Monday, April 10, 2017

Tales from the Yawning Portal Part 1

Tales from the Yawning Portal Part I (The Sunless Citadel)

Hey Game fans, we’re back with a look at the brand new hardcover adventure compilation Tales from the Yawning Portal.  We’re going to break down each one of these adventures and take a look at the adventure as it’s presented and compare it to its original presentation from a previous version of dungeons and Dragons.  Our quest begins fittingly with the The Sunless Citadel.

The Sunless Citadel

In brief, The Sunless Citadel was originally written by Bruce R. Cordell and released in 2000 as part of the first wave of releases for the brand new 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons line.  It’s an introductory adventure that features exploration and dungeon crawling, two of the hallmarks of the fantasy RPG genre.  Bruce’s work in this book, and the work by Todd Lockwood and Dennis Cramer helped establish the look and the feel of what adventures would look like in this era.  The original version of The Sunless Citadel is a 32 page, soft cover adventure, and is part of a larger linked campaign of modules that starts with The Sunless Citadel and concludes with Bastion of Broken Souls.  

Notable Contributions to the D & D Universe:  The Gulthias Tree (which reappears later in the Curse of Strahd Hardcover), Twig Blights (An interesting new monster in the 5th edition Monster Manual)

Those of you interested in picking this one up can pick it up at DM’s Guild for about $4.99 in its original 3.0 format.  That link is

Tales of The Sunless Citadel

This iteration of The Sunless Citadel is the first adventure in the Tales from the Yawning Portal.  Like it’s previous incarnation, this version is the first adventure offered in this hardcover compilation and it’s the perfect starting point for a party of 1st level characters.  The adventure kicks off in the small town of Oakhurst.  


For any number of reasons, adventurers are called on to explore the ancient fortress known as the Sunless Citadel.  Within its ancient walls are dangerous monsters, fearsome traps, and glittering treasures.  Will the adventurers discover the ancient secrets beneath this ancient complex, or will they fall victim to it?  


This is an adventure ideally suited for 1st level characters.  Characters completing the adventure should be third level after the finale.  This adventure is ideally suited for first time dungeon masters and is rife with suggestions on placing the adventure and managing unusual situations that come up.  

Adventure Breakdown

The Sunless Citadel is broken up into four key areas, one of which is the starting location of Oakhurst.  I’m going to briefly go over each location and how they fit into the greater story narative.


Oakhurst is the home base for the adventurers in this chapter of the book.  It’s a safe place to rest and rearm between forays into the Citadel, and the first time through, it can provide extremely useful information about the complex and some of the strangeness going on around inside.  If this is your first experience with Dungeons and Dragons (and believe me, there are far worse adventures to cut your teeth on), take your time and interact with the town.  Try some friendly skill checks with the locals, and interact with the people around you.  Get used to the idea of D & D before you proceed into the next area.  

Kobold Den

One of the easiest access points for the larger citadel complex has recently become occupied by a fairly large tribe of kobolds.  These are usually quite challenging monsters to run into head on, perhaps they can be reasoned with, or you can work out some sort of an arrangement with this tribe of humanoids.  There are alternatives to fighting, it you so choose, but you can always let your violent urges win out.  You can pursue the pathway deeper into the citadel however you like.  

Goblin Lair

Deeper into the adventure site is a firmly entrenched tribe of goblins.  They are far more hostile than normal, and if the adventurers are going to press deeper into the site, they are probably going to have to go through the goblins.  This is an excellent series of opportunities to get used to the nuances of combat, and if it happens, go for it.  Goblins have been a staple bad guy for low level adventurers going on 40 years now.  Enjoy the opportunities to explore and look around this environment.  

Hidden Grove

Finally, the characters have broken through to the lower levels of the Citadel and have to investigate the truth to the rumors that have been floating around the area for nearly a decade.  The first boss fight of their young careers awaits them.  This is a serious combat encounter and should be treated as such.  Be ready for the challenges that face you, and you just might make it through to the other side.  


This adventure is ideally suited for teaching new folks the ins and outs of a site based adventure.  It’s a prototypical dungeon crawl, and is filled with monsters, traps, and treasures.  It follows a fairly straight forward plot of moving from one section to the next and overcoming the obstacles located within.  In this regard, it’s wonderful tool for new players on both sides of the screen to learn how to play the exploration and dungeon crawling side of Dungeons and Dragons.  

The other very friendly thing for a new DM is that the citadel dungeon itself is much larger than the section this adventure covers.  If you’re looking to expand this complex out, that’s certainly a viable option.  You’ve got a ready made base of operations to work out of, but eventually, the characters will need to expand outside of the resources they can find at Oakhurst to continue their explorations of the larger citadel complex.


The same features that make this adventure a wonderful starting point for new players can be disadvantages for more experienced folks.  The adventure does run in a linear fashion and features extremely traditional fantasy bad guys.  Players who’ve been around the block a couple of times may find some of this adventure’s charms to be lacking.  

Thoughts and Conclusions

I like this iteration of the Sunless Citadel and what it represents for adventure building in 5th edition.  There are scores of old adventures that fans who’ve started playing with 5th edition will have never heard of, and worse, they’d have to learn a completely different edition of Dungeons and Dragons to play them.  This modernization project is a wonderful opportunity to present these classics to new audiences.  

The Sunless Citadel has been a classic starting adventure since 2000, and this new iteration shares the same features that made that original a classic.  It’s a fairly straightforward adventure that understands the story it’s trying to tell.  It uses appropriate encounters and challenges to test the characters’ capabilities, and the imaginations of their players.  Grab your Copy of Tales from the Yawning Portal, and your friends.  There’s a pile of dungeons to explore.

Game On, Game Fans

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