As 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.
((WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP))
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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|Twilight Grove||250||10||625||156||Hard||Could be easier depending on previous encounter|
|The Gulthias Tree||700||4||1400||350||OMG!!!||Capstone encounter|