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.