Traps: they’re a really interesting way to hook the attention of players or catch them off-guard. As someone that’s been a Dungeon Master for over 3 years, I’ve found they can create some pretty humorous – or deadly – consequences for unsuspecting players. The best part about this is that despite being an excellent tool, traps are often overlooked by Dungeon Masters, which makes them great for creating extra hurdles for player characters.
One of my favorite aspects about traps is that they can fit into virtually any game. Triggers can be just about anything, from a false floor tile to a magical rune, which makes traps adaptable to any setting. My favorite traps, however, are mechanical in nature because it allows for more customization in non-magical settings… and because my party of spell casters can’t detect them as easily.
The last time I used a trap was for a game celebrating one of my player’s birthdays. The group was travelling deep into a cavern in a post-apocalyptic world to find a supposedly safe haven. The team consisted of a Rogue, a Sorcerer, a Wizard and a Cleric. As a DM, I usually create at least 3 encounters as part of a one-shot game and then add in details, so the trap was going to be one of the larger obstacles.
I decided to use a mechanical trap for this game. It was a large treadmill that moved 10 feet every turn to a pit of spikes. Whoever triggered the treadmill (dubbed “Treadmill to Hell” afterwards) would have 3 turns to stop it before falling into the pit to die a slow death. The fun part was that the only way to stop the treadmill was by pulling a lever, and I added in more difficulty by placing 3 identical levers side-by-side on the same wall. I also made it a DC 10 Strength roll in order to successfully pull it down. This added difficulty made it way more amusing to watch the horror on my players’ faces, so it was a win-win in my book.
Two players ended up getting stuck on the Treadmill to Hell: the Rogue, who was not perceptive whatsoever, and the Sorcerer, who was weaker than a limp noodle with a negative Strength score. Needless to say, both of them were panicking. The Sorcerer was convinced that the levers were another part of the trap, so they ignored them. After 2 turns the Rogue, who had been cursing at the Sorcerer, decided to pull a lever. He succeeded on the roll, but it was the wrong one. The sorcerer managed to barely succeed in rolling a high enough Strength score to pull down the lever. He managed to choose the right one as well, which stopped the contraption right as they were about to fall into the pit. The rest of the party joined only after making sure there weren’t any more triggers, and they managed to successfully find another way across the pit.
This was one of many traps that I fondly remember using during my time as a Dungeon Master. I also tend to vary when I use them so players don’t expect them too often. It helps with the suspense.
Traps are a versatile (dare I say crucial?) part of Dungeons and Dragons. They can be simple or complex and Dungeon Masters can personalize them any setting. Traps are a good way to challenge players, regardless of where their travels lead them.