Thoughts on Running Lost Citadel of the Scarlet Minotaur – A Shadowdark Adventure

Town Crier announcing an important proclamation while ringing a bell.

Running an adventure for Shadowdark differs slightly from today’s 5e adventures. My first consideration: How do you start? Adventures from The Arcane Library forego dense lore for an adventure and begin with a short background description to inspire Game Masters. This method assumes you will do a small amount of prep before you dig into the game and play.

You might need clarification if you’re coming from the 5th edition of D&D. I was lost when I first read the QuickStart adventure. I ran Lost Citadel of the Scarlet Minotaur with two players and was perplexed about how to introduce the adventure. My players were okay with jumping in, but it felt very different than a 5e adventure that had a hook readily provided. This adventure assumes the GM will jump in, too, or produce an introduction or hook.

After reflecting on that game, I found that nothing was missed. We had fun jumping right in.

Here is the Background from the Lost Citadel adventure:

“Long ago, a mighty enclave of warriors lived inside the Lost Citadel. They worshipped bulls in ever-bloodier, cultish rituals that culminated in their leader, Minoros, transforming into the Scarlet Minotaur. This immortal avatar of rage slaughtered the warriors in a single night of mayhem. However, some of their servants escaped through the unseen halls used by the lowly. These beastmen hid in the fallen citadel, trapped by superstitious fear of the outside.”

The following section of the adventure goes into which monsters belong to Factions in the citadel and then Rumors.

If you want a short introduction to the adventure, here’s what you should do: Create an inciting event. Decide where your PCs meet. It could be in a tavern, at a crossroads, in the supply store, or at the location itself. Create an NPC quest giver named Swerinjen who wants to be cut in on the deal for letting you know there be treasure! Have one or two rumors from the quest giver, then jump into the action.

As I navigate the game mastering process for Shadowdark and the writing process of creating new adventures, I want to write more dense lore. But I’ve found that writing short, inspirational lore helps light the creativity of others.

What’s your take on lore? Is it mostly fluff that goes unused? Does in-depth lore help you run games? Do your players glaze over if you read too much of that read-aloud text?

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