The Alexandrian

The Sunless Citadel - Bruce CordellIf you’d be interested in playing in a forum-based D&D adventure run by me, you should pop over to Basketweavers vs. The Sunless Citadel on theRPGSite and sign up. It’s first come, first serve. I’m hoping for a frequent updates schedule, so please be prepared to commit at least daily attention to the thread.

Fair warning, though: This is a bit of an odd bird. The run-thru is being motivated by a poster on theRPGSite named Mr. GC who is arguing vociferously that “basketweavers” — i.e., non-optimized characters — cannot play D&D. The opposing contention is that it’s absolutely trivial for non-optimized characters to play D&D, particularly if they’re adventuring in an open sandbox that allows them to select the challenges they want to face at any given moment.

In order to simulate that scenario, we’ll be using a very strange set of character creation guidelines set by Mr. GC for creating a party of “basketweavers” and then assuming that this particular party of “basketweavers” has selected The Sunless Citadel for their next adventure.

The particular version of The Sunless Citadel I’ll be using will be slightly modified from the original. But if you are familiar with the scenario, you may want to sit this one out.

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11 Responses to “An Odd Recruitment: The Sunless Citadel”

  1. nexusphere says:

    Justin, why go to all the trouble of running a play by post to prove such an obvious thing wrong? Why would a fighter/healer/warlock/rogue not be able to finish the Sunless Citadel.

    When the adventure came out, the only classes available were 3.0 core, it would be trivial for even a full NPC class party to handle the module.

    When I saw this earlier, my immediate assumption is that he’s trolling. Why submit to his troll? I am laying odds that his response will be to challenge the results when they show that he’s spouting crazytalk.

  2. Justin Alexander says:

    Because I think it’ll be fun.

    I’m not being facetious here: When I first tossed out the idea it was to point out how absurd the troll’s claim that it was impossible to play D&D with these characters. I wasn’t actually thinking about running it. But then StormBringer said “I’ll roll up six commoners” and I thought, “Six guys from the local village head over to the Sunless Citadel to fix the twig blight problem? That actually sounds really appealing to me.”

    I don’t know if that’s the scenario we’ll actually end up with. But whatever we end up with, it will be a very non-traditional experience. We’ll see what happens, but I’m banking on an unorthodox party being interesting and entertaining.

  3. Matthew says:

    I think this sounds interesting, would you mind linking all of it too here so we can follow your adventure.

  4. John says:

    Out of curiosity, why 7th level characters for an adventure intended for beginners? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

  5. Justin Alexander says:

    The short version is that Mr. GC on theRPGSite believes that the only way to play D&D is to face an endless sequence of “level appropriate” encounters made up exclusively of solo monsters.

    (His idea of “level appropriate” is a little wonky in its own right: He thinks that it’s “EL = APL + 1” and that somehow the monsters all get an extra +15 to +20 bonus to attack rolls over and above their stat blocks in the Monster Manual. It’s best if you don’t look at the troll too closely. You’ll lose sanity points.)

    Therefore, according to Mr. GC, the only way to play D&D is to hyper-optimize your PC. If you don’t hyper-optimize your PC, then you will automatically suffer a TPK. (A few years ago I wrote Fetishizing Balance. This guy is the poster boy for it.)

    Even if we accept the premise that you need to hyper-optimize your PCs in order to succeed at a “standard adventuring day” (which isn’t really true), the counter-argument is obvious: If your PCs are weaker than the expected norm, then they just need to fight weaker opponents. This would be particularly trivial in a sandbox environment, for example, where the GM doesn’t have to do anything: The PCs would simply pursue the challenges that were appropriate for them.

    The extreme version of this, for example, would be a party of 7th level characters tackling The Sunless Citadel.

    Mr. GC claims that a party of “basketweaver” 7th level characters are literally incapable of playing D&D. This is so trivially and self-evidently false that you think there must be some other “purpose”. But there really isn’t: Mr. GC has claimed that it’s impossible to play D&D with these “basketweavers”. We’re going to play out an obvious counter-example not because he needs to actually be disproved (his claim is prima facie absurd), but because it tickles our fancy to do it.

  6. Noumenon says:

    I don’t trust your summation of Mr. GC’s argument at all, and I notice that you don’t provide any link.

  7. John says:

    @Justin Yes, but forgetting about GC, you said what originally tickled your fancy about it was the idea of six commoners from the village heading into the Sunless Citadel. I’m not all that familiar with 3E, but I’d assume a party of 7th level characters would be able to tear through the place pretty effortlessly and directly. If you’re looking for a fun unorthodox experience with “subpar” characters, wouldn’t it make more sense to use a lower level?

  8. Inaki Lind says:

    7th level commoners should be able to tear through the Sunless Citadel with ease. Hit points alone will help them significantly, especially because it is expressly designed to support multiple forays.

    How about an update on Legends and Labyrinths? One of the best things about autarch are the weekly updates with clear goals on projects like Dwimmermount. It would be really nice to get something like that from you, especially since the project is so overdue.

  9. Stephen says:

    I think I’d be quite happy to take on “Sunless Citadel” with a party comprised of a Barbarian, a Healer, a Rogue, and a Warmage, even at 1st level. Those aren’t particularly weak classes – indeed the Warmage is frequently held as being over-powered!

    If you’re going with 7th level characters, you should probably restrict to the NPC classes (Adept, Aristocrat, Commoner, Expert, Warrior, and perhaps Magewright (from Eberron)). Even then, 7th level characters of those classes should really have no difficulties with getting through four encounters in that adventure.

    Also, any chance you could link to the original post by “GC”? If it truly as ridiculous as you claim, I could do with the laugh.

  10. GreyKnight says:

    I’ll play, as long as I get to be the local baker armed with his trusty rolling pin. I’ll bring delicious cake.

  11. Stephen says:

    Actually, don’t bother with a link (for me, anyway) – through Google I was able to track down what was being talked about. And now I regret it.

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