Dungeon Dressing: Portcullises (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatible GM's Resource by Aaron Bailey

Tired of dungeons lacking in verisimilitude? Want to add cool little features of interest to your creations but don't have the time to come up with nonessential details? Want to make your dungeons feel more realistic?

Then Dungeon Dressing is for you! Each instalment in the line focuses on a different common dungeon fixture such as stairs, pillars or pools and gives the harried GM the tools to bring such features to life with interesting and cool noteworthy features.

This instalment of Dungeon Dressing presents loads of great features to add to the portcullises in your dungeon. Designed to be used both during preparation or actual play, Dungeon Dressing: Portcullises is an invaluable addition to any GM's armoury!

Dungeon Dressing: Portcullises presents:

One table providing detailed descriptions of a portcullises’ characteristics.

One table presenting additional portcullis features such as contents, hidden treasures, magical properties and more!

Several clever portcullis-based traps (CRs 6-8).

This product is a Dual Format PDF. The downloadable ZIP file contains two versions, one optimised for printing and use on a normal computer and one optimised for use on a mobile device such as an iPad.

For free samples head over to ragingswan.com/portcullises

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5.00/5 (based on 5 ratings)

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Great for Inspiring Interesting Encounters and Establishing Mood


For an explanation of how I use the five star review method, see my entry on So What's the Riddle Like Anyway? HERE.

Alright, for any who don't know the reason that this has become a free publication please see this THREAD. I may not have reviewed this PDF without all of this bringing it to my attention, so I'm glad it happened for all that I feel bad for the grief Creighton got hit with.

I originally thought that the Dungeon Dressing series of supplements just added some colour to an otherwise ordinary item in a dungeon. Since I have a lot of experience coming up with this stuff off the cuff, I really wasn't interested. I found this supplement to be so much more than that. It gives examples of traps, treasures, and other interesting features as part of what would ordinarily be a boring piece of window dressing.

The first section is Table A: Characteristics & Appearance. It gives simple rules for portcullises, rules for different construction types (from bone through metals all the way to adamantine), rules for adjusting characteristics based on the portcullis condition, and what type of winch and lifting mechanism it uses. This allows a GM to develop unique barriers that fit the style of the dungeon and reveal what is beyond them to the party. There is a lot here, and I found myself contemplating various scenarios where I could use a portcullis to dramatic effect. The table itself has forty-six different characteristics for random generation or selection. Some are simple variations (such as portcullises opening sideways instead of up and down), while others suggest treasures and whole trick corridors (the very first entry with linked portcullises suggests a puzzle corridor to me, which I want to start working on immediately!). This is a great section that is full of material that can inspire dungeon design. Really great!

Table B: Dressing & Features is what I first thought of when I read the words Dungeon Dressing. It is a list of one hundred different features and appearances for portcullises. This is an area where I need little help, so this is of little use to me other than as encounter design inspiration. But for someone who isn't experienced making it up as they go, this could prove very useful. It is of best use, in my opinion, when trying to establish mood and atmosphere or creating an artificial history of the dungeon. Portcullises with obvious attempts at breaches or corpses in various places suggest a world in which events happened before. Such attempts at emersion are subtle and really enhance the game.

Finally we have Table C: Traps & Tricks. This section sets up two very basic portcullis traps and one magical trap. It also comes with suggestions with regards to the actual effect of a portcullis falling in a dungeon and rules for the GM to use them as a weapon in game (I really like the idea of the bad guys triggering a fast falling portcullis just as the party is passing under it!). The wailing portcullis is just brutal; you have just got to love any trap that gets even more dangerous when destroyed! That is, as a GM you've got to love it. Players opinions may vary. This section is fairly straight forward and has enough rules, suggestions, and examples for any GM to quickly build a unique, trapped portcullis. Calling this section a 'table' when there isn't one is a little odd. I know that the previous sections had tables—so it is in keeping with the overall structure—and it is a minor nitpick.

Final Thoughts: Dungeon Dressing: Portcullises is an excellent addition to any GM's collection. The ideas for using portcullises in new ways are very good and I found many sparked my imagination. The name Dungeon Dressing suggests a lot less than what is presented. I'm not sure how that can be addressed as it is a fairly apt description of the contents. But the uses of the contents are much more than simple window dressing of a dungeon. From simple material like this can great encounters be made. Five out of Five Stars.

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Dungeon Dressing-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover,1 page advertisement, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC/foreword,1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let us take a look, shall we?

As with many installments of the dungeon dressing-series, we kick this one off with an array of basic stats that provide us with hardness, AC, HP etc. of varying types of portcullises, covering this time around even adamantine, mithril, stone and similar exotic materials as well as the more common wooden versions. Oh, and necromancers will want to take a look at those made of bone. Further modification of these basic characteristics is possible via 5 conditions and 3 mechanisms,rope/chain pulleys, the winch and the weight-based mechanism to lower and raise them.

So far, so good, let’s look at the tables! Unless I miscounted, we get 46 entries on the first table and includes basic twinned portcullises, surrounding dressings in the shape of demonic maws and even being made of magnetic ore (which is twisted and a VERY cool idea) – there are also portcullises made from mildly poisonous tropical wood and some additionally secured with bolts. While some of the dressings are cosmetic, e.g. said bolts actually modify the portcullises rules and thus make them more versatile also on a mechanic side.

The second table of the pdf provides us with a full array of 100 different entries that cover being half open, dripping with ooze-like substances or being rusted into place. Again, the massive amount of entries here and there features entries that influence the respective rules.

The final two pages are devoted to 3 sample traps involving portcullises – from teh CR 4 basic falling portcullis to ones that also topple (whether by intention or neglect) as well as a deadly CR 15 portcullis that has the spirit of a banshee (!!) bound to it – with deadly consequences. It should be noted that we get these via multi-rounds effects, variants and an extremely handy sidebar that covers being attacked by a portcullis depending on size – can the hardy dfwarf survive being squashed by it?


Editing and formatting are top-notch as we’ve come to expect from RSP, I didn’t notice a single glitch. Layout adheres to RSP’s elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen use and one to be printed out.

Portcullises are one of the most underused features in any roleplaying-game fortress and dungeon – they are iconic and foreboding and provide some nasty tactical advantages when used properly. Hence, I was rather glad to see this particular installment of the line come out and what can I say – author Aaron Bailey delivers with a great installment that should have you all covered regarding teh defenses of your structures. One of the finest installments before RSP made it free – and even FOR FREE NOW??? An easy, no-brainer candidate for 5 stars + seal of approval – congrats to the author!

Endzeitgeist out.

Old school feel and a nice bit of dungeon dressing


This product harkens back to the days of 1st edition AD&D, where the Dungeon Master's Guide had appendices full of random tables providing details for the DM making up a dungeon on the fly.

Raging Swan has taken one particular feature, the portcullis, and provided the mechanics (in game features of the portcullis, variances for construction materials and the conditions they're in, as well as lifting mechanisms) along with two mechanical traps (the falling and toppling portcullises) and a nasty magical trap in the wailing portcullis (every evil necromancer on the block will want one for his inner sanctum).

And, of course, the flavor. The bulk of the pdf is a random table with a hundred different details that can be ascribed to a dungeon portcullis. These could leave PCs scratching their heads, or inspire a GM to produce an encounter to await them beyond the barrier. All in all, very good stuff.

If I have any complaints about the product at all, it would be the wish for a bit more art. If nothing else, there's a lot of white space on the title page that was begging for something to be placed in it. Even a simple portcullis design centered above the title would have been sufficient. Still, for the price tag, this can't be beat.

I love a product that sparks my imagination.


I will echo most of what the previous reviewer stated and also add this....
This is a product that make me as a GM have dozens of cool ideas on how to integrate the contents of it into a cool encounter, adventure, and even sometimes a whole series of adventures.
I loved the different materials used to construct some portcullises, the mechanics behind if/when a portcullis falls on someone or some people, the traps involved in other portcullises and the ideas presented in how much visibility there is from behind one.
This is a no-brainer to me (especially as it is free!) as it will save me a ton of prep work, enhance my games, and encourage me to use a fairly standard bit of dungeon dressing in a much more creative fashion.
Well worth the $1.99 that this was priced at.
The only real drawback to me: it hurts my heart to print the solid black cover and last page but I needed to for the total effect. A lighter shade for printing would be a great option.
I believe I am going to be a Raging Swan fan now....

An RPG Resource Review


I never thought you could find so much to say about a mere portcullis! Shows just how wrong I can be...

OK. We all know what a portcullis is: a barrier that can be dropped from above to block an accessway (gateway or corridor), and which has a relatively open construction so that you can see through it even when you cannot get through. They have a real-world origin in mediaeval castle design, they were popular additions to a gatehouse to deal with anyone who'd negotiated your drawbridge and moat; and were designed as a 'quick reaction' defence, they could be dropped in an instant when the need arose and - just to be on the safe side - were heavy and tended to have points on the bottom so if you timed it just right you might even squish some of those pesky invaders, not just keep them out. Sneaky castle designers often installed two so you could trap intruders between them, maybe dropping something down on them through 'murder holes' in the roof of your gatehouse passage, or just shooting arrows through the portcullis at them.

Anyway, this product begins with the common characterists of any portcullis. They provide partial cover, do not detract from line of sight (useful for spellcasters...) and wll not obstruct your detection spells. Oh, and due to the lattice-style framework, they are easy to climb. There are suggestions as to construction materials and condition, as well as the mechanism used to raise them... lowering them is easy, let gravity do its job!

Then comes the first table, which gives a selection of features you can add to your portcullis, anything from quirks in the construction like fancy decoration to large spikes protruding from it, linked systems involving more than one portcullis or an rather spooky one which never makes a sound as it is lowered or raised.

Next is a table of 'Dressings and Features' which in a way is more of the same. Maybe someone has left a wreath hanging on it, or a pair of metal gauntlets grip the bars... don't look inside them if you're squeamish, skeletal hands are within!

Finally, some traps and tricks. The trap may be what causes the portcullis to fall, or something else may be going on that makes it a lot worse... I still remember one nasty trap which involved a very strong wind and a portcullis in a passageway - the way round it was to have found a potion that turned you ethereal before the wind got up. My character didn't, and that was the end of him!

Another inventive little treat to have to hand when designing fortifications or indeed dungeons.

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Is now available at Paizo!

You can grab free samples, here. I hope you enjoy them.

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Thanks very much, Megan. I'm delighted you enjoyed it!

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Thanks very much for the review, Fake Healer. I'm delighted you enjoyed Dungeon Dressing: Portcullises.

I was hoping I hadn't dropped a clanger with it...


Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Thank you very much, Shadowborn for the review. It's decent of you to take the time to do so and I'm (shockingly) delighted you enjoyed it!

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Reviewed as part of the FREE-stuff day on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to GMS magazine and Nerdtrek and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com. Cheers!

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Thank you both very much (Feros and Endzeitgeist) for the terrific reviews. I'm extremely glad you both enjoyed Dungeon Dressing: Portcullises. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

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