10 Suspiciously Detailed Dungeon Staircases

PCs are a suspicious and paranoid bunch. And with good reasons. In the depths of a dungeon, it’s not necessarily only the monsters that can kill them.

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

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


Wise adventurers pay careful attention to their surroundings. Sights, sounds and smells can all provide a hint—or warning—about what lies beyond.

Use the table below, to generate details of the staircases the PCs encounter during their dungeon exploration.

  1. A central groove—perhaps from the tread of many feet or the action of flowing water—has been worn in the riser of each of these old stone steps. The groove is slippery and makes the stair harder to traverse safely.
  2. One of the steps roughly halfway down the staircase is pitted and crumbling. A crude repair involving a thick wooden plank and four pitons hammered into the walls stop it from disintegrating completely.
  3. Water drips down the walls, creating small puddles on the stairs around which cluster small growths of mushrooms and fungi. It is colder than normal on the staircase.
  4. The ceiling of this staircase is particularly low in several places forcing anyone over 5 ft. high to duck or smash their head on the unyielding stone.
  5. The steps comprising this stair are narrow forcing most folk to walk down them practically sideways.
  6. This staircase is almost precipitously steep and narrow. Crude handholds are carved into the wall in spots where the stair is particularly steep. These handholds have been worn smooth from use. Some are surprisingly deep—anything could lurk within their shadowy depths.
  7. A large white chalk arrow has been drawn on the ceiling over the stairs. The arrow points downward, but its tip has been rubbed out.
  8. The steps comprising this stair are of unequal height, making a swift traverse of the stair—in either direction—all but impossible.
  9. A discarded torch lies on one of the steps. On the wall nearby, a smudge of charcoal shows where it was hurriedly stubbed out.
  10. Drops of dried blood mar some of the stairs. From the drop’s shape—and the distance between them—it looks like whoever was bleeding was rushing up the stairs.

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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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