Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook is a D&D 4e supplemental guide that goes along with the most recent season of D&D Encounters. This guide is divided into sections providing general information about dungeons and has sections that will be interesting to players and others geared more towards dungeon masters. There has been some grumbling about this because there are large sections of this guide that are useless to you no matter which side of the DM screen you sit. This is a valid criticism and were I a player that never ran games I wouldn’t be overly happy with the book since only the first few sections give information that is strictly for players.
For players the first few sections of this book contain all of the juicy bits. First and foremost for my players were the new races. There are three new playable races including Goblins, Kobolds and Svirfneblin. Goblins as player characters got everyone here at Crimson Bastards particularly excited to the point that we will be running a one-shot adventure very soon featuring goblin characters. There are also a few new character themes and backgrounds which are dungeon and underdark related and give a little extra color to your dungeon oriented characters.
Most of the remainder of the book gives general information about dungeons: who/what creates them, what you might find inside of them, the different types of dungeons etc. There are also some interesting notes sprinkled throughout the book with tidbits about the history of dungeons throughout all editions of D&D and how they have affected the game going forward. I found the history of the Far Realms section extremely interesting as my entire current campaign sprouted from the idea of using D&D’s version of the Great Old Ones to kick things off.
There was a time in D&D when the best thing about any book, especially a DM related book, was the back of the book where all of the appendices and tables were kept. It was possible to spend an entire gaming session making rolls for random treasure and creating unique magical items for party members. The back of this book therefore took me back to those glorious days when I found the appendix for random dungeon creation. Here you can roll for the creator and master of the dungeon, the followers and the monsters that dwell within the dungeon itself. There are even tables of quirks to help you to give the dungeon a more interesting feel. Where my players have been solely focused on the Goblin entry of this book all of my time and excitement has been here, in the back of the book. These tables are great even if you don’t want to use random generation as they give you lists to choose from for each part of the dungeon and help to get you thinking of what fun things you can add to make yours unique and exciting.
This book is definitely a niche product. If you are a player then the worth of the volume is fairly limited unless you plan on handing it to your DM (which is okay, DMs love free books to help them think of ways to kill you…I mean challenge you) to use as a source of inspiration. If you are a DM planning to create some dungeons for your own campaign then this book might be for you. The writers obviously spent a great deal of time coming up with some of the most fun and interesting ideas out there and it can only help to have this book at your side as you plan your next adventure.