Name: Halls of Undermountain
Publisher: Wizard of the Coast
System: Dungeon and Dragons 4th Edition
Author: Shawn Merwin, Matt Sernett
Category: Hardback Book - DnD Supplement
Firstly it is interesting to say what this release from WOTC is not. A recent article on DND insider by Matt Sernett goes into the design details and shows that what started as a deluxe adventure, with own miniatures etc, became a deluxe box set. Then, due to economic constraints, ended in this book set. The full article can be found here. It is a fascinating insight into what goes into game development and the impact of business realities over creative design.
Also this book is not an in depth guide to Undermountain levels and different denizens (like Underdark). Indeed the Town of Skull Port is hardly mentioned.
What this 96 page book is in fact a set of three linked adventures based on the first level of Undermountain. There is space given to the Yawning Portal Inn, with it's well that accesses undermountain and the start of the adventure. Well, I say adventure, it is actually three adventures that are closely linked and takes players from 1st to 5th level.
There are two double sized poster maps and excellent art work throughout. The first poster map is the complete first level on one side (yes it is truly awesome) of which the adventures in the book only take a small corner! This leasves plenty of space for DM's to fill and it should be noted that the adventure sites are not numbered on the post map of the level. The other side of this poster map is the Yawning portal. The second poster map are two key encournter locations. They are of the normal high standard that we have come to expect from WOTC.
The first part of the actual book is the introduction and history of Undermountain. This is a good reference for first time players and DM's as it explains why the dungeon exists and what could be found in the lower levels. The next part then explains the different ways to get into the dungeon levels and the threats (and opportunities) these pose. The main way in for this book is the Yawning Portal. The book takes you into this inn and you are introduced to the main characters. Again plot points and adventure / campaign ideas are well spread in here. There is plenty for a DM to expand upon. There are two pages on adventuring in Undermountain (no where near enough!) and two pages of tables to randomly stock rooms!!
From page 18 to page 73, the three linked adventures are played through. I will not ruin the content here but suffice to say the plats are tightly woven and some of the encounters seem a little heavy for lower level characters. However as I have not played them through, I will leave that for you to decide. One point of itnerest is that the monster stats are not included, just reference of where to find them in the Monster Vault! This is a great idea as it saves space in the book and opens this book to be used by other editions!! Is this the way for 5e?
Page 74 then opens the rest of the first level by showing the other main points of interest. The Infamous Areas show traps, treasures and plot ideas that DM's can then expand upon and make this level something of a playground for higher level characters. The final pages are some blocks of 4e monster stats for ease of reference.
So, this book is a bit of a hodge-pot. It is not a guide to the complete undermountain that many may expect. However it is a good dungeon adventure that could be picked up and put into any campaign and the open monster stats make it usable by other versions or systems! Just make sure you know what to expect and think on what could have been if the original plan had been followed.....
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