After revealing that their next Dungeons & Dragons campaign would be Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, Wizards Of The Coast dropped a surprise on us: there would be a second adventure published in 2018, a sequel to the first and dramatically more intimidating: Waterdeep: Dungeon Of The Mad Mage.
Dungeon Of The Mad Mage is set under the city of Waterdeep. In the D&D lore, the megadungeon known as Undermountain is accessed through the pit in the taproom of the Yawning Portal pub; adventurers pay for the privilege of being lowered down into its depths on a winch, and most never return.
Undermountain is a true megadungeon: boasting over 23 levels, each with its own theme and ecology, the dungeon will also include tribes, factions, and alliances of creatures pulled from across the Planes who (mostly) don't want to be there. The dungeon was perhaps first explored by Halaster Blackcloak, the titular Mad Mage, who still inhabits (or is imprisoned within) the dungeon. Since he first set foot in Undermountain, Halaster has been expanding the dungeon bit by bit.
Some fans were disappointed by the initial announcement of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. Not only were they let down that it was a low-levels adventure (from levels 1 to 5), but it was set in a city (rather than the anticipated Spelljammer or Planescape setting), and a very much Forgotten Realms setting at that, leaving little wiggle room for DMs to adapt the adventure to their own custom settings.
That said, having a whole new adventure dedicated to the lower levels of play is a welcome addition to the game; though every campaign features a way to bring player characters up to speed, having another full "intro" adventure like The Lost Mines Of Phandelver can only help expand the game.
Dungeon Of The Mad Mage will be a sort of palate-cleanser to the roleplay and politic-heavy Dragon Heist. According to the designers, this will be as combat-heavy and deadly as the players expect of the word "megadungeon."
Still, Waterdeep: Dungeon Of The Mad Mage has been met with widespread excitement. Having a fully-mapped-out megadungeon to explore, not to mention a campaign that finally takes the players into the highest tiers of play (usually considered levels 16-20), is a sight for sore eyes. Speaking of sore eyes, did anyone else notice the Death Tyrant on the cover of the book...?