D&D General What Are Traps For?

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Traps in media aren't there to wear down or just straight kill characters, but to let the characters look awesome avoiding and disabling them.

But D&D's built a cultural identity specifically against this; one where there's some expectation to see the trap hurt ad kill the main character. See also, the thread where people are trying to find ways to justify there still being a chance to get tagged by a poison needle through a steel gauntlet.

Imagine if Indy got just pincushioned with poison arrows and falls down the pit. That's what D&D culturally expects to happen.
One of the reasons I dislike holding a game too closely to the standards of other media is that other media is scripted. It's telling one story, about one thing, one way. The protagonists are largely expected to succeed, or to be interesting and meaningful in their eventual failure.

Games don't always work that way. Games can be cinematic and narrative like that. They can ape a more scripted style. But they are under no obligation to, and there are compromises you make when designing it that way (it can be a bit like The Last of Us compared with Breath of the Wild - one a more linear narrative ride where decision-making is limited to certain set pieces and the other a more open toybox to play around with where the set pieces may temporarily limit that decision-making).

D&D expects Indy to get pincushioned because Indy is one guy that is raiding the tomb alongside Robert Johnson, an 18th-Century German doctor, and a little old lady who heals broken bones and bloody gashes with magical baked goods (to basically summarize my Radiant Citadel party), and all of them failing and dying screaming in the ruin within an hour or two and no one ever hearing from them again is a valid and enjoyable outcome from the game (where it wouldn't be in a movie!). Because D&D isn't scripted that tightly, and being so loosely scripted is part of the fun.

Big point being: it's very good and very fun to know that your knowledgeable expert can utterly beef it in a D&D game.

Corollary to the big point is: Clue is still probably the best movie based on a game. ;)
 

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greymist

Lurker Extraordinaire
What are traps for -- specifically, traps in the dungeon? Why are they there from a gameplay standpoint? What play purpose do they serve? And given all that, how do you implement them?
Back in the old days they were there to kill the PCs.

Now, I’m not sure. If I placed a save or die trap in a dungeon now, I’m sure it would cause a kerfuffle. I recently used what I thought was a neat puzzle to unlock a secret door, but really it did not accomplish anything in the game (I did throw out some XP for solving it). I more or less stopped using traps since.

I think in active dungeosn/castles/lairs/etc. I will use traps to capture intruders (e.g. a pit trap that also sets off an alarm). This will add tension to rescue the trapped PC quickly before the guards arrive.

I think killing traps have a place in tombs. The dead person’s minions did not want the tomb (or the fabulous riches) to be disturbed so the traps will kill or at least cause maximum grief. The key will be to ensure the PCs have an opportunity to learn this ahead of time - whether the players remember is a different issue!
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
In my games? Traps exist purely to slow the game down, and to break monotony.

Slow the game down: whenever the players stop paying attention to my room descriptions, and are simply running-and-gunning from one room to another looking for things to kill, I'll sprinkle in a few traps. Just one tripwire and suddenly I have their rapt attention: they can't wait to search every room and write down every clue. "Come on guys, slow down, you're missing vital clues! Stop and smell the roses...or else."

Breaking monotony: when my players start referring to everything terms of monster encounters ("What time is it? Well, we've only had 1 encounter, so I'd say it's about 2 encounters until it needs to be sunset"), it's a sign that the game has become too predictable and I need to mix things up. And traps are perfect for this, especially when the rogue is getting bored, or feeling a little under-appreciated.
 
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R_J_K75

Legend
But D&D's built a cultural identity specifically against this; one where there's some expectation to see the trap hurt ad kill the main character.
Yep. I bought a copy of a compilation of 4-5 Grimtooths Trap books. Some of them are really clever but they are pretty deadly and seem outright unfair to the players because there is little to no chance of avoiding or surviving them. As a DM if I put a trap in an adventure, I make sure that its potentially lethal but also fair enough that the players can circumvent it or escape it without dying.
 


Reynard

Legend
Yep. I bought a copy of a compilation of 4-5 Grimtooths Trap books. Some of them are really clever but they are pretty deadly and seem outright unfair to the players because there is little to no chance of avoiding or surviving them. As a DM if I put a trap in an adventure, I make sure that its potentially lethal but also fair enough that the players can circumvent it or escape it without dying.
it is a style choice. Like deciding to run a funnel/gauntlet. Sometimes, a deathtrap dungeon is a good time. But everyone has to be on board.
 



Schmoe

Adventurer
Its good for a one shot or short adventure, anything more and I'd be bored with this style of play.
Agreed. I would love to run my players through the original Tomb of Horrors. I've even teased it as a Halloween one-shot a few times. However, knowing my players, I also know that they would get extremely frustrated with the adventure and not have any fun, so I decided against it. You have to have the right players for the challenge.
 


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