Let me tell you, like any dungeon master I am a fan of traps. Overuse will make your players paranoid, but no dungeon is complete without at least a makeshift boobytrap. Here are my top five - feel free to correct me.
- Doorknob smeared with contact poison, CR5. There’s just something remarkably hilarious about opening an unassuming door and getting a handful of nitharit root. My players rightly fear doors more than any monster, but there’s another story to that.
- Razor wire across hallway, CR1. Walking along the hallway, and foop! Off with your head! What I like about this trap is that it’s decidedly lethal at level 1, where 2d6 damage can kill even an average fighter on a good roll.
- Perpendicular gravity trap, CR8. A variant on the reverse gravity trap, this has you fall along a corridor and hopefully onto that confusingly placed spiked wall.
- Portcullis trap, CR1. 3d6 damage is a lot at low levels, with the added benefit of splitting the party up in event of an ambush. Potentially very lethal for that reason.
- Mass baleful polymorph trap, CR10. Of my own devising, the entire party is struck with polymorph and turned into a creature chosen entirely at random. Save DC is as a ninth level spell; item DC is a little weak, but the hilarity of all the spellcasters turning into shocker lizards is worth the risk.
Among my least favourite traps are the CR1 scything blade (surely two orcs are more dangerous than one blade?), the green slime trap (instant-kill: not even remotely fair!), the CR3 extended bane trap (-1 to attack for four minutes) and the CR7 summon monster vi that merely creates a CR5-6 monster for one minute.
Have I missed any?
My personal favorite is the lowly pit trap, with a dimensional door at the bottom that opens 10 feet above the trap. They, of course, fall for a couple miles, in the span of 20feet and eventually reach terminal velocity. We’ve done the math and decided that it only deals 20d6.
It makes an appearance early on in each new campaign we start. My group, being chaotic, and some evil, come up with…ingenious ways of “freeing” someone from an infinite pit trap.
@Anonymous: Indeed, I rigged a similar trap in my “one wacky room after another” dungeon. You fell howevermany feet, and each time you hit the bottom you had a one in ten chance of teleporting back up.
My players handled it by flying out and handing the guy a potion of Fly as he went. Alternatively you could have a flying character catch them, throw out a net that they can land in, start filling the pit with a Decanter of Endless Water so the guy gets a water landing, polymorph him into something that can fly, shrink him so he can take the fall better, bestow him with spider climb so he can cling to the wall, or dispel the trap so that he falls now and now not 10d6 damage later.
Bonus DM points if you net the pit with razor wire so he takes damage on each pass. Bonus player points if you successfully shout loud enough to create a sonic trampoline.
The bottomless pit/endless fall trap is a personal fave. I usually add a percentile modifier that the character hits bottom in a spike pit after so many falls. Another fave is the hidden in plain sight one. A classic. Hidden in a book or a treasure box. If the group contains a high level Healer, the trap will be a poison arrow or a Dimension Door to a hell plane for 1d20 minutes. Simple, classic, effective.
Guards and Wards magic trap.
Fills a ridiculously large area with magical fog, magic mouths, stinking clouds, webs on staircases, and other fun stuff.
Oh, and it’s not a very high CR, so it doesn’t give anyone that much experience, either. And it lasts a few hours.
It can make a properly-designed dungeon into a hell for players. The spell is in the PHB, look it up. Level six sorcerer/wizard spell.
My two favorites-
Again, a variation on the simple pit trap, easy to jump over. Invisible wall of force on the other side.
The other, which is a party-killer:
After fighting their way through an underground dungeon, battling nefarious monsters, the players come upon a large room with a beautiful, obviously magical, golden door. Behind the door? A magma vent.
1. A false floor, underneath which is a pit 40’ deep with 20’ of Greek Fire and 2 nets covered in Alchemical Fire Part A & B (the oil that ignights when it comes into contact with the matching oil) the net burns quickly and deposits PC into oil pit that cant be extinguished easily. Does the PC hold his breath and hope his allies can get the fire out, or does he try to climb up the shear walls while covered in burning oil…
2. A large intricately carved statue of a Celestial hero (any cleric/paladin would recognize) with a sign that states simply “Sacrifice will be Rewarded” several Alters sit arround the room with carved openings aproximately the size of (put items you want the party to loose for the next fight here). if items are placed upon all the alters the alters become covered over with stone and magically sealed, then the statue comes to life and attacks the party (turning more demonic at the same time)
I’m partial to the ‘modified teleport naked spell’. You know, the kind where only the character but not his stuff — including clothes — gets teleported 15 feet above the middle of the ocean where lots of dire sharks will hear him/her spash down in…or in the middle of a slavers’ stockade…or the local Baron’s daughter’s private chambers (with an audible alarm spell going off for the guards to hear, it the daughter & ladies-in-waiting aren’t present to scream their heads off)..or in the middle of a busy tavern…or an orc camp.
The beauty of those are they don’t have to be lethal…well, not inherently anyway. After all, the orcs won’t have initiative to begin the raping just right away.
It also separates the party…they might now know what happened to their buddy for quite a while. To be equally effective for higher level parties you have to have a target trap that prevents outbound teleportation, sending spells and stuff like that.
My favorite “naked teleport” leaves the victim’s possessions in an untidy pile and teleports a small pile of dust into the place they were standing…
To all who say “tehehehe, this trap is low CR but its so deadly” including commentors and author, any situation that increases the basic lethality of the trap also increases the CR. 3d6 at level one is obviously a possible deathtrap, and should be treated as a higher CR. The guards and wards “hiding” all sorts of other traps/monsters increase their CR because the encounter is *harder*.
My favorite trap’s include the deadly (high cr) teleport straight up at maximum distance. The resident wizard could just send a few shadows or abjured air elementals up to collect the bodies after a while.
The other fave is the “little girl cries about her cat up in a tree” when the party is good-aligned. The girl being a fey or some shapeshifting creature, the cat being a familiar or something that can be be left there. The heroes try to help, the treant the cat is stuck in attacks when the weakest hero is in range (evil druid or bad guy attack).
I haven’t encountered anything that beats the sheer elegance and simplicity of a Sphere of Annihilation in a statue’s gaping mouth.
The perpendicular gravity trap can actually be varied in a rather fun way. Set it up in an extremely long hallway (anywhere between 180 and 200 feet), and make it seem like the spiked wall will begin to chase them down. A spiked gate hanging on what appears to be a track works especially well when there’s no rouge in the party to check everywhere for a trigger. Even set up small little alcoves in the walls along the sides to make them think that they’ll have to dodge sooner or later, and just let them wait. At the far end, set a door, and just in front of it set the trap. I was nice and gave a will save to cancel the effect every 20 feet…but you’re still going to pick up a heck of a lot of speed dropping in that manner. And I was using semi-realistic rules…so the fighter in full plate moved a bit quicker…and quickly was making a new character.
I devised a trap that i called a Stasis trap. It works for any level and is designed more for inside terrain but it could be adapted for any place. Anyway i the over all idea is pretty simple, but can be a total party kill if done incorrectly. Have 3 areas on the floor that are pressure plates. Each pressure plate is linked to a stasis chamber that holds a monster. As a player steps on the pressure plate, a switch happens. Monster comes out of stasis, and the player goes into stasis. The only way to get out of stasis is to have another creature hit the pressure plate freeing the trapped individual. Should all the players get trapped, skip forward in time 10 years and have some random monster step on the pressure plate freeing one of your players. Instant adventure hook there as well.
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