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Practical Traps – Burglar Alarm

PSM_V18_D068_Burglar_alarm_area_indicatorWizards (and those that can pay them) are going to want to use spells and spell effects for practical, mundane purposes. Take the following:

Burglar Alarm (CR 4)

The windows are dark in this small cottage, it appears unoccupied.

Type: magical; Perception DC 30; Disable Device 30

Trigger location; Reset None


If the residence is entered, a small bell chimes. This bell, via a message spell, is also heard by the local constable, who will arrive in 2d10 rounds to investigate.

By stringing together a basic alarm spell (which causes the bell to go off), messenger and permanency, we have a fantasy equivalent of a modern burglar alarm. Of course, this doesn’t have to alert the local constable. It could just as well be used to notify a villain or one of his henchmen. The PCs could also use something like this. You could take this basic effect, and be alerted when somebody enters a location that you are tracking. Once notified, the PCs could rush to the location, scry, or any of a number of actions without having to actually keep physical watch.

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Traps to Facilitate Success

Sometimes, you use a trap to help your PC’s, giving them a taste of what is ahead.


Scorch Marks (CR 2)

Opposite the door are scorch marks on the wall.

Type: mechanical; Perception DC 18; Disable Device 17

Trigger location; Reset Repair


When a character gets within 15′ of the door, a timer starts. If they do not open the door within 2 rounds, a gout of flame shoots out from the door. Flame(DC 16 Reflex Save or take 1d4 fire damage); multiple targets(all targets in 15′ cone)

This is a good trap to have near the beginning of your adventure. Why? Most traps help set the tone of your adventure. In this case, the characters who take their time will get burned (literally). It won’t do much damage, but it will help you set up later encounters, especially if they are time critical. Having been burned once, PCs are less likely to dilly-dally. If you do have time critical encounters, this trap will also prepare your PCs, giving them a greater chance of success, which is, after all, much more fun for everyone.

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Traps which work well with NPCs

Dining_Chair_LACMA_M.2000.51Characters think nothing of entering a room with an NPC and just sitting down. So…

Spiky Chairs (CR 3)

Several armchairs have been placed around the room. They all seem to have overstuffed cushions.

Type: mechanical; Perception DC 28; Disable Device 16

Trigger Touch; Reset Repair


Just under the cushions are several sharp, barbed spikes. Spikes (DC 18 Reflex Save or take 1d3 damage and become entangled with the chair. DC 22 Escape Artist or DC 22 Strength check to free from chair, however, if Strength is used, an additional 1d3 damage is dealt)

If you offer the PCs food or drink, of course they will be suspicious. But who is wary of a comfy chair? This would be a perfect beginning to a combat encounter. Several of the characters sit in the offered chairs, and become stuck as guards or thugs arrive. You can always poison these things, too.  This trap can also make future social interactions somewhat awkward for the PCs. A host could take offense at the PCs poking and prodding the furniture before they sit down. The PCs may even refuse to sit down, further offending the host.