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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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.

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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.


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


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.


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.


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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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.


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.



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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