Sunless Citadel (2000): Greatest D&D Adventures Since 1985—Number 8

Sunless Citadel (2000) is a third-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Bruce Cordell for levels 1-3.

When Dungeons & Dragons started, creating an introductory adventure must have been easy. The adventure setting could stick close to the mundane: back alleys and caverns. New characters lack magic and abilities likely to derail an author’s plans. Choose goblins, kobolds, or bandits. Sprinkle in rats and overgrown bugs. Done.

Twenty-five years into D&D’s history, when Bruce Cordell penned the adventure that introduced third edition to new and returning players, he faced a more demanding audience. His Sunless Citadel rates as the 8th greatest adventure since 1985. In a dungeon crawl, the adventure serves the monsters, treasures, and even the dragon that new players expect from D&D. Plus dungeon delves make an easy start for new DMs.

But Sunless Citadel serves much more than D&D comfort food. The adventure includes sweet and spicy ingredients. Start with a deeply evocative location: a castle dropped into a rift by some cataclysm. Add a lost dragon wyrmling, a tainted tree at the heart of the ruin, and an evil druid with a plan. That plan adds a story element that gives characters a goal larger than looting, plus a climactic final battle. In addition to the usual low-level foes, Cordell adds a fresh humanoid monster.

While many dungeons exhaust players with fights while neglecting interaction, Sunless Citadel encourages players to ally with the kobold faction and with one of D&Ds most beloved non-player characters. “One of the surprise folk heroes of The Sunless Citadel was the hapless and pitiful kobold Meepo,” Shannon Appelcline writes in a product history. Meepo brings a compelling personality and often becomes a party mascot or guide. “Gradually the name Meepo became recognizable in D&D canon.”

Tales from the Yawning Portal updates Sunless Citadel for fifth edition.

Next: Number 7.

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11 thoughts on “Sunless Citadel (2000): Greatest D&D Adventures Since 1985—Number 8

  1. alphastream

    I knew we would see Bruce Cordell again on this list! This adventure is a fan favorite. It really is a great example of what dungeons can offer. It is one of the top introductory adventures and stands out among the published 3E and 4E adventures that lacked the same narrative focus.

  2. Job

    I love the fact that meepo is mentioned. I have never had my players latch on to an npc as hard as meepo. The fact that its intended really solidifies this as a great adventure

  3. OZ_DM

    Level 1 I would say yes. Level 2 is just too linear and lackluster.

    But my players had a good time none the less.

  4. Pingback: Tomb of Annihilation (2017): Greatest D&D Adventures Since 1985—Number 9 | DMDavid

  5. Venger Satanis

    3 different DMs tried to run us through The Sunless Citadel. Our group thought it was just ok the first time, and the less said about subsequent efforts, the better.

  6. Kyle Maxwell

    The adventure also conceals a dick joke. I’m not kidding – look at the wording for the, uh, method of descent from the first level to the second level plus the name of the monster at the bottom. Reading the text out loud to my players was leaving them in stitches and it took me a bit to figure out why.

  7. David Martinez

    Now I’m thinking that Deekin from Neverwinter Nights was inspired by Meepo. Deekin was a great character who I always kept in my party, despite others having better abilities.

  8. Pingback: The 10 Greatest Dungeons & Dragons Adventures Since 1985 | DMDavid

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