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