10 Suspicious Dungeon Smells

Wise adventurers use all five senses while exploring a dungeon. Paying attention to your surroundings is one of the key skills an adventurer needs to cultivate if they wish to retire old, wealthy and healthy.

Artwork by Claudio Pozas, copyright Expeditious Retreat Press, used with permission.

Artwork by Claudio Pozas, copyright Expeditious Retreat Press, used with permission.


Therefore, it stands to reason a skilled GM engages all of the PCs’ senses during their dungeon delve. Use the following table, to add smells and scents into their next delve.

  1. The rank stench of sweat mixed with a hint of ozone hangs in the air.
  2. The pungent smell of burning hangs in the air, although no smoke is evident. A fine layer of ash on the floor, however, betrays the presence of a recent fire.
  3. The almost imperceptible fragrance of rose blossom fills the air near a doorway or other chokepoint. The fragrance is subtle and is reminiscent of a lady’s perfume.
  4. A small patch of dying mushrooms clusters along one wall. The mushrooms are mottled black and grey and the smell of rot and decay is heavy in the surrounding area.
  5. Part of the wall has collapsed, spilling rubble into the corridor or room. A small slide of thick, wet soil covers the rubble and the heavy smell of mud pervades the area.
  6. From a thin crack in the wall issues a strange, heady scent redolent with the promise of a hot, warm clime. How it comes to be here—or where the narrow crack leads—is unknown.
  7. This area smells strongly of excrement and manure. Dried mottled brown patches on the floor are the probable source of the smell. One of the largest patches features a single footprint.
  8. The putrid stench of rotting vegetation fills this area. Strange root-like fronds grow from the ceiling and end in large, dropping flowers. A small pile of rotting petals lies below these strange plants.
  9. The heavy scent of chemicals hangs in the air. While most are unidentifiable, all are acrid and unpleasant. The smell is worse, closer to the floor. Short characters such as halflings and gnomes are particularly effected; their eyes and noses run uncontrollably while they are in this area.
  10. Pockmarks and burn marks pit the floor and the lower portions of some of the walls. The smell of acid hangs in the air; if the PCs linger here those of frail constitution start to feel giddy and weak.

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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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