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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.

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Porcelain Doorknob


Consider the following trap:

Porcelain Doorknob Trap (CR 1)

A well-worn porcelain doorknob is in the center of the door.

Type: mechanical; Perception DC 17; Disable Device 17

Trigger touch; Reset None


The doorknob shatters, leaving sharp edges. Atk +8 melee (1d6 damage)

Sadly, this is a trap drawn from personal experience. The doorknob on my office door at home was stuck, when I forced it… well, porcelain is very sharp. Now, how can I use this in a game?

There is nothing really special or deadly about this trap; it is quite mundane. In fact, this may not even be a malicious trap, it may merely happen by chance as it did to me. This trap, though, has a purpose, especially if used early. It sets the tone.

A doorknob is a minor detail, as easily overlooked as any one of another hundred details – floorboards, tiles, bricks, etc. By turning a minor detail against the party, you enable your dungeon to become a living entity, full of rich detail and hidden hazards. The players, now alerted, will demand that extra layer of detail and attention that can bring an adventure alive.

Just be careful not to overuse it. Too many of these and the adventure will grind to a halt.

For more traps, please visit Trap-a-Day!


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Trap Inspiration from MMOs


Today we’ll look at the trap below:

180 Degree Teleporter

A small, deep chasm is in front of you. It looks like it can be easily jumped.

Type: magical; Perception DC 30; Disable Device 30

Trigger location; Reset None


There is a teleporter on the far side of the chasm. It immediately teleports the character to the same spot, but rotated 180 degrees. In order for the jump to succeed, the character must traverse the chasm twice, once on the way to the portal and then back to the original jump point, thus use 2 times the distance for the DC. Those that fail fall into the chasm, either by failing the original distance, or hitting the portal and then falling.

This trap was directly inspired from two events within World of Warcraft. The first event happened to us on a raid. We were running back from a complete raid wipe and several of us were automatically following one particular character. As we were navigating the dungeon, we all heard, “Ooh, sandwich” on Teamspeak, and watched as the lead character plowed his way straight into a lava pit. Of course, all of us that were following joined him in the lava bath mere moments later.

The second thing was something that would happen to me often when I would enter a dungeon instance. To enter an instance, you would run your character through a portal, where you’d be teleported to the inside of the dungeon. Well, many times, the teleport would spin me around 180 degrees. Since I’d usually be on auto-run, my character would then immediately run right back out of the dungeon as soon as I entered.

Naturally, if you put these mechanics to creative use, you can end up with something hopefully fresh and new. You just have to keep your eyes open to unusual occurrences that can be used in traps.

For more traps, please visit Trap-a-Day!

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Trap Tuesdays: Save for Half Damage

Welcome to Trap Tuesday

aka “Save for Half Damage”

Trapped_GlovesI am the creator and maintainer of Trap-a-Day, a blog, which, like the name suggests, posts a new trap every day. Since its inception, over 800 traps, mostly Pathfinder, have been posted. Coming up with a new trap every day can be a challenging endeavor, and over the coming weeks I will discuss many aspects of trap creation, including mechanics, placement, design, and creative inspiration.

A few weeks ago, I was running my regular Pathfinder campaign and a wacky combat situation arose. The characters had entered a large warehouse with conveyer belts manned by mechanized skeletons. During the combat, characters and skeletons alike ended up fighting on the conveyers. Every round, the conveyers moved 10 feet. Since the conveyers were in the middle of the melee, the movement ended up provoking attacks of opportunity. It was quite chaotic and happened completely by accident. This was a side effect not anticipated.

So, the following week, I needed an idea for my Thursday trap. Remembering the fun that was had during the combat, I came up with this:

Next week we’ll continue to look at more situations that can spark trap creation ideas.


Have an idea for a new trap?  Want to see your trap published on  Send your idea to submit(at)