Dungeon Survival Handbook

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The Dungeon Survival Handbook, also known as Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook is a splatbook printed in 2012 for Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. In a nutshell, it is a reiteration of the earlier Dungeon Survival Guide, but this time actually attempting to be a game-based splatbook rather than the more "infotainment" type slatbook of its predecessor. It combines assorted material for players who want to build dungeon-delving specialist - or dungeonborn! - PCs and material for DMs wanting assistance in understanding how to make dungeons for their own games.

PC Content[edit]

The first chapter of the book aims at dungeon-delving or dungeonborn PCs. In addition to formally granting player race status to the goblin and kobold, as well as bringing back the long-forgotten svirfneblin, this first chapter contains 7 new character themes - the vengeance-craving Bloodsworn, the Deep Delver, the Escaped Aberrant Thrall, the Trapsmith, the Treasure Hunter, the Underdark Envoy and the Underdark Outcast - and an assortment of new skill powers and class powers, grouped under seven different rough themes:

  • "Fear of the Dark" - powers developed to counter (or take advantage of) the darkness below the earth.
  • Secrets of the Deep Guides - powers honed by a dedicated group of professional Underdark and dungeon delvers.
  • Shadows of the Ziggurat - powers gained from a twisted structure built around a rift in reality.
  • Seekers of Lost Lore - powers trained by those who explore dungeons for the lost secrets of the past.
  • Thieves' Guild of Maelbrathyr - powers honed by the deadly thieves of Maelbrathyr, a cursed city dragged into the Underdark by Torog.
  • From the Vault of the Drow - powers developed by the drow.
  • Battle Tactics of Cor Talcor - powers learned from the brutal tutelage of a dwarf warrior school.

Neutral Content[edit]

The second chapter covers an array of dungeon-related topics that are of interest to both players and DMs. It discusses successful tactics for dungeon-delving, lists the various kinds of dungeons an adventurer is likely to encounter - from the humble cave, mine or crypt to floating castles, prisons and the labs of magic-users, examines some of the more common monsters to be found in dungeons, and concludes by providing mechanics for a number of new alchemical items and physical tools of particular interest to dungeon delvers.

This chapter also examines eight famous dungeon-based modules from D&D's past, both from the "in universe" perspective of their place in the Nentir Vale setting and their meta-history, with many of the dungeon entries also featuring player-based material, such as a background tied to that dungeon. The dungeons covered in this book consist of:

DM's Content[edit]

The last chapter of the book is dedicated to the DM, providing advice on various topic relating to dungeon-delving. It examines how to involve players in a dungeon-delve, outlines how to craft a dungeon-centric adventure, discusses a list of the most prominent dungeon-makers in the D&D world, and concludes with some new mechanics, in the form of unique special rewards that can only be won by entering dungeons - which is basically a way to bring back older "gamebreaker" spells such as Wish.

This is then followed by two appendixes; one on building your own dungeons and one on running random dungeons.