One thing this particular group does very differently than what I am used to is their ready use of one-shot items like scrolls and potions. They have eagerly traded for and bought these items in quantity and burn through them regularly. I have encouraged this by awarding experience for using these items (reflecting the money spent to get them in the first place) because I have enjoyed their creative use. From my own experience, one-shot items were looked down upon and more permanent magical items like rings, armor, etc. were preferred. In fact, I have seen one-shot items often sold or traded in order to procure rings, armor, etc. Rarely, if ever, have I seen one-shot items actually used.
I don't know which is more peculiar — the ready use of one-shot items by this group, or my own disdain for them — but I do see a connection between computer games and this party's style. One-use items are common in all kinds of computer games, which encourage their immediate use. Unlike for myself, these kinds of computer games are a given for all of the players of this group. So, I wouldn't be surprised if this explained the difference in our styles of play.
Thus, when party decided to follow the underground river in the catacombs in hopes of finding Hamlen's beloved spiked club, the party used a pair of climbing potions to rig a rope system to get down a waterfall they eventually found. At the bottem they found themselves in a gigantic cavern covered in a fungal forest and gently lit by a luminescent lichen. Despite the fact the the goal of the quest (the spiked club) was discovered on the shore below the waterfall, the party decided to press on.
They encountered fungal zombies which burst into poisonous spores when killed. Despite two party members failing their saves, they pressed on.
They found a fortress carves from the rock of the cavern wall which was surrounded by a field of bones — evidence of a battle fought many years ago. Of note, many of the bodies did not have heads. The party chose to press on.
They found a hidden cavern with a tunnel and stair that went down. They chose to press on.
This tunnel twisted and turned and finally ended in a T-section. They chose to press on.
The party then encountered a powerful beast with a gaze attack that charmed those who fell victim. The party was quickly split between those who were charmed and those who were not. Only through with creative use of bed blankets and gang tackles did the party miraculously survive; however, the fight caught the attention of more denizens of the deep.
It was at this point that someone complained that this wasn't a first level dungeon. I simply responded that I hadn't forced any one to go anywhere. In a delicious moment, other players chimed in and not only defended me, but declared how much they appreciated the freedom that this style of play gives them — especially in comparison to the adventure path style they were used to.
In an inspired old-school moment, the youngest player in the group (the dwarf Thog) used iron spikes to help seal a door to prevent those monsters from getting through. However, instead of running away, the party decided to delve even deeper into the dungeon.
They came upon a huge cylindrical shaft with another cylinder within it. Both were covered in glowing runes and bridges connected the inner cylinder with the outer on several levels above and below.
Very quickly, the party was attacked from several fronts. Once again, instead of running away, they pressed on. The dwarf found a secret door, which hid a stair case going up. With much relief they finally tried to get out of the dungeon.
In this, they failed. The had pushed too far and too deep for the party to get out prior to the time I had to be home to put my kids to bed. Being merciful, I allowed the party to make a save or roll on the Triple Secret Random Dungeon Fate Chart of Very Probable Doom. The alternative was the certain death of several party memebers. Throg was captured, but alive somewhere in the dungeon and Hamlen escaped but suffered a horrible wound that reduced his Strength and he lost much of his equipment (fortunately he held on to the spiked club).
From my own perspective, this was a highly entertaining session. The party pushed me because they kept going in directions I did not expect. I can't really explain why they pushed so hard into the dungeon. I can see two very different possibilities. One may be because their experience with the far more powerful 3.5 classes made them overconfident. The other may very well be that without carefully crafted CRs that force spell casters to blow through their spells in order to survive any single encounter, the players felt free to push beyond what they normally would do.
Given the reality of the Triple Secret Random Dungeon Fate Chart of Very Probable Doom, however, I expect to see a bit more caution in the future.