Dungeons and Dragons consists of three components. Combat, Social Interaction and Exploration. The first two are quite self-explanatory, but Exploration is a collection of everything else the players do in the world. It’s walking through woods, exploring dungeons and best of all.. traps! What makes traps fun in my opinion is that is has consequences for the rest of the game. If the players fall for the trap it can cost them the precious HP and healing options they might need in the battles to come. But how do you set up effective and fun traps for your game? Here is how to do it in three easy steps:
The first and most important part of the trap is making sure it fits the location. Animal traps like snares and pits makes sense in a forest and flamethrowers might make sense when someone the wrong code on a heavily secured vault door. But why would a simple farm have poisoned arrows in their bedroom or a troll cave have an anti-magic-field? As long as it is a fitting trigger you can choose any. A pressure plate, a failed puzzle, tripwire or failing to pick a lock.
Now for the fun part. You don’t want to outright kill a PC, but you do want them to face the consequences of triggering the trap. You can simply damage them with arrows, a rolling boulder or fire, you can lock them up by dropping a cage, locking the doors or letting rocks fall around them or you can give the future disadvantages by poisoning them, alerting more Goblins or flooding the room.
Hints and clues
Traps are fun, but to make it a challenge and not just an attack on the characters, you need to give them the option to succeed. You can do so by giving little hints about either the trap’s trigger or effect. A pressure tile might be slightly higher or cleaner than the rest or the floor, there might be blood splatters or burn marks on the walls or there might be small slits in the wall for arrows, gas or water to come in through. Incorporate these details slightly into your description and choose a DC on spotting it. Now, let the games begin!
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