The Random GM: Pits
From the genesis of the D&D game, random lists have been used to create, inspire, and complicate games everywhere. A GM is essentially keeping all the knowledge of a fabricated world inside his or her head, along with all the relevant laws of physics and mechanics, which are transformed into a living story around the table. With that in mind, sometimes it is difficult to come up with appropriate names, descriptions, NPCs, castles, or environmental features on the fly. Luckily, there are certain tools that simplify a GM’s life no matter what game he or she is running.
These random generation tables can be used for just about any topic. The trouble is that though they are great to have, they take time to generate yourself. The good news is I have taken the liberty and done the hard work up front, leaving you free to copy, paste, and print right into your notes.
It seems every standard dungeon comes with its fair share of pit traps. Typically, they have a few different varieties such as spikes or acid, and that is as exciting as they get. Pits are supposed to be deadly, and they should cause confusion and surprise. Ultimately, they should also demoralize would-be robbers from sneaking further into the dungeon. Adventurers think they know what these traps are all about; they believe they are little more than a speed bump. That is why I created twenty nontraditional pits just to shake things up a bit and keep the players guessing.
d20. Different pits to fall in love with
- Slide. The pit is a 50-ft. greased shoot into an underground lake home to a group of mere-people that have been trapped here for a very long time.
- Starving serpent pit. Dozens of snakes lie silently in wait; first they bite and then they coil.
- Portal. The portal leads to another location within the complex. Roll 1d4: 1—It’s near the entrance. 2—It’s down the hall. 3—It’s in another part of the complex completely. 4—The character falls from the ceiling right near the pit, but anything made of metal is teleported to a treasure room.
- Lord of bones. This is a 30-ft. deep pit with 10-ft. deep pile of broken bones; the landing is cushioned by skeletons but then all the skulls begin to bite. Roll a d10 to determine the number of skulls.
- The infinite loop. Falling into the pit causes the character to fall from a hole in the ceiling, which is masked by a weak illusion. The character continues to fall through the floor and ceiling until removed from the pit area. Momentum is retained when leaving the infinite loop.
- The empty pit. After a character has fallen through the magic floor barrier, the pit appears empty from above. A silence spell prevents any sound from escaping the pit.
- Demon pit. Triggering the trap causes the floor to drop out and unleash Goregil, Demon Lord of Pestilence. He tells the characters that since they have freed him, he will not destroy them, but they must leave the dungeon at once! He is unusually talkative and doesn’t try to fight, only intimidate. In truth, Goregil is a simple illusion and poses no threat of physical harm.
- Greased larvae pit. The walls of this pit are greased and lead down to a horde of starving larvae. After they make a successful bite attack, the following round they move away and cocoon as their only action. Then they emerge on the beginning of their next turn in their final form.
- The classic acid pit. This pit does high initial damage along with moderate damage over time; the catch is some things, such as cloth and leather, dissolve much faster than other things.
- The river of lava. The pit drops into a river of flowing lava; on a failed Endurance check, the character floats downstream from the current pit to the next one.
- The waste pit. Occasionally, a pit is flushed; the character may be swept out with waste to somewhere outside or deeper into the dungeon.
- Pit of glorious and false riches. A creature that falls into this pit lands on 4 ft. of platinum, gold, silver, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds. When any of the treasure leaves the pit, it turns into a potent liquid poison.
- Monster pit. At the bottom of the pit is a giant worm or other large monster waiting with mouth open, displaying thousands of razor teeth, waiting to devour the fallen companion. If the target avoids falling into monster’s gullet, he or she can try to escape or fight the monster (likely a weakened version of the monster due to starvation).
- Grease pit. The walls of the pit are coated with animal fat, making it nearly impossible to climb out. Those who fall in must escape some other way. Additionally, the pit smells awful.
- Hypnopit. The walls of this pit have cracks in them that slowly leak the noxious gases contained in a large network of underground reservoirs abandoned long ago by their creators. The DM can use his or her discretion in determining the effect of the gas: the target falls asleep, hallucinates, and thinks that the pit is some comfy mansion and thus resists leaving, the target is slowly poisoned, and so on.
- Impossible pit. Inlaid into the walls of this spike pit is a spiral staircase, seemingly offering easy exit to the top. The staircase is enchanted with some arcane power, however, making it impossible to leave the pit by using the stairs. The character will walk forever if he or she tries to climb his or her way out—always appearing to get closer to the exit, but never making progress. Pressing a couple of spikes in the right order will result in the spiral switching directions, and the character can climb out.
- Reverse pit. The character flies upward into a pit with reversed gravity. As the target climbs out, he or she may trigger another pit, flying off to the side or up or down, with abnormal gravity pulling the PC deeper and deeper into a 3-dimensional maze.
- Curse pit. The target falls into a pit, only to find that when he/she hits the ground, the target is merely standing where he/she originally was, seemingly unharmed. Little does the character know, however, that he or she is now cursed.
- Pit of rats. The character lands on hundreds and hundreds of rats amassed in a giant swarm. When the pit swings open above, they begin to scurry up the walls and out of the pit, pouring out like a furry flood.
- Ghost pit. A 60-ft deep pit has a dead body, and its ghost haunting nearby. The ghost is unable to separate from the corpse because the pit is cursed. If an adventurer allows the ghost to enter his or her body and takes the ghost out of the pit, the ghost will be eternally grateful and answer any one question about the dungeon.