Blog (A5E) Dungeon Delver’s Guide: It’s a Trap!

In EN Publishing’s upcoming Dungeon Delver’s Guide, we’re giving you every tool you need to build story-driven, atmospheric dungeons. And that means we have got to get traps right. Today I want to share the book’s trap-building philosophy, along with a few of the more than a hundred traps you’ll get when you Kickstart the book later this year.

Traps are a defining characteristic of dungeons. But too often, they feel like an arbitrary tax on the characters’ hit points. Done poorly, traps cause play to bog down as paranoid players poke and prod every door and passageway for unseen dangers. For these reasons, GMs and Narrators are often advised to use traps sparingly, or even steer clear of them entirely.


traps 12 - Julio Rocha.jpg
 

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Paul Hughes

Paul Hughes

delericho

Legend
For that you've got to change the mindset that leads to the player calling out "I'm searching for traps!"
I'm increasingly of the view that "I check for traps" shouldn't be a thing. Because 'traps' are just too diverse a thing to be looking for - the same search is really supposed to find a tripwire or a glyph of warding?

I'd be inclined instead to suggest that traps should include details of their signature, so that when the PC searches the room they don't find "a trap" but instead find "a lever connected to a partially rusted mechanism" or "a set of flagstones are loose in their positions", or similar - and then it is up to the player to determine what that actually means.
 

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Reynard

Legend
I also tend to remind players that it's the DM who calls for rolls. Declaring an activity does NOT mean that the player can spontaneously roll and use the result of the roll
It drives me nuts when players do that. Just last session (the first in the new campaign) a veteran player of mine declared, "I look around" and rolled the (virtual FG) dice for a Perception check as soon as they walked into the room with the quest giver NPC. I nearly decided the NPC was really a red dragon in disguise.
 



duneguy

Explorer
I'm increasingly of the view that "I check for traps" shouldn't be a thing. Because 'traps' are just too diverse a thing to be looking for - the same search is really supposed to find a tripwire or a glyph of warding?

I'd be inclined instead to suggest that traps should include details of their signature, so that when the PC searches the room they don't find "a trap" but instead find "a lever connected to a partially rusted mechanism" or "a set of flagstones are loose in their positions", or similar - and then it is up to the player to determine what that actually means.
Exactly! That's just what I'm going for.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'm increasingly of the view that "I check for traps" shouldn't be a thing. Because 'traps' are just too diverse a thing to be looking for - the same search is really supposed to find a tripwire or a glyph of warding?

I'd be inclined instead to suggest that traps should include details of their signature, so that when the PC searches the room they don't find "a trap" but instead find "a lever connected to a partially rusted mechanism" or "a set of flagstones are loose in their positions", or similar - and then it is up to the player to determine what that actually means.
There is a balance, of course, to avoid either "pixel hunting" or "guess what the DM is thinking" sorts of trap design.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
What if there was a system of some kind... something that made it so you didn't have to keep saying "I'm looking for traps" or "I have Darkvision" every time you enter into a new room?

Where you just -automatically- search for traps, like it's a Journey Activity or something for Dungeons.

That would be something cool.
I believe passive Perception governs that to a large extent.
Or passive Investigation.
Sooo... I was dropping that hint pretty hard 'cause I wrote this:

gpg7-jpg.260635


Sorry I was a cryptic dork at the time. >_<
 


ReshiIRE

Adventurer
I hope this is not too off-topic, but I'm interested to know how system agnostic the book can be. I know the focus is on 5e and Level Up 5e, but from reading the description, the dungeon generators and guidelines sound like they could apply to any system.

Am I correct in that assessment? A book diving into creating great dungeons and providing inspiration would be a godsend, as the mechanics can always be fitted later!
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I hope this is not too off-topic, but I'm interested to know how system agnostic the book can be. I know the focus is on 5e and Level Up 5e, but from reading the description, the dungeon generators and guidelines sound like they could apply to any system.

Am I correct in that assessment? A book diving into creating great dungeons and providing inspiration would be a godsend, as the mechanics can always be fitted later!
A lot of it can be used that way, but the player options and the monsters and stuff are all 5E/A5E stats. The dungeon building advice and tools is much more open.
 


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