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WotC Dungeon of the Mad Mage: Story Hook Advice

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Please forgive this very niche topic.

Starting DoMM campaign on Monday. No idea how far we'll really get. This is a very casual group of players that has a tendency not to remember or track story arcs or plot points, so I thought this plot-lite adventure might work for them.

I would never run this in person, so also seemed like a decent choice to run online during Covid as VTT seems like the best way to handle these huge maps. My Roll20 sub gives me the first level for free, so we'll play that and if we like it, I'll buy the rest for Roll20 (I do have the DNDBeyond version already).

Even though this will not be a story-focused campaign, I do want SOMETHING more than what's on offer in terms of Adventure Hooks. So I worked with my players to try to strengthen the reasons for their characters to explore Undermountain & make it a little more personal.

I'm looking for advice on these hooks from people who have played or read the whole thing (I haven't), especially red flags or stuff that would improve them.

Dungeon of the Mad Mage - Enhanced Story Hooks

Crynne (Shadar-Kai Paladin)


Resurrected by the Raven Queen (character was used previously in Tomb of Annihilation campaign & was killed in the climactic fight).

Raven Queen: “In the Tomb of the Nine Gods, a portion of your essence was dispersed by Acererak. That is why much of your strength is lost; you may recover it in time, by force of your own will and efforts. In the meantime, you remain one of my most capable mortal agents. I have need of you once again. Shar, the Lady of Loss, plays her long game against me for control of the Shadowfell. Many have coveted my throne; I am not yet ready to yield it. In the darkest depths of a place called Undermountain, a place where the veils that divide the planes are thin, she has drawn in and usurped a portion of the Shadowfell that is now lost to me. Her plots are careful and secret; I cannot yet see all ends. We will investigate, you and I. I will search for answers in the Shadowfell; you must seek yours in Undermountain, below the city of Waterdeep. I sense that you are not yet strong enough to thwart the Lady of Loss. Gather a party of mercenaries in Waterdeep. Delve into Undermountain. Crack open its skin and devour its secrets. When you are strong enough, you shall hear from me again. Then it will be time to strike.”

Fred Farhead (Hill Dwarf Ranger)

For generations, the Farhead clan has been branded a family of thieves throughout the North. Your ancestors were accused of stealing the Throne of the Coronal, the seat of the elf lord Audark, from the lost city of Aelinthaldaar. Aelinthaldaar is long gone; the Mad Mage, Halaster Blackcloak, built his tower in its place, and the city of Waterdeep grew up around that tower. But the legend of your family’s betrayal lives on - in Waterdeep, in the dwarfholds, and, it is said, even in the elven city of Evereska, hidden somewhere in the Greycloak hills.

The Farhead family tells a different story. In your family lore, the ancient alabaster throne was spared the destruction of Aelinthaldaar by Coronal Audark himself, who ordered it placed in an underground vault. Despite the precaution, the throne was damaged in the calamity that befell the elven kingdom. Not until after destruction of Aelinthaldaar did Farhead dwarves find the throne buried in Undermountain. They bore it to their halls with the intention of repairing it and returning it to the elves. But something terrible then befell the dwarves of Undermountain, and they were never able to repair and return the throne.

Unless your family name can be redeemed, your clan will never be welcome in Mirabar, Citadel Adbar, or any of the dwarfholds. Your father and grandfather labored in years in poverty on the roads and in the wilds and in dark, monster-filled places below the earth, and you became a clan of wanderers. But finally your clan raised enough money to send a Farhead back into Undermountain - to discover the truth of the Throne of Coronal, and to find it if it still exists, and bring word of its fate to the elves to redeem your name.


DM note: If the characters find the throne (see level 3, area 14c) and informs elves, they express their gratitude by giving the party a beautifully crafted longbow (magic?) and an elven quiver containing twenty silvered arrows. The bow bears the Elvish inscription “Al hond ebrath, uol tath shantar en tath lalala ol hond ebrath.” This phrase translates to “A true friend, as the trees and the water are true friends.” The elves eventually embark on their own expedition into Undermountain, with the goal of retrieving the throne.

Fierling (Half-Elf Fighter)

Fierling spent his early years as a mercenary soldier fighting other people's wars up and down the Sword Coast. After a storied military career, he settled in the environs of Waterdeep, joining a Harpers cell to find purpose and meaning. His allies in the Harpers introduced him to the study of Eldritch magic in return for loyal service. For the past few years, Fierling has been asked to monitor the Xanathar Guild's activity, leading to several skirmishes and close calls.

During the course of your exploits in Waterdeep, you developed a Batman/Catwoman on- again-off-again romantic relationship with a female half-drow burglar named Cal’al Claddani. You eventually persuaded her to abandon her life of crime, but when her former associates came after her for revenge, she disappeared into the city’s underworld. You haven’t seen her for two years.

Your Harper “handler” is a bard called Threestrings Mereg. Threestrings plays a three-stringed lute at the Yawning Portal and is a much more talented musician than he pretends to be. Only you and he know that he is a Harper spy who uses this busking gig to establish relationships with the Yawning Portal’s unique clientele.

Recently, Threestrings informs you that he knows where Cal’al is - and that she’s now working with the Harpers in deep cover, running a tavern called the Flagon and the Dragon in Skullport, a secret settlement of bandits, pirates, and slavers located on the third level of Undermountain.. He needs a pouch of gems delivered to her. Cal’al provided shelter and healing to a wounded Harper spy in Skullport and is owed payment for her support. Threestrings’ pouch contains three moonstones worth 50 gp each.

Your instructions: once you reach the third level of Undermountain, make your way to Skullport via the underground section of the River Sargauth, which flows through the dungeon. Deliver the pouch to Cal’al without blowing her cover. You can then take refuge in a Harper hideout called Dalagor’s Fortress, located on the uppermost level of Skullport. A dragonborn mage named Felrax guards the place. Good luck.

Hesrou (Hill Dwarf Cleric)

Hesrou is a former member of a mercenary company known as the Bloodaxes. Founded in Sundabar nearly two centuries ago, the Bloodaxes were originally a group of dwarves outcast from their clans for crimes against the teachings of Moradin Soulforger. They began hiring out as mercenaries to whoever in the North would pay them. Since then the mercenary company has broadened its membership to other races, but every member is an exile, criminal, or misfit of some sort looking for a fresh start and a new family among the bold Bloodaxes.

Hesrou is a “former” member of the Bloodaxes, but there are some ties that can never truly be broken. Recently, Hesrou learned that his entire platoon ended up on the wrong side of a proxy battle between hired mercenaries working for Neverwinter and Luskan. The fact that Lord Neverember hired the Bloodaxes was never supposed to come out; it turns out that he sent them to Luskan not to break up a cluster of slave camps, as promised, but to crush a stronghold actually held by one of his own bastard children. Luskan spies made sure the truth was known, and in the end the entire mission was disavowed by Neverwinter and all surviving members of Hesrou’s platoon were shipped off to Revel’s End, a maximum security prison in Icewind Dale.

There’s no such thing as a jailbreak when it comes to Revel’s End. There’s only one way to get your friends out: grease palms and pay for paroles, piece by piece. And that’s gonna take money. A ton of money. 75,000 gold pieces, to be exact.

Enter Obaya Uday, a Chultan priest of Waukeen (god of trade), who has traveled from the distant city of Port Nyanzaru on behalf of a wizard named Wakanga O’tamu to procure magic items from Waterdeep. When she learned about Undermountain, Obaya booked a room at the Yawning Portal in the hope of hiring adventurers to plunder the dungeon of its magical riches.
Obaya has offered to pay for any unwanted magic items you find in Undermountain. She has secured her funds in Waterdavian banks and can pay handsomely within a matter of hours for any magic items you bring to her. The amount she’s willing to pay is based on the item’s rarity, as shown in the Magic Item Rewards table, and is nonnegotiable. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to spend as much for these items as Obaya is, and she always pays in platinum pieces for ease of transport.

Item RarityObaya’s Reward
Common10 pp
Uncommon50 pp
Rare500 pp
Very rare5,000 pp

Obaya is also interested in buying spellbooks for Wakanga O’tamu. She prices a spellbook based on the highest-level spell contained in it: 5 pp for 1st level, 25 pp for 2nd or 3rd level, 100 pp for 4th or 5th level, 250 pp for 6th or 7th level, and 500 pp for 8th or 9th level.


Black Wizma (High Elf Wizard)

Black Wizma has been frequenting the Yawning Portal on busy evenings, keeping mostly to herself while sipping zzar and listening to gossip. Her family has a tarnished reputation, having once been banished from Waterdeep for slavery and other illegal acts. Although the Rosznar family is trying to regain its integrity and standing, several bad apples threaten to impede that progress with their sinister ventures.

Wizma’s uncle, Kressando, was sent to Skullport to conduct secret meetings with the Xanathar Guild and gauge interest in setting up a slave trade in Skullport, far from the eyes of Waterdavian authorities. Wizma didn’t learn of this meeting until after Kressando vanished, and she is determined to stop his scheming and see him returned to Waterdeep before he can further tarnish the Rosznar name.

As a wizard, you have always been fascinated by the rumors of Undermountain and its master, the Mad Mage Halaster Blackcloak, but it always seemed too dangerous to explore. Now you have every excuse to delve into the dungeon and discover its arcane secrets.
Uncle Kressando has fair skin and dark curly hair, trained in the arts of stealth and thievery. He wears a platinum signet ring bearing the Rosznar family crest (a diving white falcon on a field of blue) and an inscription of the family motto (“Fly high and stoop swift”).
 

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