Book Review: Waterdeep: Dungeon Of The Mad Mage

Waterdeep:  Dungeon Of The Mad Mage, by Wizards Of The Coast

Intriguingly enough, this book has a book that comes from a previous volume that I read and reviewed in this series [1], and it too uses the Yawning Portal as the connection between the events of the campaign and the world that adventurers would be familiar with.  This particular book, though, has a massive and deeply complex campaign that can fully upgrade a group of characters from level 5 or so to level 20 depending on how seriously they take this campaign and how well they undertake to solve it.  The campaign is deeply complex, involving multiple factions with different agendas and some choices as to which evil beings with dark agendas the characters will ally themselves with, either temporarily or fully, which means that this campaign is probably to be preferred by those who appreciate a darker approach than the usual and are not so concerned about the sorts of motivations that typically drive people to see justice and carve out their own land.  After all, the land here to be fought over is the shifting and sometimes illusory domain of various evil forces and not something that one can permanently claim for oneself.

This particular book is more than 300 pages long.  It begins with a Dungeon key and then an overview of the Undermountain, including various adventure hooks and the entrance into the dungeon from the Yawning Portal.  After that most of the book consists of the 23 levels of the dungeon, all of which look at who or what dwells there, the exploration of the level, and the aftermath.  After the dungeon level (1), arcane chambers (2), Sargauth level (3), and twisted caverns (4), there is a discussion of the magic of Wyllowwood (5) as well as a lost level (6).  After that Maddgoth’s castle (7), Slitherswamp (8), and the Dweomercore (9) are revealed.  There is a look at Muiral’s gauntlet (10), the Troglodyte warrens (11), a maze level (12), and Trobriand’s graveyard (13).  After that comes Arcturiadoom (14), an obstacle course (15), a crystal labyrinth (16), and the Seadeeps (17).  Then comes Vanrakdoom, whose creator and lord had a very dark fate (18), the caverns of Ooze (19), as well as the Runestone Caverns and Stalagmite Tower (20).  Finally, the dungeon ends with a Terminus level (21), three tiers of the Shadowdusk hold (22), and the Mad Wizard’s lair itself (23).  After this the book ends with a discussion of Skullport and three appendices that introduce the dungeon’s deadly denizens (i), the Elder Runes deck (ii), and the Secrets deck (iii) that can be used to add randomness to the adventure.

Ultimately this scenario seems disappointing to me and not one that I would particularly enjoy playing.  Most of the beings that one would interact here are evil, making it hard to find enough “good guys” to support to make this a worthwhile campaign.  That said, if allying with one drow house or another or making efforts to either temporarily kill or dispossess evil wizards or involving yourself in the efforts of various beings to create alternate realities to siphon the psionic energy of others seems appealing to you, then this adventure provides a dark and morally grey to black adventure that may be appealing.  As for me, I have other preferences when I am playing in adventures that this book just does not provide, but at the same time it was certainly interesting, I must admit, and something I could see as at least theoretically appealing to a certain type of player and group.  And that is probably for the best.  Not every sort of adventure will be appealing for everyone, and so long as something can be appealing to someone it is likely that such a thing will be provided for those people to enjoy.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2020/01/13/book-review-tales-from-the-yawning-portal/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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