10 Suspiciously Detailed Dungeon Portcullises

Portcullises often appear when a dungeon builder really, really wants to keep intruders out of a certain location. To the greedy adventurer seeking gold, a portcullis is often seen as a sign of great wealth nearby. After all, a treasure vault, crypt or even the personal chambers of some august individual could all lie beyond.


Use the table below, to determine the details of the portcullis the PCs encounter in the dungeon:

  1. Of black wrought iron, this portcullis is particularly heavy. Unfortunately, it has been badly installed; when raised or lowered it makes a loud screeching sound audible throughout the surrounding corridors and chambers. It also feels cold to the touch.
  2. This portcullis has several shields tied to it; each is battered and splintered—several bear faded devices of little-known (and now dead) warriors. The shields clank against the portcullis’ bars when it is raised or lowered.
  3. Some of this portcullis’ lower bars show signs of acid damage. Although not badly damaged, they show minor signs of melting.
  4. A work of art, this portcullis’ bars are forged to depict snakes coiled about one another. The snakes are incredibly detailed, although they don’t appear to represent any particular species of known snake.
  5. The scrollwork in the archway around this portcullis is intricately carved to look like a pile of grey bones. Here and there in shallow niches, actual bleached skulls glare down at intruders. Many bear obvious signs of violence.
  6. A few of this portcullis’s bars have been bent aside. The resultant gap provides just enough space for a halfling or similarly-sized creature to squeeze through. In other regards the portcullis seems in good repair.
  7. Currently down, it appears this rusty portcullis has not been raised for some time—particularly if the condition of the mouldering corpses impaled beneath it is anything to go by.
  8. Scraps of brightly coloured cloth festoon this down portcullis. Seemingly every inch of its bars are covered by the material. Close inspection reveals the tightly woven strips of cloth are tightly tied to the bars and most contain something small—mouldering foodstuffs, a lock of hair and so on. Perhaps they are offerings left for whatever dwells beyond.
  9. This irregularly forged white-hued portcullis appears at first glance to have been crafted from bones. A close inspection reveals the “bones” are actually forged metal designed to impart a macabre aspect to the portcullis.
  10. This portcullis is half down—or half-up depending on your perspective. A crude ladder leans against the nearby wall and a scattering of tool lie about. Of the workman, there is no sign.

Related Book

GM’s Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing: Crammed with over 300 pages of information and charts designed to bring your dungeon alive, this massive tome was Endzeitgeist’s choice as the number one book of 2014 and is now available in both Pathfinder and System Neutral Editions!
This article will also appear in GM’s Miscellany: 20 Things II, available in March 2017.

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