The 10 Commandments of Dungeon Delving

I’ve been running a sporadic game over the last few months for my son and a bunch of his school chums. It’s been fun watching them play—the experience is certainly different (read more chaotic and louder) than my normal group.

Everything's Better With Tentacles (for the GM) by Matt Morrow
Everything’s Better With Tentacles (for the GM) by Matt Morrow


I was struck during the last session with how their play style differed to normal play. Of course, they are less experienced and more caught up in the moment than “more mature, considered” play. But more than that, some things have sunk so deeply into the play experience itself that we as gamers never really talk about them—they are just an assumed given.

I’ve previously posted some advice for beginning dungeon delving; this is a brief, to- the-point follow-up to that post. Really, it’s just a bit of fun but I think the ten commandments listed below are—at heart—solid and simple.

So, without further ado, here are the Ten Commandments of Dungeon Delving:

  1. Thou shalt learn as much as possible about the dungeon and its denizens before venturing inside.
  2. Thou shalt make appropriate preparations and diligently equip yourself before entering the dungeon.
  3. Thou shalt have a plan and thou shalt stick to the plan.
  4. Thou shalt work as a team.
  5. Thou shalt not wander off alone.
  6. Thou shalt not try to kill everything you encounter.
  7. Thou shalt pay attention to your surroundings.
  8. Thou shalt keep an accurate map.
  9. Thou shalt remember that running away is sometimes a good idea.
  10. Thou shalt share any treasures you find fairly.

What Do You Think?

Did I miss something? Should there be more commandments of dungeon delving? Let me know in the comments below.

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

14 thoughts on “The 10 Commandments of Dungeon Delving”

    1. Thou shalt not take for granted mundane equipment. Many an adventurer has been felled by not bringing enough food/water. Things like crowbars, hammers, and other tools are often times extremely useful.

  1. This is good stuff here. I’d add another: Thou shalt bring extra healing potions and do thy best to keep thy party cleric alive.

  2. I think several of these commandments have been overruled by the current fashion of “story” and “player empowerment” that permeates modern RPGs.

    Take, for example, learning about the dungeon prior to entering. Rolling “Gather Information” isn’t the same as players actively taking the time to figure out what questions to ask. For example, I once ran a dungeon where one of the characters managed to ask a bird how many people it saw near the dungeon. It answered “twenty” because there were nine bad guys and eleven prisoners. The party went back to their ship and persuaded the captain to give them several sailors to help. So not only was the NPC-PC interaction fun, but the players got less treasure because they had to split it with the sailors and their captain. They remembered that story, and it was far more fun (if easier) than just slogging into another dungeon.

    Another game I ran found a wizard with a kobold companion, recruited from the Caves of Chaos because that player figured the kobolds would be happy if some of their competition was eliminated. Instead of running through a bunch of kobolds, he managed to act as a mercenary on their behalf. All it took was a Charm Person spell and some fancy talking to make sure the kobolds didn’t eat the wizard first! That was far more fun than the traditional path players take at the Caves.

    I am particularly fond of running away. Always carry one belt pouch with a savory treat for unintelligent monsters who want to eat you, and one pouch filled with copper and silver coins for the monsters that want your stuff. If the monsters want to take your stuff and then eat you, remember that you don’t have to be the fastest runner, you just have to not be the slowest.

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  4. Thou shalt not split the party
    Thou shalt bribe the DM with Mountain Dew and cheese puffs

  5. In Wales there is a long history of Four Rules of Roleplay.
    Can we fight it?
    Can we rob it?
    Can we f*ck it?
    Can we burn it?
    If it does not conform to any of these criteria, it is somebody else’s problem;
    the party shall ignore it (regardless of consequences).
    Originally the fifth criteria;
    Can we drink it?
    Which typically ended up in character death more often than not and was discluded form the list.

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