The Sunless Citadel Campaign Resources

TFTYP Cover title

The Sunless Citadel is the first adventure presented in the 5th edition compilation book, Tales From the Yawning Portal. It is an introductory adventure, first developed for the 3rd edition D&D back in the year 2000. Designed for PC levels 1 – 3, the adventure dungeon has two distinct levels. The first has an interesting dynamic between two rival tribes (one kobold and the other goblin) as they vie for control of the upper level. In sandbox fashion, the players can choose which faction to support and have a variety of ways to acheive victory. The second level is a classic dungeon crawl as the party works to defeat a mad Druid who controls an evil tree borne from the corpse of a vampire and his army of blights. The players also have to contend with the remnants of the evil cult that built this citadel, and there’s even a petulant dragon.

Sunless Citadel 3e Cover 1

What follows is a complete overview of our experience playing this adventure. Bear in mind that my players were all 5th level when we started the adventure, so I had to boost most of the monsters in abilities or numbers to make it challenging for my players. Also, we played this campaign during the 2020 pandemic, so I also discuss our successes and our failures at playing the adventure remotely.

There are four sections to my overview:

The Campaign Diaries – Our heroes go on a quest for a missing group of adventurers, led by a strange man and his miniature giant space-hamster.

The Maps – All the maps that I used to run The Sunless Citadel, including some custom maps. The Player Maps have all hidden locations, traps, and secret areas removed. They are also great for a virtual tabletop.

The Images – They say a picture tells a thousand words, so I included all of the images I used to help tell my story, including those found in the original printing of the module.

The Extras – I used very few handouts during this adventure, mostly because we played the entire session virtually via Zoom. So here, I included all the steps I took to run the game remotely and how to create your own Fog of War maps. As for the handouts, I usually print them using a variety of construction and specialty papers cut to fit my printer. The Handouts can be printed as is or used as a starting point for your own creative spin.

If there is anything else that you think I should have here to help you run your own campaign, please leave a comment.

 

Campaign Diary

 

SC 1 Kobold thumbSession 1 – Our heroes agree to commit goblin genocide for the price of a single iron key, and then get trapped behind enemy lines.

 

SC 2 Hobgoblin thumbSession 2 – Our heroes storm the goblin camp. They almost get wiped out by some rats, rescue a creepy gnome and impersonate a god.

 

SC 3 Blights thumbSession 3 – Our heroes invade the lower level. They kill some stuff, add to their menagerie, and one hero turns Chaotic Stupid.

 

SC 4 Druid thumbSession 4 – The penultimate conclusion. Our heroes fight an epic battle with wizards & druids & trees, oh my. Oh, and there’s a vampire.

 

SC 5 Dragon thumb

Session 5 – The actual conclusion. Our heroes finally get that iron key and instantly regret ever wanting to see what it opened.

 

The Maps

I prefer the maps that come with the Yawning Portal reprint to the original, but both of them have a few minor issues. The first is that the map does not include every trap listed in the adventure and I found that I would forget to include it during gameplay, so I added all the traps on my modified map below. I also included more traps which I indicated with a blue “T” and describe in the applicable session diary. Second, it alway bugged me that the goblins do not have their own entrance to the Citadel. It makes no sense that they have to go through the Kobold area to enter or exit. I added a series of rock ledge “stairs” north of the Guard Room #36. Lastly, I changed the nature of Room #7 significantly and I altered the map to reflect this.

Sunless Citadel Level 1 mod DM
My modified DM map of the upper Fortress Level of the Citadel
Sunless Citadel Level 1 mod PC
Sunless Citadel, Fortress Level – PC Map (modified with my changes)
Sunless Citadel Level 1 orig PC
Sunless Citadel, Fortress Level – PC Map (based on the official dungeon)
Sunless Citadel Level 2 DM
Sunless Citadel, lower Grove Level – DM Map (I made no changes to this map)
Sunless Citadel Level 2 PC
Sunless Citadel, Grove Level – PC Map
Sunless Citadel Original maps
The Area and Town maps from the original module
The Sunless Citadel
Original Sunless Citadel Fortress Map
The Sunless Citadel
Original Sunless Citadel Grove Map
Sunless Citadel isometric
An interesting isometric map of the Fortress Level. I do not know who the artist is.
Sunless 1 Battle map clean
My Battle Map of the Final Fight on the Fortress Level with the Hobgoblin Cheiftain. The Purple Circle is a giant pit with an 80 foot drop and vines to climb down.
SC Grove Battle map clean
My Battle Map of the BBEG Fight with Belak and his forces on the Grove Level. The Gulthias Tree sits along the southern wall near the stream which I added for the subsequent vampire fight.
SC Tomb Map
My Battle Map of the Dragon Priest Tomb at the end of the adventure. A secret door links the Yellow Dragon Riddle Room to the Blue Honor Guard Room.

 

 

The Images

I’ll start with the pictures that came with the 5th Edition reprint presented in Tales From the Yawning Portal, followed by those that were drawn for the Original publication, and then I’ll include a few others that I appropriated (i.e. stole) from other sources.

Sunless 1 Meepo
Meepo, the Kobold Dragon Keeper, who is the first NPC the players meet in the dungeon.
Sunless 1 Yusdrayl
Yusdrayl, the Kobold Chieftain, and more importantly, the key your players need to get into the Dragon Priest Tomb.
Erky crop
Erky Timbers, a Gnome adventure and goblin captive, who can also join your party and seems to know a bit too much about the dungeon and its inhabitants.
cryovain crop
Calcryx (or Cryovain, depending on who you ask), the White Dragon Wyrmling and the object of Meepo’s quest. Unfortunately, he will attck Meepo on sight. 
Balsag full
The poorly named Balsag the Hunter and his two rat “hounds, Grip and Fang.
SC Villains full
An awesome picture of the Twilight Grove, The Gulthias Tree, Belak the Outcast, and his two thralls, Sir Bradford and Sharwyn Hucrele.
Dragon Statue crop
The Dragon Riddle statue in the Dragon Priest Tomb.

 

From the Original 2000 printing of the 3rd Edition D&D Adventure

SC crevice
The crevasse into which the Citadel fell hundreds of years ago.
The Sunless Citadel
The minor tomb (Room 27) that has the Night Caller whistle on an altar.
The Sunless Citadel
The horrific vermin from Rooms 28 – 30 that nearly decimated my party.
The Sunless Citadel
Calcryx / Cryovain, but it shows the size of the wyrmling better than the previous picture.
The Sunless Citadel
Another shot of Balsag and his rats. He must have been a favorite of the author.
The Sunless Citadel
The Twilight Grove, some Twig Blights, and the druid’s giant frog, Kulket.
The Sunless Citadel
The Dragon Priest’s Tomb. One of my favorite pictures.

 

A few extras from unnamed sources.

Minsc
Minsc and Boo, the greatest NPC duo ever created, and my quest giver of the adventure, streamlining all the story hooks into one hamster.

 

Kobold Inventor
My Meepo reimagined as a Kobold Inventor, complete with sacks of centipedes, a skunk in a box, and a scorpion on a stick.
twig blights
The best image of twigh blights I’ve ever seen.

 

The Extras

I only used one handout during the adventure and of course it has a typo in it where I refer to the Hobgoblin Chief by the wrong name. But it does do a good job of answering most of the story’s questions should the dialog with Belak go as poorly as it did in my game. Plus, it gives a method to restore the enthralled adventurers should you desire that.

SC Belak Journal

 

Fog of War

Due to the Pandemic, we began the adventure playing remotely. There are a number of wonderful products and websites that facilitate this style of  roleplaying, but I was curious to see if it could be done completely for free. It can but it wasn’t great. It was functional but it requires a fair amount of pre-planning and a lot of forgiveness from your players.

We generally play on a dining room table, but for remote play I set up a card table inside our home office. The battle mat goes on the card table and the two boys sit there. I am next to the table and next to the office desk which has the computer on it. The computer will have the map of the dungeon which I have loaded into Photoshop to run a poor man’s Fog of War for the dungeon. I then set up three camera phones (mine and the boys’). One camera is propped up to view the computer monitor, a second is on the desk looking at the players, and the third is attached to a flexible floor lamp, looking stright down at the battle mat on the table. I set up a Zoom call between the three phones and my remote players’ Ipad and we had a rough-around-the-edges but free Remote D&D session.

Sunless 1 Remote setup
My phone is set to record the dungeon, while it is linked to the phone one foot away looking at the players.

My biggest task for this play was creating the Fog of War effect for the dungeon. I used photoshop and here is my step-by-step method for creating your own.

Make Fog Step 1
1. Load the dungeon into photoshop and create a new layer that is all black and is the same size as the map. On the right hand side, in the layer list, hide this layer so you can still see the map.
Make Fog Step 2
2. Using the selection and lasso tools, create a form that includes just the details of each room, individually. Then Cut and Paste that object creating a new layer. The layer will be directly on top of the original; leave it there. I have moved this room over for display purposes.
Make Fog Step 3
3. Label this new layer with the dungeon room number and move the layer so that it sit above the Black Fog of War layer.
Make Fog Step 4
4. Repeat this process for every room, trap, and secret door in the dungeon. Then using the Hide & Unhide function, turn on the Fog of War layer and turn off all the “Rooms”
Make Fog Step 5
5. Now, when players explore a new room simply turn on that particular Room’s layer, revealing what the players have just discovered, but leaving the rest shrouded in mystery.

 

Miniature Montage

Now I may not have had many handouts, but I did paint over 50 minis just for this adventure. Here’s a gallery of most of them.

SC minis factions
15 kobolds, including Meepo & Yusdrayl, 15 goblins, including a shaman, a king, and a nilbog, and the Hobgoblin Warlord, Durnn
SC minis NPC
Minsc & Boo, Calcryx / Cryovain, and Erky Timbers, possible vampire minion
SC minis zoo
Balsag the snickering Hunter, Grip & Fang, now upgraded to wolves, and the Xorn with a fondness for pennies.
SC minis grove
The whole phylum of Blights (twig, needle, & vine), Belak the Outcast, Sir Bradford, Sharwyn, and the Gulthias Tree which is just a stick that I found in my yard.
SC minis vampire
The Vine Creeper that burst out of the dying tree, the resurrected vampire, Gulthias, plus Jot the Quasit and the Dragonpriest whose name is forgotten to time.

So that’s about it. If there is anything else that you wish I had included in this Sunless Citadel Resource Guide, please let me know.

And if you like these Resources pages, then check out the ones I’ve created for the other campaigns I’m running at the D&D Campaign Resources Page.

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As always, it’s better to show than tell, and Game On!