Darkness Ignites the Sunless Citadel

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0853

I started a new campaign last Friday with the Murder Hobos group.

I’ve put my Hobos of the Apocalypse campaign on hold while I do some additional prep for it. The campaign is going full sandbox, and I’m currently thinking through the faction stuff.

To fend off GM rust, I picked up Tales of the Yawning Portal, which is a collection of adventures, and we had session numero uno.

Welcome to:

  • Ukkonen, Uthgardt barbarian priest of the Elk Tribe, questing for the clan chief’s kidnapped daughter.
  • Darius, human paladin, a Chosen One questing to restore his dead god Tyr.
  • Ifin, half-elf bard, whose grandfather’s soul was devoured by the legendary dark blade, Blackrazor.
  • Balazar, dragonborn warrior, seeking to prove himself to his dragon parents.

Each PC has a hook to one of Yawning Portal’s adventures.

In addition, this campaign is set in the same time and place as the Murder Hobos game. The PCs are a bit south of the mayhem the Hobos spawned.

The Sunless Citadel (Spoiler Warning)

The first Yawning Portal adventure has the PCs helping Madame Hucrele find her two children who went exploring a few miles out of town.

Cows have been mutilated, and Talgren and Sharwen Hucrele quested with friends to put a stop to the horrible killings.

The party soon finds a ravine with stone markers and a rope left leading down into a hole.

And thus the decrepit Sunless Citadel is revealed wrapped in darkness and dread.

Turns out the place is home to the Calcryx tribe of kobolds. And they’ve lost their pet dragon to thieving goblins.

This the PCs learn from sorrowful Meepo, a blue-skinned kobold who shirked his duties and let the tribe’s pet be captured. Here’s what I showed the players Meepo looked like, replete in threadbare vest, cravat, and cuffed shirt:

Meepo speaks in a slow, low voice filled with guilt and sorrow. After Ifin becomes his best friend, the kobold takes the party to his leader Yusdrayal.

It turns out Balazar the dragonborn is a big deal to the kobolds who call him a Great One. At 6’10” and 350 pounds, I suppose Balazar is a great something.

In Yusdrayal’s throne room, Balazar negotiates safe passage to goblin territory where the missing Hucreles are reported to have gone.

Now in Goblinville, the PCs assault the foul creatures and penetrate their common area. Grenl the goblin shaman emerges from an ancient tower and Ifin negotiates a deal.

Grenl says Durnn the hobgoblin chief slew one Hucrele (and either ate him or threw his body down into the cursed grove below for Belak). If the PCs slay Durnn, the goblins will let the PCs into the grove and exit the Sunless Citadel without interference.

Spit on palm. Shake hands. Deal!

She blesses the PCs just before Durnn storms out of the tower flanked by elite guards. The goblins form a wall around the PCs to prevent the characters from backing out of their deal.

Soon Durnn is kobold-meat and we end the session. The PCs ding and next session we delve into The Grove.

It was great to get behind the GM screen again!

We had several combats, but the most fun was roleplaying the monsters as the players chose to wheel and deal instead of exterminate. One thing I learned was not to let my group name my monsters. Let’s just say some goblins would have their drover’s licenses censored….