As we were designing an expansion for Neverwinter, we needed a huge space for players to progress to level 80 with a new cap increase. Where better to do so than in the biggest dungeon in the Forgotten Realms? With that idea in mind, Wizards of the Coast’s “Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage” book was our tome of choice for research and reference. By offering 23 different levels in the famed dungeon of Undermountain, this D&D Fifth Edition campaign book gave our team so many choices for location and story content, centered around the Mad Mage – Halster Blackcloak – and his vast creation.
It was actually very difficult to select only a few of the levels and monsters covered in the book, which prompted many brainstorm and pitch sessions amongst the team. Everyone spent these meetings advocating the pros and cons of their favorite dungeon environment, stories, and monsters in found in Undermountain. There’s so much great content in the Mad Mage’s dungeon that we wanted to bring to our players in Neverwinter – but not everything could make the cut. Ultimately, we needed five new zones for players to progress from level 70 to 80. Our bottom-line criteria for selecting the final zones were: technical viability, exciting story possibilities, and the roster of monsters which lurked in each respective zone.
Firstly, we picked the Catacombs, as it is the actual first level of Undermountain, and a great starting point for the story with mostly humanoid enemies. From there, adventurers delve deeper down into the Twisted Caverns to get a change of scenery and a vastly different ecosystem of massive monsters. After that, players venture into Wyllowood, a magical forest inside of the mountain dungeon – yes, you read correctly, a forest… inside a mountain. Delving even deeper, players enter the Terminus level – a fiery cavern dotted with mithril mines and lava, ruled over by a fallen angel. For the final level of our Undermountain adventure, we selected Vanrakdoom, a dungeon level overtaken by the shadowfell and a shadow dragon. Our Environment team did an amazing job creating all new dungeon and caverns kits from which we built these zones, each of which has its own distinct appearance and monster group.
Speaking of monsters, a dungeon is just a hole in the ground without them. The Neverwinter team created more new monsters for this expansion than we have in any other release since launch. Players will encounter groups of mushroom-like Myconids, spider-herding Ettercaps, deadly Umber Hulks and enormous purple worms – just for starters. Ultimately adventurers will also face off against the apprentices of the Mad Mage, Arcturia and Trobriand. These monsters are of course guarding great treasures, which draws many adventurers into Undermountain – never to return to the surface.
While the Neverwinter team has worked very hard to bring a recreation of Undermountain into our game, the real maestro of Undermountain is Halaster Blackcloak. Following adventurers on their expedition, he can be seen popping in and out of the dungeon, summoning monsters, or just absentmindedly chatting to himself. Halaster has spent centuries trapped in his own dungeon domain, building and altering Undermountain, filling it with magic and monsters, treasures and traps. The fact that Halaster continually tinkers and changes his dungeon was a key element in our team digging into Undermountain – where we’ve encountered so many possibilities, and so many more levels to explore in future content releases.
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