About Waterdeep, Undermountain, Skullport and… Selune asteroid! (Spelljammer?!) June 22, 2018Zoltar hello and welcome to a special edition of and beyond we are live from origins game fair in Columbus Ohio we are kicking off hours of interviews and updates that will culminate in a live play session where dwarven Forge will exclusively reveal a build from their upcoming kickstarter six return to the caverns I’ve gotten a sneak peek and trust me you do not want to miss this I am Adam Bradford I’m joined at this amazing table provided by our friends at wormwood by esteemed fellow adventurers Chris Perkins Jeremy Crawford last but not least my co-host for this shindig mr. Todd Kenner well we just throw this open right now let’s just like yeah it’s a good idea yeah yeah he’s blind at all because I until you told me it was dwarfed and forged under there I thought actually the Wicked Witch of the West and yeah this is the interview unless you want talking about like Wonder Woman for like three minutes like we do Oh watch out yeah pop culture before our actual interview much to the detriment of our time uh so let’s talk about water deep bench of the mad mage I’m just kind of a big question but what was your favorite bit about each is there like one aspect of either them whether it’s an idea whether it’s a villain whether it’s a dungeon lair because there’s something that really stood out where you’re like super excited the idea of having a campaign based around a city of the size of Waterdeep yeah with as much character that the city has was very interesting and just knowing the lore of Waterdeep that it’s got this huge dungeon underneath it just waiting to gobble up the adventurers at some point made it kind of irresistible yeah yeah for me so about Dragon and iced my favorite thing is basically city as toybox we have all these different things to play with and then my favorite thing about dungeon of the mad mage is that each dungeon is in a way a standalone adventure and they are many of them are zany I think a DM is gonna have a great time running through that entire campaign or just plucking individual levels out yeah and I mean honestly you could basically airlift those those levels and drop them into any campaign setting build a story around them so it’s especially I’m a DM as a kit basher I love to take things other people have created and then make them my own so these two books in a way are built for dm’s like me it’s like oh give me all these goodies and I’m gonna tinker and build a you know a thing I mean I take ice tries to get you so invested in the city that you don’t want to leave but at some point around fifth level we sort of expect the characters are gonna want to go under mountain is a natural lore but the way under mountain is created is it’s an in-and-out experience so you can come and go and come and go which means the DM can pull the characters out of Waterdeep for a while to go on some other adventure but then they can always come back to under mouth and if they’re looking for something to do or push them out right yeah well I like about dungeon of the mad mage is it almost sounds like a stack of modules and which is like a cool thing yeah it’s great from a design point of view from a creative point of view because every levels kind of got its own bosses and themes and feel and atmosphere and so we got to create a bunch of basically mini villains running around in the dungeon that dm’s can play with what did did Diablo play into that at all like from a video game perspective because when you play in Diablo you town portal back yes so between that yes sounds very similar to them yeah the structure of under mountain because it’s the mad mage himself Hollister likes to use gates in the dungeon to teleport people around it has a very Diablo feel now under mountain predates Diablo so the question really should be yes is Diablo based on so speaking of villains that dragon heist in particular and then obviously as the the titular mad mage you know makes an appearance in that book but we have four different kind of primary and antagonist right and when I heard about this book and the way that it approaches the seasons I was just enamored talk a little more about that so dragon heist it takes place on water deep but the DM decides what season the adventure unfolds during and the choice of season determines development or vice versa the DM gets married to one of the four villain options and then the villain that they choose determines the season which the story unfolds the reason we did that was twofold one we like the idea of just showing off water deep at different times of the year because there are dramatic changes to the city that happened over the course of seasons like for instance winters and water deep are very very harsh and people tend to lock themselves in their homes and the gates to the city close all trade is cut off the harbour freezes over it’s very very different from like water deep in the summer when a heat spell sort of settles on the city everybody’s airing themselves out in the open and socializing and they’re all these parades and festivals happening so it was an opportunity for us to just bring the city to life at various times of the year the other thing is when we were breaking the story we didn’t have a particularly ylönen mind to be the the one who’s challenging the heroes are trying to steal the gold that is sort of the thread the main plot thread of the story so we just put on a white board a bunch of ideas of who the villain could be and then kind of just hedging our bets and said one when we can just have more riddles we can structure the story around each of them and give them each a different reason for wanting the treasure so is there any flexibility built in to have all four of them take apart okay absolutely yes because you could decide to play through all four seasons and tweak the story along the way part of our motivation here is also we love the idea of a DM feeling like he or she has agency right from the start I mean this is something that was originally explored in D&D way back in the original Ravenloft of you know you do this card reading at the beginning that can change the whole course of the adventure so here it’s built in as a choice and it also has a great effect in that it helps the DM focus because it means once the DM has chosen the villain they’re gonna use the DM doesn’t then have to try to ingest the entire book the DM can just focus on all right I need to understand the bits of the book that are about this villain this season and then if I want to delve into the others I can read those next right so it also makes the book more digestible and again this is something we do in under mountain as well where again you only need to know the one level you’re about to do it so it’s gonna make I think both books will make DM correct pretty easy without spoiling I’m not gonna time spoil it spoil everything but in Dungeon of the mad mage how insane is this going to get because I think it’s very easy for people who don’t know the history of what’s underneath under mountain how crazy things can get because it’s not it’s not like a dungeon with like it’s a stones and torches and there’s like gates you have to open it gets so much more intense and strange it gets more bizarre sort of the deeper you go down so what seems like a very normal dungeon on like the first level you start to see the introduction of weirder and weirder things as the as the deeper you go but under mountain has such a long history a number of different kingdoms or creatures have lived down there over the years or added to it or built on it sections of the dungeon were built by the drow other sections were sort of carved out by dwarves and Durga and then of course Hollister and his apprentices went down there and did a bunch of shenanigans there have been you aunty lost you wanting societies down there all kinds of crazy stuff and then the deeper you go the deeper you realize oh there were like miniature civilizations oh there’s a mind flayer colony rocking down here and then then there’s just some completely off the wall stuff this is a bit of a spoiler but anybody who’s familiar with some of the old under mountain products will know that this is here so I’m sort of spoiling but I’m sort of not that is that one of the levels of under mountain has a gateway to an asteroid that orbits the planet or Oh in this string of asteroids called the tiers of saloon a so you spend part of the adventure on an asteroid fighting the stuff that’s currently living there which I won’t spoil this how do they breathe that is all covered in the adventure she heard asteroid so how do I go one of the inhabitants of Waterdeep yes I mean yeah so again for anyone who’s not familiar with under mountain in in some ways it is like a Museum of dungeons yes it is almost like if it were an amusement park you could go into a lobby and there would be posters of like do you want the mind flayer dungeon experience the drow dungeon experience and then you choose and you go in and you it’s Dean D Disneyland yeah that’s real with Easter eggs it it crosses the streams a little bit by introducing themes from other worlds and other settings and there’s lots of foreshadowing so you might find something on level six that only becomes relevant or significant on level 22 all right how many levels are actually detailed in the book is so twenty three levels of under mountain are detailed two plus the satellite settlement of skull port which for those who are familiar with the setting knows is a subterranean town that is sort of attached to the third level of under mountain that has been a period at various periods of history occupied by pirates drow criminals and all kinds of bad folk okay and it’s currently currently the base of operations for the Sabbath Art Guild speaking of xanthor and maybe you don’t relate to any of the villains these four major villains but all right Jerry who do you think Chris Perkins amongst the village we’re going there and Christine I do the same because because wait are we spoiling who the villains are well I think we’ve known there’s a giant poster looking at a stream of many is so so so in the D&D Department for over a decade we have often speculated that Chris is a clone so I’m gonna choose mansion that makes sense in fact he could be the Moriarty from Star Trek next generation and she won’t think I look like the art of Jarl axel you should do some cosplay at some point yeah I’m a bit of a bit of a cipher so and so so is Manchu yeah I can see that we may get you that gauntlet yes I need a Thanos golem yeah I know what you would do with it what would Jerry be uh I gotta say Jarl axel Thanks he said thank you very colorful well-spoken erudite dashing I’m a louse that’s why says I’m his LinkedIn [Laughter] what was that like to bring Jarl axel with all of that history I’ve read what 20 plus books with darling it probably at this point what was that like to bring him back into one of these adventures we’ve never actually featured him or any other sort of major novel or antagonist from Bob Salvatore’s books before for me it was just so I’ve always been enamored with Durrell axel because he’s so iconoclastic he’s is the anti dressed yeah the other drow who doesn’t behave like a drow in a lot of respects and he’s just a complex villain he’s also the type of villain that you can really really kind of love of all of all the villains in the dragon high story he’s the one most likely to end up as the party’s friend which is an uncharacteristic role and one we’ve never really showed off in a fifth edition adventure before so the other thing I like about him is you never really know the depths of his plotting so he’s always ten steps ahead of you in any chess game but and and so just that kind of level of smart billing always intrigues me now I was personally nervous because I I wanted to make sure he was treated right I didn’t want to despoil the character in any way right that Bob come at me with a machete wait here comes right now but I felt like you know Jarl Axel’s motivations in this particular story are unique to this story but they make sense in terms of his character and his current role in the world and in the political landscape of the north it and actually one of the things I love about the Jarl Axl’s role in the book is everything having to do with him is a great example of that toy box element I don’t want to spoil too much but he has come on he has an entire group that can’t a DM could actually reuse over and over again and not just in water deep because they travel around so Jarl Axel and his group could end up being a recurring element in any fr campaign yes because of just the nature of what they’re doing in this city what they might be doing in other cities one of the cool things about the dragon high story is after you’ve chosen your villainy like you alluded to doesn’t mean that the other villains aren’t around but in Jarl Axl’s case he can intrude upon another villainous story as an owl so now I with the villain or look the poor characters okay he’s not he’s not the villain I’m it’s not as best right now he is helping the characters thwart the villain it’s a very very interesting role for him zan Thor I’m in love with just just because of the goldfish that could have been such a one no villain yeah but you give him this little thing and I kind of love him now yes even though he’d probably kill a lot of people a lot of society constantly having to swap it out yes like I I think I’ve known people where you just have to be on like to this idea came out of one of the earliest discussions we had of a dragon heist story as soon as we knew that well as soon as we knew it was gonna be based on warranty we knew the zanaffar was gonna play some role yeah we didn’t know at the time he was gonna be the villain but one of our first consultants that we brought out was Charlie Sanders it was a DM he loves the game he is a writer he was a writer on key and Peele he’s got comedy chops and we were brainstorming him what the Santa Thor’s criminal organization looked like and felt like and one of the things we decided was to humanize the Santa thar and also add an element of chaos the organization by saying that the only thing he really loves us this dumb fish right and if that the characters ever capture the fish or kill the fish it would drive the Santa Thor into such a rage that he would basically turn on his own organization and vaporize everybody and so that’s one way that you can sort of deal with as Anitha it’s a horrible moral quandary to kill the goldfish right dragon heist is has a lot of moral quandary I can see that as being its own heist film within a heist film where you grab the goldfish in a nice lending fish heist yeah we actually did an illustration for the dragon heist book which shows an adventurer stealing the fish the halfling the half-way Singh yeah yeah that’s that would be my realm yeah and in all of this with Scylla guard a goldfish and XANA thar it’s a great example how our books also cross pollinate because it was actually work on dragon heist going on that partially in flu then the prominence of Santa thar and the goldfish in zennith arse guide to everything yes even though that book that book came out last year it was actually influenced by work we were doing on dragon eyes and then lovely you get the flavor of house at hours mind works by reading the little side the footnotes oh my god yes yeah master net wrote those right yes and they’re one of my favorite parts of the Santa Thor’s guidebook because when you’re cracking open code for the first time it’s an easy access point into the material and it really gives you a flavor of what this character and dandy is like yeah if a DM ends up picking Zanna thar as the villain and dragon heist reading all those quotes and zennith arse guide to everything is actually a fantastic way to get into the insane minds of that Boulder yes right right we also had some contributors on the book some of the riders that have been gaining some prominence in the community I’m talking a little bit about yeah yeah I sure can so on the DMS guild is one of our primary methods of letting people basically share their content with other people in community and we plunder the DM skill for writers and with dragon heists we hired two writers James and taka so and James hake to basically work with me on writing the manuscript for the first book and then when I came time to do to set up writing dungeon the matte mage we went back to DM skilled and also to our adventurers League which is another venue we have for cultivating talent and we plundered what twelve miners from that to help us tackle the various levels of undermount I have to admit that it’s easier to work with two writers at a time than twelve but it all worked out in the end and I think that the experiences that they gain from writing on these products is gonna make their work on BM skilled and adventures even better and you had a friend to that you got to work with [Laughter] there’s another we had another consultants on the dragon heist story a a remarkable fellow an up-and-comer he’s alright a few people might have heard of him I think I think the kid’s gonna be great yeah name Matthew Mercer who I am 100% in love with and he and I had a great time just brainstorming or fleshing out the villains for Dragon heist and giving them multi dimensions and so we brought him in for a week to basically help us crack some knots on the dragon my story and pick his brain about a number of things while he was here and so without his contributions I don’t think dragon heist would have been quite so magical was it ended up oh you did step walks and using magical items and stuff yes so yeah pretty much if any dandy book has any rule in it whatsoever yeah that is my baby he just Hulk out and so I worked on the all of the monsters NPCs magic items in both Dragon heist and catacomb and I was joined in that work working for me by Kate Welch and Ben Petrus or both of them are on our staff and then both books have been polished by editors some of them have worked on the game for decades and then also some of whom are new to the game so both books well dragon heist had Michelle Carter who’s been working on D&D for decades Kim Mohan you know who many people know going all the way back to first edition West Nider his work is working with us now as an editor Matt click and scott Fitzgerald gray all doing work on these books to help take something that’s beautiful and and make it shine as much as a cancer right yeah well the things we did in these books is we got two artists whose styles complement each other to do the covers tylerjacobsen has done a number of covers for us did dragon heist and Cynthia Shepard who was one of the art directors in the magic team right and a gifted illustrator in Iran I graciously offered up her time dungeon of the madman covered Bower is nuts stylistically they sort of mirror each other they do yeah and their compositions yeah yeah I think we’re about out of time I’m gonna ask one more question this one’s gonna be a little hard probably so for Dragon heist and dungeon of the mad mage if you had to describe them with one word just one word Oh would you use I did it folks I did it complete balloon both my one word for dungeon life and mad maids would be bunkers oh yeah yeah dragon nice would be we are out of time thank you guys so much for joining us Share 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One thought on “About Waterdeep, Undermountain, Skullport and… Selune asteroid! (Spelljammer?!)”
I am new to this website but I am DM’ing the mad Mage adventure. The party arrived at the level 1 room with the overhead pool of acid and the statue with the Tiefling heart in the box.
One of the players ate the heart. If a character attunes with the heart their heart is replaced in the box. As far as I can see if this happens it just means death to the character. I’m not sure how the authors intended this to work.
Any thoughts on how I should have handled this a a DM?