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Using Spells in New Ways – Lake Barrier Trap

Škocjan_Caves_lakeOne way to get inspiration for a trap is to look through the list of spells available to spell casters. Pick one, and then try using it in an interesting way, and perhaps tweak it a little bit to fit the effect you are going for. Take the following trap for example, which is based on Antilife Shell.


Lake Barrier Trap

The cliff edge overlooks a placid lake, dozens of feet down.

Type: magical; Perception DC 31; Disable Device 31

Trigger touch; Reset None


The lake below is cold and deep. It has also been covered with a type of antilife shell. Non-living stuff passes through it just fine, however, when someone jumps… Lake Barrier (6d6 falling damage)

It’s hard to get players to walk into traps. You could use a wall of force here, but a clever player will throw down a rock or do something else to discover it. Unless the players use detect magic or something, they probably won’t notice this. Add some kind of “pressure” element at the top, and the first one that jumps will be in for quite a surprise.

However, the true payoff for this trap, whether is damages players or not will be the next time they come across a similar setup. Perhaps the mage will start carrying around a satchel of gerbils to toss of the cliff before descending. These are the types of experiences that make adventures truly memorable. “Hey, remember that time when you summoned a dire rat in mid-air just to check to see if there was an anti-life shell?”

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Wilderness Traps – Goblin Rocket Snare

Rocket Snare - GoblinThe great outdoors is a perfect place to place traps. Whether you place the trap just outside your dungeon or somewhere on the road, wilderness traps will often take the party by surprise. Consider the following:

Goblin Rocket Snare (CR 4)

Description: When the trap is triggered, a snare tightens around the character’s ankle as a small rocket fires. The rocket drags the character for 100 feet across the countryside.

Player Description: Piles of fallen leaves obscure patches of the ground.

Trap Description: A wisp of smoke curls up from the leaves as a rope ensnares your foot.

Type mechanical; Perception 22; Disable Device 18

Trigger location; Reset none

Effect: Rocket Snare Attack
(6d6 damage + target is dragged 100ft, DC 21 Reflex Save Negates)

This type of trap can serve several purposes.  It can be a wake up call, smack in the face kind of trap that will keep the adventurers on their toes, especially if they aren’t being cautious enough while exploring the wilderness.  If anything, their characters will probably set a double watch next time!

You can also use it to set up an encounter or lead the party to the next section of an adventure. Having this trap go off just before a goblin attack can make what would otherwise be an ordinary run-of-the-mill encounter into something very exciting; a member of the party is now injured and separated from the group, with enemy combatants between her and her comrades!

After the character is dragged 100 feet, she could find a cave, a hidden temple entrance, treasure, or even a clue. Using it in this way removes the drudgery of having the characters search and miss perception checks, etc. Since it was sudden and violent, it probably won’t even feel contrived, especially if you combine it with an encounter.

In the coming weeks, there will be more wilderness traps posted. In the meantime, open up the outdoors. Turn those otherwise boring treks into memorable events.

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Deadly Traps Should Not Be Deadly

Melting crucible

Overkill, overpowered, TPK traps are fun to have in your dungeon, provided they don’t actually kill anyone. For example:

Golden Ball Trap

A huge golden ball, warm to the touch, sits in a depression atop a raised dais that has stairs all around. The ball is full of molten gold. If the ball is touched, the thin, solid outer wall breaches, spilling molten gold into the room. Once emptied, the gold can be scraped off the floor and would be quite valuable once it is solid.






Very Hard Perception, or Hard Alchemy or Dungeoneering check.


Very Hard Reflex Save or everyone in room takes APL * d6 fire damage. Each round each character takes APL * d6 fire damage on his turn if he is in the molten gold at any time during his turn. If he is flying or otherwise not touching the floor, the damage is APL * d3. The gold stays molten for 2 * APL rounds.

This is a very deadly trap. It is also very obvious. Therefore, you may ask, “What is the value of having such an obvious trap in my dungeon?”

The answer is simply the joy of overcoming such a huge obstacle and enjoying the spectacle of it. There in an inherent “wow” factor in avoiding or disarming such a deadly trap. It sends a message that you, as a GM don’t mess around, and also gives the characters a feeling of accomplishment in avoiding your attempt at killing them.

Plus, with this one, you present them with the quandary of how to remove so much treasure.