Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage isn’t just one of the biggest dungeon crawls to come out of fifth edition, it’s also one of the most creative.
We’re going to be venturing into Undermountain folks, and into the deeper levels at that. So for those of you playing the adventure, or hoping to experience it unprepared be warned–spoilers ahead!
Alright you have been warned. Read further knowing full well that in Dungeon of the Mad Mage, you’ll be seeing a lot of the creativity that makes dungeons amazing. There’s a lot of that 1st Edition flavor–if you enjoyed White Plume Mountain, it’s a good appetizer to put you in mind of the sorts of things you might find inside. What kinds of things, you ask? Well…
The Renegade Shield Guardian
On level 1 of Undermountain, characters might run across a strange sight–a shield guardian without a master that approaches the party making occult gestures. This is because its former master has died, slain by deeper denizens of the dungeon, and now it believes itself to be a mage of its own accord. It can’t actually cast spells, but still tries, and players can find its amulet a few levels deeper and give it a new home and purpose.
One of the levels in Undermountain contains a hidden gate that will take you to a secret Githyanki base which is hidden in an asteroid orbiting high above Toril (Faerun’s planet). There you can fight against–or possibly team up with–Githyanki raiders, preparing to invade a colony of Mindflayers who have set up shop on one of the lower levels.
The Psionic Matrix
Speaking of Mind Flayer colonies… the Mind Flayer colony is carrying out a nefarious plan to claim all of Waterdeep. To this end, they’ve created a psionic simulation of Waterdeep, called Alterdeep, and will imprison fallen adventurers within special psi-pods (which are fleshy, fluid filled pods that sustain a victim inside Alterdeep indefinitely) to learn what they can about the surface world. The Ulitharid in charge of it all is quite friendly, even, up until they have enough information to evolve into an Elder Brain and make thralls of everyone.
Legends of the Hidden Temple
One of the levels, titled the obstacle course, has a bound spirit that provides color commentary on the adventure’s progress through a deadly obstacle course over a river of lava. In addition, this level has a magic ward preventing flight, instead forcing adventurers to contend with the physical challenges, as long as they Double Dare.
Halaster Blackcloak, the Mad Mage himself, is bound and sustained by the Dungeon of Undermountain. He’ll always return, but in the meantime, travels far afield indeed. Some of these treks must have been to a familiar world, because in Halaster’s lair, adventurers will find a statue of Halaster, nude, riding a donkey, also nude; a six-shot revolver and belt of ammunition; and a leather bound Western novel. This along with a spelljamming helmet to take control of the spelljammer crashed into one of the upper levels, shows clearly how far and wide the Mad Mage casts his net.
What secrets will you uncover in the Dungeon of the Mad Mage?