look like this:

Spellbook-Arcane-Cover

Normally I do not buy into many of the mini products that are put out as player aids. I often find that they cost more then they are worth. My Dad; however, is a big fan of D&D products, and so we bought him a set of Bard Spellbook Cards for his birthday. Surprisingly I am actually really impressed with these items. While not essential they are very useful and can help assist smooth and quicker play.

Nearly every D&D group has had the experience of passing the Player’s Handbook around the group as everyone simultaneously wants to look up spells, abilities, and rules. This can become quite cumbersome when a party contains multiple spellcasters and only one Player’s Handbook. Often the solution is to try to get more Player’s Handbooks; however, this is a rather costly solution. A great alternative is the Spellbook Cards. These cards give full details for all the spells in the Player’s Handbook, so they are a great quick reference guide for each spellcaster, without needing to purchase another Player’s Handbook. I was impressed the cards’ text is legible and well organized. These cards are also a great visual cue for players for what spells they have prepared for the day. Finally, instead of looking through a whole book, they merely need to grab the specific card and read it. Occasionally players will need to look up rules in the Player’s Handbook, but the Spellbook cards certainly cut down on this need.

The Spellbook Cards are also fairly priced with a range between $20-10, considering these could be used as frequently as a player sheet this seems reasonable.

Overall, while not essential to get gaming, I think the Spellbook Cards are a great addition to any D&D Gamer’s collection, especially for spell heavy classes like Wizards, Clerics, and Druids.

What do you think? Have you seen these cards? Have you used them?