|The notorious bear makes an appearance!|
This meant they ended up facing fairly easy opposition: ankhegs, phase spiders, and carrion crawlers. Actually carrion crawlers are really broken, but the group got lucky on their saving throws. They also discovered both a heretofore undiscovered level, another sublevel, and a major quest waypoint in the dungeon. While the XP load might not be that high in terms of monsters, the group definitely broke some ground.
A few observations:
First, the group has developed a delightful sense of tension in the dungeon. In the old 4E days, every encounter was one to be overcome with a small modicum of effort. Now the anxiety of the unknown really plays on them.
Second, while there may not be a lot of NPC roleplaying, the exploration-as-fantasy-RPG-genre thing is going pretty well, and seems to be a hit. The group likes deciding what happens and where they go. I'm trying to figure out how to work more named NPC's into an exploration-based campaign right now, though.