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Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Jester David

Villager
4 out of 5 rating for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

I was initially unimpressed by Dungeon of the Mad Mage. While the dungeon was big, it seemed to lack the inventive traps of the Tomb of Annihilation and the driving story of Acererak’s soul monger plan. Fewer things stood out, in part because of the maps and art. While flipping through the book, there was less to catch my eye and pull be to read a level or section.

Once I moved beyond my initial impression, I grew more favourable to this product. This book isn’t what I want, but I think it’s what a lot of other people want. And that’s an important distinction.
This is very much a big book of almost two-dozen dungeons of make your own. Two dozen old school dungeon modules to throw into your campaign as needed or build a story around. The kind of module Grognaria complained was lost with Dragonlance It’s not the book that has such a cool idea and story that you will drop everything to incorporate into your game, but it is the book you might turn to when you need a troglodyte warren or look towards when work is kicking your ass but you still need to plan a session.

If you don’t want a pressing story and ticking clock, this adventure is much more preferable than many of the past adventures, which were so much more story-heavy. If you want to make your own story or hate having to strip out a story, this volume is perfect for you. Especially if you want to return to a simple style of play where the adventurers wander into the dungeon for the sole purpose of seeking treasure, kicking in doors and attempting to turn denizens of a dungeon against each other. Which really seems to FIT the tone of Undermountain. This product tries to stay true to the spirit of Undermountain, rather than trying to reinvent it into something that it’s not. Rather than trying to add a deep story while assigning a complex plot to Halaster. And I can respect that.

Read my full review here.
 

Enrico Poli1

Villager
4 out of 5 rating for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

The adventure in itself is pleasant, because the dungeon levels are original and intriguing, and each one has its own factions, themes and secrets. But in the end, spending your time all in the same dungeon is really fatiguing.
Maybe, this product has got good production values because it's a great presentation and resource for Undermountain. You can always use it as a mini-setting for your own campaigns, and use only the levels you like. It has the added value to present challenges up to LVL20 PCs.
Solid link with Dragon Heist. The two books are really intended to be played together!
Art is sparse but of good quality. Maps are clear and useful.

In the end, I'm happy with the book.
Still, as a Megadungeon it's clearly inferior to the best Megadungeon ever, Eyes of the Stone Thief, that truly is a living and customizable environment. Why the authors made some steps back? Couldn't they learn the lessons of the past?
 

Morrus

Administrator
Staff member
3 out of 5 rating for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

This is a solid dungeon, with plenty of evocative themed levels. The art is very sparse - header art for each chapter, and a handful of spot illustrations - making it a very text-dense book. If you're after an extended dungeon crawl, this is perfect for you. Full "unboxing" over in the podcast.
 

castlewise

Villager
4 out of 5 rating for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Dungeon of the Mad Mage is an adventure for 5th - 20th level characters and features 23 thematically unique levels (and Skullport). The adventure is this dense sprawling affair and is structured in such a way that in order to finish the campaign characters will need to explore most (maybe 70-90% if you are using xp) of the dungeon. Compare this to Curse of Strahd or Tomb of Annihilation where a group can complete the adventure yet only experience a fraction of the material in the text. The maps in the book, which are very well done, helpfully feature optional passageways where GM's are encouraged to expand Undermountain with their own creations. Considering how much there is to do already a GM would have to be mad as Halaster himself to add more content. To be clear, its overall a great resource. The dungeon levels are interesting, layouts are detailed without getting too bogged down in minutia, and each floor feels unique and special. However, my guess is that in practice most GM's will raid the book for their favorite bits to add to their own adventures and Dungeon of the Mad Mage fills this role admirably. You definitely get your moneys worth, but I think only the most dedicated groups are going to be able to play this adventure from start to finish.
 
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dewaint

Villager
3 out of 5 rating for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

To describe 23 Levels in a book is quite challenging, and I think this book missed a bit the expectations triggered by various announcements prior publication.

IMO too many save-hooks, with a mediocre explanation why they are there (c'mon why should Durnan or Jhesiyra bother for all these adventurer groups eager to be slaughtered within Undermountain?)

There is a lot of work for the DM to get Undermaountain feeling like one massive structure with ties crisscrossing the levels and City above. Also the lack of UM specific magic Items which in earlier editions abounded, and of course of Spells. So many Wizards living there, why none of earlier edition Waterdeep or Undermountain spells were taken into the book? That and Skullport getting only a few pages, is my motivation to select 3 of 5 rating.
 
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Joseph Nardo

Explorer
5 out of 5 rating for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

The best d&d product EVER put out by WOTC!. The dream dungeon campaign of undermountain has finally been produced.
 

AdamSouza

Villager
4 out of 5 rating for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

The content is good, but it could have been presented better.

You know those little blurbs that describe what a room looks like to the players at the beginning of each room description? This book doesn't have them. That is just the general theme about the layout of the entire book. It's easy to miss details unless you thoroughly read the details of each room. There are 20+ dungeons and they are large enough that either going to have to stop and read each description thoroughly and take notes ahead of time or drag gameplay to a halt every time you move to an adjoining room. The details are not always intuitively located.

Example: There is a secret door from one hallway to another to another. There are no details about the hallway. The players find the secret door, open it, and enter the hallway leading to a room. There is a page worth of description of this room, at the end of which lets you know there were plates stacked on the inside of the secret door and the opening the door, breaks the plates, and alerts the creatures in the nearby areas.

That reminds me of the maps. In true 1E style, the map layouts look like they designed either a truly mad mage or a random generator. Sooo much hallway.
"Hey boss, you know were carving this dungeon out stone and earth right?"
"Yes Davis, now dig me a tunnel 100ft west, then 100 south, half long away that one go 50ft east, then 30 ft south, then another 20ft west, putting doors here, here, and here"
"Pretty far apart, those rooms on the other side of those doors must be huge?"
"Not at all Davis my boy, put a 10ft x 10ft closet, on the opposite side of each door"
"Going to keep something volatile in those closets sir?"
"Absolutely nothing actually"
 

Jestin Lightner

Registered User
4 out of 5 rating for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

I'd give it 5 stars but it doesn't have enough art, the maps aren't premium quality for cyber tabletop, and there's not enough plot or adventure hooks. Ultimately I think this is a good product and my players had a great session#1 to experience after their post Dragon Heist shopping spree.
 

Ash Mantle

Villager
5 out of 5 rating for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

I quite like this book, every level has its own theme and environment but they're also all connected storywise, so you'll be traversing through a variety of environments and encounter a variety of creatures hacking and slashing your way through the dungeons oldschool style. Though I wouldn't even call Dungeon of the Mad Mage a traditional hack and slash, you could actually talk your way through the encounters. At the end of every level, there's a quick section detailing what happens if the PCs decide to go with this ally or that ally or resolve a situation this way or that way, basically the PCs' choices and actions have consequences. What they do matters.

Something I've found is that while Dungeon of the Mad Mage is not an extensively wide dungeon like it was in previous editions, it's a deep, deep dungeon that seems to be more fleshed out this time round. What's also pretty cool is that the monsters aren't statically locked in place, they're free to wander and roam around and it lends a more organic, lived in feel to the dungeons.

And a further recommendation, using the dungeons from Tales from the Yawning Portal would be an excellent idea and accompaniment, that book actually fleshes out the Yawning Portal moreso than what we get in Dungeon of the Mad Mage, and the dungeons in that book would make for a good fit in Dungeons of the Mad Mage.
 

Aebir-Toril

Explorer
3 out of 5 rating for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Dungeon of the Mad Mage is a mega-dungeon of the kind more common in older editions. Fans of Undermountain will complain that it does not include every part of the dungeon setting. However, I prefer to think of DotMM as a sort-of "highlights of Undermountain" product. It feels like all of Undermountain without being all of Undermountain. Now, let's get into the details:

Story: 2/5

Dungeon of the Mad Mage has hardly any story whatsoever, with few justifications for hooks given. Don't buy this product expecting a pre-made story, you need to flesh out the bulk of the plot yourself.

Crunch: 5/5

If you're tired of the relative lack of crunch in 5e books, then this book will be your salvation. It has spartan, very sparse art, a high page count, and pretty much only crunch with a sprinkling of fluff.

Maps: 3/5

The maps included within are even more minimalist than those included in Dragon Heist.




 

EthanSental

Explorer
5 out of 5 rating for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

I’ll leave a longer review when I have time but suffice to day the adventure struck a cord with me and enjoyed the layout and levels of Undermountain...new things, story and monster to build off my previous edition products I owned.
 
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Haffrung

Explorer
5 out of 5 rating for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

I've read or played in some classic big dungeons. Temple of Elemental Evil. Cloudland. Rappan Athuk. Castle Whiterock. Stonehell. I've spent many hours discussing and theorycrafting megadungeons. I've even taken a couple runs at creating my own.

But despite being dead in the crosshairs of WotC as a buyer for Dungeon of the Mad Mage, I frankly didn't have a lot of confidence that WotC could publish something that met my expectations. I presumed it would be too generic. One of those lifeless dungeons so common on the market - a huge and sterile monster lair. Little genuine exploration or sense of place. Just rooms and encounters. Something I might pillage for a few ideas, but which I doubted I would run as-is.

To my genuine surprise, they pulled it off - this is a great dungeon. Undermountain is vast, diverse, and colourful. It's the farthest thing from generic. The geography varies from mad-wizard labyrinths to ruined towns and underground rivers to haunted drow city to dwarven tombs, artificial forests, etc. Each level has a distinct feel, but they're threaded together by Halastor and his mad schemes, as well as a clever portal system to offer expedited travel and alternate routes.

Most importantly, great care has been taken to make most rooms interesting. Magical statues, eerie tapestries, clever mechanisms, haunted ruins. Dungeons are not all about hack and slash - they're about exploration. And DotMM is a place worth exploring.

Furthermore, it's rich with factions and opportunity for roleplaying. On every level the intelligent denizens have agendas and goals. Played shrewdly by the DM, PCs should meet an early grave if they just try to hack their way through the dungeon. They'll have far more success if they reconnoitre, negotiate, and deal. There's story here. Engaging plot hooks. It just isn't scripted the way many modern adventures are.

Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys dungeon exploration- especially grognards who may have turned their backs on WotC's recent offerings.
 

ClaytonStine

Villager
2 out of 5 rating for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

This adventure was made for audiences that love mega-dungeons. The problem: this isn’t a good mega-dungeon. Filled with tonal inconsistencies, poor layout, and no usability tools, Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage, is a harder monster to slay than anything in its pages.
 

pogre

Adventurer
5 out of 5 rating for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

This is a playtest review - my group is just about to finish this monstrosity! It was a ton of fun and right down our alley!

Straight forward simple maps.
Lots of dungeon action.
For those seeking an immersive roleplaying experience to allow exploration of your PCs deeper, spiritual self and create lasting relationships with NPCs and other PCs - ummm, this is not for you.
If you love to get together with friends, laugh, kill monsters, and take their stuff - this is the best thing ever put out by WOTC!
 

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