Skill Challenge: The Dungeon Crawl

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on June 19, 2009

Moving from room to room in a dungeon has historically been handled by drawing the map and the DM asking the party how they advance. Do they turn right or left at the t-junction. In 4e, the amount of crawling through a dungeon has been reduced with more focus given to large rooms and the encounters they contain within. Indeed, even traps are now incorporated into combat encounters. An adventuring group in 4e is more likely to find a pit trap in a combat encounter than randomly placed within a dungeon corridor.

Recently I wrote about how 4e Takes the Dungeon out of Dungeons & Dragons. The aim of this skill challenge is to provide a set of mechanics to handle moving from room to room without having to worry about drawing the map. Alternately, the skill challenge can be used to complement a dungeon crawl.

The Dungeon Crawl

Rather than creating multiple skill challenges for different scenarios this skill challenge includes multiple uses for the skills presented. It is generic enough to handle traps, moving undetected from room to room and advanced scouting. The DM can use this skill challenge when a trap between combat encounters is called for, or when the PCs want to sneak up on a room unannounced.

Complexity 1 (4 successes before 3 failures)

Primary Skills: Athletics, Perception, Stealth, Thievery

Other Skills: Dungeoneering

Athletics (various DC, determined by length of obstacle)
You are able to leap across pits and other obstacles.

Dungeoneering (moderate DC, assist)
Allows a +2 bonus to the next skill check made.

Perception (moderate DC)
You search the corridor for any hidden dangers.

Stealth (hard DC)
Stealth is handled differently than other skills. If the party is trying to stealthily approach a room, the entire party is required to participate. One PC will make the primary check. All remaining PCs must make a secondary skill check to assist or the check fails. Each failed secondary check results in a -2 penalty on the primary check.

Thievery (hard DC)
If a trap is detected, this will be required to disarm it.


• Trap: The PCs are able to bypass the trap.
• Sneaking: The PCs are able to gain a sense of how many occupants are in a room and their approximate locations in the room.


• Trap: The PCs spring the trap, and all PCs must expend 1 healing surge. If a PC has no healing surges left they take 1d10 damage.
• Sneaking: The PCs alert the occupants of the room. The NPCs gain a surprise round when the PCs enter.

1 RVCBard September 9, 2010 at 4:58 pm

A little late to the party, but I love this. I’ll be using something very similar when I DM again.

2 Rob July 27, 2011 at 11:31 pm

A great job has been done in these pages and has really given me the enthusiasm to actually head off to our local gaming shop to attend an Encounters game with a bunch of strangers. It has been 22 years since I last was able to play a game of D&D 🙂

3 mike December 29, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Great info was always leery of using skill challenges as an encounter. simple question though. Do you tell the PC’s what skills they can use or do they figure this out on their own?

4 Ameron (Derek Myers) December 30, 2014 at 8:31 am

I generally let the players decide for themselves what skills they feel would be appropriate to complete the challenge. I reward creativity and try to say yes whenever possible. The better they describe what they’re doing the easier I make the check. The idea of skill challenges is to encourage role-playing over combat and dice rolling.

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