I'd really like to run COTMA, but for some reason the idea of coming up with the ruins and level 1 kind of intimidate me. I'd like to see some examples that I could either use as written or just use as a basis for inspiration. Has anyone written these and posted them somewhere?
The closest is probably Richard Graves’ The Mad Demigod’s Castle, available on Dragonsfoot. It doesn’t write up the ruins, but it does write up level 1, and contains connections to the various Castle of the Mad Archmage levels.
If you're one of the lucky people to own it, you'll find that Troll Lord Games' Castle Zagyg The Upper Works will fit in perfectly with the other connections to Castle of the Mad Archmage.
In addition, a print version is being published this year (2012) by Black Blade Publishing that will include all-new surface and level 1 maps and encounters.
There's a new version of Castle of the Mad Archmage, just released, that includes not only the first level of the dungeon, but also the surface ruins. It's available in print or pdf:
I just started running CotMA myself. I didn't spend a lot of time with "level 1". I just created a cellar for the first four main staircases and I figure I'll flesh out what else is on the surface when the players find the other entrances. Maybe this is cheating, but it sure did get the players into CotMA right away! :) See my play recap blog for details: http://madarchmage.blogspot.com/
The big issue I see is the number of staircases interconnecting Level 1, 2, and 3. Almost have to make your own to get the right number. I can't think of a single published or released module that will have anywhere near the right interconnect. Perhaps use one of the dungeon generators to make a large first level dungeon and go from there. I was going to suggest the dungeon in the Swords & Wizardry quick start until I realized the number of interconnections.
Note: some stairway pass through level 2 without connecting to it.
Level 2 Room 1
Level 2 Room 56 to Level 3 Room 61
Level 2 Room 62
Level 2 Room 77
Level 2 Room 87
Level 2 Room 137
Level 2 Room 182 to Level 3 The Black Reservoir
Level 2 Room 183 to level 3 Room 202
Level 2 Room 183 to Level 3 Room 1
Level 3 Room 87
Hope this helps.