Picture the scene. I’m playing a D&D 5E game. Our token Non-Player Character just died earlier. So now there is just two Player Characters plus my mate DM’ing (yes it’s cosy but now there are three PC’s!) . We find a chest. My buddy says he’s going to open it. I say “Are you sure you want to do that without checking first? After all, he is playing a Rogue. “Nah it’ll be cool”. Next minute a poisoned dart flies out from the chest as he tries to open it paralysing him on the spot. Then a young “Roper” reveals itself and attacks my Sorceress. What followed was probably the most intense fight I’d ever had as I was left to battle this monster on my own at level 2. I had ONE hit point left as did the Roper when I managed to blast it one final time and save our asses from a total party kill. Now my mate checks everything first.
So, Traps. Aren’t they wonderful? I mean as if monsters, weird stuff and critters weren’t enough to contend with, how dispicable that somebody should actually rig up some nasty booby trap to kill or maim your beloved characters.
What makes a good trap? There are a number of things that make traps wonderful playthings for DM’s. One is the element of suprise. The characters didn’t see it coming. Traps are supposed to be dangerous and risky; making them a nasty suprise enhances their lethality thus reducing the number of options to avoid the danger. This also this depends on your DM. Some might give you a chance to “sense something is amiss” with a skill check. Others may well spring the trap then allow saves against damage and so forth. And then there those that will happily announce “The ground opens up beneath your feet and you plunge five hundred feet into a pool of molten lava and you die instantly. Oops.”
What kind then? Well, how devious do you want to be? A simple pit trap hastily dug and covered to hinder and possibly kill players if they are unlucky? A rockfall to bury your players? Perhaps a complex pressure plate system that traps the hapless adventurers in a small room; until they eat each other to survive or are incinerated with sorcerous fire? There’s an endless possibility of inventive ways. The pit trap is a favourite, especially with added spikes or nasty creatures at the bottom for extra flavour. How about a huge boulder chasing the party down a corridor Indiana Jones style?
Whatever your chosen method for slicing, spiking, dumping, boiling and crushing your players its worth considering the location carefully as some traps will have more potential and less chance of being avoided if placed in the correct place. A pit and spike trap cunningly hidden in a narrow corridor should hopefully have a good chance of dumping someone down it for example. Equally a good one for perhaps a wilderness or forest setting is the good old net on the ground method which inevitably leaves the party suspended and trapped awaiting their fate. And lets not forget the trip wire or (trip vine if you’re in the jungle) which can be adapted for anything.
Lastly, its not just corridors, forest clearings and room floors where traps should be carefully laid to prevent greedy, plundering scoundrels from going any further. They are needed to protect things as well. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, if you need to protect your valuables from maurading adventurers, add a few intricate traps that could potentially deter these brazen thieves. In fact, this particular monster goes one better!
Now, if a potential trap has been found without inflicting any damage (yet), adventurers who wish to either proceed or bag the swag, will have to get rid of the problem. This would normally require some knowledge of this specialist area and typically the classic character for this type of work would be a Rogue/Thief person, but it’s worth bearing in mind that some traps may well be magical and might need the expertise of a spellcaster or magicuser to safely defuse them. This can be risky no matter wether it is mechanical or magical because if it’s a particuarly nasty trap that goes off accidently then it could very well be…