the big dog-men live very high in the caves

The fourth edition Dungeon Master’s Guide is the DM’s guide I’ve wanted to read since I was a kid. Unlike previous editions, which were filled with all kinds of stat blocks and very little information on actually running a game, the 4E DMG could also be called The Art of Dungeon Mastering, because that’s pretty much what it is.

I mention this because I just saw a new release from Wizards that is another one of those “Where have you been all my life?” releases:

Dungeon Delve has been released! Dungeon Delve is designed for groups looking for an exciting night of monster-slaying without the prep time. It contains dozens of self-contained easy-to-run mini-dungeons, or “delves,” each one crafted for a few hours of game-play.The book includes delves for 1st- to 30th-level characters, and features dozens of iconic monsters for the heroes to battle. Dungeon Masters can run these delves as one-shot adventures or weave them into their campaign.

We all love a nice long campaign that starts in The Dales, and five years later lands us all at Baldur’s Gate before we head to the Outer Planes to battle the gods themselves, but sometimes you just want to grab your sword, head into the nearest hole in the ground, and whack as many Kobolds as you can, you know?

One of the great strengths of 4E, in my opinion, is that it lends itself perfectly to this type of instagaming, while it also supports the longer campaigns we all grew up loving to play. I really wish more of my fellow gamer geeks would understand this, instead of treating it as a failing or a reason to dismiss 4E without even playing it. I think it’s awesome that Wizards has released a book that contains a ton of pre-built dungeons that can be run as one-shots and finished in an evening, because it means more people will get to play more often. As much as I love gaming, I’ve pretty much given up on ever being able to have a weekly D&D group again; I just don’t have the time. Quick one-and-dones, as my friend calls them, are perfect for guys like me who love gaming and want to play, but can’t commit to something on a regular basis.

61 thoughts on “the big dog-men live very high in the caves”

  1. They have had in the past books devoted to quick and dirty one off quests and adventures. They called them The Book of Lairs. Pretty sure there were at least two of them back around 1st or 2nd edition and that I have them both in a closet somewhere. Those were very convenient for inserting little quests into your adventure to give your players an experience bump and some entertainment outside of your main story.
    Yeah, just Googled and there were two, I have both of these.

  2. Cynical money-grab or no, at least 3.5 still felt like D&D to me. And yes, I resisted picking up 3.5 for a very long time but I eventually broke down, just like everyone else.
    To me, 4E feels more like Descent than D&D, and if I want to play Descent, then I’ll play Descent. When I want to play D&D, I play 3.5. I’m not saying that 4E is a bad game. From what I can tell, it’s a very finely tuned fantasy-based miniatures game. Again though, if I wanted a fantasy-based miniatures game, I’d play Descent. I’ve already got it, and it comes with nifty figurines and some pretty cool dungeon terrain.

  3. Wil, what’s going on with your Avenger in the podcast? You don’t seem to be adding any weapon proficiency bonus to your attack rolls. If you’re wielding a sword, that’s a +3 you’re missing. It makes me cringe every time!

  4. I prefer the 4E DMG to the older ones, because it is an actual guide to being a DM, instead of just a reference book.
    I’ve been rereading the 1E DMG as I’m currently running an OSRIC game (yay for OGL and fresh blood for 1Estyle games) and I find this tome was wildly unappreciated in my day. I read it then for the reference. I read it now and see so much more to it. If you can get a dead tree copy, I really encourage you to take a look at it with fresh eyes. I wish I had read it with experienced eyes 28 years ago.

  5. I’ve learned that my best prep is to flesh out the outline, let my players drive the plot to fill in the places to go, and my notes for my “on the fly” rulings to fill in the details later on.
    Running a sandbox, I have to have enough for the players to explore, and have enough in the back of my head so I can fill in if the players decide to do something out in the hills. That’s part of the fun for me.

  6. Hey Wil, you should really check out Wizards’ Living Forgotten Realms to get your gaming fix. LFR is essentially regularly scheduled pick-up games of D&D, organized by authorized DM volunteers running standard modules for about 4 hours of gaming fun. The nice thing is, you don’t have to show up every week, have the same group every time, or even have the same DM, but you can still maintain a regular character, gain XP, loot, and levels in the LFR universe. They are run at local game stores, or even online, if you can find a group doing that. The modules are a little light on the role-playing and more heavy on the let’s-go-kill-stuff, but I think that’s understandable, given the format. They generally have decent plots and are idea for what you are talking about above, with the Dungeon Delve, just being able to find people and play when you get the hankering. You can even maintain multiple characters if you which to try something new, switch back and forth, etc. You should definitely check it out!

  7. My boyfriend just introduced me to 4E D&D and I must say… “I HAVE FOUND MY PEOPLE!” Although I have no experience with any of the other editions, I love this game! It’s so much fun, anyone can play, and really, who doesn’t want to pretend they are out fighting monsters for a few hours a month?!

  8. While I definitely agree with the benefits of the Delve book, the only way that I cleaned up the way I did when I played Gamma World was being there when none of the other players could make it. So it was just me, the DM and the bad guy hoarding all the gold. :)
    So, of course, I have my reservations, but they be small ones.

  9. Long-term games and the inability for the same group to get together regularly was one of the reasons that D&D dropped out of my life – my husband and I both play, but we have better things to do when there’s only two of us ;-}
    We turned to CRPGs and have a lot of fun playing a character with one of us running the keyboard and one of us running the mouse – but I still miss the dice! The local gaming groups are all very intense, and consider us dilettantes because we can’t play every week. Maybe Dungeon Delve would be a good way for us to get back into it, in our dilettantish way. . .

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