This year, Wizards of the Coast invited adventurers to head out on an epic chase against different villains through the streets of Waterdeep as they sought out hidden treasure. Waterdeep: Dragon Heist was only the first of the adventures that introduced players to the wonders of Waterdeep. The second hardback adventure, Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage takes players level 5-20 down into the dungeon below the Yawning Portal. There are 23 levels for adventurers to explore, face off against its inhabitants, and mounds of treasure to take. Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage released on November 20, 2018 so bear in mind there might be some spoilers down below!
Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage Pros and Cons
Waterdeep: Dragon Heist was more of an ongoing campaign that focuses on role playing and navigating the inner workings of the city. It had a clear cut story from beginning to end with some filler information that was all tied up nicely for everyone. However, Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage is completely different. While reading it, I felt it was more of a walkthrough for a rather large (probably one of the largest) dungeon. Each chapter in the book focuses on a specific floor and the things that dwell there, what adventurers will find exploring, and some additional information like what happens if they successfully clear the floor. The thing I loved about this adventure is that it solves the lack of combat found in the first one. There is more than enough fighting packed into the 300 plus page book to keep the barbarian in your group excited.
Speaking of the page length of the book, this bad boy clocks in at 320 pages, with a bulk being the dungeon itself. I imagine many things were cut out in order to keep the length of the book reasonable. Things that were left out include boxed descriptions for dungeon masters to read to their adventurers, lengthy NPC speeches and an in depth bestiary appendix. This means that planning ahead for dungeon masters will be key and winging it will be almost impossible for us normal folks. Keep a copy of the Monster Manual close at all times and remember to take notes on what your adventurers are doing as it might effect things later on. Dungeon masters can craft a story or use one of the many hooks in order to get players to enter into the dungeon itself, but everything comes back to Halaster Blackcloak, the mad mage himself.
While the initial quest might have nothing to do with him, he will make his presence known. I mean you are making your way through his home. Depending on what the dungeon master chooses, he can be using the adventurers to help clear out levels for bigger and badder beasts, using them to search out and capture his wayward apprentice, or loads of other things. While each level seems like a story completely unto itself, he and his mad mind are what keeps the levels tied together. I felt though at times it was as if I was reading about a completely different adventure. It would be a stretch to say that it really belonged where it was aside from the fact that Halaster is just crazy. Case in point, level 8 The Slitherswamp. It felt out of place inside a large dungeon and almost like it was picked up and just placed there. Which is most likely how anything got into this dungeon. However it does help lead players through and includes some introductions to over NPC groups found on lower floors.
Overall Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage brings together some of the most amazing pieces of what makes Dungeons and Dragons so exhilarating. There is no short amount of combat, exploration, or just plain old fun missing in this book. The only downside I can see with it is if it ever becomes too much for a group. However you are not locked down below once you enter so players can exit at anytime as long as they can make their way to the top and pay the fee to be lifted out. This also helps follow the path of completing quests and going down for new ones seem more plausible from a story stand point. I for one can not wait to start running this adventure for my group and see where their story takes them.
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