There is nothing funnier than watching an adventurer fall down, except maybe watching them fall down again. As a wise man once said, “I could watch that all day.” And thus, pit traps are a staple, particularly before flying becomes common place.
Basic pit traps are easy to build. You just need space for a hole and time to dig it. Any average-intelligence dungeon denizen can make one without access to magic or complicated tools. They are so commonplace that adventurers that fall into one are usually not looking for the second fall. Well, we wouldn’t want to disappoint them with just another boring pit trap—not when there’s so many fun variations.
Pits with Friends
Simple Trap (level 1–4, dangerous threat)
This 10-foot-deep pit is covered in branches and dirt, making it appear the same as the rest of the ground. The branches are embedded in the dirt sides of the pit, such that when they fall away, so does a significant amount of the support for the lip around the pit. Nails have been pounded through many of the branches adding to the danger of falling debris.
Trigger. Anyone who steps on the branches might fall into the pit.
Effect. The triggering creature must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. On a successful save, the creature manages to leap to safety. On a failed save, the creature falls into the pit and takes 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage from the fall and another 3 (1d6) piercing damage from the failing branches and nails.
Secondary Effect. Any creature weighing more than 5 pounds that stands within 5 feet of the pit edge causes the sides to crumble out from underneath them. The creature must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw to step back in time. Otherwise they and any creature already in the pit suffer 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage from the fall as the second victim falls on top of the first.
Countermeasures. A successful DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check notices the ground seems disturbed, revealing the pit. Moving around avoids the trap entirely. The dirt sides of the pit can be climbed with a successful DC 15 Strength (Athletics) check.
Reach for It
Simple Trap (level 5–10, dangerous threat)
The floor has alternating black and white 10-foot tiles in a checkerboard pattern. One of the tiles is actually an unsupported trapdoor that dumps the unsuspecting into a 20-foot-deep pit whose bottom is lined with spikes. A black-painted ladder is in the side of the pit, just out of easy reach.
Trigger. Anyone who steps on the branches might fall into the pit. Trying to climb the ladder triggers the secondary effect.
Effect. The triggering creature must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. On a successful save, they manage to leap back in time. On a failed save, the creature falls into the pit and takes 7 (2d6) bludgeoning damage from the fall. In addition, the spikes make a +8 melee attack against a falling creature, doing 5 (1d10) piercing damage on a hit. This attack can’t gain advantage or disadvantage.
Secondary Effect. The ladder is just out of reach for a Medium-sized creature and requires a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) to jump high enough to reach the bottom rung. Small creatures make the attempt with disadvantage. Unfortunately, the bottom rung is actually made of painted glass filled will acid. It breaks with 1-pound of weight, splashing the victim with acid and subjecting them to another attack by the spikes as they fall back into the pit. In addition to the spikes, the victim takes 7 (2d6) acid damage and must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or be blinded until they complete a long rest.
Countermeasures. A successful DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check notices one of the tiles is loose and there is a breeze coming from underneath. A creature capable of a 17-foot standing high jump can reach the second rung of the ladder and easily climb out. The smooth stone sides of the pit can be climbed with a successful DC 25 Strength (Athletics) check.
Should Have Started Climbing
Simple Trap (level 1–4, deadly threat)
This appears to be a standard canvas-covered 10-foot-deep pit, except at the bottom there are pictures and glyphs painted upon the walls. One round after any weight greater than 5 pounds impacts the bottom of the pit, a second trapdoor gives way dumping the victim into another 10-foot-deep, water-filled pit.
Trigger. Anyone who steps on the painted canvas might fall into the pit. Staying in the pit for more than 1 round triggers the secondary effect.
Effect. The triggering creature must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. On a successful save, the creature manages to leap away to safety. On a failed save, the creature falls into the pit and takes 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage.
Secondary Effect. One round after the victim hits the bottom of the pit, a timer releases the mechanism supporting the floor, dropping the victim into a swarm of quippers (or other appropriate monster for your campaign). The water in the second pit is 20-feet deep.
Countermeasures. A successful DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check locates the canvas mimicking the stone floor that covers the initial pit. With another successful DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check, a character that falls into the pit notices the floor bounce when they impact, as if it is loose. A successful DC 15 Dexterity (thieves’ tools) check disables the loose floor. A character who spends an action looking at the pictures on the walls and succeeds on a DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check realizes they are a meaningless distraction. A character that fails this check suspects the painting might be a rough map of the dungeon, but it will take time to decipher. The stone sides of the pit can be climbed with a successful DC 20 Strength (Athletics) check.