21st Century D&D



Climbing requires both hands to be free. In addition, many items which can be climbed (such as rigid ladders or ropes) have a maximum weight limit which must be respected, lest the item be damaged or even break.

Climbing Speed

All speeds are for upward climbing. For downward climbing, subtract 1 AP from the cost.

The actual speed achieved depends on whether the climber is in combat. When in combat, any remaining AP will not be spendable on climbing unless there is enough AP to move the combatant a full hex. Thus, only a character with 6 AP can climb 2 hexes upward on a ladder in one round – and it would cost all of their AP.

Out of combat, the remaining AP after the first hex worth of climbing are still allowed to count, so the climber’s AP-per-hex rate can be multiplied by 5 (rounds per minute) to find the climbing speed. For example, a character with 5 AP per round has 25 AP per minute: this would permit climbing 8 hexes up a ladder, 6 hexes up a surface, or 5 hexes otherwise.

Characteristics of an Extraordinary Surface

Where these rules refer to a surface, safe climbing only applies if the surface is ordinary. A surface is extraordinary if it has any of the following qualities:

  1. polished or plastered smooth, or intentionally manufactured without cracks
  2. sloped toward the character at an angle greater than 90 degrees
  3. made of material such as metal or glass, possibly of magical origin

No-Fault Distance

In addition, see “Climbing Modifiers” for possible adjustments.

No-Fault Climbing

If the distance to be climbed is equal to or less than the character’s no-fault distance, there is no chance of falling. This applies no matter the length of the surface to be climbed. Even an enormous cliff with plenty of ledges to offer a breather could be climbed with no chance of failure, as long as the distance between each pair of safe spots was never greater than the character’s no-fault distance.

Rigid ladders (not rope ones) are always climbable without error. On the other hand, they are heavy and bulky, and can’t support as much weight as rope-based equipment.

Each round, climbing can be rushed to take less time. A danger climb check is made; if successful, double the normal distance can be covered in that round.

Danger Climb Chance

The danger climb chance for thieves is 80%, plus 1% per 2 levels. Thus the chance becomes 81% at 2nd level, 82% at 4th level, and so on.

For all other classes, unless specially indicated by the background generator, the danger climb chance is 70%. It does not increase.

In addition, see “Climbing Modifiers” for possible adjustments.

Danger Climbing

If either of these conditions hold, the character has a chance of falling while they climb, and must roll for climbing dangerously.

The portion of a climb which is dangerous requires one or more percentage rolls against the character’s danger climb chance (modified for that which is being climbed). If any of these rolls are failed, the character has fallen while climbing. Roll (d10+5)*5 to get the percentage of the distance which was covered before falling.

First, subtract the character’s no-fault distance from the total length of the climb. The character must succeed at 1 roll if the remaining distance is less than their no-fault distance; 2 rolls if equal or more than no-fault but less than 2x no-fault; 3 rolls if equal or more than 2x but less than 5x; 4 rolls if equal or more than 5x but less than 8x; 5 rolls if equal more than 8x but less than 13x; and so on.

An example: Rodney is a 3rd level thief with an 11 Dexterity. Thus his no-fault distance is 20 feet (11 for Dex + 3 for level * 3 feet) and his danger climb chance is 81% (80 + 3/2 for level, discard fraction).

Rodney wants to climb over a 30 foot wall. If he can take a breather at the top (1 round), then climbing up and climbing down are each treated as separate 30-foot climbs. 30 feet minus his no-fault distance is 10 feet, less than 20, so he’ll need one roll to get up, then take a breather, then one roll to go down.

If Rodney can’t rest at the top – say, if he is rushing to make the climb before a guard comes by – then the whole thing is treated as a continuous 60-foot climb. 60 feet minus his no-fault distance is 40 feet, 2x his no-fault distance, which means he’ll need to make 3 rolls altogether. The price of rushing the climb presents itself.

Climbing Modifiers

Both no-fault distance and danger climb chance are modified by what is being climbed.

When climbing a rope ladder or rigging, the danger climb chance has a penalty of -5%.

When climbing a free rope, the no-fault distance is halved, and the danger climb chance has a penalty of -15%.

When tightrope walking, the no-fault distance is a quarter of normal, and the danger climb chance has a penalty of -30%.

Various skills and background details may allow a character to perform these activities with lessened or no penalties.

(A free rope is judged to be so hard to climb there is less room for error than when climbing something which one can brace against. See Rope Trick for rules about climbing the rope animated by that spell.)

Ropes for Climbing Surfaces

Ropes can be used as an aid when climbing a surface. They offer two benefits.

Holding an Ally

If people above the climber are holding onto the climber’s rope, and the climber falls for some reason, each of the rope-holders are allowed a Strength check to try and arrest the climber’s fall. If all of the holders fail, the climber falls as usual; success by at least one rope-holder will prevent the climber’s fall for one round. This will grant the climber one chance to make a danger climb check. If passed, they may continue climbing where they left off. If failed, they fall, and this time the rope holders cannot do anything about it.


Metal spikes may be driven through a rope while climbing a surface, as often as the character wishes to do so. If spikes are used to secure a rope, there is a good chance that they will belay the fall of an individual who has slipped.

Placing a spike requires a hammer and 24 seconds (2 combat rounds). The character requires both hands, and is assumed to be leaning against the wall’s surface with their legs while hammering.

The wiser the person who places the spike, the more likely it is to be properly installed. Any individual can hammer a spike into a rock; only a wise person will put it in place so as to perform its purpose. Proper placement of a spike does not guarantee success – and a poorly placed spike will give no sign of the mistake! For this reason, spike effectiveness is never determined until such time as the spike is actually employed to arrest a fall. At that time, the individual who placed the spike must make a Wisdom check. If the check succeeds, then the spike has been placed properly and has a chance to arrest a fall. Otherwise, the spike will become unfixed from the rock when weight is applied.

The chance of a spike holding (when placed correctly) is equal to:

100% - ((W/50)*n)

where W = the total weight in lbs (including equipment!) of all persons falling, and n = the number of full 32-foot distances dropped.

The distance fallen is determined by the distance the character was above the spike prior to the fall.

For example, a 150 to 199 lb. climber, who falls a distance between 65 and 96 feet, will result in a subtraction of 3 x 3 percent. In this case the spike would hold if 91% or less is rolled.

Climbing Together

If individuals are climbing together, the case of a resting climber (not holding on with his or her hands) arresting the fall of another is treated as “Holding an Ally”, above, but the Strength check is made at a -2 penalty.

If the character trying to prevent the fall is not resting, but is actively climbing, then the attempt at arresting another’s fall is a Strength check made at -5.


The rules for climbing on this page are adapted and expanded from work by Alexis Smolensk.