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Need D&D in a Hurry? ‘Dungeon Delve’ Delivers!

Written by Janna - Published on March 2, 2009

Janna discovered D&D at the age of 16, and she's been rolling the dice for 16 years. (You do the math.) She is fond of intelligent villains, drow society, and campaigns that explore the Dark Side.

Dungeon Delve by WOTC
Buy it now on Amazon.com

The premise of Dungeon Delve is simple: it’s a collection of short dungeon crawls (or ‘delves’) suitable for parties level 1 – 30. Each delve contains a series of encounters that play out like a mini-adventure.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I was sort of a nay-sayer after I first skimmed through Dungeon Delve. “A book full of dungeon crawls?” I thought. “That’s kinda lame.” But when I sat down and read through the book in detail, all sorts of evil DM bulbs began lighting up over my head. The book was actually pretty exciting. Even better, the content had the potential to be very useful for new or busy DMs.

The Content

Dungeon Delve is a very user-friendly book, as we’ve come to expect from the 4e publications. It begins with a short history of dungeon delves (dating back to GenCon 1998). Then it shares advice for running a delve, customizing a delve to suit your own game, and making the delve a competitive experience between DM and players.

And then we come to the good part – the delves.

Each delve is a stand-alone adventure consisting of three encounters. There are 30 delves in all. Each delve starts with a short scenario background, along with tips for expanding the delve into a larger adventure.

The encounters are fairly straightforward: the party squares off against monsters, kills them, and proceeds to the next encounter. A handful of the encounters feature traps, but, by and large, they’re made up of monsters. Let the hack-n-slash begin!

Dungeon Delve has a lot of variety. You can pit your players against everything from the lowliest kobold minion to the most fearsome ancient red dragon. Delve #1 takes 1st level PCs into an excavation site full of kobolds – and a surprise guest. Delve #30 sees epic-level parties throwing down with primordial nagas and godforged colossi, among other nastiness.

The book makes good use of the creatures from the Monster Manual. It also introduces 42 new monsters for your party-killing pleasure. There are “Tips & Reminders” sidebars to give DMs a good idea of how to run each encounter effectively.

And that’s the book in a nutshell.

The Good

This collection of 30 delves can come in handy if you don’t want to do a lot of planning, if your players want a quick game, or if you’re a new DM who wants to get some practice before tackling a real campaign. You can also plug a delve into your current game, giving your players an exciting series of encounters with minimal prep time. That’s great news for busy DMs. (For example, I’m taking one of the delves and linking it to one of the dragon lairs found in the Draconomicon. That give me two games worth of combat craziness, with very little planning.)

Having 42 new monsters at your disposal is also pretty cool. Some are unique NPCs with names and personalities, while others are new variations of existing monsters. In addition to the newcomers, the delves also use monsters from Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead, Manual of the Planes, and the Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons.

In all, the encounters are fun and playable. Generate some PCs with the Character Builder software, order a pizza, and you’ll be all set for a long night of D&D goodness.

The Bad

I didn’t find many things that qualify as bad in Dungeon Delve. It’s worth mentioning that Wizards does use this book as a platform to market their Dungeon Tiles product. Each delve is designed for use with Dungeon Tiles, and a couple of the sidebars are used to remind readers of this fact. Sure, it would be nice to have all the tiles, but the encounters look like they’d be easy to draw on a battle map, too.

Also, magic items are conspicuously absent from most of the delves. In fact, I was only able to find three magic items in the whole book. So if your players have worked hard to survive a delve, you might want to drop some decent items as a reward.

The Conclusion

Dungeon Delve is a solid product. I’d recommend it for new DMs, busy DMs, or gaming groups that want to mix things up a bit.

Planning to buy Dungeon Delve? Let us know how you’re going to use it, and what you like and dislike most about the book.

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Written by Janna

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Janna discovered D&D at the age of 16, and she's been rolling the dice for 16 years. (You do the math.) She is fond of intelligent villains, drow society, and campaigns that explore the Dark Side.



12 Responses to “Need D&D in a Hurry? ‘Dungeon Delve’ Delivers!”
  1. Rob McDougall says:

    My players are new to 4e, so I’m thinking of using the Delves to introduce them to the 4e rules. Basically, they start with 1st level character, run a delve, level up, run the next delve, level up again and keep repeating until you hit 30th level.

    My players are very combat oriented (they get bored a lot when having to do any role-playing), so this seems like a good fit. All crunch and little fluff.

  2. The Mente says:

    Is a three-encountered delve enough to level up any time?
    Any way, this book sounds really good, I’m gonna wait for a translation…

  3. Bebble says:

    Unfortunately all of Wizards stuff advertises more stuff… All the D&D books have D&D Insider all over it. Which is a cool idea but not 20 times a chapter lol

    This book looks like a good one, I will have to check it out

  4. MaleAlphaThree says:

    Would this thing be good for anyone that’s NOT going to be getting 4e?

    I’m sure it would be, but I’m a brand new DM and I only have the 3.5 core books with a bit of an interest in getting some other materials to help the DM learning curve flatten out.

  5. gull2112 says:

    I had preordered this book from amazon and it shipped today. I am excited about this, just like I am about most of the 4E stuff. I’ve played and DM’d since the beginning and 4E rocks! I will definitely be using Delves in a couple of places for sure. My party is about to begin Thunderspire Labrynth and I intend to do some encounters in the Minotaur city and after that they will venture into the main part of my campaign which is a “sack the mountain, kill the dragon, reinstall the Dwarven king’s last living descendant (a PC)” and I expevt to find buckets o’ opportunities to use the Delves.

  6. ScottM says:

    Sounds like a handy tool. Without much story, it’ll be easier to insert as side quests or encounters in the midst of a campaign– though I also like the delve level delve level plan to explore the system enjoyably.

  7. darrell says:

    the one thing i found that i do not like about the Delve is that some of the encounters require multiple copies of tiles sets. Plus almost of third of the encounters require DU1 and word is that WotC has discontinued printing that set. Its already going for $30+ on ebay and amazon.

  8. plasmabol says:

    Quote: “”Would this thing be good for anyone that’s NOT going to be getting 4e?

    I’m sure it would be, but I’m a brand new DM and I only have the 3.5 core books with a bit of an interest in getting some other materials to help the DM learning curve flatten out.””

    if you don’t want to get into 4e i wouldn’t get this book. Not because it ain’t good but you can probably get a couple of second-hand 3.5 books for the same price as this one book. And because the monster strength differs between 4e and 3.5e, you’ll have to correct that too. You better get some 3.5.
    But i can recommend 4e, especially if you’re new and haven’t got much 3.5 books anyway.

  9. xan says:

    Hey, to all oldschool DM’s and newbies trying to pillage 4th for any other edition –
    Don’t. In all seriousness, the other editions of D&D were spiffy and fun but off-balanced and flawed. Imagine running a level-one wizard in a party of three characters in 2nd Edition. Death. Try it in 3rd, and after a few levels he might as well wear spandex and a cape. 3.5? Wizards and Sorcerors relied on a few weak spells and a stick. Come on. If you play a wizard you expect the power to warp the cosmos at high levels and blast enemies at low levels. No other edition gives you both. Dungeon Delve is about 4th Edition HEROES people, not the farmer-turned-dragonslayers from 3rd or 3.5, but about the Champions of all that is good and right facing toe-to-toe with the biggest, baddest, gnarliest snarling fanged monstrosity ever seen and spitting in it’s face. Dungeon Delve is a way to show the presumptions about the world in a varied way – the world has had enumerous empires which fell and those ruins harbor dangerous monsters and ravening beasts. It’s up to the Heroes to be what the farmers tell stories of. I don’t mean Dirty Harry or John Wayne, I mean legendary heroes like Pecos Bill, Davey Crockett, Beowulf, Paul Bunyun and John Henry Irons – the guys whose exploits sound so daring, so crazy that some folks doubt they ever even existed. That’s 4th Edition. That’s what Dungeon Delve is about. So, please, don’t pillage. Just try the new system AFTER ensuring you know the rules.

  10. darrell says:

    one thing i have learned, if your going to DM and your new, go 4E. don’t mess with 3.5 unless you already have a LARGE supply of 3.5e materials and your familiar with the rules. if your a new DM and your thinking I’ll start with 3.5 and transition to 4E. DON’T! ! ! there is no flattening of the learning curve. the guidelines for governing 4E DMing is so much different and so much easier its not even funny. consider this, in 3.5, the DMG is thicker than the PHB. its the reverse in 4E and half of t hew info in 3.5 is gone with more info pertaining to DMing in 4E. most of 3.5 DMG is rehashing and going through the PHB with a fine toothed comb. boring and a waste of time.

  11. Mika says:

    I started DMing with 3.5 edition start of this year: Being old school player going through editions 3 and 3.5, I really dont like the high fantasy look of the 4e (neither do our group).

    4e seems similar to WoW and I want to keep that kind of gaming on the computer.

    Only positive side of the 4e is that will probably create more supply for 3.5ed materials.


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