D&D 5E Dungeon of the Mad Mage - Boring?

Coroc

Hero
That is why I nowadays prefer smaller "dungeons" aka buildings and underground structures which make sense, have a purpose and maybe even a logic ecology. When I was young these things did not bother me so much, BUT ...
... back then you know, there was one very, very big difference in playstyle:

DM narrated : You travel down a 10' corridor for 50' and some player would draw an according map on grid paper.

That was the purpose of these megadungeon being big with empty rooms and long winding corridors:

The party has to examine to find that concealed door along the 50' corridor, they have to ask for irregularities, declare how long they search for some, and eventually draw roaming encounters.

It was expect the unexpected at every turn which caused the tension.

But these days this does not work out anymore. Today it is easy to bore people, they are used to shiny flashy videos and video games, and instant gratification. It is like they keep more of their "impatient child traits" because they do not know anything else.

A video clip is boring? One mouseclick and you get to the interesting scene. Back then it was long FF or REV on the video recorder. Everything was slower. Also the megadungeon.

But as I said, today I prefer the arrangement to make sense. The biggest common structure to encounter for my taste is some city sewer or burial catacomb or mine. Not something called undermountain and calling it "mad" mage dungeon to imply why it might be so senseless big, even for a crazed mages playground.

So I can understand your frustration tbh, if I ran it as written I would probably feel the same.
 

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Merifluous

Explorer
So I ran the first three levels of my current campaign in undermountain BEFORE DotMM came out by combining the most interesting bits from the 2e, 3e, and 4e undermountain books, and we all had a lot of fun with it. I've got a spreadsheet where I compiled everything...you would need Ruins of UM and the 4e UM book to use it (they are on dmsguild) but we had a lot of fun. I left in the 2e magic items so it did border on monty haul a bit, but my players had no issue with that. DM me if you want any of my resources.

I've also ran levels 13-17 recently (we did homebrew UM 1-5, SKT 5-14, then back to UM for 15-20) and they have went really well, but on most levels we just head towards the fun and ignore much of the dungeon crawling. I would say we average getting thru maybe 30% of the detailed rooms on each level? It ends up being more cinematic and less dungeon crawly, but I think more fun.

And I second Wyatt Trulls UM guide series on DMs guild, I have used it for the last 2 levels and it has given me some great ideas.
 

I love the Undermountain. DoMM is an absolutely uninspiring version of it.

It may not be the worst version, because at least for what it is they tried to make it complete (which TSR/WotC has never tried before) but I've read it twice now trying to get enough inspiration to run it and I find it horribly boring as written.

The plots are... uninspired at best. "Go get this McGuffin. But you just have to wander aimlessly until you stumble across it".

The metaplots of Halaster and his apprentice are... written for the DM with no good way to pull the players into them.

As for it being complete, it's only that because they took one of the central tenants of the UM, it's size, and shrunk it to a tiny fraction of what Ed envisioned it to be. The UM was envisioned to be hundreds of rooms per level, not a dozen. It's something too big be fully explored in a campaign. DoMM is... stretching it to have enough interesting stuff to turn it into a full campaign.

It doesn't mean it can't be turned into something good. But just like Dragon Heist, it is a framework for building something. It is not ready to run as is.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
It doesn't mean it can't be turned into something good. But just like Dragon Heist, it is a framework for building something. It is not ready to run as is.
Dragon Heist was the last adventure I bought from WotC, as I'm now tired of trying to make head or tails from their messes. I'll probably buy adventure compendiums though.
 

Mepher

Adventurer
I ran DragonHeist and it was the best campaign starter that we ever had....but I added so much content to it and changed a lot of what was in the book. DH took us 22 five-hour sessions to complete. The mistake we made after was going right into DotMM. We had spent 22 sessions with tons of story, lots of roleplay, 3 homebrew heists (which DH was missing) and a good degree of combat and then we ended DotMM without a whole lot of changes made on my part. I did get Wyatt Trulls UM guide and that helped but my players got bored with UM. We hadn't finished the 2nd level before they were sick of it and wanted to leave.

I think it could be a great campaign but it needs a lot of work.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Encounters do not need to be deadly to be interest. Similarly, rooms do not need to have threats to be fun.

D&D is an RPG - a role playing game. Characters play a role in a story. The game is at its best when the story is at its best.

When presented with something that seems boring or uninteresting, the key is to figure out why the authors included it in the first place. I have not read the module, but I bet there was something written for the room other than, "Empty room." What was written? Can you embellish it to make it more interesting? Is there a way to tie it to the PCs?

There are also places in DotMM where a DM can add to the adventure. Did you consider tieing these empty rooms to those areas?

These ideas find a place in the story of the game for the room. The better you can do that, the better you can tie in the more eventful rooms.
 

Retreater

Legend
Encounters do not need to be deadly to be interest. Similarly, rooms do not need to have threats to be fun.

D&D is an RPG - a role playing game. Characters play a role in a story. The game is at its best when the story is at its best.

When presented with something that seems boring or uninteresting, the key is to figure out why the authors included it in the first place. I have not read the module, but I bet there was something written for the room other than, "Empty room." What was written? Can you embellish it to make it more interesting? Is there a way to tie it to the PCs?

There are also places in DotMM where a DM can add to the adventure. Did you consider tieing these empty rooms to those areas?

These ideas find a place in the story of the game for the room. The better you can do that, the better you can tie in the more eventful rooms.
Yeah. We don't need a monster in every room. Just not enough interesting features. I'll try to provide more concrete examples when I can get to my copy of the adventure.
But suffice it to say, I think DMM could've cut out 75% of the rooms to make a more focused adventure.
 

Andras

Explorer
I'm stuck in a party playing DMM. I'm sick of it by this time, but the rest of the party insists on staying in it. We're on the 8th level and our characters are 13th level due to some side adventures. We're completely trashing every encounter so far despite having the world's worst Sorcerer build in the party. We have a cleric, a rogue/ranger, and a rogue/bard/sorc. I was playing a fighter and just switched to a Paladin after we leveled.

This adventure path is like having an entire world to explore, and we're stuck in mom's basement.
 

Retreater

Legend
Okay. So on Level 1 alone I'm counting around 73 different areas, which are "detailed" in 13 pages (including a full page map and a half page of art, so 11.5 pages of text.) 25 of those areas are either empty or might have a couple lines of text with something like "there is a snapped off 10 ft pole in this room, but nothing else of interest."
And yes, I can embellish it and make it more interesting. But the amount of work to do that, especially when trying to run it "off the cuff" on a Virtual Tabletop, for a group of guys just wanting to explore an interesting dungeon, fight monsters, avoid traps, solve puzzles, etc., it seems unnecessary.
I've run dungeons from 3.x edition (Sunless Citadel, Forge of Fury, Tomb of Abysthor, Rappan Athuk, Lost City of Barakus) and other editions that were large, multi-level affairs that had infinitely more character, tension, and originality.
I feel like with this adventure Wizards wasn't even trying.
 

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