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

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Luckily, I don’t think any D&D loot crimes were committed in DotMM. It has been awhile since I read it, but my memory is that each level has around 5 Magic Items on it.

Sure, some of these Magic Items will be potions, scrolls, minor magic items, spellbooks and just plain cursed items.

Some are also Shield Guardians, Slaadi Control gems, and a Sentient Sword of Sharpness, that acts like a wand that can cast Fly, Polymorph, and Transport via Plants.

Yes, many of the items are hidden and difficult to get to...like a 1e inspired adventure should be.😈

There is, indeed, quite a bit of insane loot, and it ramps up considerably over 23 levels. The DMG can be used to buff it up, as needed: charts and everything.
 

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Yes, many of the items are hidden and difficult to get to...like a 1e inspired adventure should be.😈

Since when has Undermountain been "1E"? Ruins of Undermountain came out in 1991, for 2E, dude. I can assure you that whilst there was some hilariously well-hidden stuff (including like 1m GP worth of jewels/gems, relatively near the surface), there was tons of not very well-hidden and very fun stuff.

The DMG can be used to buff it up, as needed: charts and everything.

This is the problem I've found with 4E/5E adventures from WotC (not so third-parties, albeit they can have their own problems!), which is that they're "underspiced" in all regards - loot, encounter-design, dungeon-design, plot-design, NPC-interesting-ness. Bland to a fault (again I except Strahd from this, and I'm sure there are others not guilty, just all the ones I've seen). So the DM has to then go and fiddle.

At least they've tended to be very well-balanced, encounter-wise.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Since when has Undermountain been "1E"? Ruins of Undermountain came out in 1991, for 2E, dude. I can assure you that whilst there was some hilariously well-hidden stuff (including like 1m GP worth of jewels/gems, relatively near the surface), there was tons of not very well-hidden and very fun stuff.



This is the problem I've found with 4E/5E adventures from WotC (not so third-parties, albeit they can have their own problems!), which is that they're "underspiced" in all regards - loot, encounter-design, dungeon-design, plot-design, NPC-interesting-ness. Bland to a fault (again I except Strahd from this, and I'm sure there are others not guilty, just all the ones I've seen). So the DM has to then go and fiddle.

At least they've tended to be very well-balanced, encounter-wise.

Maps and well-balanced encounters are really what I'm there for: flavor I can add, and I like using the DMG treasure tables.

Out of the Abyss was a little aggressive about flavor, at least.
 

Since when has Undermountain been "1E"?

Since Undermountain was first mentioned in Waterdeep and the North, an AD&D product.

The story of the Crazed Venturers teleporting onto a tavern table, inspired me. I did not wait to 2nd edition to make a version of Undermountain.

Which is the genesis of my point, that all versions of Undermountain, have been a bit incomplete.
 

Since Undermountain was first mentioned in Waterdeep and the North, an AD&D product.

The story of the Crazed Venturers teleporting onto a tavern table, inspired me. I did not wait to 2nd edition to make a version of Undermountain.

Which is the genesis of my point, that all versions of Undermountain, have been a bit incomplete.

That's cool, but that makes your take on Undermountain "1E inspired", it doesn't make Halaster's Undermountain "1E inspired". By saying "1E inspired" I assume you mean it was in the same style as 1E dungeons tended to be. I would say, with Ruins of Undermountain sitting on a shelf behind me, next to some 1E stuff (like Curse of the Azure Bonds), that it is not the same style as most of that 1E material. It was rather a later, 2E, style which tended to be more involved (arguably needlessly complicated at times), with elaborate backstory for stuff (where 1E often had stuff that was just "there" with no possible/sane explanation, which was sometimes totally awesome I admit), and a lot going on in a way that I think inspired other 2E products like Dragon Mountain. I mean, you talk about incomplete, and whilst Ruins of Undermountain certainly had areas you could add to, it didn't feel inherently sparse like an awful lot of 1E adventures (indeed the vast majority of them, though there were exceptions).

Put it another way, it Ruins didn't feel "1E inspired" to me, and it wouldn't make sense for Mad Mage to be, imho.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
For some reason 5E decided to make items like wands rechargable. Stop letting items recharge and give them limited charges and you will be able to award more over time without inflating their abilities too much. I just think by the book that 5E is weak on the magic item front. The guidelines are pretty boring.
That's a great idea. We find scrolls and potions all over the place. It would be cool to add to that wands and rods.
 

Mepher

Adventurer
That's a great idea. We find scrolls and potions all over the place. It would be cool to add to that wands and rods.

I am not sure if that was something added in 3E, 4E, or this is new to 5E but I never understood the appeal in items that recharge every day. Sure it's appealing for the players but it's a bit monty haul for my taste. AD&D items had defined numbers of charges. When they were spent, they were spent.

Now it depends on the item also. I really like the Wand of Detection and Wand of Secrets. The ability to detect magic or secret doors 3 times a day doesn't bother me at all, in fact I like it a lot. It gives the players a little extra chance of finding those secrets that us DMs are fond of throwing in there for them. I don't like gimmes though, they need to look for them. These types of items help but with a 30ft range and 3 times a day, it's not like they are just blasting it at every wall they come across.
 

Put it another way, it Ruins didn't feel "1E inspired" to me, and it wouldn't make sense for Mad Mage to be, imho.

I will gladly concede that, hidden treasure and tough scenarios are “edition agnostic”. 😁

Clearly, this is a matter of aesthetic judgement, which means somewhat individual and arbitrary. That said, Ruins of Undermountain, does not evoke a 2e design sensibility to me.

It does not ‘feel’ like Dead Gods, A Paladin in Hell, Die Vecna, Die, or the Illiathiad, or other Monstrous Arcana adventures.

Ed made Undermountain long before 2e. I’ve always felt that one could place 1e adventures, like Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure, or the Lost Cavern of Tsojocanth as Levels or sublevels and not miss a beat.....in fact, I have done both those very things in the past.

Since, this is a matter of aesthetics, we can both be correct......it is just, I am, more correct in regards to feel...😘....(just kidding, of course).
 

Dead Gods, A Paladin in Hell, Die Vecna, Die, or the Illiathiad, or other Monstrous Arcana adventures.

Dead Gods... don't talk to me about Dead Gods. Pretty cool adventure, from 1997, so in what I'd call the "late 2E" style, but unfortunately it comes before and sets up the very worst adventure ever written, Faction War, which was a hate crime against Planescape, committed by Monte Cook, with extremely ruthlessness and violence.

Monte Cook claims to this court that he was innocent. That Dead Gods and Faction War were "part of a trilogy" cut short by WotC's acquisition of D&D. That he "fully intended" to complete that trilogy, rather than just massively vandalizing Sigil and ruining the entire conceit that Zeb Cook (no relation, your honour) set up so beautifully. I urge you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury - do not believe Mr Cook's spurious assertions. This was hate, pure and simple, one jealous artist destroying the work of a master...

Ahem, okay getting carried away/distracted. I got "triggered" as I believe they say.

I've literally never heard of an adventure called "A Paladin in Hell" (though I am familiar with the illustration of the same title from 1E), so that's interesting (reading about it sounds like more "Monte Cook is jealous of Planescape and wants to make unnecessary changes to 1E-ify it" stuff though). Die Vecna, Die is Greyhawk so I never read it. The Illithiad is an adventure? I was just reading it like a year ago. Isn't it just a sourcebook on Illithids? Does it have an adventure as well? I could see myself blanking that because I didn't care, to be fair.

But those are all very late. The earliest one is 1997. The latest is 2000 (same year as 3E).

To me, 2E had three phases, at least, adventure-wise. At the beginning, we're basically all using 1E adventures, and updating them ourselves. Then there are the bigass 2E adventures/dungeons, from the early/mid '90s, stuff like Undermountain (1991), Menzobarranzan (1992), Dragon Mountain (1993), and The Night Below (1995). There was tons of other stuff, but it all tends to be this sort of "adventure built around an epic location", and there will always be a lot more NPCs and people to talk to and general detail and attempts to make things make more sense than 1E stuff. Then late in 2E, after I'd stopped buying adventures much, you started getting these more linear and focused adventures, like the ones you mention, the predecessors of Paizo Adventure Paths in many ways (Dragon Mountain and The Night Below were a bit like that, but not as directly).

That's like, just my opinion, though! :) Unlike "Monte Cook intentionally vandalized Planescape and is a D&D criminal who should be in D&D jail", which is a hard fact that no one could possibly dispute! ;)
 

SuperTD

Explorer
The first two levels of DotMM are definitely less interesting and feel unconnected and sometimes empty. I think they were a little restricted in their design as they felt the need to keep the map exactly the same as the previous edition versions. Once they got past that and had more freedom they could build what they wanted to build with modern design sensibilities.

However the later levels are much more interesting - miniature castles, space docks, wizard schools and teleportation mazes. Luckily our group started on the fourth level so we skipped the dull sections.
 

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