Encounter Difficulty in the Sunless Citadel

The_Sunless_Citadel.jpgAs I recently launched a Tales from the Yawning Portal campaign, I thought I’d evaluate the Sunless Citadel encounters according to the difficulty guidelines in the Dungeon Masters Guide page 82. My encounter difficulty analysis for Lost Mine of Phandelver did basically the same thing.

In this case, I work from the assumption that the group starts out with 4 level 1 characters, progressing to level 2 when they go to the second level If you have more or higher-level characters, then obviously the encounters get a little easier. You may wish to add additional combatants or other complications to compensate in that case, obviously.


Encounter difficulty as calculated doesn’t guarantee anything, not even when you think they should be easy. (Balance is subjective!) I had a group of six players go into the Mama Rat encounter, which should have been easy for them. The rogue actually died right away, but that largely resulted from player choice. (“This is the dankest, largest, scariest rat nest you’ve ever seen. On the far side, you see some glints of something shiny.” “OOH SHINY!” chomp).

Part 1: Fortress Level

Encounter Total XP Number of creatures Difficulty XP Per Level 1 Rating Notes
Ledge 75 3 150 37 Easy Exists in other places
Secret Pocket 150 3 300 75 Hard Optional encounter
Dragonpriest 450 1 450 112 Deadly
Enchanted Water Cache 150 2 225 56 Medium Optional encounter
Kobold Guardpost 75 3 150 37 Easy Not needed if allied; this encounter exists in other places
Dragon Throne 250 3 500 125 Deadly Not needed if allied
Sanctuary 250 5 500 125 Deadly Optional encounter
Mama Rat  125  4 250  62 Medium Rat tactics can make this one deadlier
Caltrop Hall 100  2 150  37 Easy Caltrops complicate this
Practice Range  150  3 300  75  Hard Another frequent encounter
Trophy Room  450 1 450 112  Deadly Key for major quest
Hall of the Goblin Chief  550  5 1100  275  OMG!!! This requires careful thought. At level 2, this is still Deadly.

Part 2: Grove Level

Encounter Total XP Number of creatures Difficulty XP Per Level 2 Rating Notes
Central Garden  150 4 300 75 Easy
Great Hunter’s Abode  250 3 500 125 Medium
Rift Node 200  1 200 50 Easy Optional encounter
Belak’s Laboratory 160 8 400 100 Medium Probably can resolve without combat
Ashardalon’s Shrine 100 1 100 100 Medium Optional encounter
Grove Gate 250 6 500 125 Medium
Twilight Grove 250 10 625 156 Hard Could be easier depending on previous encounter
The Gulthias Tree 700  4 1400  350 OMG!!! Capstone encounter

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