The usual way to connect different levels of a dungeon is with stairs
. Straight stairways, spiral staircases, or stairwells with multiple landings between flights of stairs
are all common in dungeons, as are ramps (sometimes with an incline so slight that it can be difficult to notice; Spot
DC 15). Stairs
are important accessways, and are sometimes guarded or trapped. Traps
often cause intruders to slide or fall down to the bottom, where a pit, spikes, a pool
of acid, or some other danger awaits.
that rise less than 5 feet for every 5 feet of horizontal distance they cover
don't affect movement
, but characters who attack a foe below them gain a +1 bonus on attack rolls
from being on higher ground. Most stairs
in dungeons are gradual, except for spiral stairs
Characters moving up steep stairs
(which rise at a 45- degree angle or steeper) must spend 2 squares of movement
to enter each square of stairs
. Characters running or charging down steep stairs
must succeed on a DC 10 Balance
check upon entering the first steep stairs
square. Characters who fail stumble and must end their movement
1d2x5 feet later. Characters who fail by 5 or more take 1d6 points of damage
and fall prone in the square where they end their movement
. Steep stairs
increase the DC of Tumble
checks by 5.
This form of steep stairs
is designed to make defending a fortress easier. Characters gain cover
against foes below them on spiral stairs
because they can easily duck around the staircase's central support.
connects two higher areas separated by a lower area, stretching across a chasm, over a river, or above a pit. A simple bridge
might be a single wooden plank, while an elaborate one could be made of mortared stone with iron supports and side rails.
If a bridge
is particularly narrow, such as a series of planks laid over lava fissures, treat it as a ledge (see Special Floors
). It requires a Balance
check (DC dependent on width) to cross such a bridge
Constructed of wooden planks suspended from ropes, a rope bridge
is convenient because it's portable and can be easily removed. It takes two full-round actions
to untie one end of a rope bridge
, but a DC 15 Use Rope
check reduces the time to a move action
. If only one of the two supporting ropes is attached, everyone on the bridge
must succeed on a DC 15 Reflex save to avoid falling
off, and thereafter must make DC 15 Climb
checks to move along the remnants of the bridge
. Rope bridges are usually 5 feet wide. The two ropes that support them have 8 hit points
Some bridges have mechanisms that allow them to be extended or retracted from the gap they cross. Typically, the winch mechanism exists on only one side of the bridge
. It takes a move action
to lower a drawbridge, but the bridge
doesn't come down until the beginning of the lowering character's next turn. It takes a full-round action
to raise a drawbridge; the drawbridge is up at the end of the action. Particularly long or wide drawbridges may take more time to raise and lower, and some may require Strength checks to rotate the winch.
Chutes and Chimneys: Stairs
aren't the only way to move up and down in a dungeon. Sometimes a vertical shaft connects levels of a dungeon or links a dungeon with the surface. Chutes are usually traps
that dump characters into a lower area-often a place featuring some dangerous situation with which they must contend.
A common sight in any dungeon, pillars and columns give support to ceilings. The larger the room
, the more likely it has pillars. As a rule of thumb, the deeper in the dungeon a room
is, the thicker the pillars need to be to support the overhead weight. Pillars tend to be polished and often have carvings, paintings, or inscriptions upon them.
These pillars are only a foot or two across, so they don't occupy a whole square. A creature standing in the same square as a slender pillar
gains a +2 cover
bonus to Armor Class
and a +1 cover
bonus on Reflex saves (these bonuses don't stack with cover
bonuses from other sources). The presence of a slender pillar
does not otherwise affect a creature's fighting space, because it's assumed that the creature is using the pillar
to its advantage when it can. A typical slender pillar
has AC 4, hardness 8, and 250 hit points
These pillars take up an entire square and provide cover
to anyone behind them. They have AC 3, hardness 8, and 900 hit points
. A DC 20 Climb
check is sufficient to climb
most pillars; the DC increases to 25 for polished or unusually slick ones.
These tapering natural rock columns extend from the floor
(stalagmite) or the ceiling (stalactite). Stalagmites and stalactites function as slender pillars.
Most statues function as wide pillars, taking up a square and providing cover
. Some statues are smaller and act as slender pillars. A DC 15 Climb
check allows a character to climb
Elaborately embroidered patterns or scenes on cloth, tapestries hang from the walls
of well-appointed dungeon rooms
. Crafty builders take advantage of tapestries to place alcoves, concealed doors
, or secret switches behind them.
Tapestries provide total concealment
(50% miss chance) to characters behind them if they're hanging from the ceiling, or concealment
(20% miss chance) if they're flush with the wall
. Climbing a big tapestry
isn't particularly difficult, requiring a DC 15 Climb
check (or DC 10 if a wall
is within reach).
Anything important on display in a dungeon, from a fabulous treasure to a coffin, tends to rest atop a pedestal
or a dais. Raising the object off the floor
focuses attention on it (and, in practical terms, keeps it safe from any water or other substance that might seep onto the floor
). A pedestal
is often trapped to protect whatever sits atop it. It can conceal a secret trapdoor beneath itself or provide a way to reach a door
in the ceiling above itself.
Only the largest pedestals take up an entire square; most provide no cover
Pools of water collect naturally in low spots in dungeons (a dry dungeon is rare). Pools can also be wells or natural underground springs, or they can be intentionally created basins, cisterns, and fountains. In any event, water is fairly common in dungeons, harboring sightless fish and sometimes aquatic monsters. Pools provide water for dungeon denizens, and thus are as important an area for a predator to control as a watering hole aboveground in the wild.
If a square contains a shallow pool
, it has roughly 1 foot of standing water. It costs 2 squares of movement
to move into a square with a shallow pool
, and the DC of Tumble
checks in such squares increases by 2.
These squares have at least 4 feet of standing water. It costs Medium or larger creatures 4 squares of movement
to move into a square with a deep pool
, or characters can swim
if they wish. Small or smaller creatures must swim
to move through a square containing a deep pool
. Tumbling is impossible in a deep pool
. The water in a deep pool
for Medium or larger creatures. Smaller creatures gain improved cover
(+8 bonus to AC, +4 bonus on Reflex saves). Medium or larger creatures can crouch as a move action
to gain this improved cover
. Creatures with this improved cover
take a -10 penalty on attacks against creatures that aren't also underwater.
squares are usually clustered together and surrounded by a ring of shallow pool
squares. Both shallow pools and deep pools impose a -2 circumstance penalty on Move Silently
Through accident or design, a pool
can become magically enhanced. Rarely, a pool
or a fountain may be found that has the ability
to bestow beneficial magic on those who drink from it. However, magic pools are just as likely to curse the drinker. Typically, water from a magic pool
loses its potency if removed from the pool
for more than an hour or so.
Some pools have fountains. Occasionally these are merely decorative, but they often serve as the focus of a trap
or the source of a pool
Most pools are made of water, but anything's possible in a dungeon. Pools can hold unsavory substances such as blood, poison
, oil, or magma. And even if a pool
holds water, it can be holy water, saltwater, or water tainted with disease
In place of or in addition to stairs
, an elevator
(essentially an oversized dumbwaiter) can take inhabitants from one dungeon level to the next. Such an elevator
may be mechanical (using gears, pulleys, and winches) or magical (such as a levitate
spell cast on a movable flat surface). A mechanical elevator
might be as small as a platform that holds one character at a time, or as large as an entire room
that raises and lowers. A clever builder might design an elevator room
that moves up or down without the occupants' knowledge
to catch them in a trap
, or one that appears to have moved when it actually remained still.
A typical elevator
ascends or descends 10 feet per round at the beginning of the operator's turn (or on initiative
count 0 if it functions without regard to whether creatures are on it. Elevators can be enclosed, can have railings or low walls
, or may simply be treacherous floating platforms.
Whether free-standing or rungs set into a wall
, a ladder
requires a DC 0 Climb
check to ascend or descend.
Shifting Stone or Wall:
These features can cut off access to a passage or room
, trapping adventurers in a dead end or preventing escape out of the dungeon. Shifting walls
can force explorers to go down a dangerous path or prevent them from entering a special area. Not all shifting walls
need be traps
. For example, stones controlled by pressure plates, counterweights, or a secret lever can shift out of a wall to become a staircase leading to a hidden upper room
or secret ledge.
Shifting stones and walls
are generally constructed as traps
with triggers and Search
and Disable Device
DCs. However they don't have Challenge Ratings because they're inconveniences, not deadly in and of themselves.
Sometimes useful, sometimes devious, places in a dungeon rigged with a teleportation effect (such as a teleportation circle
) transport characters to some other location in the dungeon or someplace far away. They can be traps
, teleporting the unwary into dangerous situations, or they can be an easy mode of transport for those who built or live in the dungeon, good for bypassing barriers and traps
or simply to get around more quickly. Devious dungeon designers might place a teleporter
in a room
that transports characters to another seemingly identical room
so that they don't even know they've been teleported. A detect magic
spell will provide a clue to the presence of a teleporter
, but direct experimentation or other research is the only way to discover where the teleporter
Temples-particularly to dark gods-often exist underground. Usually taking the form of a stone block, an altar is the main fixture and central focus of such a temple. Sometimes all the other trappings of the temple are long gone, lost to theft, age
, and decay, but the altar survives. Some altars
or powerful magic within them. Most take up one or two squares on the grid and provide cover
to creatures behind them.
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