I'm returning to 4E after a long break and I'm also coming back as a DM after exams.

I'm running a campaign based on dungeon delving, however I'm still not used to Dungeons and one thing that comes to mind with 4E is how most of WOTC's material seems to be TOO MUCH battle oriented.

Tho I know 4E is an edition centered around combat (and that's why we like it), combats have the tendency to drag on for LONG, and some materials such as Dungeon Delve seem to absurdly make dungeons comprised of battle after battle after battle, making them just a series of encounters rather than dungeons.

However, there are adventures such as The Haunting of Kincep Mansion that seem to combine exploration with encounters, the same feeling I want to create with dungeons delves. HOWEVER I've noticed maps for adventures like those are usually large for having just a few encounters here and there, too large they seem like a hastle.

Since we're mostly gonna delve dungeons, I want to avoid having too many battles while also bringing interesting stuff into the dungeon and give them a reason to explore other than just killing the Solo Monster in the end.

Any tips?


3 Answers 3


How much is too much depends on your group

How much is too much depends entirely on your group. Some groups are mostly in there for the tactics and everything else is there too add a bit of flavor, some reason why to fight, and give them a structured way to handle the resupply. Some groups are mostly there for the story and can go for sessions without a single combat.

The point is, when you wonder if you have too many battles, think about your group or (after a few sessions) ask them directly if you should have more, fewer, or about the same.

If you want to delve without combat, add exploration and puzzles

Now, if you want more non-combat in a dungeon delving game, think about the reasons people go exploring and even spelunking in real life and in good fiction. People like to see interesting things, find interesting things. People also like to solve puzzles.

Of course, its hard to show them interesting things, but you can give descriptions that lead to stories. In an actual dungeon they might find diaries (perhaps in an unconventional material) from prisoners that reveal history or even secrets they can follow up on later such as the location of stolen treasure or the remembered research notes of a heretical mage that could lead to new spells. In a cave or cavern they might find remnants of an ancient civilization, or perhaps even the civilization itself. This could lead to new stories or at least interesting background material.

They might also face puzzles. Especially in a magical setting, they may find a tireless construct that asks them logic riddles or sends them off to find a very unusual key before they can pass.

They may find a place that shows them cryptic hints about their future (think the cave on Dagobah from Star Wars) or a place that tempts them (think the grail from Indiana Jones).

And it is a rare DnD group that doesn't like finding treasure, especially if it contains a unique magical item. Researching and mastering those magical items can then lead to more stories.

In short, let them find interesting things that don't involve combat to space out the combat.


Player Motives

You'll need to motivate characters to explore, and that has a lot to do with the people you play with. I'm going to assume that you as well as the players don't want to just bash faces in, but also want to do other things.

The Best Thing for Combat is Not Combat

Players often get tired of the same thing over and over again. DMs get that way, too. Puzzles or opponents that don't want to fight to achieve their goals shake things up. These different types of encounters change the pace of the game, as well as make other skills/roles valuable.

Also, avoid the "victory or death" mentality some DMs instill into creatures. If creatures in an encounter are obviously going to loose, have a surrender occur. Once again, this is switches the focus from doing damage to solving a different problem.

Add Mysteries

Get players curious about who made the dungeons, or about different aspects of them. Maybe there is a puzzle or sealed vault that requires information from another dungeon? What if there is something missing from the dungeon, like a loot hoard, because the goblin tribe was moving on anyways?

Reward Exploration

Maybe something in the dungeon make the dungeon easier to navigate, but is hidden or requires exploration. Sprinkle neat things in dungeons for the adventurers to find only if they explore.


Combat Drag

So, I generally like combat in my games, I just like to feel like things are happening for the amount of time we put into a combat.

The big problem I've found with 4E is what I call the "drag" part of the fight - it's clear the PCs are going to win, it's just going to take another 3 rounds of people using At-Wil Attacks because they've used up all their Encounter/Daily attacks, and things just get boring. There's a lot of folks who recommend cutting monsters down to 75% hitpoints. I'd be even willing to go down to 60%. You may want this to make the fights you do have, go quicker.

Hazards, not fights

Hazards are things like broken bridges, fast running rivers, things you can fall off of, etc. Hazards are pretty great to toss into dungeons as things to explore, navigate, overcome.

Some hazards "block" movement - the door, the broken bridge, etc. These shouldn't block off most of the dungeon, and there should probably be 2-3 ways to get past them, and if players are clever, allow them to find other ways to get past them as well.

Some hazards do damage, or cause other problems. This might be taxing a Healing Surge for failing to get across safely, remove supplies ("Your food washes away in the river") or set up you for problems later on.. ("You're soaking wet... and the monster shoots lightning. It does extra damage!")

Dungeon Politics

Not all creatures are there to fight - make a bunch neutral, with their own goals. Players can ally with, work against, trick, etc. a group within the dungeon against other types of enemies. This adds a layer of fun roleplaying and social skill checks.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .