Traps and Arbitrary Player Character Murder

Pits, poisoned dart shooters, pendulum blades and axes, gas bombs, acid baths, and falling blocks of stone all triggered by tripwires, pressure plates, magic powers, or by the actions of the victims themselves.  Traps are the cherry topping the sundae that are dungeons – you rarely see them anywhere else.

A dungeon really only exists to kill players, right?

trap_1As a DM, I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with traps.  When I first started playing, I liked them because of the gradual sense of dread that they forced upon the players.  It made them realize that nothing could be taken for granted.  And why should it?  I mean, a dungeon really only exists to kill players, right?

Yet gradually I came to dislike traps.  Ok, roll Tommy.  A 3 you say?  Alright, you stumble, the toe of your boot getting hung-up briefly on something.  You hear some thumps as some darts strike you and the wall.  Two of the darts are stuck deeply in your thigh.  You can see a greenish liquid on the half-dozen or so darts on the floor.  I need you to roll another d20 man – add your constitution bonus.

If poor Tommy doesn’t save, he takes all that poison damage and half if he makes the save.  Arbitrary death, perhaps, killed by nothing more than failing to make a pair of die rolls.

I hate that crap.

trap_2I prefer traps that create situations.  Sometimes, the situation can be the trap itself – how to I get out of this sealed room before it floods?  Or the trap can be designed to put the party as a great disadvantage during an encounter – just image a hallway spinner that spins one of the party members in to a room alone, cut off from the party.  Or another that knocks everyone down just before the orcs arrive.

Plan out some large-scale mayhem, move entire rooms, spin entire hallways….

Pits are so… unmemorable.  Darts shooting from the wall…so over used. Plan out some large-scale mayhem, move entire rooms, spin entire hallways, make your players have some terrible concern that maybe, just maybe they were teleported a great distance.  There are so many things that traps can do that are much more entertaining for everyone involved than merely killing player characters.


Author: Kilgore

Long-time gamer, alpha techno-geek, and former infantryman

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