5E TftYP - Running Sunless Citadel
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  1. #1
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    TftYP - Running Sunless Citadel

    Hi all - I'm running Sunless Citadel for 4 players this weekend (Barbarian, Rouge, Bard and Warlock) and would love any general thoughts, advice, tips and tricks for running it. 3 players have been part of my home brew campaign since the playtest while the 4th is brand new to 5e (has some 2e and 3.5 experience from 10+ years ago). Each player will also have a backup character ready to wander into the adventure should their first one meet an unfortunate end. I don't know what these characters will be, the only rule is they can't be the same class or race as their first choice.

    I'll be running in full "adversarial DM" style at the request of the players, so any good tricks for getting the most out of the monsters is fully appreciated.

    Also just curious as to how long most groups take to complete this module.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    Yawning Portal was dropped on me last weekend...so, I too am running Sunless Citadel.
    I would love any and all input on how everyone plans on running this. :-)

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  3. #3
    I'm currently running Sunless Citadel for two groups. They are two and three sessions in, respectively. We've had a number of near-death experiences, and three character deaths so far.

    In my opinion, you absolutely MUST use variant rules to bring this dungeon to life. This adventure was written for 3rd Edition, and the default 5th Edition rules are way too forgiving. If you want to recapture the terror and peril of AD&D and 3E, then you need to use the following variants:
    • Roll for Ability Scores
    • Variant: More Difficult Identification (DMG, p. 136).
    • Variant: Encumbrance (PHB, p. 176).
    • Variant: Training to Gain Levels (DMG, p. 131).
    • Variant: Wands Don't Recharge (DMG, p. 141).
    • Variant: Slow Natural Recovery (DMG, p. 267).

    Slow Natural Recovery is the most important of these, but even compared to 3rd Edition, it's very forgiving. If your players are down with it, then I recommend dropping Hit Dice altogether and simply having a long rest heal 1 hit point. Here's a thread I made, with more in-depth discussion.

    Also, the default passive Perception rules are TERRIBLE for classic dungeon crawling. Do not use them. Most of the DC's in Sunless Citadel are 15. One of my groups has a passive Perception 12; the other 16. So by the default rules, one group would miss every single trap and secret door, and the other would detect every single trap and secret door. That's too predictable and boring.

    Instead, I've adopted a method that I learned here (which I believe was part of the D&D Next playtest at some point). For every trap or secret door, take the DC to detect it and subtract by 9 (DC 15 - 9 = 6). The resulting number becomes a modifier for a 1d20 roll (1d20+6). If the result is lower than anyone's passive Perception score, then the trap or secret door is detected.

    There was a long discussion about this method, and where the 9 comes from, but I believe it was lost in the Great Forum Disaster of 2016.

    One other tip: Make full use of Nimble Escape. Goblins are sneaky, and they should be Disengaging or Hiding as much as possible. Just don't have them Hide mid-combat unless you want your players to employ the same tactic; instead, have them drop behind barricades or around corners, giving them total cover.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prakriti View Post

    Instead, I've adopted a method that I learned here (which I believe was part of the D&D Next playtest at some point). For every trap or secret door, take the DC to detect it and subtract by 9 (DC 15 - 9 = 6). The resulting number becomes a modifier for a 1d20 roll (1d20+6). If the result is lower than anyone's passive Perception score, then the trap or secret door is detected.

    One other tip: Make full use of Nimble Escape. Goblins are sneaky, and they should be Disengaging or Hiding as much as possible. Just don't have them Hide mid-combat unless you want your players to employ the same tactic; instead, have them drop behind barricades or around corners, giving them total cover.
    Thanks Prakriti! Will use the above two suggestions for sure. I love that variant on passive perception checks.

    As for resting, I was going to use a combination of a time pressure constraint and enemy reinforcements to combat long rests. Is the 1 or 2 Hit Die they could roll on a short rest really enough in your opinion to make the module to easy as written?

  5. #5
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    So, you (the DM) roll on all the Perception checks?

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  6. #6
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    Yes, for Passive Perception checks this allows for some randomness in the result.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by OB1 View Post
    As for resting, I was going to use a combination of a time pressure constraint and enemy reinforcements to combat long rests.
    This is certainly a possibility, but one of the things I missed about AD&D was the long stretches of recovery time. This gives the dungeon denizens time to prepare new traps and ambushes. Is the party tearing through encounters with tactic A? Well, the goblins have had 10 days to come up with counter-tactic B.

    Is the 1 or 2 Hit Die they could roll on a short rest really enough in your opinion to make the module to easy as written?
    Slow Natural Recovery didn't have as big of an impact as I was expecting. It's definitely a lot funner than the default rules, but you can still expect the party to be at full or nearly-full health after a long rest. Yes, the party will be resting a little more frequently, but it's not like AD&D where they had to hole up for several days at a time.

    That said, there's no perfect way to remove Hit Dice from the game without introducing new problems. For example, the fighter (with Second Wind) will laugh at your attempts to reduce his healing capabilities. Sure, you can make Second Wind a once-a-day ability, but I have a strong aversion to house-rules. Slow Natural Recovery has the benefit of being an official variant, and it doesn't introduce new problems, so I like it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Balfore View Post
    So, you (the DM) roll on all the Perception checks?
    Yes. Here's an example:

    The party has a Ranger with 14 passive Perception. They are walking toward a pit trap. The adventure text says: "It takes a successful DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check to detect the trapdoor's presence."

    You, the DM, roll a 1d20. Take the original DC, subtract 9 from it (15 - 9 = 6), and add the result to the d20 roll (1d20 + 6). This is the trapdoor's new DC.

    Example: You roll 1d20 + 6 and get (4 + 6 =) 10.

    Since the result is equal to or lower than the Ranger's passive Perception score of 14, the Ranger detects the trapdoor.

    If you had rolled 1d20 + 6 and gotten (13 + 6 =) 19, then the Ranger would not have detected it.

    This method has its basis in AD&D. For example, in 1st Edition, an elf had a 2 in 6 chance to automatically detect a secret door. So if the party came near a secret door, the DM would secretly roll a 1d6, and on a 1 or 2, the elf would detect it.

  8. #8
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    Don't make Meepo cute. That's obviously more of an aesthetic thing - I don't like cute monsters. My Meepo was bloodthirsty and disgusting.

    On the subject of passive Perception, do the following and you won't have to roll randomly: (1) Telegraph the existence of hidden things when describing the environment. (2) Ask your players which general task they are having their characters perform in the dungeon at the cost of not doing some other thing. (3) Establish marching order so you know who can detect what depending on the location of the hidden thing. (4) Resolve according to standard rules for passive checks.

  9. #9
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    As a player going through this now (I may not be able to respond to this thread later as I fear spoilers) I will say we're finding this more deadly than we're used to with 5e (and liking that). First encounter with rats nearly diseased the entire party and sent us back to town. FIRST encounter. And we wouldn't have the cash for a cure disease, so we'd have been sitting it out in an Inn, with actions to aid each other to try and make our saves, for days I think. The only thing that saved us was our party healer critting his medicine check (which I think was a house rule).

    Second or third encounter (I don't recall which) my character nearly died to a room full of skeletons - as I opened their secret door (having heard nothing behind it) and none of the rest of the party were nearby to help out that first round. Thwap thwap thwap on my poor fighter's head, and he was unconscious. DM could have probably killed me next round while I was bleeding on the ground, but decided the skeletons would probably react to the new guys trying to break them than the non-moving guy on the ground slowly bleeding.

    So yeah, so far pretty darn deadly, and we're only at the front door and first room.
    Last edited by Mistwell; Wednesday, 26th April, 2017 at 10:43 PM.
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  10. #10
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    @Prakriti - Don't have my DMG nearby, does Slow Natural Healing preclude the use of Hit Die healing during a short rest? I'm actually worried that taking that away might be too much, though I do like the concept of using Hit Die for long rest healing. Might go with my own variant where you have to roll your Hit Die when short resting or long resting outdoors but get the max on your Hit Die if long resting in a safe, comfortable location.
    @Mistwell - So it sounds like it may be plenty deadly enough without to much effort on my part! That's exactly why I'm having everyone come with back-up characters.

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