Sunday 24 September 2017


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This was prompt for a paragraph response blog post.

Actually it's 2, I'm conjoining them 

"Gross dungeon traps and how to utilize them purposefully."

"traps. why are they there? what are they for? who built them? how do you make them seem like an organic part of the setting and not just something the dm put in to annoy you?"

Firstly making traps "realistic/genre appropriate " is good as it adds predictability to them. 
and predictability in the sense of when something goes wrong for the p.cs , the players feel it's their fault.

Then there's the weird spectator  of "fairness".
The unstated working definition of fairness is often** "it appropriately tests what I enjoying getting better at doing"
(yeah "appropriate" is bit much wiggle room here, but there's no room to sum up difficulty curves here)   

So for traps to be fair, they need to be testing the ability of players to think and understand the environment they are in and solutions they come up with.

If they are somewhere , it needs to make sense in setting. How they work should have enough interactive parts to further predict , tamper, or disable them.

The how-they-work bit can be tricky as a lot of genre appropriate traps are absurd, i.e Indy Jones style magically-working , never-needing-maintenance,auto-resetting traps.

But as long there's enough work parts to them to tamper with , players are generally along for the ride.

Example :poison dart traps will have a supply of darts and a trigger but you can prob get away with 
not worrying about how the poison stays fresh and where all the cogs and springs are.

Magic can used to handwave exact details away, sure, but make sure there's enough working parts to it so it can be tampered and predicted. 

Opening a room to a lightning bolt that comes out of no-where and automatically targets the players and nothing else is bad. Having a pressure plate (classic) , or some secret sign worn by the occupants that avoids triggering , is better.


-Traps can be used to put in alternative entrances to somewhere. The one that the occupants use can have more guards , the rest have a trap , which is at very least a noise or smell maker.

-Some traps aren't designed to be reset. The old caving-in tomb is one.

-Traps can designed so they selective target people, in really simple ways.
A rope with hooks at throat height (for humans ) is very easy to make and small goblins can use harassing fire before fleeing down a corridor just strung.
The tiger pit trap that collapses when something heavier than you walks across it.
Methane pockets against torch users

-If you got higher ground and someone willing to wait around then anything heavy becomes a trap.

- A shallow hole with a shit covered sharp stick is another classic. Best used if the target is otherwise distracted .


Then there's this genre convention of traps everywhere that no-one seems to maintain or reset,   directly benefits from and living beings wander near by etc.
Which can be explain as the dungeon is actually hates you .

(A idea I was trying to trace back , and Scott Martin mentioned this , specifically page 22, in which the weird door rules of early d&d are explained as the metalife of the dungeon acting against you)

 There's a bunch of stuff written now all over the blogosphere about dungeons growing ,actual grow in forgotten areas, creating treasure and monsters inside themselves to lure people in , not being completely lethal so people come out with treasure often enough that people here about it etc, possible gold is evil and tends to get locked up in basements and then hatches in a dungeon etc.

So yes, traps could be another way of a dungeon feeding on people


If a dungeon is a lifeform , and all life forms have parasites then traps could be parasite organisms inside the dungeon.

The pit-trap has spikes which tunnel like tooth bores and secrets digestive acid, but underneath the stoney shell it's killable flesh

Inside the wall shooting poison darts at you is a spine spitting sac , with tendrils that lead down under the floor, little feathery tongues come out and lap away at the paralyzed

Swinging blades that when cut , thrash like gaffed fish on the stone.

**also "inappropriately advantages some people above others" 

1 comment:

  1. I envy your devil-may-care disregard for the rules of punctuation and formatting.