Name: Into the Unkown; The Dungeon Survival Handbook
Publisher: Wizard of the Coast
System: Dungeon and Dragons 4th Edition
Author: Logan Bonner, Matt James, Jeff Morgenroth
Category: Hardback Book - DnD Sourcebook
Despite the movement into D&D next, WOTC continue to release 4E books, the latest being Into the Unknown. This book began life as the Dungeon Survival Handbook but then changed in this…. So what is the first impression?
Well firstly I have to say that the quality of the book is of the highest calibre. WOTC have really got to grips with releasing quality books, full of crunch and still plenty of fluff. The artwork is exquisite throughout, with William O’Connor, Eva Wiederman and Ralph Horsley especially providing some of the best art I have seen in any of the source books. The 159 pages are full of interesting features, tips and ideas and I would think both players and DMs will get plenty from it. So here are the contents:
Chapter 1 – Dungeon Delvers
The first part of the book is for the players and this chapter gets straight into some of the crunch. Character themes are now well established in the design of characters and here they are given as much detail as a class gets in earlier books! Bloodsworn adventurers swear vengeance and retribution. Deep Delvers explore far into the Underdark. Escaped Thralls try to flee from their captors but still need to find out who they were previously and what actually happened to their kin. Trapsmiths work with traps and tricks, both dismantling and setting their own! Treasure Hunters risk all for great rewards. Underdark envoys represent their kin, an extension of their masters will. Each theme has plenty of optional powers and tips for motivations and role-playing. An example character is given to flesh out the traits for characters. This is a great idea that will get even the newest player into their characters.
Races are next: Goblin, Kobolds and Svirfneblin are all given the full treatment with 6 pages each of background, fluff and then the crunch of powers, feats and utilities. Also dungeon Themed powers are here, to give your characters even more of an edge under the ground. Also different types of people and organisations are highlighted that may be met in the dark tunnels or characters may even be a part of!
Chapter 2 – Strive to Survive
So now to a lot more of the fluff as players are given a lot of tips about survival in the dungeon or underdark environment. This is the biggest part of the whole book and has some of the best bits I have read in any of the 4E books currently on the market. No D&D fan would be disappointed with this part of the book. Initially the chapter talks about the tactics and how skills can be used to the players’ advantage. Tips of do’s and don’ts are discussed here as well as hazards that may be encountered. Useful rituals from all the 4Ebooks (including where to find them) are also mentioned.
Different types of dungeons are then mentioned. The book goes through all the variations from caves and crypts to volcanoes and warrens. Who would inhabit them? What would be the most common dangers and what rewards could be expected. Even DM’s can get ideas here, though they get even more later on!
Different dungeons have different denizens and now these are mentioned. However these are not the stats, rather a quick test block to show where they might be encountered and some ideas on how to handle such an encounter.
Infamous Dungeons- sorry but this is an unashamed walk down memory lane. The greatest dungeons and scenarios are here: Castle Ravenloft, Ghost Tower of Inverness, The Lost City, Pyramid of Amun-Re, White Plume Mountain, Tomb of Horrors, Temple of Elemental Evil, Gates of Firestorm Peak! Each part talks about the dungeon, the background and how it may be bought up to date. Also there is a quick tip on quests or backgrounds to get players involved. What I love though is the box on each that highlights how the dungeons changed throughout the versions of D&D and how DM’s can bring them up to date (with references to books or Dragon articles).
Dungeoneers’ Tools does just what it says. A list and details of new equipment and how to use current equipment more effectively is given. Alchemical Items are explored as well because you don’t want to rely on a torch when going into the underdarkl!!
Chapter 3 – Master of the Dungeon
Firstly the art is excellent here. Ralph Horsley has a full page picture of a Mind Flayer moving characters around a monster filled dungeon is full of flavour and captures the feel.
In this chapter the DM is given advice and tips of how to run a dungeon adventure and more information on the new themes and how to introduce them into the adventure.
Exploration and how to make your dungeons unique and memorable are the next on the agenda. Mysteries, puzzles and different environments are given. Then the underdark is discussed as it is a different feel and different hazards as involved. Plots and encounters are different in the underdark, though they are better handled in the Underdark source book.
In Chapter 2, the different types of dungeons are mentioned, now the different types of Dungeon makers are discussed. Cultists need a different design to Drow; Kobold caverns are different to Minotaur mazes. All are full of flavour and give the DM plenty of ideas to work through.
Finally different rewards are given: Spells from the earlier versions turn up as scrolls of power: Mass Heal, Polymorph, Power Word Kill, Wish all turn up! Also turning up are old NPC’s from previous adventures or scenarios: Meepo the kobold, Threshor the Troglodyte are just two of those mentioned.
All in all I really like this book. There is enough here that it works as a general source book, not just a 4E one. There are random tables at the end of the book to randomly design a dungeon and also the parts of the book harkening back to old editions give enough nostalgia to satisfy an old gamer like me!
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