15 April 2019
Follow-up to Dragon Heist is an old-school dungeon delve
For all the talk of dungeons in Dungeons & Dragons, you’d be amazed by how little they feature in many modern campaigns. This is something that Dungeon of the Mad Mage aims to correct with a torrent of entertaining subterranean adventures.
The campaign is a sequel of sorts to Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and sends the party on a quest into the sprawling complex of Undermountain. Though there are a handful of hooks that can give the heroes their first nudge into its cavernous depths, the book makes it clear that the thirst for adventure, gold and glory is probably going to be the main motivation.
This may not sound particularly exciting, but it gives the entire campaign a unique feel among the world-shattering quests of earlier books. It shows that sometimes it can be fun to just kick in a few doors, dodge a couple traps and dump a fireball on whatever unlucky creatures cross your path.
It’s a little unfair to act as though Dungeon of the Mad Mage doesn’t have much in the way of story, however. While there isn’t too much in terms of grand arcs, there are a hundred little stories that emerge as the adventurers explore. They might spend a few sessions weighing their options in a conflict between minotaurs and dark elves, and then find themselves uncovering a hidden gate that links the dungeon to an orbiting asteroid.
However, there’s no getting around that fact that they’re all variations on a theme. Playing a campaign of Dungeon of the Mad Mage from start to end is going to mean spending an awful lot of time exploring monster lairs and dodging traps.
This may not be a problem for some groups – the dungeon crawl was the foundation of D&D, after all – but many modern roleplayers cut their teeth on more narrative campaigns and may well tire of the trek down into Undermountain after six months of questing.
Dungeon of the Mad Mage is a campaign that knows exactly what it wants to be – and that’s a stack of fun, old-school dungeons for the party to delve.
PLAY IT? – PROBABLY
Designer: Wizards of the Coast team
This review originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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