D&D General [+] TRAPS! a positive thread

Asisreo

Patron Badass
This is an obvious trap, but it doesn’t really give the players any hint as to what to do about it.
There's nothing they can do. As they approach McGuffin and turn it around, they finally unlock the secrets of their 300 adventuring day journey through the hellish lands of the Plane of Fire:

"The true McGuffin was the friends you've made along the way." You'd be surprised how many TPK's that one causes.
 

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Oofta

Legend
There's nothing they can do. As they approach McGuffin and turn it around, they finally unlock the secrets of their 300 adventuring day journey through the hellish lands of the Plane of Fire:

"The true McGuffin was the friends you've made along the way." You'd be surprised how many TPK's that one causes.
I think it would cause a DMKP (dungeon master killed by players). ;)
 


Nefermandias

Adventurer
Yeah, this leads to gameplay I find quite boring. Fortunately, this problem can be solved by doing two things:

1. Telegraph the presence of traps. Players can’t interact with traps if you don’t give them the opportunity to do so, so make sure players can determine that a trap is present from the description of the environment alone. Don’t gate this description behind a passive perception DC or make the players declare they’re looking for traps and roll to find it, just describe clues to the presence of the trap. Ideally, you want the players to catch on so they can interact with the trap. Failing that, you want them to feel like they at least could have caught on, and to be able to identify why they missed it.

2. When players do trigger a trap, give them another opportunity to interact with it. Instead of just dealing damage or telling them to make a saving throw or whatever, describe something about the trap activating - the click of the pressure plate, the twang of the trip wire, the sliding of rock on rock as a mechanism moves into place, whatever. Then let them describe what they do in reaction. Based on this description, consider changing the type of saving throw to be more appropriate to their reaction, or giving them advantage or even automatic success on the saving throw if it seems appropriate based on their reaction. Or disadvantage/automatic failure, if their reaction would actually make the trap harder to avoid.
That's precisely the advice Angry GM gives in one of his articles.
 

Cruelest one I ever used was in an ancient red dragon's lair. The cave crossed over several lava pits, giving warning that there's a lot of danger (I mean, dragon's lair, duh!). On one of the bridges was made out of glass, rather than stone, with an illusion on top of it. The first 10 ft would hold up to 500 lbs before collapsing, with each 5 ft taking 50 lbs less (midpoint could only take 50 lbs). Unless the illusion was disbelieved or the bridge carefully examined by touch, characters on the bridge would drop into the lava below, dying instantly. Needless to say, no one checked it, leaving the magic-user on his broom of flying as the lone survivor. Irritated, he used his last wish from his ring of 3 wishes to turn back time 5 minutes to stop the PCs from dying. When thanked, he said "I wouldn't have bothered, but all your stuff was destroyed too."

Another one I saw in an old adventure (can't remember which one) that was great. A common theme of the time was to make the thief open any non-stuck doors they checked for/disarmed traps; that way if they screwed up, they'd be the one to suffer. It was a large room with 6 doors, 3 on each side (not counting the one the PCs enter from), with dozens of holes in the walls, floor and ceiling. Opening any of the doors would trigger the trap, which had to be disarmed by every door before stopping it. When a trapped door was opened, rocks fell from the ceiling, poison darts flew from the walls, and gouts of flame rose up from the floor... on every space except the opened door, leaving the thief completely unharmed.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I included a modified Grimtooth trap in a recent game. Moving southward down a hall, the party encounters an open spiked pit with 5' walkways on either side of it. Plaster had cracked and fallen away from the ceiling, revealing a few evenly spaced holes above these walkways. Larger piles of rubble lay north and south of the area, part of the general ruin they had seen while exploring this place.

Capture.JPG

(The 14 and the red areas were not visible to the players).

The pit itself is a permanent major image. The areas marked in red are pressure plates under which is a spring. Anyone stepping on the plate is shot into the air as spikes descend from the holes in the ceiling. The PC is thus stabbed with spikes then suffers falling damage when they hit the floor. The trap then resets. To add a little risk to jumping, the difficult terrain on the one side, if landed in, may cause a PC to fall backward onto the pressure plate (DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to avoid that outcome). Those that created this place were trying to prevent tomb robbers from going to some vaults to the south, but wanted to be able to pass by unharmed themselves if needed.

The party fell victim to this trap with the eldritch knight taking a beating from it. At that point they decided to be safe they would climb down into the pit and then back out of it. That's when they determined the pit was an illusion and just walked across.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
One of my favourite traps is a very simple one that is safe enough now but (in theory) leads to headaches later: a basic pit trap, hard to detect (or covered by an illusory floor) except instead of just falling for ouchy damage the victim slides down a chute to be safely deposited somewhere on a lower level*. Ideally this arrival is a somewhat noisy process, alerting at least a few occupants of the new level that dinner has just been served...

Obviously the chute is greased to prevent someone just climbing back up it and is also defended at the bottom by a hard-to-open-from-the-outside version of a one-way top-hinged cat door. (the bang made by this door closing after the victim's arrival can be the noise source)

Once someone - or a few someones - have gone down this and the situation has become obvious the remaining party at the top has a choice: go in after the victim(s) and hope for the best or carry on with a reduced party. This choice is made much more difficult if the chute is long and-or twisty enough** to prevent communication between those above and those below.

And yes this splits the party. That's the point.

* - for added fun, I've once in a while had the deposit point be a locked cell in an active prison with guards etc.
** - or has a permanent silence effect partway down; here a really creative party might try to communicate by flashing their lights in a sort of Morse code provided the victim below can get the "cat door" open.
 

MarkB

Legend
A simple one I had for a kobold lair was a simple spiked pit trap across a corridor, just after a 90-degree bend. It was only 10 feet wide, a reasonable jump, and on the walls above the pit were a pair of empty fixtures, one on each side. If the party ran after a kobold as it retreated round the corner, they'd catch up in time to see that it had managed the leap across the pit, and was continuing off down the corridor.

Anyone who tried to jump the pit and follow the kobold would slam into the invisible iron bar set between the two wall fixtures. It was at just the right height that a small creature who knew it was there could grab it mid-leap to swing from and get a little extra distance, but a medium creature making the leap would slam into it at shoulder height, then plummet into the pit unless they made a very good dexterity save to grab the bar.
 
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One of the most devious traps I encountered was you find a young beautiful woman. She marries you and then owns you for the rest of your life...
 

Voadam

Legend
In playing a Wrath of the Righteous Pathfinder Adventure path game my mythic magical demon puncher monk/fighter/wizard was assaulting a demon held ruined castle and I could see some enemy archers/spellcasters embedded off to the left of the inner keep a ways away up some stairs and behind some cover. Initiative hits and I take off full monk speed to get in the middle of those squishies and disrupt their killing field activity.

Wham! Illusion over a pit on the left side near the base of those stairs, I fell right into their well laid trap!

Being a monk I took no damage from the fall, popped up the other side, and still managed to get in among them.

As my rune fist smashed into one of their faces I said "Well done on the trap! It won't save you but I appreciate the well executed tactics! Nice job!"
 

Richards

Legend
In my last campaign, the PCs had entered the castle keep of a nosferatu vampire and were searching for his coffin, hoping to destroy it before daybreak, leaving him with nowhere to return to when the sun rose. They made it up to the top floor of his keep and entered a darkened room. They could hear a blazing fire burning in a fireplace inside the room, but it was pitch black - obviously, the effects of a darkness spell or something similar. After feeling around blindly for awhile (and determining the nosferatu was not in there with them after all), they set about undoing the magical darkness effect. Being pretty high level this was easily accomplished, and as the darkness faded the blazing fireplace lit up the room - and the full-length mirror of opposition hanging on the wall directly across from the doorway into the room. The PCs ended up having to fight the mirror duplicates of the four of them closest to the mirror when it was triggered...at which point the nosferatu entered the room via the secret door in his closet which hid his coffin....

It was a logical (and safe) trap for a wealthy nosferatu who cast no reflections and it finally gave me a good opportunity to be able to use a mirror of opposition for the first time, something I'd wanted to do for years.

Johnathan
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Two traps I've used recently. Both used traps to hide ... traps. Both were broadcast first so the players could interact with them.

One was a simple pressure plate (5'x5') that set off a poison arrow trap. They got told about it by a schmoozing kobold. However, just beyond it is a fairly nasty covered pit trap - which you'll land in if you jump the pressure plate.

Second was a catacombs they were sneaking through, and they have the original dwarven blueprints, including the hidden access tunnels. The catacombs are lit by 20' dim light magic sconces up and down the halls, and the party decided not to ignite other light even though they have two humans and a halfling, plus a wood elf and an eladrin. Anyway, there's a 40' covered pit, and half way down on the right hand side is a secret door leading to a ladder you can use to get down to the next level of the catacombs. So the players are dealing with this, and at the same time (unplanned and completely through their actions they are dealing with foes approaching from the rear. The wood elf and the eladrin - the two in the back of the party and also the only two with darkvision - return to the nearest bend behidn them to hold off the attackers.

Since the corridor was only 5' across, the pit was 5'x10'x40'. The high STR (but low DEX) paladin without darkvision states he wants to brace on either side and slide halfway down. One disasterous roll later he's hitting the bottom of the pit. Only to be attacked by the black pudding hidden in the lightless shadows down on the bottom. Next time, check out traps with light. (Oh, and it divided several times as he slashed at it.)

Both are pretty rudimentary, but used player expectations of traps to redirect their attention from the actual threats.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
In my last campaign, the PCs had entered the castle keep of a nosferatu vampire and were searching for his coffin, hoping to destroy it before daybreak, leaving him with nowhere to return to when the sun rose. They made it up to the top floor of his keep and entered a darkened room. They could hear a blazing fire burning in a fireplace inside the room, but it was pitch black - obviously, the effects of a darkness spell or something similar. After feeling around blindly for awhile (and determining the nosferatu was not in there with them after all), they set about undoing the magical darkness effect. Being pretty high level this was easily accomplished, and as the darkness faded the blazing fireplace lit up the room - and the full-length mirror of opposition hanging on the wall directly across from the doorway into the room. The PCs ended up having to fight the mirror duplicates of the four of them closest to the mirror when it was triggered...at which point the nosferatu entered the room via the secret door in his closet which hid his coffin....

It was a logical (and safe) trap for a wealthy nosferatu who cast no reflections and it finally gave me a good opportunity to be able to use a mirror of opposition for the first time, something I'd wanted to do for years.

Johnathan
I had a puzzle going the opposite way. In a campaign I ran back in 3.0 days one of the arcs was this cabal of vampires looking for this artifact orrey that can create an eclipse. The last puzzle before getting to the magical lair it was held in was a magical mirror. Based on other clues you could watch yourself in the mirror and walk backwards through the door you entered - to get elsewhere. The vampires were never able to work out that last step because they didn't cast reflections.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
One of the games I'm running is a training game for my kids, niece and nephew. In order to engage them, I had the traps all run true to theme and purpose.

They are in a fey area designed to keep in and keep safe three baby brass dragons, left their as their mother made a fey deal (linking into two characters backstories).

Anyway, all of the traps were (a) minor amounts of damage with more damage as fire which brass are immune to and (b) designed to push the dragons back in they go that far. endless stairs that flattened into a slide, a long hallway with animated swords and animated shields that would use shove attacks against dragons or attack others, Fire Snakes in a lava trough, etc.

Once the party realized what the traps were trying to do, they could out-think them to either avoid or minimize the problems they would cause.

It also helped that they had a dragonborn whom some (!) traps couldn't differentiate from a dragon, and had fire resistance.

So it got them thinking and interacting instead of just taking damage.
 

payn

Legend
I picked up a real good trap online (maybe even here at EN). It starts with the PCs entering a room from the south. The room appears to be empty, with stone walls and floor, with a door to the north end. As the PCs enter the room they hear a soft voice coming from the east wall. As the PCs move over to investigate, they make out the voice chanting, "three...three...three..." Finally, the PCs notice a small hole in the east wall where the voice seems to be emitting from.

When/if one of the PCs looks into the hole, they get poked in the eye (no save, but no damage or lasting effects just momentary irritation). The voice in the wall changes its chant to, "four...four...four".
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
In one of my 3.5 campaigns, in a tomb that the designers built to keep out tomb raiders, the funerary gifts were sealed in a partially evacuated stone chamber. The difference in air pressure made the stone door basically impossible to open by normal means. When the PCs finally just disintegrated the door, the in-rushing air stirred up a fine white powder, and disturbed a small clockwork mechanism that began to tick. The mechanism clearly involved a small spring-loaded hammer aimed at a glass vial with liquid, but it wasn't immediately obvious how much time remained before the hammer was triggered.

Alas, rather than try to sabotage the device, the PC rogue opted to study it further. The timer was only set for 1 round (giving time for the white powder to mix with the air), so the hammer broke the vial of alchemists fire. The white powder was... ordinary cooking flour.

The resulting thermobaric explosion did some fire and bludgeoning damage, but more importantly used up all the oxygen in that part of the tomb. Characters who failed the (relatively low DC) Fortitude save to hold their breath got introduced to 3.5's nasty suffocation rules. No one died, but it was quite the shock, and healing the Paladin from below zero HP to full used up a bunch of the party's healing resources.
 
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A cool trap that I used at the start of my aquatic campaign:

The party enters a tall round cavernous room, about 60 ft. in diameter. There are waterfalls along its walls, dropping down into a body of water at the bottom of the cave. The ceiling is made of stone, but full of tunnels. There is but one entrance in the west, in the form of a large stone doorway. The stone door is raised, but looks like it could drop. A feeble stone bridge barely 5 ft wide, extends from the entrance towards a round stone platform, about 15 ft. in diameter. Upon it a stone coffin rests, warded by a red magical forcefield. The stone platform is surrounded by a large gap. Down below the room is filled with water, but low-light conditions apply, limiting what the party can see.

As soon as the party has entered, the stone doorway shuts. It is commanded to do so by an evil deity who watches this room. Hidden behind each waterfall is a cave, about halfway up this tall room. The caves are out of reach, as are the waterfalls. But hidden in the caves behind the waterfalls, are aquatic spiders, waiting in ambush.

As soon as the party is inside and steps foot on the bridge, the spiders start throwing webs through the waterfall. If they get a hold, they will try and pull their victim over the edge and into the water below.

Hidden below the surface of the water are numerous webs and nests made by these aquatic spiders. These nests are filled with the remains and gear of previous victims. The victim gets entangled in the webs when they hit the water and a spider jumps after them. They must now fight off the spiders underwater, while entangled, and with the risk of drowning if they are unable to escape.

A secret underwater tunnel exits out of the room into an adjacent tunnel, to safety. However, while the party is fighting for their lives, a big momma spider descends from the ceiling towards the central platform to deal with any pc's that weren't pulled off the bridge. It protects the stone coffin fiercely.

The stone coffin has a magical forcefield that can be dispelled, or disappears automatically if the momma spider is defeated. The coffin contains the body of the new body (vessel) of the evil deity. She awakens from a decade long stasis, unaware of how much time has passed, and uncorrupted by the deity. Setting her free will anger the evil deity greatly.
 
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Nefermandias

Adventurer
A cool trap that I used at the start of my aquatic campaign:

The party enters a tall round cavernous room, about 60 ft. in diameter. There are waterfalls along its walls, dropping down into a body of water at the bottom of the cave. The ceiling is made of stone, but full of tunnels. There is but one entrance in the west, in the form of a large stone doorway. The stone door is raised, but looks like it could drop. A feeble stone bridge barely 5 ft wide, extends from the entrance towards a round stone platform, about 15 ft. in diameter. Upon it a stone coffin rests, warded by a red magical forcefield. The stone platform is surrounded by a large gap. Down below the room is filled with water, but low-light conditions apply, limiting what the party can see.

As soon as the party has entered, the stone doorway shuts. It is commanded to do so by an evil deity who watches this room. Hidden behind each waterfall is a cave, about halfway up this tall room. The caves are out of reach, as are the waterfalls. But hidden in the caves behind the waterfalls, are aquatic spiders, waiting in ambush.

As soon as the party is inside and steps foot on the bridge, the spiders start throwing webs through the waterfall. If they get a hold, they will try and pull their victim over the edge and into the water below.

Hidden below the surface of the water are numerous webs and nests made by these aquatic spiders. These nests are filled with the remains and gear of previous victims. The victim gets entangled in the webs when they hit the water and a spider jumps after them. They must now fight off the spiders underwater, while entangled, and with the risk of drowning if they are unable to escape.

A secret underwater tunnel exits out of the room into an adjacent tunnel, to safety. However, while the party is fighting for their lives, a big momma spider descends from the ceiling towards the central platform to deal with any pc's that weren't pulled off the bridge. It protects the stone coffin fiercely.

The stone coffin has a magical forcefield that can be dispelled, or disappears automatically if the momma spider is defeated. The coffin contains the body of the new body (vessel) of the evil deity. She awakens from a decade long stasis, unaware of how much time has passed, and uncorrupted by the deity. Setting her free will anger the evil deity greatly.
Not a trap. It's just a regular 4e combat encounter.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
My favourite trap that I've run, which I've run multiple times (because I liked it so much) is one that I came up with when I was playing around with traps being something for the whole party to deal with (and not just the rogue) so it's a whole encounter:

The GRINDER.

The party comes to a staircase down to another dungeon level, with a door at the top. About halfway down is a pressure-step that causes the door to close and lock, the stairs to fall to flat, oil to start pumping out from the top, and a drum/barrel to appear at the bottom that spins around, striking the stonework there with wrapped chains, that give off sparks.

As the oil travels down the now-flat ramp, it becomes slippery. Failed checks/saves will cause a character to fall prone and/or slide down toward the drum, which will attack you with the chains if you reach it. If/when the oil reaches the chains, the sparks will cause the whole ramp to go up in flames.

Characters can do several things: Help each other to stand; try to break the drum (or the door from either side - it is possible that a character will be left outside at the top, if they waited for others to descend, or for some other reason were on the other side of the door); they can try to stop the oil, or put out the fire; they can try to leap over the barrel into the hallway beyond. In addition, there is a secret panel at the top of the stairs with a lever that shuts the whole thing off. This is pretty difficult to get to as anyone there will be the first to slip on the oil, but it's possible for a spry character to stay up at the top, find, open the panel, and pull the lever (but each of those later things take at least a round to do).

Everyone has very much enjoyed it every time I've run it.

I suppose that it should be possible to spot the false-stair trigger or the off-switch panel and "ruin" the fun of the trap, but it's not something I've seen happen. Mostly because my players aren't generally paranoid enough to check every staircase, and I wouldn't allow those things to be discovered with "passive" perception. (Though I'd probably describe parts of the trap in detail to a player with a high passive perception that might give hints on ways to combat the trap after it has been triggered.)
 

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