I just finished my read-through of The Sunless Citadel 3e adventure module in Tales from the Yawning Portal. Upon viewing it has a whole, one thing really jumped out at me. The whole module has a tremendous sense of place. The Citadel is a character itself. It looms in the background of every scene, implacably watching the drama that plays out in it.
It took reading the module all the way through to really identify what it was about the setting that made it so special. The people of the town where the adventure starts, Oakhurst, whisper rumors of the dragon cult that previously occupied the citadel. The adventurers pass through a field ruined by a dragon’s breath. The corpse of a goblin is pinned to the wall at the entrance of the citadel with a spear. Removing the spear reveals the name of the dragon previously worshipped at the temple.
It doesn’t stop there. The citadel is filled with dragon statues, shrines, fountains and books. The traps, puzzles and altars of the cultists still menace and reward the adventurers. The history of the citadel is what motivates the kobolds to occupy. They plan to reconstitute the cult with their own dragon whelp.
The Sunless Citadel 3e Watches You…
The citadel feels alive and threatening. In some ways it is. Traps, yeah? Undoubtedly, it also threatens the presence of more powerful foes. Have some of the cultists survived? They players don’t need another faction to complicate the situation. Even worse, what if the dragon, Ashardalon, is still there? Or it’s offspring? This is an adventure for PCs starting at level 1. The players surely know there characters are not ready for those contingencies. Although the threat never materializes, it stalks the players through the halls as much as any of the real enemies.