Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Sunless Citadel #1: Down Into the Ground

I started running The Sunless Citadel, from the D&D 5E anthology Tales from the Yawning Portal, for my wife Erika and our two children over Memorial Day weekend. The party consists of four 1st-level characters:
Our heroes (L-R): Raven Flare, Sir Dain, Xuri, and Kalitni
  • Raven Flare, female tiefling rogue (urchin)
  • Kalitni, female human ranger (hermit)
  • Xuri, female blue dragonborn sorcerer (wild magic; sage)
  • Sir Dain (NPC), male hill dwarf paladin (knight)
We only have three players, but the adventures are designed for at least four, so we added Sir Dain as a NPC who will be run jointly by the players. (In practice, so far, Erika has been handling him while everyone is getting used to their own characters.) Dain is currently the party's only source of healing (through his very limited lay on hands ability), though Kalitni does have the Medicine skill. She and Dain will both get the option to learn healing spells at 2nd level, and I anticipate at least one of them doing so.

(Warning: Spoilers for The Sunless Citadel follow.) 

The party reached the village of Oakhurst, and heard about nearby ruins known as the Sunless Citadel. This site is rumored to be the former stronghold of a dragon cult (which piqued Xuri's curiosity) but is now inhabited by goblins (who Kalitni has been trained to fight). They also learned that another group of adventurers had gone to investigate the ruins and have not been seen since. That band included two members of the Hucrele family, a local merchant house, and the family matriarch has offered a reward for her kinsfolk's return (or failing that, proof of their fates). Before that party, the last person to ask questions about the citadel was a grim human named Belak, who came through Oakhurst 13 years ago. He and his pet giant frog haven't been seen since.

Aw, rats!
Every midsummer for the past decade or more, members of the local goblin tribe have come to the village to sell a single magical apple that cures all ailments. Whenever the townsfolk have tried to plant the seeds from one of these fruit, they produced a short, scrubby sapling that disappeared as soon as it reached a couple feet in height--stolen by the goblins to protect their monopoly, the locals believe.

The party had plenty of motivation to go investigate the ruins: Xuri's curiosity about the dragon cult; the reward for the missing Hucreles; solving the mystery of the magical fruit; and eradicating dangerous monsters from the area. 

On the surface, the ruins consisted of a small group of pillars flanking a ravine. The party found signs of campfires being made here a few weeks before, and a rope that descended into the ravine. At this point, the ravine opened up in a cavern that was too dark to see clearly from above. The rope led to a ledge below, from which stairs descended further down. On this first ledge, the party surprised a small group of giant rats, which they managed to dispatch quickly. 

As they continued downward, they could see a courtyard and tower at the base of the cliff--the only visible parts of a buried fortress. The rogue easily found and neutralized the pit trap in the courtyard, and the party entered the tower.

Inside, they found the bodies of a few goblins who had clearly been killed in a fight quite some time ago. This room had two other obvious exits, and Raven Flare found a secret door as well. The party checked the secret door first, and discovered a small chamber with three skeletons. These animated when the rogue entered, and their attacks knocked her unconscious. However, the paladin standing right outside the room kept the skeletons from swarming the others, and his warhammer smashed one undead after another. Fortunately, Raven Flare stabilized on her own, and Sir Dain revived her after the fight. The skeletons were equipped as archers, and each quiver held one magical arrow; the ranger, being an archer herself, claimed these.

The next door led to a partly-collapsed hallway which held a stone door decorated with the relief of a dragon's head, with a keyhole in its mouth. The lock proved beyond the rogue's ability to pick. She concluded that it must be magically locked as well, so they will need to look for a key elsewhere in the dungeon.

Mephits in the plumbing
The final door out of the tower led to a hallway with more doors. The first one they tried led to a small room that held a large, rusty iron keg fastened to the floor by pipes. The impulsively curious sorcerer opened the bung hole, which freed two imp-like elementals: a steam mephit and a an ice mephit. These monsters attacked immediately, but there was limited room for them to move in the room (which the party nearly filled on their own). I ruled that the cramped space would give the PCs advantage to attack them. The dragonborn breathed lightning at the mephits, which caused them to focus on her. Both mephits used their own breath weapons, blasting Xuri as well as her friends. (Kalitni, who was outside the room, had some cover against these attacks, but could still shoot her bow at the monsters. Dain was spared because the mephits couldn't hit him in the same cone as Xuri.) The party killed the ice mephit, who exploded; these shards of ice knocked out Raven Flare, and Xuri soon went down from the steam mephit's claw attack. Dain and Kalitni finished off the second mephit, and avoided its death throes. They then worked quickly to stabilize their friends.

(This was a pretty tough fight--not only did the mephits have area attacks--even in death--but they had twice as many HP as any of the PCs. Fortunately, just as we discovered in the Lost Mine of Phandelver game, the death saving throw mechanic gives characters a brief grace period to get help before they're dead and gone, which helps make lowly first-level characters a tiny bit less fragile.)

With half the party out of commission, they desperately needed to rest and recover before proceeding. The paladin and ranger dragged their friends to the secret room they had found earlier, which seemed an excellent place to hide and rest without being found by the dungeon's other inhabitants. Raven and Xuri revived after a short rest, but the rogue was still hurt, so the party decided to take a long rest as well. This let everyone recover hit points and Hit Dice, Xuri to regain spell slots, and Dain to regain his lay on hands pool.

(My main game, "Time of the Tarrasque," has hit a stretch of a few weeks when we can't meet, so I will try to fit in more Sunless Citadel over the next couple weekends.)

No comments:

Post a Comment