Game report: Sunless Citadel

Welcome to this new series of Game/Session reports on a (currently) nameless road-trip campaign, where I do reports of my D&D games with the LJF crew…more or less in character ^^ Let’s start with the first module used: Sunless Citadel. Well, I say “used”…let’s say that in this campaign the modules are, at best, loose aids ^^

Dramatis personæ

  • Naesala Naïlo: Foul-mouthed elven smith, the group’s tank, off-physical damage dealer and off-scout. Part-time sneak, part-time swordfighter, part-time translator, full-time trouble magnet (my character).
  • Irina Varden: Happy-go-lucky human swordmistress, the group physical powerhouse and off-tank. Part-time conscience and full-time monolingual member (Jackie’s).
  • Dessia: Wise dwarven priestess, Wee Jas’s faithful servant, the group’s healer, divine caster and off-magical damage dealer. Dwarven translator of choice and, while the pace-setter, generally not the one setting the group’s course (NPC party member).
  • Vasco: Aloof elven thief, the group’s scout and back-up arcane caster. Tend to be slightly more greedy than his fellow elves. Left the group on their first return to Oakhurst (Malcolm’s).
  • Dain Wintersheen: Dragon-obsessed dwarven shaman, the group’s buffer and tertiary physical damage dealer and tank. An font of dry humour who joined during their second go at exploring the citadel (Nick’s).
  • Dever Deveris: Terminally curious elven wizard, the group’s arcane caster and magical damage dealer. An endless source of more or less sane ideas joining during their last trip through the fortress (Beth’s).

Report

N.B. : This report was unfortunately done a fair amount of time after the fact and without the benefit of the logs, so errors are to be expected.

So, I left Adri Forest in order to finish my training in Knurl: according to the smith back home, the best blacksmiths are over there. While I was checking if I still knew some goblin («Vanakkam, khun mei pakka zwifi, zurbi et torbi?» …That should do.), I noticed that I hadn’t enough money left to pay for my prospective apprenticeship. The area not being amenable to…fund raising, I decided to find a mercenary job in the closest town, Oakhurst. On my way there, I found a fellow elf prey to a terrible lack of funds, one Vasco, and we decided to find a job together: whatever we’d need to do together being likely to pay quite a bit more than jobs we could take up alone. Once in town, two things jumped at us: first the gloomy atmosphere…which might be due to the half-destroyed buildings around. Second though were the prominent flyers for a group of mercenaries by the inn. Only 2000 gold coins but eh, money is money. So we went to the burgomaster’s house; met our two new companions over there — one Irina, wandering swordfighter and one Dessia, novice in the local temple of Wee Jas — and were informed of the nature of our mission by lady Hucrele, burgomaster by interim. Apparently the neighbouring ruins are inhabited by a tribe of goblins who are in the habit of selling magical apples in the area. However, they generally forbid people to plant these apples’ cores. Earlier this year, the burgomaster — lady Hucrele’s father — decided to try planting a core in their house’s courtyard. The goblins got wind of that, came in to destroy the sapling, raided the town and killed the burgomaster in the doing. Lady Hucrele’s brother and sister went into the ruins with a few warriors for a punitive expedition while she was left there to hold the fort a few weeks ago and they still don’t have any news of them. So our mission was to go to the ruins and try to save the members of the expedition. Barring that, to retrieve the siblings’ signet rings.

So, first things first, we went in town to get some information about the ruins…only things we learnt were that the ruins were also inhabited by a tribe of kobolds and that it was called the Sunless Citadel because a long time ago a green dragon happened and sank it into the ground. So after we slept and bought some supplies for the expedition ahead, we arrived to the rift left by the dragon. And of course, after abseiling on a tower, a group of rats were waiting for Vasco and I. We fortunately made short work of them and went down the tower to reach the courtyard…where another group of rats were waiting for us. These were killed quicker still, the only tricky part being when I accidentally triggered a pit trap when trying to flank one of the rats, but no one got hurt this time.

Once inside, we got our first taste of the conflicts we’d see across the citadel: the left-overs of a three-way battle between humans, kobolds and goblins. And a recent one at that… After yet another fight against rats, we found a secret alcove, disarmed the trap in the entrance and called it a day. After declining to explore the other hidden passage on the grounds that it didn’t seem to have been used for a long time, learning that Irina got poisoned against that last group of rats — and being convinced by her to continue exploring — we went north. In the first hall, we found a chapel with some skeletons and a dubiously enchanted whistle as well as a sleeping kobold…who lost no time hiring us on behalf of his tribe. So we were led to one Yusdrayl, elder of the kobold tribe, and hired to retrieve a young white dragon from the goblins in exchange of Glodayl — the sleeping kobold — serving as a guide in the goblin-held part of the complex. After accepting our new assignment, we headed north once more, fought another group of rats, found an exploring dwarf — Dain — searching some cells and convinced him to join in rescuing the white dragon.

Continuing deeper, we entered the goblin-held part of the complex where we quickly found a group of goblins trying to break in Icciarag — the white dragon we were to retrieve —, had an insults contest with them — that I won by virtue of being well-versed in far more languages than the goblins —, had a long and protracted fight with them and their reinforcements and had Dain & Irina put their foot down that they were here to rescue Icciarag, any capture attempt would be done by Glodayl. By his lonesome. In any case, that question quickly became moot because Glodayl got himself killed on the way back when during a subsequent melee he tried to take Icciarag and run while we were busy dislodging a group of goblins from their makeshift barricades and got frozen by the dragon for his troubles. Glodayl not being here anymore to rat us out, we went out to free Icciarag and did a short trip to town where Vasco called it quits, paid for a priest to heal Irina…and were alarmed by the dismal state of the common pot.

Getting back into the goblin-held area after having lost our guide, we found a few storage rooms with not much of interest and entered clan Durbuluk’s living quarters. A first melee in the main hall ended up with me getting the first group to throw down their weapons by sheer annoyance while the second fight against the chief ended in the shaman surrendering once we killed his boss. And in us learning of our boss’s brother’s fate and pocketing his signet ring, important that.

After receiving the clan’s surrender, upsetting the balance of power in the area and looting a few trinkets — some scrolls and a ring — we went to the kobolds to inform Yusdrayl of our guide’s death. Once learning of Icciarag’s get-away though, she turned on us. Oh well, another fight it is… I learned two important things during that fight: first, not all chiefs have any regard for their subordinates’ lives. Second, I don’t like Magic Missile.

After wrecking even further the balance of power in the citadel, learning that clan Durbuluk left for Knurl under their shaman’s guidance and another trip to Oakhurst to both inform our patron of her brother’s fate and get a pair of thunderstones to deal with spellcasters, we decided to postpone exploring the ground level further and went down the passage we had found in the goblin living quarters. On going down, we got our first encounter with murderous shrubbery and tangled with an axe-wielding hobgoblin going on about the Sublime Way. We got out of that fight a magical two-handed axe, that Irina’s fighting style apparently is part of the Sublime Way, and our first instance of something which will subsequently plague us: generally not being able to hit the broad side of a barn. Fortunately our enemies were also afflicted by that by then so the next fight against a bunch of creepy goblin cultists in a lab went well enough.

Exploring the underground, we found a few interesting things: an Underdark access we avoided entering any further than to confirm it goes there, a greenhouse full of bloodthirsty bushes, papers on a dwarven extremist group’s resurrection, some more goblin cultists…and a mad druid by a gnarled evil tree intent on brainwashing the region through his rampaging sprouts. Ah, and lady Hucrele’s sister’s fate: brainwashed with her bodyguard. He was kind enough to expose his plan before setting his minions on us: get as many people as possible planting his magic apples on the surface so that he gets an army of mind-screwing shoots to conquer the area and impose his twisted utopia. After the mandatory boss banter, it was time for a last dance…which despite a well-placed opening move of a thunderstone to the druid’s face didn’t go so well for us until Dessia told us that his weak point was the tree. Being the closest — and holding the torch…why isn’t the lone human holding the light you say? I’m the only one who doesn’t need both hands to fight — I set it on fire and poured a flask of oil on it for good measure. The druid screamed and fell, the goblins broke and ran, the Hucrele sister fell catatonic…and sir Bradford went berserk. He almost got Dain, Dessia and me — and my plan to slip out using the cover of darkness failed when he revealed a light of his own — but a javelin to the face solved that problem nicely. Once he went down, we tied up both brainwashed victims and went to sleep…only to wake up to both having become plant matter hybrid things during the night. It was more than a bit creepy, so we relieved the Hucrele sister of her personal effects and of her signet ring, her bodyguard of his magic longsword, and set the whole place ablaze.

After going back to Oakhurst to inform lady Hucrele of her sister’s fate, of the Underdark entrance present in the ruins and get paid; we decided to go in one last time to finish exploring the place. Once in the kobold quarter we dropped by quickly last time, we found an elven sorcerer held in their jail…sorry Dever ^^ After finding nothing else of interest in the place but two goblins we freed and pointed towards the shaman’s group, we explored the dragon statue fountains we passed by the first time around…where Dever got himself cursed and buffed. Gain some, lose some. We also explored the corridor behind the secret door in the first hall, where we advanced veeeeery slowly because everyone but Dain was caught by the defences. After he shut them down, we found a trapped corridor where I dropped like a stone due to a lucky dart thrower, a well-done but weirdly placed black dragon statue, an imp we involuntarily freed and a dragon priest we decided we would deal with later. Like a decade later.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad adventure: we didn’t earn that much money nor did we get that many magic items, but I found a few colleagues on the way to Knurl and we found our next destination.