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The Ruins of Undermountain - your experiences?


When I first picked up the boxed set, I was disappointed in the blank areas, however when I actually used it in my game, those areas were the larger chunk of the part we used (specifically the SW & NE quadrants of Level 1). Both of these areas were controlled by factions, one of which was a group of Taladan minotaurs that wandered in via a portal from Krynn (I was never that huge of a Dragonlance fans by I loved the minotaur empire on Taladas). I can't recall what the other faction was anymore, as it was many years ago (during the campaign that I ran through junior high and high school).

The other thing that comes to mind is that at one point the party wandered into a room that had some item floating in a shaft of light My cousin's enchantress reached into the shaft, and as soon as she did, all of her possessions were teleported away to some other location. My cousin never found his PC's stuff and always grumbled about it after that. I think this one may have been an encounter that was actually part of the published product, but I'm not really sure.

I don't believe that we ever made it off Level 1. Overall, I would say it was one of the least memorable portions of that campaign, so I'd have to say that the product didn't really wow me.

I did like the later dungeon crawl module Undermountain: the Lost Level quite a bit though, and while I can't say I ever used it as is, I think that I probably used it for inspiration when designing some other dwarven dungeon on my own.

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Clockwork Golem
I got it, read it, then put it aside in the pile of gaming stuff that's classified as too much effort to run. Not necessarily because of the blank spaces, but because I couldn't see myself holding the player's interests with one big dungeon for longer than two or three sessions.


My group played it a lot when I was 14. Two of us had the set, and ran it differently. Although, since it was too much trouble to detail everything, we winged most of the expeditions, which became absolutely chaotic and wild affairs. Mad wizards, gates into other dimensions, taking a charmed bulette through the Yawning Portal (and almost killing Durnan and friends with it), fleeing from mind flayers through a submerged passage, into unknown parts... It was wondrous. Of course, looking back, the content was mostly ho-hum, but I have to say, the map of the first level was, and still is, a great example of how to do a dungeon map (although some passages had to be blocked off to make navigation a bit harder).

Undermountain II. was a huuuge disappointment, though, especially for someone with very little disposable income. Lame.


First Post
Our group enjoyed. I am not averse to creating my own encounter areas so the large tracks of empty rooms didn't bother me.

My Undermountain campaign was fun for everyone and encouraged me to be zany in designing encounters. Members of our group still remember to this day the time they met and conversed with the Mad Mage himself.

Good fun, good memories and periodically, our group still asks for a brief romp in Undermountain as part of an ongoing campaign.


First Post
This was really the only "mega-dungeon" I've ever run. I more or less steered my players there, and while we had some fun exploring the top two levels, the lack of any particularly interesting motivation or plot probably sapped some of the effect. Looking back at the product now, I think it's pretty well-done on the whole. Like any other mega-dungeon, it requires DM work to be all that it can be.

I can't speak for the expansions, and looking at Skullport today it's sort of a shame that my group wasn't quite hefty enough to make it down there.

It's quite interesting how 3e/3.5 has re-invigorated the demand on these mega-dungeons. I'd have to peg it on a mix of "backlash" from old-timers who want the game to return to the way things used to be and new game mechanics that promote dungeon-style exploration and tactical combat over more-highly-scripted modules of the Dragonlance/Avatar Trilogy style.

At the time Undermountain was on the market in the early nineties, there weren't a lot of other products out there that were much like it. Dragon Mountain came along a little later, but that didn't get the promotion or fanfare that Undermountain did. Forgotten Realms, thanks to the SSI games and novels, was really in its heyday back then. TSR seemed to relegate generic-setting products like DM to the second tier.


First Post
I loved it. For me, it struck the perfect balance between ready to run encounters and the freedom to create my own encounters. The create my own stuff was sometimes preplanned and sometimes on the fly. I was at my DMing peak using RoUM. Adding encounters allowed a build up of content as I used it time after time.

It was great for pick up games or short term campaigns. I was in a college work program for one summer, so I ran this. The dungeon, the Yawning portal, a generic magic shop and generic temple made up the campaign world.

It was great for long term campaigns. In a fairly freeform FR campaign set in the North, the Players always knew they could go to UM for fun and profit.

I still use the dungeon dressing cards as well.


Only one experience, and it's all bad.

We started great, but one player in the group back then decided that THIS campaign was when he was going to play an evil character. He played an evil monk, and turned on the party at a bad moment and killed several of the PCs, me included, in our sleep before he was put down by the survivors. He was ecstatic he had a chance to be an evil PC, but I had some pretty sour dregs from it, because I never got to play Undermountain again. These days, our group rarely has the time, or set-up, or player desire to play massive dungeon crawls.


First Post
I bought it when it came out, looked it over and said Meh. Expensive graph paper sums up my feelings very well. The product is rife with hints, glimmers, tales of Greenwoods own campaign, and yet the product itself does not conjure up any of that majesty.

Instead it is a hallway or room with a clever trap, followed by empty rooms of fill in the blank.

Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure (which is basically 3 levels of Castle Greyhawk, now known in Dungeon as Castle Maure), and Monte Cook's the Banewarrens do it better than Undermountain ever did. Mord's Fant Adv and Banewarrens both bring a style, a flavor, and a guarantee of memorable encounters and memories that will linger with players and DM's that play the products.

There are no guaranteed memories in Undermountain. The Hype is greater than the product.


satori01 said:
There are no guaranteed memories in Undermountain.

I find that flexibility in an adventure product enhances the chance that it will be a successful, memorable adventure, not subtracts.


First Post
Which is fine, the original Ravenloft module was considered flexible.
I also guarantee that anyone that walked through the front doors to Castle Ravenloft remembers it.

Good DMs can make anything good, and good DMs can make anything flexible if they are willing to put the effort into it.
Great D&D products have built in hooks, built in cinematic moments that good DMs can make great, great DMs can make wonderful, and the rest of us can feel decent we did not screw up a good thing :)

I just never felt there were those type of moments in Undermountain as written.


My biggest wow factor to UM are the maps and the dressing cards. I still use both to this day. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of using bits and pieces of those maps as seperate locations. I've never been through it as a player.

Granted the marketing pitch kinda soured the whole experience when I found out how little of the dungeon was detailed. It's a great product for those with the time and preference for doing their own encounters, but I still expected more room and encounter descriptions than what was, given the size of UM.

I've owned various modules over the years, but I've never actually used any of them (other than the maps, usually only in part), because I prefered to use the creations coming from my imagination. UM is the only module type product where I actually used any of the room descriptions as given, but I used my own encounters in place of those given.

It's always been stuck in my mind that Ed, designed a majority of UM on the fly using the Random Dungeon Generation Tables from the 1E DMG. I tried using those tables myself once, and seemed to constantly end up with massively large rooms and long corridors. Too often without resorting to using multiple sheets of connecting graph paper (8.5"x11" 1/4" or 1/5" scale). I already owned UM by this time and viewing my results alongside what UM presented only reinforced this thought.
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Mark Hope

I got a whole lotta mileage out of this one. I populated a number of the empty areas on all three levels of the dungeon (as well as adding in extra content from Dragon magazine, iirc). I also tacked on other modules as sub-levels (both White Plume Mountain and the Hall of the Fire Giant King have seen service as Undermountain sublevels) and placed the dungeon beneath a major city in my homebrew (a magocracy largely inspired by Glantri from Mystara).

A couple of players took a real liking to the dungeon, and would get me to DM side-quests whenever we all had time. One got really familiar with the dungeon, made an excellent set of maps, and so was very sought-after as a companion by other players seeking to explore the place. This went really well, with the Undermountain-expert bringing great success to every group he joined. Until, that is, he was killed by a bulette at an unfortunate moment and nobody could make head or tails of his maps (he knew the dungeon so well that he never bothered to mark the entrance...)

Like others I found the cards of dressing, traps, details etc to be of great use. I could also have done with less empty areas on the map and more detail (I made good use of the maps, but could have done with more value). Not a big issue. Some of the sequel stuff was good too - I seem to remember running a very cool session with a vampire...



I used the original Ruins of Undermountain boxed set, RoUII and a couple of Dragon articles (on Skullport & Eilistrae's Promenade) in my FR campaign. The difference was I moved the dungeons to Unther where they became the Undercity of Unthalass. We had a lot of fun -- the most memorable bits were Willowwood and Trobriand's Graveyard, with my wife feeling quite sorry for the constructs! I wrote my own encounters for the blank bits I needed.

Thanks for all the reminders about the Dungeon Dressing cards! I used to use these a lot in other dungeons. I think I could use these in the Banewarrens!

satori01 said:
Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure (which is basically 3 levels of Castle Greyhawk, now known in Dungeon as Castle Maure)

I think it was always Maure Castle, wasn't it?




RichGreen said:
I think it was always Maure Castle, wasn't it?

TO my knowledge, that's correct -- One of Gary's earliest D&D articles talked about Mordenkainen's adventures and mishaps in that very dungeon, courtesy of Rob Kuntz! :)

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