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 Running Undermountain?
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The Cavalier
Acolyte

USA
10 Posts

Posted - 26 Jun 2020 :  00:32:01  Show Profile Send The Cavalier a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
Hello again all,

Currently DMing for a party running through Dungeon of the Mad Mage, title says all I'm concerned with. Anyone here have advice on running Undermountain?
My main worry is how to entice my players and keep them compelled. Obviously you can't force players to be interested, but with Dungeon of the Mad Mage being a whole adventure purely made up of a single dungeon, I'm a bit anxious.
Overall any advice is appreciated, thanks!

If there's anything I've learned as a DM, it's never give the players access to a Wish spell in the first session.

Kentinal
Great Reader

4450 Posts

Posted - 26 Jun 2020 :  00:51:17  Show Profile Send Kentinal a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well the best advice I can offer is provide clues or rumors to things the characters desire. A moon blade for and elf, a spell book for a wizard, a relic for a cleric. , etc. There are so many things in Undermountain that any rumor might become true or at least offer some other reward of value.

There is of course things like rescue someone, kill some danger and if worst comes to worst trapped and trying to get out of that dangerous place.

The idea is that the players enjoy the game as well, if you as DM believe the players would not like their characters or themselves "compelled" you might consider less involved campaign or adventures. One of the worst thing that can happen to a campaign is one or more players resigning, because they are not having fun.

"Small beings can have small wisdom," the dragon said. "And small wise beings are better than small fools. Listen: Wisdom is caring for afterwards."
"Caring for afterwards ...? Ker repeated this without understanding.
"After action, afterwards," the dragon said. "Choose the afterwards first, then the action. Fools choose action first."
"Judgement" copyright 2003 by Elizabeth Moon
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Seethyr
Senior Scribe

USA
814 Posts

Posted - 26 Jun 2020 :  03:48:04  Show Profile  Visit Seethyr's Homepage Send Seethyr a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Itís the most sandboxy of all the 5e adventures published imo up until this point. Thatís something to celebrate and not panic over. Enjoy where it goes and where the players take you.

Follow the Maztica (Aztec/Maya) and Anchorome (Indigenous North America) Campaigns on DMsGuild!

The Maztica Campaign
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The Masked Mage
Great Reader

USA
2186 Posts

Posted - 26 Jun 2020 :  08:34:49  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Kentinal
The idea is that the players enjoy the game as well, if you as DM believe the players would not like their characters or themselves "compelled" you might consider less involved campaign or adventures. One of the worst thing that can happen to a campaign is one or more players resigning, because they are not having fun.



Got to say I disagree with this. Undermountain should be HELL for players. You don't explore it, you survive it - and unless they are amazing players with a little luck, surviving should be far from certain. One thing I think people get wrong, is they make it like every other dungeons, just bigger. That is forgetting the impossibility of predicting things in Undermountain. The halls change, there is literally nothing that you could not encounter there - throw out your encounter tables and just choose monsters that are cool... Just when your party is starting to think they have a handle on things, introduce a wild card that sets them running, then once they are running, have them go through a random portal that drops them into a new hell.

Also - and I cannot stress this part enough - forget all the ridiculous 'Halaster is dead' crap. Screw what the newer books say. Halaster IS Undermountain - he's the madness, he's the magic, he's what holds it all together, and in the end he is the ultimate wild/trump card. He chats with gods and toys with dragons and liches like they are his little marionettes. Have fun with it.
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Delnyn
Learned Scribe

USA
320 Posts

Posted - 01 Jul 2020 :  03:24:07  Show Profile Send Delnyn a Private Message  Reply with Quote
How familiar are the players with FR, or at least Waterdeep, Undermountain rumors and Skullport? Much like the ruins of Myth Drannor, Undermountain is very likely to get a character or two killed. If the players are unprepared and inattentive, their characters are begging for a TPK that session.

Keep in mind Halaster set many magics that alter the walls and features. Players have a module and map? Feel free to ignore the map and change the layout as you, the DM, see fit. Undermountain is a DM's license to cheat.
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bloodtide_the_red
Learned Scribe

USA
91 Posts

Posted - 01 Jul 2020 :  03:52:03  Show Profile  Visit bloodtide_the_red's Homepage Send bloodtide_the_red a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Type "metadungeon" into a search engine, and follow all the Old School links. You will find a ton of stuff, not the least of will be lots of encounter tables with all sorts of weird stuff.

And you want weird stuff. Not "in this 10x10 room is an orc guarding a chest."

More: "An eternal campfire burns in this room. The adventurers shadows appear on the dungeon wall, which turn into Shadows from the Monster Manual. The taller the adventurer, the more powerful the Shadow will be. The fire can only be put out by dousing it with holy water or some other curse removal."

For a list:

1. Environmental hazards -- slippery floors, rooms that flood, narrow ledges over steep drops, rooms that are excessively hot or cold, rooms or corridors filled with poison (or otherwise magical) gasses, etc.

2.At least one encounter that if played as a straight combat will totally overmatch the party, but which can be avoided or circumvented by some clever means.

3.At least one disorienting effect. teleporter, mirror trap, [swiveling] floor, or maze like monster. up is down too.

4. An area where resources are an issue. wet torches or wind blowing them out. oxygen low or having to hold your breath to swim [through] a tunnel.

5.One encounter (no more, no less) that makes absolutely no logical sense, that the DM completely leaves up to the players' imagination to explain.

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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
33697 Posts

Posted - 01 Jul 2020 :  03:57:57  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by bloodtide_the_red


5.One encounter (no more, no less) that makes absolutely no logical sense, that the DM completely leaves up to the players' imagination to explain.



I've always wanted to do an Animaniacs bit like this. In the cartoon, in the skits that didn't feature the Warners, they still would sometimes run by, chased by Ralph the guard... That's what I'd want to do, one time, as a DM: the party is in some deep dungeon or something, and then three small, black-furred humanoids run by, chased by some sort of guardsman. None of them pay any attention to the characters.

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Gelcur
Learned Scribe

334 Posts

Posted - 01 Jul 2020 :  15:43:04  Show Profile  Visit Gelcur's Homepage Send Gelcur a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've run Undermountain a few times now, and it is daunting at first. Real good advice above. What makes or breaks a dungeon is the dressing, normally you are limited to a theme or the locations history.

The advantage of Undertmountain is ANYTHING goes. I am 100% stealing Wooly's Animaniacs idea. Ed's writing in TSR 1060 "The Ruins of Undermountain" really gives a good feel for the place. Lacking that, these, one & two, online articles did an ok job of sort of mimicking the style.

One lesson I would impart do not be afraid of making blatantly obvious you cannot go here at the moment blockades.

*A door that folds up and disappears when the party approaches
*A keyhole that eats ALMOST anything that is placed in it
*A chasm with weird gravitational properties that is uncrossable
*A wall of force that the party can see the dungeon repairing itself from some crazy damage, that will only come down when the repairs are done

The party come to a town befallen by hysteria

Rogue: So what's in the general store?
DM: What are you looking for?
Rogue: Whatevers in the store.
DM: Like what?
Rogue: Everything.
DM: There is a lot of stuff.
Rogue: Is there a cart outside?
DM: (rolls) Yes.
Rogue: We'll take it all, we may need it for the greater good.
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The Masked Mage
Great Reader

USA
2186 Posts

Posted - 01 Jul 2020 :  15:55:50  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by bloodtide_the_red


5.One encounter (no more, no less) that makes absolutely no logical sense, that the DM completely leaves up to the players' imagination to explain.



I've always wanted to do an Animaniacs bit like this. In the cartoon, in the skits that didn't feature the Warners, they still would sometimes run by, chased by Ralph the guard... That's what I'd want to do, one time, as a DM: the party is in some deep dungeon or something, and then three small, black-furred humanoids run by, chased by some sort of guardsman. None of them pay any attention to the characters.



This would be great if in the next room there was a falling anvil trap.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
33697 Posts

Posted - 01 Jul 2020 :  17:20:49  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gelcur

I've run Undermountain a few times now, and it is daunting at first. Real good advice above. What makes or breaks a dungeon is the dressing, normally you are limited to a theme or the locations history.

The advantage of Undertmountain is ANYTHING goes. I am 100% stealing Wooly's Animaniacs idea. Ed's writing in TSR 1060 "The Ruins of Undermountain" really gives a good feel for the place. Lacking that, these, one & two, online articles did an ok job of sort of mimicking the style.

One lesson I would impart do not be afraid of making blatantly obvious you cannot go here at the moment blockades.

*A door that folds up and disappears when the party approaches
*A keyhole that eats ALMOST anything that is placed in it
*A chasm with weird gravitational properties that is uncrossable
*A wall of force that the party can see the dungeon repairing itself from some crazy damage, that will only come down when the repairs are done




Ooh, I like these -- particularly that last one!

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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
33697 Posts

Posted - 02 Jul 2020 :  01:15:25  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by sfdragon

Someone explain to me why when I read the title on this I had thoughts of Death Mountain from Legend of Zelda....

anyway, some well placed Mimics wouldn't hurt your cause ( best aberration ever imo) You can make them of various sizes too



Have a mimic replace a door. Rogue tries to pick the lock, and BAM! a morphological surprise!

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Candlekeep - The Library of Forgotten Realms Lore
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The Cavalier
Acolyte

USA
10 Posts

Posted - 02 Jul 2020 :  19:08:01  Show Profile Send The Cavalier a Private Message  Reply with Quote
This is all incredible advice, thank you all for helping me! My players are really starting to get into running through Undermountain, and one of them posed an interesting question: Is Chaos from the plane of Limbo involved in Undermountain? The reason they're asking is because their character trained with Githzerai monks, and are capable of manipulating Chaos. I'm not too experienced in both the lore of Undermountain and the abstract stuff from the different planes of existence, so any input on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

If there's anything I've learned as a DM, it's never give the players access to a Wish spell in the first session.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
33697 Posts

Posted - 02 Jul 2020 :  20:52:59  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by The Cavalier

This is all incredible advice, thank you all for helping me! My players are really starting to get into running through Undermountain, and one of them posed an interesting question: Is Chaos from the plane of Limbo involved in Undermountain? The reason they're asking is because their character trained with Githzerai monks, and are capable of manipulating Chaos. I'm not too experienced in both the lore of Undermountain and the abstract stuff from the different planes of existence, so any input on the matter would be greatly appreciated.



No planar stuff. Just a lot of different folks who have decided this is some good real estate, and a mad wizard who decided to make it a playground.

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Candlekeep - The Library of Forgotten Realms Lore
http://www.candlekeep.com
-- Candlekeep Forum Code of Conduct

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Starshade
Learned Scribe

Norway
269 Posts

Posted - 03 Jul 2020 :  12:36:20  Show Profile Send Starshade a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by sfdragon

Someone explain to me why when I read the title on this I had thoughts of Death Mountain from Legend of Zelda....


My thought went to "Choose your own adventure's" D&D style dungeon crawl book, where an mad wizard in a labirynth was the end boss.

The player could, in the end text, choose to take the treasure there, or even take over the site as the new master. Imagine PCs taking out Undermountain's boss and running it.
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Delnyn
Learned Scribe

USA
320 Posts

Posted - 03 Jul 2020 :  16:07:36  Show Profile Send Delnyn a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Starshade

quote:
Originally posted by sfdragon

Someone explain to me why when I read the title on this I had thoughts of Death Mountain from Legend of Zelda....


My thought went to "Choose your own adventure's" D&D style dungeon crawl book, where an mad wizard in a labirynth was the end boss.

The player could, in the end text, choose to take the treasure there, or even take over the site as the new master. Imagine PCs taking out Undermountain's boss and running it.



I could imagine of the PC's becoming the host for Halaster's sentience and the body gradually transforms into Halaster's, except much younger.
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