Is The Sunless Citadel a well-designed adventure module?

Is The Sunless Citadel a well-designed adventure module?

  • Yes

    Votes: 119 74.4%
  • No

    Votes: 29 18.1%
  • Other

    Votes: 12 7.5%


First Post
Is the D&D3 adventure module The Sunless Citadel a well-designed adventure module?


I’m not asking if you like it or had fun with it. I’m not asking if it is a great piece of D&D history. Just, is it well designed as a published adventure for general D&D play?

If it is, what could current module designers/authors learn from it? What should current module designers/authors try to emulate about it?


log in or register to remove this ad


Moderator Emeritus
I chose "other" - I have never read it, played it or run it.

But I must admit I am prejudiced against both 2E and 3E modules.


I had to change some of the layout of the upper level to get it to make sense. The choke-point of the whole complex -- the one room everyone has to pass through to get in and out -- was "controlled" by Meepo... I thought that was feeble. I added some extra walls/doors and remove some to make it possible for the goblins and the kobolds to move a bit more freely without intruding on each other's territory. And I removed Meepo.


First Post
I'll say yes. My appreciation for this module increased after having played it, I started DM'ing a homebrew. 1st level character are a bit tricky to design for, they are surprisingly and almost randomly fragile. Sunless Citadel is very good at sheparding characters into 2 level, and offering challenging but hopefully not lethal encounters.


First Post
I played through it, never DMed.

I think it is well designed. There are some bad decisions, but it was a good 1st level romp. The backstory is really interesting. What was it, a tree grown from a stake put through a vampire? that's cool.


First Post
I've DM'd it...I thought that it was well-designed. Except for the Meepo subplot with the recapture of the white dragon. A group of 1st level PCs trying to capture a young white dragon? I had a lot of laughs with that at my player's expense.


I've run it and it played reasonably well. There are some things I'd change about it if I ever ran it again but overall I think it was a fine module. It was darned easy to slot into my homebrew setting, provided some good diplomacy and RPing opportunities, and some memorable battles.

The worst design choice in it was the twig blights themselves. They get two attacks for 1d2 damage each and each successful hit requires a saving throw from the PC, who takes 1 more point of damage if he fails. Since these things attack in groups, the rolling wore a little thin after a while, especially in the fight with 10 of the buggers (that's 20 attack rolls per round for them alone, nevermind the potential number of saving throws).


What's not to like? It's a classic dungeon crawl with a big fight at the end. That's a tried-and-true structure to hang an adventure on. I enjoyed DMing it, and that cute lil' gnome Erky Timbers stayed on with the party as an NPC for years to come.

As far as what designers can learn from it, it's a reminder that an adventure for 1st level characters has to be very gentle, with low hp monsters, opportunities to flee or rest, and friendly NPCs to lend a hand.


First Post
I really think that Sunless Citadel (and the sequel, Forge of Fury) were quite good at doing what they were supposed to do: walk DMs and players new to 3.0 through a pair of interesting low-level adventures.

I've always had fun running both of them, but it wasn't until I started annotating my copy of a Sunless Citadel for an online game that I realized exactly how much work was built into the encounters. Whether it was the explanation of trip attacks or Climb checks or the design example of having doors unlocked by turn checks, I really enjoyed it.

There were weaknesses to it - the final battle is a bit hard for a standard group of 1st- or 2nd-level PCs, and the twig blights were problematic - but I think overall it was a most excellent adventure.
Last edited:


First Post
I would give it a 7 out of 10. It was a nice dungeoncrawl with some interesting stuff in it. But it also had quite a bit of cheesiness and there were some layout problems that made the dungeon less usable. Definitely the best post-2000 WotC module so far.



I haven't played/ran a lot of published modules, and I've only read a few more than that. BUT every adventure I read always has massive problems. This one doesn't.
Sunless Citadel...

-mostly makes sense
-had a plot hook that could easily be used to get everyone interested in the crawl
-offered an entire section that could be taken be force OR diplomacy OR stealth
-offered something for everyone (traps, undead, encounters with numerous low-hp critters, --encounters with bigger tougher creatures)
-had a personality-less 2hp NPC monster who has become a beloved icon. I think the EN World poll showed 50% of all Meepos somehow became inmportant to the party or campaign. There was just SOMETHING about the way he was presented.

The adventure was specifically designed for parties to try to use all of the new rules / classes / feats / skills and it shows. Also, the way they followed up on the Gulthias tree in Heart of Nightfang Spire was a great lesson on how to tie stuff together.

This module doesnt fall into the trap of having bad plot hooks, or making the rogue useless (or too important) or having incredibly silly monsters / traps / NPCs. Nor does it suffer from being completely boring and forgettable even if it is a level-1 adventure.


While not perfect, it was well put together. It was generic enough to fit into most campaign settings. The backstory was also pretty cool -- I liked the evil wood creatures.


First Post
The module was perfect IMO, Stevelabny and GwydapLlew pretty much nailed it.

It did ease the DM transition into 3rd edition rules, which in turn made for smoother gameplay and a very enjoyable time. I dont recall any weird and zany creatures, and it allowed PCs to use diplomacy as well as standard combat, all this from a introductory module.

While I may be a big fan of Bruce Cordell, this module was perfect IMHO. This module ranks among my favorites of all time. Good Stuff.


Community Supporter
I like it a lot. It has it's problems, but it's mostly good.

We had a lot of fun with the white dragon too. The image of the characters trying to bludgeon it unconcious with table legs to get it back to Meepo haunted them all the way til epic level!

An Advertisement