The World of Ark

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Gem for the DM

Every Dungeon Master needs help sometimes. Today I want to talk about one of the best ever modules to help beginning Dungeon Masters, or even experienced Dungeon Masters who have beginning players. In fact, this module is good for anyone with any game...I'm not kidding!

The Sunless Citadel (from Wizards of the Coast, by Bruce R. Cordell) is perhaps one of my all time favorite modules from any version of Dungeons and Dragons. The primary reason is this: it is easily converted to any rules edition. It is also easy to place in any campaign (either yours or one already published by someone) and is easy for a Game Master to read through and be ready to run in very little time.

Other great factors to the game are that it has an awesome cover by Todd Lockwood that you can show the players to pull them into the game, many great interior illustrations to show the players (some below), and many hints and tips for both a Dungeon Master and Players. The module gives solid background for the DM to slowly reveal to the players so that they feel more immersed in the adventure, with unique items of magic and detailed items of treasure that make the entire adventure an all around great experience!

As I mentioned, the art in this module is really great and can help create the ever elusive "suspension of disbelief" that I love in my game. Several encounters and areas are given unique pieces of art that players will really appreciate. As a Dungeon Master, I really loved the art for younger players (like my children) who like to look at the images to help them imagine a fantasy world. Many new players of fantasy have a hard time getting out of our world, and so this is a great treasure in my opinion.

The Non-Player Characters included in the Sunless Citadel are awesome! Several are given their own art that help to bring them fully into the mind of both DM and player alike. More than just stat-blocks, they are given details which make them more than simply useful to the DM, they can easily become recurring NPCs to be used again and again...just Google "Meepo the Kobold" and see what you come up with!

My personal favorite NPC in this module is actually the Druid found within. Very non-traditional and fully in keeping with the time honored tradition of having an intriguing villain in a module!

I always look at the replay value in any module I purchase too...and this module delivers on the ability to use it time and time again. I have used it for two versions of Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D and D&D 3.5), for MERP (Middle-Earth Role-Playing) and even once for a Star Wars d6 (from West End Games) where the players were playing on a Medieval technology world in the Star Wars Universe that had not been found yet (and the Force was the magic of the world).

Where can you use such a great I said: anywhere!

  • In the World of Greyhawk I would place it somewhere that early adventurers could get to it easily. I placed it in the southern Wild Coast.
  • In the Forgotten Realms I would place it in either the Dales (likely somewhere near mountains) or in The North. I placed it south of Mulmaster near the town of Kurth.
  • In Middle-Earth, I placed it in the Ered Luin (or Blue Mountain) foothills south of the Tower Hills, and had decided the Goblins that infested the place were the corrupted descendants of the Elves taken by Morgoth. The Kobolds I replaced with other Goblins...the other monsters were easily replaced with Middle-Earth creatures as well.
  • In my Star Wars d6 game it was easy to replace the monsters with any number of alien species...and it was by far my greatest experience with the module!

So there you have it, one of the best modules you will find; easily adaptable to any game you want to play...and I certainly encourage you to play it!

It is easily found on E-bay, or even on DriveThruRPG.

Have fun with this one, and let me know how it goes!


  1. One thing this adventure does well, is act as a good transition for players moving to D&D 3.0 from earlier editions, by including examples of the new mechanics and class abilities, introduced in the new rules.

    An example of this is the possibility of opening one of the doors, via a channeling attempt. Something that didn't exist in earlier rules sets.
    There's also a lot of environmental challenges, so the players and GM get used to the rules for traps, climbing, swimming, and fighting on split level caverns.
    An NPC uses the sundering tactics, and I'm sure there are other combat maneuvers called out, to showcase the available options, so a player can think "I want my character to learn that!".

    The central premise of a magic apple tree I found a bit twee, for my vsion of Greyhawk, but there's no question that it's a better fit for a MERP game, considering that legendary shrubbery is a central part of Middle Earth lore (the White Tree of Gondor, the two trees of Valinor, the Ents, etc).
    Good call on spotting the potential there.

    1. Playing in Middle Earth is always fun when you can step outside of the bigger story line!