Dungeon Features

Walls

Sometimes, masonry walls - stones piled on top of each other (usually but not always held in place with mortar) - divide dungeons into corridors and chambers. Dungeon walls can also be hewn from solid rock, leaving them with a rough, chiseled look. Or, 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 climb.

Table 1: Walls

Wall Type Typical
Thickness
Break DC Hardness Hit
Points1
Climb DC
Paper Paper-thin 1 1 hp
Wall of ice 1 in./lvl 15 + 1/in. 0 3 hp/in. 25
Wood 6 in. 20 5 60 hp 21
Masonry 1 ft. 35 8 90 hp 15
Wall of stone 1 in./4 lvls 20 + 2/in. 8 15 hp/in. 22
Superior masonry 1 ft. 35 8 90 hp 20
Reinforced masonry 1 ft. 45 8 180 hp 15
Hewn stone 3 ft. 50 8 540 hp 22
Unworked stone 5 ft. 65 8 900 hp 20
Iron 3 in. 30 10 90 hp 25
Wall of iron 1 in./4 lvls 25 + 2/in. 10 30 hp/in. 25
Mithral 3 in. 46 15 90 hp 70
Adamantine 3 in. 66 20 120 hp 70
Wall of force 1 in. n/a n/a n/a 70
Magically treated2 +20 ×2 ×23

1 Per 10-foot-square section.

2 These modifiers can be applied to any of the other wall types except walls of force.

3 Or +50 hit points, whichever is greater.

Masonry Walls: 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).

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 miniscule ledges where fungus grows and fissures where vermin, bats, and subterranean snakes live. When such a wall has an “other side” (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.


Special Walls

Reinforced 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 by 10.

Iron Walls: These walls are placed within dungeons around important places such as vaults.

Paper Walls: Paper walls are the opposite of iron walls, placed as screens to block line of sight but nothing more.

Wooden Walls: Wooden walls often exist as recent additions to older dungeons, used to create animal pens, storage bins, or just to make a number of smaller rooms out of a larger one.

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 and can 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 + one-half the caster level of the magic reinforcing the wall. Creating a magic wall requires 2 days, a DC 17 Craft (artificing) check, 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 9/10 cover (+8 bonus to Armor Class, +4 bonus on Reflex saves, and the benefits of the improved evasion class feature).


Floors

As with walls, dungeon floors come in many types.

Flagstone: Like masonry walls, flagstone floors are made of fitted stones. They are usually cracked and only somewhat level. Slime and mold grows in these cracks. Sometimes water runs in rivulets between the stones or sits in stagnant puddles. Flagstone is the most common dungeon floor.

Uneven Flagstone: 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 slips and falls. Floors as treacherous as this should be the exception, not the rule.

Hewn Stone Floors: 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.

Light Rubble: Small chunks of debris litter the ground. Light rubble increases the DC of Acrobatics checks by 2.

Dense Rubble: The ground is covered with debris of all sizes. It costs 2 squares of movement to enter a square with dense rubble. Dense rubble increases the DC of Acrobatics checks by 5 and Stealth checks by 2.

Smooth Stone Floors: Finished and sometimes even polished, smooth floors are found only in dungeons with capable and careful builders.

Natural Stone Floors: 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 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.


Special Floors

Slippery: 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.

Grate: 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 not to 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.

Ledge: 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. 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 or her 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 can provide varying degrees of cover against attackers.

Transparent Floor: 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.

Sliding Floors: A sliding floor is a type of trapdoor, 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 beneath — a spiked pit, a vat of burning oil, or a pool filled with sharks — then it’s a trap.

Trap Floors: 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 an arena, designed to make combats more exciting and deadly. Construct these floors as you would any other trap.


Doors

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.

Table 2: Doors

Break DC
Door Thickness Hardness HP Stuck Locked
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
Mithril 2 in. 15 60 hp 40 40
Adamantine 2 in. 20 80 hp 60 60
Force 1 in. n/a n/a n/a n/a
Portcullis, wooden 3 in. 5 30 hp 251 251
Portcullis, iron 2 in. 10 60 hp 251 251
Portcullis, mithral 2 in. 15 60 hp 30* 30*
Portcullis, adamantine 2 in. 20 80 hp 40* 40*
Portcullis, force 1 in. 10 n/a n/a 50*
Lock 15 30 hp
Hinge 10 30 hp

1 DC to lift. Use appropriate door figure for breaking.

Wooden Doors: 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. Wooden doors come in varying strengths: simple, good, and strong doors. Simple doors (break DC 13) are not meant to keep out motivated attackers. Good doors (break DC 16), while sturdy and long-lasting, are still not meant to take much punishment. Strong doors (break DC 23) are bound in iron and are a sturdy barrier to those attempting to get past them. 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.

Stone: Carved from solid blocks of stone, these heavy, unwieldy doors are often built so that they pivot when opened, although dwarves and other skilled craftsmen can 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.

Iron: Rusted but sturdy, iron doors in a dungeon are hinged like wooden doors. These are the toughest form of nonmagical door. They are usually locked or barred.

Secret Doors: Secret doors are often disguised as a bare patch of wall (or floor, or ceiling), a bookcase, a fireplace, or a fountain, and lead to secret passages or rooms. Someone examining the area finds a secret door, if one exists, on a successful Search check (DC 20 for a typical secret door to DC 30 for a well-hidden secret door).

Many secret doors require a special method of opening, such as a hidden button or pressure plate. Secret doors can open like normal doors, or they can pivot, slide, sink, rise, or even lower like a drawbridge to permit access. Builders might put a secret door down low near the floor or high up 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 use.

Magic Doors: 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 other similar spells. A magic door might not lead into the space revealed beyond, but instead it 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.

Portcullises: These special doors consist of iron or thick, ironbound, wooden shafts that descend from a recess in the ceiling above an archway. Sometimes a portcullis has crossbars that create a grid. A portcullis is typically raised by means of a winch or a capstan and can be dropped quickly; 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.

Hinges: Most doors have hinges. Sliding doors 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 doorframe 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 a successful DC 20 Disable Device check (assuming the hinges are on their side of the door, of course), and takes 1d4 minutes per hinge. The DC assumes that the hinges are rusty (which is usually the case); if the door is better maintained, lower the DC to 15 and the time to 1 minute per hinge. 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 doorframe or wall. Nested hinges are typically found on stone doors in dwarven-built areas.

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 doorframe, allowing the door to spin. The advantages of pivots is 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. Doors with pivots are usually stone and are 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.


Breaking Down Doors

Not all doors are unlocked or easy to open – oftentimes adventurers are forced to break a door down or force it open. 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 chop a door down with a slashing or bludgeoning weapon use the hardness and hit points given in Table 2: Doors. Often the easiest way to overcome a recalcitrant door is not by demolishing it but by breaking its lock, bar, or hinges. When assigning a DC to an attempt to knock a door down, use the following guidelines:

DC 10 or Lower: A door just about anyone can break open.

DC 11-15: A door that a strong person could break with one try and an average person might be able to break with one try.

DC 16-20: A door that most people could break, given time.

DC 21-25: 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.

Stuck Doors: Dungeons are often damp, and sometimes doors (particularly wooden doors) get stuck. Assume that about 10% of wooden doors and 5% of nonwooden doors are stuck. These numbers can be doubled (to 20% and 10%, respectively) for long-abandoned or neglected dungeons.

Barred Doors: When characters try to bash down a barred door, it’s the quality of the bar that matters, not the material of the door. 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 doorway.


Locks

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 control either an iron bar that juts out of the door and into the wall of its frame (a deadbolt) or a sliding iron 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 into the range of 15 to 30. 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 (see below for examples) 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.

There are five kinds of locks: very simple, simple, average, good, and superior. Table 3 has DCs, hardness, and hit points for each type. All standard locks are assumed to be made from iron, steel, or (rarely) bronze. Locks made from other materials like mithril or adamantine would increase the hardness and hit points accordingly (rule of thumb: for an Average lock, take the base material, add +5 to the hardness, and treat it as being 1 inch thick).

Table 3: Locks

Lock DC Hardness HP/inch
Very Simple 10 10 20
Simple 15 15 25
Average 20 15 30
Good 25 20 35
Superior 30 25 40

Masterwork versions of the above locks increase the Disable Device DC by 5 – for purposes of being picked, they are treated as being the next higher lock type, but their hit points and hardness are the same as any other lock of their type.

Magic Seals: In addition to magic traps, spells such as arcane lock can discourage passage through a door. A door with an arcane lock on it is considered locked even if it doesn’t have a physical lock. It takes a knock, dispel magic, or a successful Strength check to get through such a door.


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. However, a secret stone door built into a wall and as thick as the wall itself (at least 1 foot) does block most detect spells.

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