10 Remarkable Keys

Dungeons often have loads of locked things–doors, trapdoors and even the much hoped for treasure chests! And–of course–every lock needs a key!

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)


However, few dungeons seem to have enough keys and even fewer dungeons have interesting or detailed keys. Normally they are listed as “a bunch of keys” or ” key to the treasure chest in area 6.” That’s a shame as keys can be both interesting and can even serve as treasure themselves!

Use the table below, to generate the details of atypical or noteworthy keys found in the dungeon.

  1. This tiny key is made of worn brass. It hangs upon a similarly worn neck chain. Several faint runes decorate the key’s bow but they are now (sadly) unreadable.
  2. This two-inch long iron key slips into a hidden compartment in the pommel of an otherwise innocuous dagger. The dagger’s pommel must be unscrewed to extract the key. Only perceptive PCs will likely notice the hidden key.
  3. This key’s barrel is pitted and scarred as if it had been splattered with acid. It is exceedingly delicate because of this damage; if used roughly, if will likely snap off in the lock.
  4. Large and ornate, this black, cast iron key is almost a foot long and weighs 4 lbs.
  5. This large iron key holds a clever secret–a smaller key hidden in its stem. It is accessed by unscrewing the larger key’s bow. Typically, the larger key does not fit any lock in the dungeon.
  6. The bit of this barrel’s key is worn as if by much use. The lock it fits is similarly ancient.
  7. The bow of this cast iron six-inch long key has been forged to look like a skull complete with eyes sockets and teeth. The stem of the key looks disturbingly like a spinal column…
  8. Of brass, this key is still shiny and new; it has practically no signs of use upon its teeth, but someone has scratched “TC 1” into its bow.
  9. This key is so large—almost two-foot long—surely it is only ceremonial in nature; the lock required to fit this monstrous key would be huge in the extreme. It weighs almost 10 lbs. and could be used as a bludgeoning weapon in a pinch.
  10. Crafted of multi-faceted, magically hardened glass, this key reflects light in strange many-hued patterns. Crafted to bypass a magical ward of fiendish resilience and complexity it opens the warded area by casting its shadow on the door in a certain location.

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This article will appear in GM’s Miscellany: 20 Things II, available in March 2017. For more, check out our Free Resources page.

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12 thoughts on “10 Remarkable Keys

  1. This thin, flat key is made of steel and brass – a bi-metallic strip. Once inserted in its lock, it needs to be twisted 90 degrees and then have heat or electricity applied in order for it to bend and complete the unlocking process.

  2. This key, made of cold iron, has a grooved barrel and no bit. At six inches long and an inch in diameter, it is the winding key to a cut-price iron golem.

  3. In a palace full of golden locks and keys, this large key also looks like gold but is actually iron pyrite. In an ironic twist, it disarms the final destruction trap to the treasury.

  4. This double-bit key is half ebony, half ivory. Its lock is horizontal; the key has to be inserted with the ivory to the right and ebony to the left, and then it has to be turned anti-clockwise, so the “light” ivory rises from the east and sets in the west. Any other combination subjects the user to a permanent time stop spell.

  5. The bit of this key is shaped like a death’s head moth. It opens a mausoleum, but only at dusk and if the lock is lit by the beam from a bulls-eye lantern.

  6. Love some of these ideas…..I, myself found a ‘set’ of old style skeleton keys and a Hobby Lobby store, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. But it came with five different sized keys on a wrought iron ring and I use them as a visual aid pretty cool….

  7. From comics:
    This key is so large it is used as a visual direction navigation marker for flying vehicles. From above it appears to be a gold arrow. (Key to the Fortress of Solitude)