Where Evil Lives – MCDM Lairs Book Review

Arcadia was incredible, Flee, Mortals! a masterpiece… so where does Where Evil Lives, the companion product to the monster book stand? I’ve been checking out most of it, examining the design behind the lairs and just checking out what’s cool about it in my latest streams on Twitch. If you want to check out my thoughts before anyone else, that’s the best place to do so. Now, if it is my thoughts on Flee, Mortals! that you want to know about, then head to THIS ARTICLE.

What Is Where Evil Lives?

When Flee, Mortals came out in crowdfunding, MCDM had the plan to fit way too much stuff in their book and wasn’t planning for it to be such a whooping success. So, they added way too much stuff into their book, but had to make a decision: Would they shorten the book, or print a gigantic book, that could easily break apart? The answer was plan C: none of the above. Make a monster book, and a shorter lair book. However, the lair book ended up being so good that people wanted it not to be just a PDF as it was originally intended, but a physical product as well. New crowdfunding, instant success as well.

So, is it worth it?

Yeah. End of review.


Ok, let’s be serious for once. With MCDM you expect great quality work from greatly paid amazing designers and writers. It’s an incredible formula for success. Now with that said, I do have some nitpicking just because with it being such a great product I know they can easily make this better. Still, overall, amazing work as usual.

I only have a PDF copy from backing Flee, Mortals, and James Introcaso also sent me a review copy. Thus, I can not judge the physical version of this product. I have not found images of copies yet, and from what I have researched those copies are just starting to arrive.

The best dungeons have fun boss battles, exciting hazards, and, of course, awesome treasure. Where Evil Lives: The MCDM Book of Boss Battles has all that plus everything you need to run a lair out of the book in a moment’s notice. Use a dungeon when you have nothing else planned, or build an entire campaign that leads up to a climactic encounter in a lair!

Lairs, not dungeons

The book markets itself as a book of lairs, and never states it is a book of dungeons. Yeah, it consists of 22 locations that are pretty much what we associate with dungeons, but these are short, made to be run within a single session, and they all are the lair of some powerful monster from the Flee, Mortals! book. The fact that James Introcaso, Mike Shea, and Scott Fitzgerald worked on this lair book, just as they did with the Fantastic Lairs :23 Boss Battles for your 5e RPG  (which is another amazing product of lairs) meant that this product was destined to success.

Below you can see a list of the 23 lairs. Weird they didn’t add a lvl 1 lair, but at the same time I feel that it doesn’t make much sense to add one. Going through a lair against a boss monster is either suicidal, or you have to make the boss monster quite boring/nonsensical for it to work. You have lairs going up to lvl 20. Tiers 3 and 4 of play in D&D have such a low amount of content and is so ridiculously varied that it was really interesting getting to analyze the design behind them.

The Monsters

The monsters you will find in this book are some of the ones that appear on Flee, Mortals! However, you don’t need that book in order to ue this one. All monsters you will need are reprinted in this book to make it an excellent standalone. That meant that a few things I considered unnecessary were reprinted as well. For example, this goblins sidebox while it works excellently for the monster book, it is useless for a cavern lair that already indicates how they will behave. Maybe re-adapting this text to how they behave in the lair could have worked better.

The monsters being copies from the monster book, they have sublime design, and the boss monsters work excellently with these environments. I would not be surprised if the monsters were originally created just for this lair, and then re-adapted for the monster book.

One thing I was surprised with from this book were roaming monsters. These appear in a lot of dungeons, but I was expecting to not have monsters materialize to roam the corridors and encounter the PCs, but have these monsters be part of the ones that were in other rooms. That way, if you battle the roaming monsters you get a benefit from doing so: you will encounter less later. This, however, may overcomplicate the design of the dungeon, but I somehow wish there was a way to simply accomplish this.

Lastly, I wanted to point out that while there were no Lair Actions in the Flee, Mortals! book to be found these were all in this book as they work with these specific lairs. Some of the lair actions create very unique sort of battles, which can only be done by creating these actions specifically for the lair they are in.


Now this is what the book is all about. Having talked with some of the designers from both books, I know that designers who were tasked with certain monsters also designed the lair for them if there was one. Examples like this are Kat Kruger’s amazing hobgoblins with a lair that plays a lot with their now infernal heritage. Among some of my favorite lairs are the following:

  • The Hanging Tree features an orc mercenary band that uses a tavern as the place to recruit them. There’s also the fact that the environment was made so you or the orcs can throw anything in it to attack. Excellent and hilarious game design!
  •  Camp Firefield is a hobgoblin camp set inside a pocket dimension. This means that from room to room you are teleporting to different nodes within the lair, which is just incredible.
  • Eight City Advocacy Services is a place of business in which the supreme devil reigns. You are pretty much infiltrating an office filled with devils. It’s so wacky I love it.
  • Boughs of Eternity is the lair of a lich, located inside a giant tree, which you must go through learning the past of this entity to continue. I love great environmental storytelling.

There are some things I wanted to nitpick about these lairs as well, cause I feel this could be a tiny bit better. Many lairs are separated into different sections or levels. For some reason, this is not specified in the maps, which by the way are beautiful and fantastic for VTTs. Additionally, the table I showed above with all the lairs (which works greatly as a second index) does not lead you to the lair page when clicked. I believe this could be solved extremely easily, and it’s a cool accessibility thing to have.

Now, lastly, I want to point out some things I don’t see often in lairs or dungeons from other products. All lairs have NPCs with names and personalities that make them stand out from regular guards or minions. Often, they have information of use, or want to rebel against their boss, meaning you can possibly recruit them, using the retainer’s rules. Additionally, as indicated with the lich above, many monsters and bosses have a story that you can learn by going through the lair, be it by interrogating minions, reading books on the way, or seeing details on the environment. That is a stellar work from MCDM, I love seeing it. MCDM also seems to have given enough liberty to their designers to do wacky stuff with the design, such as draining Hit Dice from the PCs, which is something I love! Please do more things like this in the future! (if you ever design for D&D again). As a last thing, the product comes with a custom character sheet, which is just so much better looking than the original one! I’ll be using it for my future D&D games!

Final Thoughts

You guessed it! Another banger from MCDM… However, this is their last 5e one before doing solely their own stuff. Their upcoming setting book seems to be system neutral I think. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went with making it mostly for their own game. So, after all this time, we are seeing a shift in MCDM’s (and Matt Colville’s channel I suppose) direction. I am excited to see what that means for the future of TTRPG. It certainly is showing off how a great TTRPG company should work like.