Unearthed Arcana Unearthed Arcana: Traps Revisited

Actually an interesting article. I'm still scanning through it, though. I like the way they discuss the traps, their creation, and countermeasures (something that was missing, I think, from the DMG).

Poisoned Tempest is an absolutely inspired and devious trap! I love it!!!
 
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Gardens & Goblins

First Post
But the sample traps in the document are pretty much all "thieves' tools to disable," with no real description of what being clear and explicit should look like when dealing with them.

Hmm, well for me at least, there's enough to work with.

They talk of a single ability check to disarm -- but I reckon not every trap has all the bits readily available, within arms reach to disarm. Some prep might be required. Not too much of course - these are simple traps, a minute or so at the most to disable should be enough unless I specifically wanted play to crawl along at a slow, slow rate (which we've done, in a very deadly one-shot dungeon crawl.)

Likewise, there's talk of possible consequences for traps being triggered. A smart adventurer will no doubt take precautions to mitigate the penalty for failure, even if they're confident in their skills (for example, in the crossbow trap below, a single alarm bell rigged to ring when the trap fires could ruin an infiltration attempt). Which again, leads to a greater variety of action options and skill checks.

The simple traps are.. simple. So we get a simple description. For example:

It consists of a tripwire run across a hallway and connected to a pair of carefully
hidden heavy crossbows. The crossbows are aimed to fire down the hallway at anyone who
triggers the tripwire.

Crossbow. Tripwire rigged to trigger. That's a fair amount of information to work with. Even if just the crossbow is visible, or the tripwire, an attempt to Investigate: I'm looking to see where the wire connects/goes to find the rest of the trap, is a start. Then, depending on where everything is:

''Fluffy tries to use her thieves picks to:''

- disconnect the trip wire and attach it to a placed piton/substitute, in order to maintain tension and avoid the trap triggering.
- jam the crossbow's firing mechanism. Assuming the crossbow is reachable. It might involve an Athletics check to reach, and perhaps an Acrobatics check to balance while doing so.
- remove the bolt/whatever is to be fired from said crossbow. Again, assuming it can be reached.
- check for any other mechanisms attached to the tripwire/connected to the trap. Perhaps a bells also rings or the crossbow trap is part of series of traps.

and so on.

Granted, for the Firey Blast Trap, we have less to work with. Still we get:

A mosaic on the floor of the entryway to the inner sanctum delivers a fiery rebuke to intruders.


Still, Fluffly might use her Knowledge: Religion to connect the mosaic with the firey religious practitioners, their Investigation to notice scuff marks/signs of use on around the area in the hopes of finding either a safe path or deactivation mechanism, her Slight of Hand to carefully remove the pressure plate so that she can then use her thieves tools to disable the mechanism or heck.. her Persuasion, to convince the barbarian to trigger the thing, soak the damage and be done with it.

As they say, it does help to try and imagine how the trap works, who set it and for what reason. Sure, if we imagine a trap as just a trick to do X damage, then to be honest, 'I look for the mechanism and try to disable it with my thieves kit' is about right as it's at least as imaginative as the context we've presented the trap within - and sometimes that's all I'd need. If I really want my players to pick their brains then I'll present traps placed in a more connected/holistic scenario.
 
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Quickleaf

Legend
The article's distinction of Perception and Investigation is well done.

One thing the article sorely needs is an explanation of the logic behind traps. For example, a trap should make sense and be well hidden. This shows up in a couple places...

1. Nonsensical Traps. A good example is the Sleep of Ages trap, which has a 9th level sleep spell trigger when a pressure plate is stepped on. Wait what? A pressure plate? Why is that needed to trigger a spell effect? Now, if it was sleeping gas – that's a different story, and also presents more ways the PCs could creatively counter it or use it to their advantage.

2. Obvious Traps. A Pit Trap that can be noticed with a Perception check is kind of useless (unless combined with other hazards/monsters). This also encourages a "Perception optimization" practice among players. Instead, look at monsters with the False Appearance trait: Animated Objects, Blights, Cloakers, Darkmantles, Galeb Duhr, Mimics, Shriekers, etc.

[SECTION]False Appearance.While the galeb duhr remains motionless, it is indistinguishable from a normal boulder.[/SECTION]

Why on earth wouldn't a trap have a similar property if well-designed? Where it gets interesting is what does the trap appear to be, and how players can learn to recognize that as a pattern of a given dungeon, and how the DM/module writer can get fiendishly creative within that pattern as a guiding/limiting design principle. For example, in a dungeon with galeb duhr, the players might quickly grow paranoid over large boulders they encounter...the entire dungeon design should then play on that "is it a galeb duhr or not?" mentality, maybe including boulders that need to be moved to access certain areas or that can be dropped on enemies, etc.

3. Placing Traps. While the complex traps rules are neat, I feel like there's more foundational stuff missing from the DMG and this UA article about how should a DM use traps? How should they be placed? All editions of D&D have said "Pit Trap", and modern editions have all said something like "DC # Perception check to notice it." Yeah, duh. That tells a DM nothing about how to use such an obvious pit trap – what other elements are needed to make the threat of that pit actually manifest as more than background color. Now if they address #2, then it's all good, you can have just a pit trap, nothing else. If not, however, there needs to be a section on "Encounters with Pit Traps" that says something like...

[SECTION]Encounters with Pit Traps. When putting a pit trap in a dungeon, consider the inhabitants means of ingress and egress. They should be able to easily bypass the pit trap, and yet also able to easily leverage its presence in their defense. For example, there might be a closing metal grate that can be winch-tightened by monsters in an adjoining room. Or there might be a concealed passage at the base of the pit for monsters to attack through. A gelatinous cube could wait at the bottom. There might even be a wind funnel in the dungeon that the monsters can remove a stone cap from, blasting intruders who successfully cross the pit back into it.

Monsters that force movement often design Pit Traps. This includes many humanoids that will Shove intruders into the pit using spears and polearms, often Helping one another's Shove attempts. Brass dragons, bronze dragons, and minotaurs make frequent use of pit traps in their lairs.[/SECTION]

4. AngryDM's Click Rule. I see one of the things this article does is trying to distinguish the uniqueness of a trap according to its design. One of the things you see in Indiana Jones is "click" and then Indiana realizes he's triggered a trap. However that doesn't mean the trap immediately takes place. I think that idea should be incorporated into triggers. Maybe tripwires are usually instant effect, but pressure plates are delayed effect?

For example, that Sleep of Ages trap triggered by pressure plate? What if the trap triggers only when weight is put on the pressure plate and then removed? What if that was just how pressure plates generally worked in D&D? All of a sudden that trap becomes so much more interesting! From a players' perspective, now they are thinking:
  • What heavy stuff do we have or have we seen in this dungeon that we could place on this pressure plate so it doesn't release the trap?
  • Can the rogue lift up nearby flagstones to get in and use Investigation to figure out the pressure plate's mechanism of action? Could that be jammed maybe...and would it last long enough for the rogue and trapped PC to get clear?
  • What happens if we encounter monsters in the midst of this?
  • Does my PC want to stay near a potential hazard to help his/her fellow, or get him/herself clear to safety?
  • Once we're clear could we set an ambush for monsters and use a rope/spell/ranged attack to knock the stone we put on the pressure plate off, thus triggering the sleeping gas?

With these principles in mind, here's how I'd redo the simple Pit Trap...

skyrim_trap_draugr_pit_trap_01_by_adam_adamowicz.jpg


Pit Trap
Simple trap (level 1–4, moderate threat)

This trap consists of a 10-foot deep pit, concealed by a brittle stone worked into the likeness of the surrounding stonework. This type of trap is useful for blocking off the entrance to a monster lair and usually has narrow, safe ledges along its sides.
Trigger. Anyone weighing 50 pounds or more stepping on the brittle stone might fall into the pit.
Effect. The triggering creature must make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw. On a successful save, the creature feels the stone shifting under their feet and may use a Reaction to respond with an action; if they remain above the pit trap they fall as the brittle stone crumbles away, grasping the edge at the last moment with both free hands (dropping anything they were carrying). On a failed save, the creature falls into the pit and takes 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage from the fall.
Countermeasures. A dwarf immediately recognizes the different stone used. A DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals scuffing along the edges of the floor by the walls (where monsters bypass pit & replace brittle stone). A 1-foot wide ledge around the edge of the pit is safe to cross. Placing an object 50 pounds or more on the brittle stone causes it to break, revealing the pit. The brittle stone can also be destroyed (AC 17, hp 5).
Using a Pit Trap. Combine with monsters using Shove or forced movement like minotaurs, as well as hazards or spells forcing movement like gust of wind. Consider where the pit trap leads to, whether its a simple pit, a lower dungeon level, or a room with murder holes.
 
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maceochaid

Explorer
Love this! A couple points though,

the rule of three. There might be some good advice about class composition. If you are a bladelock, wizard, and Cleric party, you could possibly dispel magic three times in one turn. You can reward groups that do that, but you might also still want the story to have a slightly extended scene with the trap. Maybe increase it to 5 dispel magics in this case.

Also going back over options that players can take during trap events. My players tend to forget about the help and dodge actions, which are worthwhile during trap attacks. I would also think that certain disarming attempts could be slotted up as "readied" actions. The scything blades can be slowed down if you grab their chains but only at the right time. Heroes can ready an action to grab the blades' chains but can only take their reaction AFTER the blade attacks.

Also they could add some damage minimizing effects as part of the dynamic part of a trap so heroes can feel successful in the middle stages.
 

MrHotter

First Post
I like how the rules say to not have players roll perception to find traps, but I'm not a fan of comparing 2 static numbers. I don't want a trap to always be found by one player and never found by another.

I'd prefer to have the DM roll against the static perception. If the trap can be detected with a 10 on a perception roll, then I have the trap roll 1d20+0 against passive perception. If the trap can be detected with a 20 on a perception roll then I would have the trap roll 1d20+10 against the player's passive perception.

That still makes it so that a player does not roll for detecting traps (so they don't know if they rolled good or bad), and still adds some variation to the search.
 

I approve of the flavour in the Sphere of Crushing Doom.;)

There's definitely a desire for more traps. It is a niche, and the DMG rules are pretty bare bones. And my Traps document on the DMs Guild is my second best selling product. This is a solid idea for a UA and an immediate favourite.

I like the clearer formatting, with subheadings. While much less plain text, it is much easier to find what you're looking for. (I almost want to redo my document with these guidelines and formatting in mind.)
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I like how the rules say to not have players roll perception to find traps, but I'm not a fan of comparing 2 static numbers. I don't want a trap to always be found by one player and never found by another.

I'd prefer to have the DM roll against the static perception. If the trap can be detected with a 10 on a perception roll, then I have the trap roll 1d20+0 against passive perception. If the trap can be detected with a 20 on a perception roll then I would have the trap roll 1d20+10 against the player's passive perception.

That still makes it so that a player does not roll for detecting traps (so they don't know if they rolled good or bad), and still adds some variation to the search.
Yeah otherwise you have the problem that every DC 10 trap automaticly noticed by anyone without a negative wisdom modifier. That's not a moderate threat. It's no threat at all.

As the article is, unless an idiot goes off alone, no one will EVER fall in a pit trap without someone first saying "What's that tarp on the ground?" first.

Sent from my LG-D852 using EN World mobile app
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
This article seems a lot like empty page count to me.

More random selection between perception and investigation.

More random arbitrary rules on how hard it is to perform basic physical actions (ie - why do you need thieves' tools and a successful roll to disable a bear trap? Why do you need thieves' tools and a roll to disable a tripwire-crossbow?)

Thieves' tools and rolls should be reserved for things that are actually difficult, like re purposing a trap, moving it's tripwire, changing it to trigger only after multiple hits on it's trigger etc.

More arbitrary disable methods (why can't you disable the pressure plate of sleep of ages with thieves' tools?)

More nonsensical traps and rules (why does the path of blades get more deadly when you tamper with the rune? Why would the trap creators hobble the first part of the trap like that? Why can't I work out the rhythm of the crushing pillars? Why do I have to be in the trapped area to use thieves' tools? What is the strange magic that stops multiple creatures from messing with the rune? Why do so many traps require three castings of dispel magic when dispel magic can remove multiple effects with a single casting? What does a disable device roll do to the vents in the poison tempest that requires a character to stand next to them? Or for that matter why does busting up the statue make the gas flow quicker?)

Any of these traps, run as written, are just going to be frustrating except to the player who just says "I roll disable device". Well, unless the DM follows the article advice, and he asks "what do you do?" and the player says "I don't know, you didn't describe the trap".
 

ehren37

Legend
That's a good point but what if it is disabled by depressing a switch that is several feet away from the apparent location of the trap mechanism. In that situation if one were to tell me "I attempt to disable the trap with my thieves tools", I am going to declare that more detail is needed in the player's description of exactly what is being attempted in disabling this trap.

"With the skills and knowledge my character has, but I do not" would be my response. Same way I don't have to describe how I cast a spell, repair armor or tie a knot with the climbing kit. Unless it's granting an auto success, I don't see the point of delaying the thieves tools roll by also requiring them to guess the magic phrase the DM thinks makes sense. Most of us arent engineers and dont know, or care to know, how traps work mechanically. And lots of the examples dont even make sense!

If a bear trap is spotted, you really should be able to disable it automatically, unless they want to imply that these things are so unreliable that they go off a significant amount of time when a reasonably nimble user goes to reset them (14 dex vs DC 10 disable). What kind of hunter uses a tool that malfunctions or hits them that often? The tripwire also seems like just noticing the tripwire beats it. If you know where the bolts shoot, I dont get why a roll is required to cut the wire or untie them.

Avoiding the roll should really generally be the reward for pixel bitching, not the ability to roll.
 

Cyvris

First Post
Or the alternative right now I guess is spamming 3rd level dispel magic till you get the necessary roll... presuming there's no negative consequence.


Ohh there certainly should be a negative consequence. You interacted with a powerful piece of magic, attempted to disrupt it, now "it" mutates, changing and reacting with the magic you used. DC increase is a given, but adding a new effect (different damage type, a push, paralyze, or mental effect) or additional damage seems appropriate as well.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
I am glad there is a bit about needing to hear from the player what their character is doing rather than just "I disarm."

I wish they would have added that to the part about discovering the traps too. Passive perception to spot isn't interesting. What I would like to see are more traps with clever camouflage. Maybe with an additional sidebar that has tips for red herrings.

All that said I'm not a fan of the way they do chest/lock traps. Those ones I think should be rolled into the lock picking check. If it doesn't matter how mangled you leave the chest then you can break into just about anything. The character with thieves' tools proficiency is there to carefully open things without triggering traps.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
First of all, I want to admire the evil that went into that Path of Blades. The Fear rune at the end is just brilliant and I want to use that trap so badly right now.

Which, I would never use that trap in it's recommended range of lv 1 - 4. With a +5 to hit and an 80 ft range, acting on 20 count, this trap should make at least 3 attacks even if the players try and run straight through it, and 6d10 damage will destroy low level characters, who then need to go through the Pillars, probably taking another 2d10 before being feared into running back into the trap. This thing is clearly more of a lv 5-8 trap. Though magic walls make a big difference.

Another strange choice, the simple Falling Gate trap is deadly, potentially killing players with it's zero damage.... Okay, yeah, being trapped in the dungeon could be bad, but unless you've made a very heavy gate, they can probably get back out if they dedicated time and effort to doing so. I'd have placed that at moderate with a note that cutting off escape can be highly deadly under the right circumstances (trapping the players in a dungeon with a tribe of minotaurs and demons fro example)

Overall though, I like where this is going. Fun ideas and some more traps to help fill out the missing elements. I tend to not like simple traps, they are just a time waster the majority of the time, but Complex traps are fun and interesting encounters.

Instead of prevent multiple people from making the same check, I think increasing the DC would give the "too many cooks in the kitchen" feel of everyone crowding around the same control panel. A +2 or +3 per person attempting the check, with a chance to perhaps undo someone else's progress if you goof up bad enough?

Most of the traps as written would be auto-noticed as well. Even a 3rd level rogue or bard is likely to have a passive perception of 15 or 16, and that will grow by a lot if they invest in it, plus alert. I tend to have at least one player at the table whose got a passive perception of close to 20 if not above that. So trip wires and pits are immediately countered by knowing about their existence.

Still though, I like this a lot and hope to see a lot more traps out of them, especially complex ones that are an encounter in themselves
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
Ohh there certainly should be a negative consequence. You interacted with a powerful piece of magic, attempted to disrupt it, now "it" mutates, changing and reacting with the magic you used. DC increase is a given, but adding a new effect (different damage type, a push, paralyze, or mental effect) or additional damage seems appropriate as well.

From the player's point of view that's just going to feel like you're just messing with him. There's nothing in-world to suggest that you can protect magic against a dispel magic (and high level wizards would be really invested in doing so: few things are more annoying than having your teleportation circle dispelled after you spent a year and 18000gp putting it into operation, or even just having combat buffs dispelled).

Much better to work with the limitations of dispel magic. Put your magic runes on the forehead of a sequestered creature or at the site of an imprisoned one. Do you risk a dispel magic that can take out both the runes and the imprisonment? Hold up the ceiling with something innately magical and place your runes on that. Or simply have some runes that don't do anything.
 

DerekSTheRed

Explorer
The complex traps remind of the Encounter Traps from 3.5E Dungeonscape which were later incorporated into Xen'drik adventures. I liked their design and structure much better than the generic Skill Challenges in 4E. I personally would like to see more examples of complex traps but that's just me.
 

Xeviat

Hero
I like how the rules say to not have players roll perception to find traps, but I'm not a fan of comparing 2 static numbers. I don't want a trap to always be found by one player and never found by another.

I'd prefer to have the DM roll against the static perception. If the trap can be detected with a 10 on a perception roll, then I have the trap roll 1d20+0 against passive perception. If the trap can be detected with a 20 on a perception roll then I would have the trap roll 1d20+10 against the player's passive perception.

That still makes it so that a player does not roll for detecting traps (so they don't know if they rolled good or bad), and still adds some variation to the search.

d20+(search DC - 11) against passive perception would be the easy way to do it.


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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The trigger, effect, and countermeasure organization looks a lot like how they formatted traps in D&D 4e.

If only they also had xp guidelines for it, so I don't have to make it up, like in 4e. Not a fan of no xp for overcoming traps, hazards, and other adventuring obstacles and threats.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
1) Good article. I love traps, and find this is a good supplement to the DMG overall.
2) I disagree with the proposal that there be no XP rewarded for defeating a trap. It says your reward is escaping harm - but if I kill a creature before it can hit me, I get that same reward, and also XP. Defeating a trap is overcoming a challenge, and so should reward XP;
3) I am not sure if "I use my thieves tools to disable the trap" should always be considered too vague. When the warrior says, "I hit it with my sword" we don't always say, "Precisely how?" thought we might on occasion. Shouldn't the rogue sometimes be able to just say, "I disarm it with my thieves tools?"
4) While passive perception should be the default to spot a trap, Investigation might well be used when a player says, "I am curious about this desk. I will carefully examine it for traps." Indeed, the difference in Countermeasure descriptions for the Falling Gate trap and the Fiery Blast trap give me the impression the author isn't sure how to differentiate between Investigation and Perception sometimes - both traps use a pressure plate, so why include Perception to spot one and Investigation to spot the other when that portion is essentially identical? I think more traps should include entries for both in the Countermeasures section.
5) Complex traps are a great concept. I need to study it a bit more, but I like where that's going.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya.

I'm...disappointed? I'm a bit of a killer DM, I'll admit, but hearing my players be actually excited-and-terrified-at-the-same-time about the potential of death when dealing with a trap... and then the pure joy and sense of accomplishment when they come up with some ingenious way to defeat some death-trap by using Cone of Cold, a full waterskin, a 6.5' piece of rope, two pickled hearings and a half-used candle? Priceless! But when they 'know' that a trap, and failing saves/rolls will result in nothing but HP loss? Well, the looks on their faces are more along the line of annoyance (as in "Oh, great...ANOTHER trap to drain our resources...*sigh*..." ). In other words, traps become speed-bumps on the road to success...not dead ends. :)

That said, I can see new players and DM's that like to have "D&D Lite" style campaigns, two thumbs up. :) The part about specifically dividing a trap into categories, with ranges for each, and then listing potential countermeasures... I can see that really helping new DM's as well as those wanting a more 'faux-death' type of campaign. But for old Grognard Curmudgeon Killer-DM's like me ...I'll have to give these a pass.

PS: Not trying to offend anyone here...just saying me and my group like our games the way like we like our contests against Sicilians. ;)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 


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