Adventurer(s) have fallen into a pit and want to get out. Being the murderhoboes they are, they have not prepared for such an occasion. In fact, they are only wearing pitiful rags (that do not a useful rope make) and have no equipment, since they have just escaped from slavery and are on their way out.

How easy is it to get out of the pit? I am interested in the case of 10' deep pit and a deeper one; the first one might have different viable options, considering only the fictional situation. The pit is a cylinder with a bottom that is a square with 10' sides.

Some possible things that would occur to me (based on fictional possibilities):

  • Climb up.
  • Jump up. Even 3 meters is a lot, so this is likely only for the superheroic characters.
  • Jump up and grab hold of the floor above. Pull yourself up.
  • Jump up and grab hold of the wall(s). Climb up rest of the way. (The first part does not sound easy.)

How much easier does it get if there are at least two people down there? Climbing on the shoulders of an ally (with their help) should help a bit, at least. What if there is someone above, reaching down to help?

The existing rules leave the following simple questions unanswered, or at least make the answer not obvious by my standards:

  • If a character with 30 feet speed climbs successfully, they ascend 7,5 feet. Ten foot pit: This leaves their feet around 75 cm from the top, which means that they are mostly out of the pit. Is the rest of the climb any easier, do they still need to roll, or what happens?

  • The third (and fourth) situations look like they would need some rules interpretation or more than simply reading the rulebook.

  • The chances of success with the basic climbing solution are not obvious without calculations, especially given the possibility of accelerated climbing.

  • Running jump requires running 10 feet. How much space is needed to do this? By Pythagoras' theorem, the distance from a corner to the opposite one of a square with 10' sides is 14 feet, but getting from corner square to any other square only takes 5 feet of movement (first diagonal step). Can one do a running jump? If not, how much space does it require?


2 Answers 2


Entering the pit

The typical CR 1 pit trap is 20-ft. deep and 10-ft. square. After failing the Reflex saving throw (DC 20), the 20-ft. fall deals 2d6 points of damage to the creature. It's a trap, so the creature hasn't deliberately fallen this distance, therefore the skill Acrobatics does not allow the creature to lessen this falling damage. (I'm serious! Read about Falling.)

Exiting the pit by scaling the pit's walls

A typical dungeon wall requires a Climb skill check (DC 20) to move up it at one-fourth the creature's speed. A generous GM will allow an unhurried, unstressed creature to keep fractions, but, technically, the creature should round down—and whether this is rounded down to the nearest foot or the nearest 5-ft. square will depend on how often you've paid for pizza.

Likewise, an unhurried, unstressed creature can take 10 on this Climb skill check. However, this will be little consolation if the Climb check modifier remains insufficient to scale the side of the pit.

Other creatures that the GM rules are in a position to assist the climber can assist the climber by taking the aid another action to make Climb skill checks (DC 10) themselves. Each creature capable of assisting that succeeds on the aid another roll (taking 10 isn't an option when aiding another) grants the original climber a +2 bonus on his Climb skill check. The GM may whimsically limit the number of creatures that can assist.

A creature must continue climbing until it clears the pit and it's no easier to climb a surface depending on how close to the climb's beginning or ending the climber is. However, if it's any consolation, climbing is part of movement, so any movement remaining after exiting the pit can be taken as part of the same move action.

If their friends lack rope (hence being unable to "haul a character upward... through sheer strength"; see the skill Climb), climbing while taking 10 is how most folks escape pits. I mean, if they escape pits, obviously. Lots of folks—especially animals and people with no friends—just stay in the pit until they're rescued or die.

Exiting the pit by jumping

This is extremely difficult. According to the default Pathfinder rules, a creature must make an Acrobatics skill check (DC 4 × pit depth in feet) to clear the lip of the pit. (Also, this Acrobatics skill check DC is doubled if the creature can't first move at least 10 ft. Fortunately, the pit's 10 ft. square, so the creature can.) While making an Acrobatics skill check (DC 80) isn't impossible (a +30 here, a +10 there, reducing the multiplier with this—pretty soon, it all adds up), most folks aren't optimized for vertical leaping because that's weird.

So far as I'm aware, Pathfinder eliminated Dungeons and Dragons 3.5's rules for vertical reach, but the d20PFSRD includes these D&D 3.5 rules in the description of the Acrobatics skill anyway. Using these rules, a Medium creature in a typical pit need only make an Acrobatics skill check to make a 12-ft. high jump instead of a 20-ft. high jump. Then the creature takes a move action to make a Climb skill check (DC 15) to pull himself up and out of the pit. Be aware that D&D 3.5 mandates a 20-ft. start instead of a 10-ft. start; as this is already beyond the Pathfinder rules, what the GM does with that detail is anyone's guess.

Exiting the pit by tunneling

This requires GM adjudication. The typical masonry dungeon wall is 1 ft. thick with hardness 8 and hp 90. If it's a 3-ft. thick wall, its hp are ×6 (hp 540). Presumably, then, a 5-ft. thick masonry wall's hp are ×10 (hp 900). Assuming the GM agrees, a creature left without other options can eventually open a 5-ft. wide passageway by dealing that 900 points of damage to one of the pit's walls, or, with further GM approval, maybe even deal less damage and create a smaller passage through which the creature can, instead, squeeze. If the GM allows this escape method, an adamantine weapon will speed up this process considerably.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Rounding: "Occasionally the rules ask you to round a result or value." Do the rules ask for this in case of climbing (outside tactical combat, where 5' increments are necessary)? Aid another: Helping someone climb by, say, lifting them up, and using climb skill in the situation, is somewhat unintuitive, but that seems to be how the rules are. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tommi
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 5:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Thanuir Because the occasion frequently warrants rounding and the rules don't specify you do (like your excellent example of tactical combat) makes me more inclined generally toward that second sentence in that description of rounding: "Unless otherwise stated, always round down." And to the second point, that's a very good reason for even skilled climbers to rarely climb alone. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 6:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ What about having fellow party members pulling a PC out of the pit with a rope? I'd guess the party members above the pit would make a STR check, and perhaps the victim(s) in the pit would make a Climb check. \$\endgroup\$
    – jvriesem
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 19:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jvriesem The question says the PCs lack rope, but the answer mentions in paragraph 6 anyway that using rope and having someone else pull a creature out is a thing . \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 0:18

10 feet deep pit

An average human adventurer will be around 5'9" tall, which means that he should be able to grab onto something about 7 feet high without jumping. As such, an adventurer only has to jump 3 feet to be able to grab onto the ledge which is an Acrobatics DC 12 check, since you've clearly demonstrated that an adventurer could run at least 10 feet using the diagonal. This is very similar to a basketball dunk, where most tall and athletic players can easily achieve with a few running steps.

Still, if one character is strong enough to lift the others, the others could easily escape without a check. Indeed, standing on someone's shoulders should bring the ledge to about chest height, which really shouldn't require a check to clear. If the rest of the party then extend their hands down to help the strong guy, he should easily clear the DC12 check to jump out.

Deeper pits

For deeper pits, you'll eventually need to use their climb skill, as you can't simply jump out. The DC for this check is very well described in the rules. Remember that clever adventurers could use the corners to brace themselves, which lowers the DC by 5. If the surface of the wall is malleable enough, you could even allow them to carve their own foot- and handholds, which should bring the DC to something very easily managed.

If one of their checks brings them within a few feet of the top, they'll still need to climb for the next round. For instance, if they had 2.5 feet to climb, you could then rule that they only used 1/3 of their allowed movement for this action, and can thus move another 20 feet once outside the pit. This is likely to be a non-factor, unless there are enemies waiting for them outside the pit.

Remember that the rules are guidelines made to facilitate the gestion of events. In real life, the floor isn't conveniently marked with a 5 feet based grid. In fact, many groups don't even use the grid system to describe combat at all. If your players mention using the diagonal for a running jump and you believe it's ok, feel free to allow it!

Also remember that the characters are most likely reasonably fit. As such, simply pulling yourself over a ledge shouldn't require much of a check, especially if there's someone to assist them (by lifting or pulling them up).

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I would prefer the answer to clearly indicate which parts of it are straight from the rules and which are more-or-less reasonable extrapolations and rulings. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Tommi
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 5:17

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