Player’s Advice: 6 Ways the Dungeon Can Kill You

Most adventurers dying in a dungeon are killed by the complex’s nefarious denizens. However, other unfortunate explorers suffer a much more ignoble fate..

Dungeon Entrance by William McAusland (Outland Arts)


Brave adventurers have dared the depths of uncountable dungeons, love the years. Some emerge, their backpacks and pouch filled with treasure. Other meet their doom in the dungeon. Most such unfortunates are killed by the dungeon’s denizens, but some are killed by the dungeon itself!

It might seem strange that the actual dungeon can kill you. Remember, though, the dungeon – like all natural environments – has its share of natural dangers and hazards. Neophyte adventurers should be aware of the following lurking dangers:

  • You Get Crushed or Trapped: Although they are made of rock and stone, not all dungeons – or sections of dungeons – are safe. Some sections may be unsafe through accident or design. If you are not paying attention, you could be crushed by, or trapped behind, a cave-in. Look for signs of imminent collapse. These could include dust and debris on the floor, cracks in the ceiling, walls or floors or the groan of rocks moving against one another.
  • You Run Out of Light: There is no natural light underground. If you don’t have darkvision and run out of light even the simplest tasks become all but impossible. You become easy prey for any creature able to see in the dark, and finding your way out is unlikely. Running out of light is a death sentence. Always carry more sources of light than you think you’ll need. Even a candle could mean the difference between life and death.
  • You Run Out of Food and Water: If you get trapped or lost underground you could easily starve to death. Dungeons and caves are hostile environments. While water may be plentiful, naturally occurring food is not and prepared adventurers always carry a decent amount of food and water. Sometimes, adventurers are trapped by cunning traps or cave-ins. Those without enough food, water (and light) to find another way out will die in the lightless depths.
  • You Drown: Weather on the surface can dramatically affect the subterranean environment. Passageways normally dry, can be transformed into raging torrents in a matter of minutes, sweeping all before them. Explorers caught in such a passageway when it suddenly floods are likely doomed to drown or to be dashed to death against the corridor’s unyielding walls.
  • You Suffocate: The deeper the dungeon, the greater the chance of encountering areas in which the air does not flow properly. Such areas of foul air can be fatal to those not paying attention. It may become hard to breathe as you venture further into such locales or a strange sell might hang in the air. Those experiencing either of these signs should retreat immediately. (Such areas, may also serve as the lair of dungeon denizens that do not need to breathe, making them even more dangerous.)
  • You Get Lost: It’s virtually impossible to get lost in some dungeons – they just aren’t big enough. Other dungeons are immense, rambling for miles beneath the surface. Such complexes could have hundreds or thousands of rooms and passageways. An accurate map is therefore vital for most dungeon explorations. If you get lost, it becomes a race against time to escape the dungeon before you run out of food, water and light.

Luckily, most of the ways in which a dungeon can kill you can be defeated by proper planning and attentive exploration. Keep that in mind, when planning your next delve.

Help Fellow Gamers

That’s my list of the way a dungeon can kill explorers. Has a dungeon killed you in a different way? if it has, let us know how you died in the comments below and help other adventurers dodge your fate.

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

One thought on “Player’s Advice: 6 Ways the Dungeon Can Kill You”

  1. you could do environmental underground hazards. Toxic gasses (Sulfuric acid, C02). Cave ins are good, land slides, the critters that live in there naturally, not just creatures who moved in. think underdark x1000! they would be mutants of things that we may have seen, or they’d be totally new. Albino black dragons with eco location or the ability to change skin pigments to blend in? explosive or flammable gasses. that makes torches deadly, cant cook food or keep warm, might have cumulative effects on characters, or hallucinogenic spores. fungus, molds, slime, weird ticked off plant life, or fungus creature from space or another dimension? not to mention MAGMA!!!! my point is the place itself could be way worse than any monster filled dungeon.

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