Of all the strange places
that an adventurer might explore, none is deadlier than the dungeon. These labyrinths,
full of deadly traps, hungry monsters. and priceless treasure, test every skill
a character possesses. These rules can apply to dungeons of any type, from the
wreck of a sunken ship to a vast cave complex.
Types of Dungeons
The four basic dungeon
types are defined by their current status. Many dungeons are variations on these
basic types or combinations of more than one of them. Sometimes old dungeons
are used again and again by different inhabitants for different purposes.
|Klosterruine Heisterbach im Winter. Öl auf Leinwand. 47 x 62 cm. Date 19th century Van Ham Kunstauktionen circle of Wilhelm Steuerwaldt (18151871)|
Once occupied, this place
is now abandoned (completely or in part) by its original creator or creators,
and other creatures have wandered in. Many subterranean creatures look for abandoned
underground constructions in which to make their lairs. Any traps that might
exist have probably been set off, but wandering beasts might very well be common.
This type of dungeon is still in use. Creatures (usually intelligent) live there, although they might not be the dungeon's creators. An occupied structure might be a home, a fortress, a temple, an active mine, a prison, or a headquarters. This type of dungeon is less likely to have traps or wandering beasts, and more likely to have organized guardsboth on watch and on patrol. Traps or wandering beasts that might be encountered are usually under the control of the occupants. Occupied structures have furnishings to suit the inhabitants, as well as decorations, supplies, and the ability for occupants to move around. The inhabitants might have a communication system, and they almost certainly control an exit to the outside.
Some dungeons are partially
occupied and partially empty or in ruins. In such cases, the occupants are typically
not the original builders, but instead a group of intelligent creatures that
have set up their base, lair, or fortification within an abandoned dungeon.
When people want to protect something, they sometimes bury it underground. Whether the item they want to protect is a fabulous treasure, a forbidden artifact, or the dead body of an important figure, these valuable objects are placed within a dungeon and surrounded by barriers, traps, and guardians.
The safe storage dungeon is the most likely to have traps but the least likely to have wandering beasts. This type of dungeon is normally built for function rather than appearance, but sometimes it has ornamentation in the form of statuary or painted walls. This is particularly true of the tombs of important people.
Sometimes, however, a vault
or a crypt is constructed in such a way as to house living guardians. The problem
with this strategy is that something must be done to keep the creatures alive
between intrusion attempts. Magic is usually the best solution to provide food
and water for these creatures. Builders of vaults or tombs often use undead creatures or constructs, both of which have no need for sustenance or rest,
to guard their dungeons. Magic traps can attack intruders by summoning monsters
into the dungeon that disappear when their task is done.
|Wojciech Gerson (18311901) Title Wladyslaw the Elbow-high near Ojców.|
Natural Cavern Complex
Underground caves provide homes for all sorts of subterranean monsters. Created naturally and connected by labyrinthine tunnel systems, these caverns lack any sort of pattern, order, or decoration. With no intelligent force behind its construction, this type of dungeon is the least likely to have traps or even doors.
Fungi of all sorts thrive in caves, sometimes growing in huge forests of mushrooms and puffballs. Subterranean predators prowl these forests, looking for weaker creatures feeding upon the fungi. Some varieties of fungus give off a phosphorescent glow, providing a natural cavern complex with its own limited light source. In other areas, a daylight spell or similar magical effect can provide enough light for green plants to grow.
Natural cavern complexes
often connect with other types of dungeons, the caves having been discovered
when the manufactured dungeons were delved. a cavern complex can connect two
otherwise unrelated dungeons, sometimes creating a strange mixed environment.
A natural cavern complex joined with another dungeon often provides a route
by which subterranean creatures find their way into a manufactured dungeon and
The following rules cover
the basics of terrain that can be found in a dungeon.
piled on top of each other, usually but not always held in place with mortaroften
divide dungeons into corridors and chambers. Dungeon walls can also be hewn
from solid rock, leaving them with a rough, chiseled look. Still other dungeon
walls can be the smooth. unblemished stone of a naturally occurring cave. Dungeon
walls are difficult to break down or through, but they're generally easy to
|Wall Type||Typical Thickness||Break DC||Hardness||Hit Points1||Climb DC|
|Masonry||1 ft.||35||8||90 hp||20|
|Superior masonry||1 ft.||35||8||90 hp||25|
|Reinforced masonry||1 ft.||45||8||180 hp||20|
|Hewn stone||3 ft.||50||8||540 hp||25|
|Unworked stone||5 ft.||65||8||900 hp||15|
|Iron||3 in.||30||10||90 hp||25|
|Wooden||6 in.||20||5||60 hp||21|
modifier can be applied to any of the other wall types.
3 Or an additional 50 hit points, whichever is greater.
The most common kind of
dungeon wall, masonry walls are usually at least 1 foot thick. Often, these
ancient walls sport cracks and crevices, and sometimes dangerous slimes or small
monsters live in these areas and wait for prey. Masonry walls stop all but the
loudest noises. It takes a DC 20 Climb check to travel along a masonry wall.
Superior Masonry Walls
Sometimes masonry walls
are better built (smoother, with tighter-fitting stones and less cracking),
and occasionally these superior walls are covered with plaster or stucco. Covered
walls often bear paintings, carved reliefs, or other decoration. Superior masonry
walls are no more difficult to destroy than regular masonry walls but are more
difficult to climb (DC 25).
Reinforced Masonry Walls
These are masonry walls
with iron bars on one or both sides of the wall, or placed within the wall to
strengthen it. The hardness of a reinforced wall remains the same, but its hit
points are doubled and the Strength check DC to break through it is increased
Hewn Stone Walls
Such walls usually result
when a chamber or passage is tunneled out from solid rock. The rough surface
of a hewn wall frequently provides minuscule ledges where fungus grows and fissures
where vermin, bats. and subterranean snakes live. When such a wall has an other
side (meaning it separates two chambers in the dungeon), the wall is usually
at least 3 feet thick; anything thinner risks collapsing from the weight of
all the stone overhead. It takes a DC 25 Climb check to climb a hewn stone wall.
Unworked Stone Walls
These surfaces are uneven
and rarely flat. They are smooth to the touch but filled with tiny holes, hidden
alcoves, and ledges at various heights. They're also usually wet or at least
damp, since it's water that most frequently creates natural caves. When such
a wall has an other side, the wall is usually at least 5 feet thick.
It takes a DC 15 Climb check to move along an unworked stone wall.
These walls are placed
within dungeons around important places, such as vaults.
Paper walls are placed
as screens to block line of sight, but nothing more.
Wooden walls often exist
as recent additions to older dungeons, used to create animal pens, storage bins,
and temporary structures, or just to make a number of smaller rooms out of a
Magically Treated Walls
These walls are stronger
than average, with a greater hardness, more hit points, and a higher break DC.
Magic can usually double the hardness and hit points of a wall and add up to
20 to the break DC. a magically treated wall also gains a saving throw against
spells that could affect it, with the save bonus equaling 2 + 1/2 the caster
level of the magic reinforcing the wall. Creating a magic wall requires the Craft Wondrous Item feat and
the expenditure of 1,500 gp for each 10-foot-by-10-foot wall section.
Walls with Arrow Slits
Walls with arrow slits
can be made of any durable material but are most commonly masonry, hewn stone,
or wood. Such a wall allows defenders to fire arrows or crossbow bolts at intruders
from behind the safety of the wall. Archers behind arrow slits have improved
cover that gives them a +8 bonus to Armor Class, a +4 bonus on Reflex saves,
and the benefits of the improved evasion class feature.
As with walls, dungeon
floors come in many types.
Like masonry walls, flagstone
floors are made of fitted stones. They are usually cracked and only somewhat
level. Slime and mold grows in the cracks. Sometimes water runs in rivulets
between the stones or sits in stagnant puddles. Flagstone is the most common
Over time, some floors
can become so uneven that a DC 10 Acrobatics check is required to run or charge
across the surface. Failure means the character can't move that round. Floors
as treacherous as this should be the exception, not the rule.
Rough and uneven, hewn
floors are usually covered with loose stones. gravel, dirt, or other debris.
A DC 10 Acrobatics check is required to run or charge across such a floor. Failure
means the character can still act, but can't run or charge in this round.
Small chunks of debris
litter the ground. Light rubble adds 2 to the DC of Acrobatics checks.
The ground is covered with
debris of all sizes. It costs 2 squares of movement to enter a square with dense
rubble. Dense rubble adds 5 to the DC of Acrobatics checks, and it adds 2 to
the DC of Stealth checks.
Finished and sometimes
even polished, smooth floors are found only in dungeons made by capable and
The floor of a natural
cave is as uneven as the walls. Caves rarely have flat surfaces of any great
size. Rather, their floors have many levels. Some adjacent floor surfaces might
vary in elevation by only a foot, so that moving from one to the other is no
more difficult than negotiating a stair step, but in other places the floor
might suddenly drop off or rise up several feet or more, requiring Climb checks to get from one surface to the other. Unless a path has been worn and
well marked in the floor of a natural cave, it takes 2 squares of movement to
enter a square with a natural stone floor, and the DC of Acrobatics checks increases
by 5. Running and charging are impossible, except along paths.
Water, ice, slime, or blood
can make any of the dungeon floors described in this section more treacherous.
Slippery floors increase the DC of Acrobatics checks by 5.
A grate often covers a
pit or an area lower than the main floor. Grates are usually made from iron,
but large ones can also be made from iron-bound timbers. Many grates have hinges
to allow access to what lies below (such grates can be locked like any door),
while others are permanent and designed to not move. A typical 1-inch-thick
iron grate has 25 hit points, hardness 10, and a DC of 27 for Strength checks
to break through it or tear it loose.
Ledges allow creatures to walk above some lower area. They often circle around pits, run along underground streams, form balconies around large rooms, or provide a place for archers to stand while firing upon enemies below. Narrow ledges (12 inches wide or less) require those moving along them to make Acrobatics checks. Failure results in the moving character falling off the ledge. Ledges sometimes have railings along the wall. In such a case, characters gain a +5 circumstance bonus on Acrobatics checks to move along the ledge. A character who is next to a railing gains a +2 circumstance bonus on his opposed Strength check to avoid being bull rushed off the edge.
Ledges can also have low
walls 2 to 3 feet high along their edges. Such walls provide cover against attackers
within 30 feet on the other side of the wall, as long as the target is closer
to the low wall than the attacker is.
Transparent floors, made
of reinforced glass or magic materials (even a wall
of force). allow a dangerous setting to be viewed safely from above. Transparent
floors are sometimes placed over lava pools, arenas, monster dens, and torture
chambers. They can be used by defenders to watch key areas for intruders.
A sliding floor is a type
of trap door, designed to be moved and thus reveal something that lies beneath
it. A typical sliding floor moves so slowly that anyone standing on one can
avoid falling into the gap it creates, assuming there's somewhere else to go.
If such a floor slides quickly enough that there's a chance of a character falling
into whatever lies beneatha spiked pit, a vat of burning oil, or a pool
filled with sharksthen it's a
Some floors are designed
to become suddenly dangerous. With the application of just the right amount
of weight, or the pull of a lever somewhere nearby. spikes protrude from the
floor, gouts of steam or flame shoot up from hidden holes, or the entire floor
tilts. These strange floors are sometimes found in arenas, designed to make
combats more exciting and deadly. Construct these floors as you would any other
|Renaissance-Portal eines Patrizierhauses. Öl auf Leinwand, 43 x 34 cm Date by 1941 Robert Breyer (18661941)|
Doors in dungeons are much
more than mere entrances and exits. Often they can be encounters all by themselves.
Dungeon doors come in three basic types: wooden, stone, and iron.
Constructed of thick planks nailed together, sometimes bound with iron for strength (and to reduce swelling from dungeon dampness), wooden doors are the most common type.
Iron hinges fasten the
door to its frame, and typically a circular pull-ring in the center is there
to help open it. Sometimes. instead of a pull-ring, a door has an iron pull-bar
on one or both sides of the door to serve as a handle. In inhabited dungeons,
these doors are usually well-maintained (not stuck) and unlocked, although important
areas are locked up if possible.
Carved from solid blocks
of stone, these heavy, unwieldy doors are often built so that they pivot when
opened, although dwarves and other skilled
craftsfolk are able to fashion hinges strong enough to hold up a stone door.
Secret doors concealed within a stone wall are usually stone doors. Otherwise,
such doors stand as tough barriers protecting something important beyond. Thus,
they are often locked or barred.
Rusted but sturdy, iron
doors in a dungeon are hinged like wooden doors. These doors are the toughest
form of nonmagical door. They are usually locked or barred.
Dungeon doors might be locked, trapped, reinforced, barred, magically sealed. or sometimes just stuck. All but the weakest characters can eventually knock down a door with a heavy tool such as a sledgehammer, and a number of spells and magic items give characters an easy way around a locked door.
Attempts to literally chop down a door with a slashing or bludgeoning weapon use the hardness and hit points given in Table: Doors. When assigning a DC to an attempt to knock a door down. use the following as guidelines.
|DC 10 or Lower||A door just about anyone can break open.|
|DC 1115||A door that a strong person could break with one try and an average person might be able to break with one try.|
|DC 1620||A door that almost anyone could break, given time.|
|DC 2125||A door that only a strong or very strong person has a hope of breaking, probably not on the first try.|
|DC 26 or Higher||A door that only an exceptionally strong person has a hope of breaking.|
For example, wooden doors typically have the following DC's to break:
Simple doors (break DC
15) are not meant to keep out motivated attackers.
Good doors (break DC 18),
while sturdy and long-lasting, are still not meant to take much punishment.
Strong doors (break DC 25) are bound in iron and are a sturdy barrier to those attempting to get past them.
|Door Type||Typical Thickness||Hardness||Hit Points||Break DC|
|Simple wooden||1 in.||5||10 hp||13||15|
|Good wooden||1-1/2 in.||5||15 hp||16||18|
|Strong wooden||2 in.||5||20 hp||23||25|
|Stone||4 in.||8||60 hp||28||28|
|Iron||2 in.||10||60 hp||28||28|
|Portcullis, wooden||3 in||5||30 hp||25*||25*|
|Portcullis, iron||2 in.||10||60 hp||25*||25*|
|* DC to lift. Use appropriate door figure for breaking.|
Dungeon doors are often locked, and thus the Disable Device skill comes in very handy. Locks are usually built into the door, either on the edge opposite the hinges or right in the middle of the door. Built-in locks either control an iron bar that juts out of the door and into the wall of its frame, or else a sliding iron bar or heavy wooden bar that rests behind the entire door. By contrast, padlocks are not built-in but usually run through two rings, one on the door and the other on the wall. More complex locks, such as combination locks and puzzle locks. are usually built into the door itself. Because such keyless locks are larger and more complex, they are typically only found in sturdy doors (strong wooden, stone, or iron doors).
The Disable Device DC to pick a lock often falls within the range of 20 to 30, although locks with lower or higher DCs can exist. A door can have more than one lock, each of which must be unlocked separately. Locks are often trapped, usually with poison needles that extend out to prick a rogue's finger.
Breaking a lock is sometimes quicker than breaking the whole door. If a PC wants to whack at a lock with a weapon, treat the typical lock as having hardness 15 and 30 hit points. A lock can only be broken if it can be attacked separately from the door, which means that a built-in lock is immune to this sort of treatment. In an occupied dungeon, every locked door should have a key somewhere.
A special door might have
a lock with no key, instead requiring that the right combination of nearby levers
must be manipulated or the right symbols must be pressed on a keypad in the
correct sequence to open the door.
Dungeons are often damp,
and sometimes doors get stuck, particularly wooden doors. Assume that about
10% of wooden doors and 5% of non-wooden doors are stuck. These numbers can
be doubled (to 20% and 10%, respectively) for long-abandoned or neglected dungeons.
When characters try to
bash down a barred door, it's the quality of the bar that matters, not the material
the door is made of. It takes a DC 25 Strength check to break through a door
with a wooden bar, and a DC 30 Strength check if the bar is made of iron. Characters
can attack the door and destroy it instead, leaving the bar hanging in the now-open
Spells such as arcane
lock can discourage passage through a door. A door with an arcane
lock spell on it is considered locked even if it doesn't have a physical
lock. It takes a knock spell, a dispel
magic spell, or a successful Strength check to open such a door.
Most doors have hinges, but sliding doors do not. They usually have tracks or grooves instead, allowing them to slide easily to one side.
Standard Hinges: these hinges are metal, joining one edge of the door to the door frame or wall. Remember that the door swings open toward the side with the hinges. (So, if the hinges are on the PCs' side, the door opens toward them; otherwise it opens away from them.) Adventurers can take the hinges apart one at a time with successful Disable Device checks (assuming the hinges are on their side of the door, of course). Such a task has a DC of 20 because most hinges are rusted or stuck. Breaking a hinge is difficult. Most have hardness 10 and 30 hit points. The break dC for a hinge is the same as for breaking down the door.
Nested Hinges: these hinges are much more complex than ordinary hinges, and are found only in areas of excellent construction. These hinges are built into the wall and allow the door to swing open in either direction. PCs can't get at the hinges to fool with them unless they break through the door frame or wall. Nested hinges are typically found on stone doors but sometimes on wooden or iron doors as well.
Pivots: Pivots aren't
really hinges at all, but simple knobs jutting from the top and bottom of the
door that fit into holes in the door frame. allowing the door to spin. The advantages
of pivots are that they can't be dismantled like hinges and they're simple to
make. The disadvantage is that since the door pivots on its center of gravity
(typically in the middle), nothing larger than half the door's width can fit
through without squeezing. Doors with pivots are usually stone and often quite
wide to overcome this disadvantage. Another solution is to place the pivot toward
one side and have the door be thicker at that end and thinner toward the other
end so that it opens more like a normal door. Secret doors in walls often turn
on pivots, since the lack of hinges makes it easier to hide the door's presence.
Pivots also allow objects such as bookcases to be used as secret doors.
Disguised as a bare patch of wall (or floor or ceiling), a bookcase, a fireplace, or a fountain, a secret door leads to a secret passage or room. Someone examining the area finds a secret door, if one exists, on a successful Perception check (DC 20 for a typical secret door to DC 30 for a well-hidden secret door).
Many secret doors require
special methods of opening, such as hidden buttons or pressure plates. Secret
doors can open like normal doors, or they might pivot. slide, sink, rise, or
even lower like a drawbridge to permit access. Builders might put a secret door
low near the floor or high in a wall. making it difficult to find or reach. wizards and sorcerers have a spell, phase
door, that allows them to create a magic secret door that only they can
Enchanted by the original
builders, a door might speak to explorers. warning them away. It might be protected
from harm, increasing its hardness or giving it more hit points as well as an
improved saving throw bonus against disintegrate and similar spells. A magic door might not lead into the space behind it, but
instead might be a portal to a faraway place or even another plane of existence.
Other magic doors might require passwords or special keys to open them.
These special doors consist
of iron or thick, iron-bound wooden shafts that descend from recesses in the
ceilings above archways. Sometimes a portcullis has crossbars that create a
grid, sometimes not. Typically raised by means of a winch or a capstan, a portcullis
can be dropped quickly, and the shafts end in spikes to discourage anyone from
standing underneath (or from attempting to dive under it as it drops). Once
it is dropped, a portcullis locks, unless it is so large that no normal person
could lift it anyway. In any event, lifting a typical portcullis requires a
DC 25 Strength check.
Walls, Doors, and Detect Spells
Stone walls, iron walls,
and iron doors are usually thick enough to block most detect spells, such as detect thoughts. Wooden walls, wooden
doors, and stone doors are usually not thick enough to do so. A secret stone
door built into a wall and as thick as the wall itself (at least 1 foot) does
block most detect spells.
Stairs are the most common
means of traveling up and down within a dungeon. a character can move up or
down stairs as part of their movement without penalty, but they cannot run on
them. Increase the DC of any Acrobatics skill check made on stairs by 4. Some
stairs are particularly steep and are treated as difficult terrain.
Common Dungeon Hazards
There are many hazards possible in dungeons and caverns including cave-ins, slimes, mold, fungi, and others. A large list of potential hazards commonly encountered is listed on the Traps & Hazards page.
The Worlds of Mankind is owned and created by Mark John Goodwin
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and are used according to the terms of the d20 System License version 6.0.
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