When I got there from the Wizard of the Coast the communication that the next timeline would concern Halaster I jumped.

It has been (relatively) recently that I have picked up that huge setting that is Forgotten Realms in my hands and I have realized that the work done by Ed Greenwood is enormous. Huge and dispersive as only a Fallout game can be, a situation that has certainly not improved between the Spellplague of the fourth and the subsequent massive restoration of the fifth. Information is scattered among the various manuals, the several decades of difference and the absence of a manual have done the rest. Forgotten Realms has lost all that precision obtained over the years and the general advice you find to put a patch on it is "read the wiki".

The only exception is Waterdeep, a metropolis inserted in many countryside and living fulcrum of a campaign (DH), rather detailed and the only part “saved” from the cleaning of the 4th. Not even Eberron was saved from this wave of simplification, which on the one hand made things more enjoyable and on the other wiped out years of information. I fear that Waterdeep: City of Splendors will remain a distant memory. But isn't it common saying "when life offers you lemons you make a lemonade?"

The best chapters

Although it cannot be said that Dungeon of the Mad Mage is a bad product, it is quite normal that in two hundred and broken pages there are peaks of beauty and ugliness. Each level is connected to the following and previous ones but differs in terms of themes and general environments, which may or may not meet the tastes of the reader. Some levels met my taste more than others;

Wyllowwood, the fifth level, is a balanced level and not too "weapons in hand". Besides being the first level in which you can get in touch with Halaster himself (and consequently begin to glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel, pass me the term) it has an attractive design and a series of touches of class. I would have improved the map, in my opinion too spacious and level, and I would have included some hints at the lower levels. The story around the PNGs of this level seemed interesting to me from the very first lines. Who knows if players will understand that often the loot can be left exactly where it is.

Il Crystal labyrinth, sixteenth level, is something literally spatial. In addition to wink to other settings, he places the Githyanki and their astral ships, in an environment completely out of the canon. I would have preferred a more complex set of encounters and ultimately a more terrifying end-of-level boss but otherwise it remains one of the best levels.

Venrakdoom, the eighteenth level, is simply magnificent. I've always loved the dream world and I make extensive use of it to explain things beyond the knowledge of the characters, which this level has and does without hesitation. I often tell of storytelling tears that have to do with good guys becoming bad but not so bad, and this level has it. I like dragons, the bronze ones above all because of their habitat, and guess what? There is also a dragon. Everything on this level is pretty damn good.

That paragraph on ecology that everyone ignores (goes) no

Dungeon of Mad Mages it amazed thanks to its variety. We can talk at length about the individual levels and how they are built, but the synthesis is that the new Wizzy product is a manual of the monsters. Each level is separate but different at the same time, each level is new. This is what should happen in a properly done dungeon. I managed to extract some tips from the book, certainly useful to new dungeon creators.

Work on the vertical. There is nothing more alive than a tiered cave and Dungeon of the Mad Mage he points this out to us several times. Levels connected by a common element that recurs cyclically, floor after floor. It could be a river of lava, for the less creative, or an immense obsidian column from which infinite levels start. Verticality helps to feel depth and helps players feel more and more distant from civilization. The idea of ​​having to retrace the path you have already taken will become a factor to be taken into consideration as you enter the dungeon. Siping the resources for the return trip can lead to even the most prepared player going backwards.

Stop it with the usual monsters. I know of players who have not yet faced an Aboleth, or a Yeth hound at the table, in a lifetime. Insert different monsters, choose twenty from the monster manual and throw them into each level of your dungeon. At the fourth goblin-kobold-orc even the most rancorous adventurer will get fed up. Dungeon of the Mad Mage it's a dungeon similar to many others but each fight is different, with modified monsters and alliances that are never unexpected.

Make connections. In addition to making your dungeon a zoo, try to give a semblance of logic to why everything is where it is. Dungeon of the Mad mages unloads the barrel on Halaster a lot but, with just as lazy reason. If you do not want to use the same trick, it will be better to prepare some solid reasons. Also try to follow the pattern “what does he do, where he sleeps, what he eats, how time passes”, it can be a panacea for ideas.

All roads do not lead to Rome. In Dungeon of the Mad Mage there is no unique path to cross a level. You can decide to cross each room sword in hand and massacre anyone who stands before you, make alliances or stealthily cross each enemy. All this is fantastic because it makes each level highly predisposed to satisfy every type of group and / or player. Think about what kind of group you have and build the dungeon accordingly.

That said, I hope I've given valuable advice for anyone who wants to build a good dungeon. What do you think about it? Have you read DotMM? Which is the chapter that struck you the most?