Trap Design (DnD Guideline)

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Traps can do more than just damage. A trap can be set on any floor tile, map hex, threshold, switch, container, portal, or object. Any trap can be reskinned to look like a million other dangerous environmental effects. (Example: Rock-fall trap? Reskin it as a collapsing ceiling. Or falling rigging on a ship during a storm. Or even use it to determine damage dealt by one character falling on to another from some considerable height!) A DM can improvisationally execute a trap arbitrarily at will and not get called out for it, because traps are supposed to be hidden in the first place. (And if their true trap-like nature is obfuscated by a reskin, they're even less likely to attract complaint) This makes traps exquisitely powerful tools for representing just about anything mechanically, and controlling just about any situation which has momentarily become mechanically dysfunctional.

The following list contains every function a trap may perform. Keep in mind that a trap may perform several functions simultaneously. Some good movies to watch for trap inspiration include all of the SAW films, any Indiana Jones movie, Labyrinth, and Cube 2 & 3.

•Inflict a condition, such as poison, unconscious, charmed (very funny!), restrained, paralyzed, blind, deaf, frightened, petrified, prone, or stunned.

•Inflict ranks of exhaustion.

•Cause suffocation or drowning rules to come into play.

•Reset after triggering, so you can't just set it off and be on your way.

•Cast a spell. (That alone is enough material for thousands of unique traps.)

•Relocate the character. (Garbage chute trap!)

•Some traps may be capable of moving or relocating themselves.

•Rearrange or alter the local environment. (Close the easy path and force you down the hard way.)

•Be subtle. (They don't need to know they even activated a trap.)

•Be annoying. (I.e. a loud beeping sound that follows the group everywhere they go. A digital alarm clock can be used to do this.)

•Be disguised as, included in, or include a puzzle.

•Be manned. (Ever heard of an ambush?)

•Close a path. (Like: the way out.)

•Cause insanity.

•Curse someone.

•Be totally obvious but unavoidable.

•Be alive. (Like the knight statues lining the walls that TOTALLY aren't going to jump you immediately after your back is turned.)

•Reward players for deactivating them rather than just activating them. (I.e. you disassemble the mechanism and find its bearings are made from precious gemstones!)

•Drain xp. (If you are truly sadistic)

•Be a static effect or structure; not something you activate or deactivate. (Every wrong path and dead end in a maze is this type of trap.)

•Use bait or a lure. (A golden cup on a pedestal? Just like cheese in a mouse trap.)

•Be useful. (Hey, if we know this thing is here, why don't we lure our enemies back into it?)

•Look totally mundane. (The door knob falls out in your hand as you pull to open the door.)

•Spawn monsters.

•Intentionally mislead, distract, or confuse the target, wasting their time.

•Take their stuff.

•Have a way out.

•Trick them into a false sense if security.

•Do nothing more insidious than simply watch them constantly.

•Demoralize them.

•Trick them into thinking they've already completed the dungeon.

•Alter encounters and traps elsewhere. (An alarm is a good example. So would taking some bait treasure that awakens all the golem guardians on the way out.)

•Initiate a new situation, series of events, or action sequence. (Run from that boulder! Get across that bridge as it crumbles behind you! Oh no, the walls/ceiling are closing in on you! The room begins to fill with a mysterious gas! Etc.)

•Be a distraction for something else entirely.

•Not actually be a trap, despite looking very much like one.

•Actually be composed of multiple smaller traps.

•Have a trapped trigger mechanism to prevent tampering.

•Look like one type of trap, but actually does something else. (Looks like a pitfall, but is actually a well disguised downward staircase; the surrounding floor tiles trigger poison arrows.)

•Be disgusting.

•Outright kill a guy.

•Malfunction or backfire.

•Be built by the players.

•Have a time delay before kicking in.

•Split the party.

•Cosmetically alter the victim.

•Leave a lingering effect.

•Alter time itself.

•Invoke suffocation, drowning, starvation, or dehydration rules.

•Put out all light sources.

•Steal senses, like sight or hearing. (bear spray trap!)

•Disable other things, such as doors or switches, elsewhere in the dungeon.

•Change the direction of gravity.

•Rely on an optical illusion.

•Pit the party members against each other.

•Present a moral dilemma.

•Slow them down.

•Present an ultimatum.

•Disable magic.

•Alter the effects of magic.

•Be triggered by spells, magic, sound, light, movement, possession of an object, or etc.

•Be harmful environmental features. (Like razorblades on ladder rungs, a floor covered in upright blades, or sword-length blades protruding from walls in a combat area, etc.)


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