Traps and Hazards

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Didn't I tell you NOT to touch that?!?

There are several ways for a GM to present an encounter with one or more traps:

  • Trapped objects are a simple pair of checks -- one to notice the trap, and one to dismantle it.
  • Useful for when you don't want to waste a bunch of game time on a trap.
  • Architectural traps are simple puzzles in a room that slow a party's progress briefly.
  • Useful to indicate that clever creatures are nearby, and foreshadow more significant traps might lie ahead.
  • Trapped rooms are group skill checks -- everyone needs to get through this very dangerous room.
  • Use when you want to establish that a location is heavily warded against intruders.
  • Trapped encounters are traps run like monsters, as part of a monster combat encounter, encouraging one or more party members to pay attention to the trap instead of fighting monsters.
  • Use when you want a memorable encounter that doesn't follow the standard "kill everything that isn't us" theme.

Trapped Objects

The simplest, and perhaps most well known, means of presenting a trap is a single trapped object, such as a trapped door or trapped chest. This is a relatively simple pass/fail test that might inflict a little bit of damage on one or more characters in the party (and potentially an annoying condition), but most often will just slow them down a little and let them know that they are in a dangerous place.

A trapped object could be literally anything, from a doll on a shelf, to a scroll, to a window, but generally, there should be some reason that the object was trapped. Most creatures that trap an object do so with the intention of capturing, disabling, scaring off, or killing someone who attempts to go somewhere they are unwelcome, or who attempts to tamper with something that the owner doesn't want messed with. Of course, some creatures (like goblins) may trap a child's toy just for the sheer evil amusement of leaving it for some hapless child to find.

In any case, there are two skill checks involved with a trapped object:

Detecting the Trap

The perception check is usually an active check, rather than a passive check, though some crude traps might be so obvious that the GM will allow passive checks. The only creatures that are allowed to make the perception check are those who are either touching the trapped object (in the case of an unattended object, like a chest), or those who are adjacent to the trapped object (in the case of a structural object, like a door or window).

As a general rule of thumb, only creatures in the 'danger zone' of the trap can attempt to perceive the trap.

Disabling the Trap

If the trap is perceived by one or more creatures, someone can attempt to disable it before it is triggered. Again, this check can only be made by someone who is touching the object (in the case of an unattended object, like a chest), or those who are adjacent to the trapped object (in the case of a structural object, like a door or window). This is also the case with assisting the skill check -- the assisting character must be touching or adjacent, as appropriate, in order to assist.

There are three possible outcomes:

  • No one noticed the trap, and the triggering action is taken (the chest or door is opened), and the trap goes off.
  • The trap was noticed, but the disable device check was failed, causing the trap to go off.
  • The trap was noticed, and successfully disarmed.

Trapped Object Damage

Trapped objects deal damage depending on a few factors:

  • The CR of the trap
  • How many targets are affected
  • Whether a condition is inflicted, in addition to the damage, or not

A single target trap will typically inflict more damage than a trap that affects an area. A trap that inflicts a status condition will typically deal less damage than one that doesn't. In nearly all cases, the trap should allow a Reflex saving throw versus a CR-appropriate DC, for half damage and no condition.

A multi-target trap will most often affect every creature in an area of effect. Frequently, these areas of effect are small enough to not destroy the other contents of the location (assuming the trapping creature cares about the other parts of the location), but they can be bigger. GMs may wish to scale down the damage a little if the area of effect is large.

The following table provides some sample damage numbers for traps at various CR's:

CR Single Target Single Target w/ Condition Multi-Target Multi-Target w/ Condition Save DC
1 1d6 1d4 1d4 1d3 14
2 1d10 1d8 1d8 1d4 15
3 1d10+2 1d8+1 1d8+1 1d6 15
4 1d10+5 1d8+3 1d8+3 1d6+1 16
5 1d10+7 1d8+4 1d8+4 1d6+2 17
6 1d10+9 1d8+6 1d8+6 1d6+4 18
7 2d10+7 2d8+4 2d8+4 2d6+2 18
8 2d10+10 2d8+6 2d8+6 2d6+4 19
9 2d10+13 2d8+8 2d8+8 2d6+5 19
10 2d10+16 2d8+10 2d8+10 2d6+6 20
CR Single Target Single Target w/ Condition Multi-Target Multi-Target w/ Condition Save DC
11 3d10+12 3d8+7 3d8+7 3d6+4 21
12 3d10+15 3d8+9 3d8+9 3d6+5 22
13 3d10+18 3d8+11 3d8+11 3d6+7 23
14 3d10+21 3d8+13 3d8+13 3d6+8 24
15 3d10+24 3d8+16 3d8+16 3d6+10 26
16 4d10+23 3d8+18 3d8+18 4d6+8 27
17 4d10+26 4d8+17 4d8+17 4d6+10 27
18 4d10+30 4d8+19 4d8+19 4d6+12 28
19 4d10+33 4d8+22 4d8+22 4d6+14 29.
20 4d10+38 4d8+25 4d8+25 4d6+16 30
CR Single Target Single Target w/ Condition Multi-Target Multi-Target w/ Condition Save DC
21 5d10+38 5d8+24 5d8+24 5d6+15 31
22 5d10+43 5d8+28 5d8+28 5d6+18 32
23 5d10+49 5d8+32 5d8+32 5d6+21 33
24 5d10+55 5d8+36 5d8+36 5d6+23 34
25 5d10+60 5d8+40 5d8+40 5d6+26 35
26 6d10+61 6d8+40 6d8+40 6d6+26 36
27 6d10+66 6d8+44 6d8+44 6d6+29 37
28 6d10+72 6d8+48 6d8+48 6d6+32 38
29 6d10+78 6d8+52 6d8+52 6d6+34 40.
30 6d10+83 6d8+56 6d8+56 6d6+37 41
CR Single Target Single Target w/ Condition Multi-Target Multi-Target w/ Condition Save DC
31 6d10+89 6d8+60 6d8+60 6d6+40 43
32 6d10+94 6d8+64 6d8+64 6d6+43 44
33 6d10+100 6d8+68 6d8+68 6d6+46 45
34 6d10+107 6d8+73 6d8+73 6d6+49 46
35 6d10+114 6d8+78 6d8+78 6d6+53 47
36 6d10+121 6d8+83 6d8+83 6d6+56 48
37 6d10+128 6d8+88 6d8+88 6d6+60 49
38 6d10+135 6d8+93 6d8+93 6d6+63 50
39 6d10+142 6d8+98 6d8+98 6d6+67 51.
40 6d10+149 6d8+103 6d8+103 6d6+70 52

Architectural Traps

An architectural trap can be either a mechanical or magical trap or hazard that is built into the terrain. The classic example is a room with two doors and three levers on the wall. What does it do?! Architectural traps can be as simple or dynamic as desired, and can include classic 'puzzle rooms', areas of a dungeon that rotate to cut off movement, teleport rooms that send the party to an unknown area, pocket dimensions that require an entire series of quests and adventures to re-open and many, many other things. Let your imagination run wild!

In general, these sorts of traps are meant to break up a long string of fights with a more puzzle-y or role-playing type of encounter, in the absence of NPCs to interact with. They can also be useful story hooks to imply that clever creatures inhabit this location, and to foreshadow the presence of more dangerous traps to come.

Trapped Rooms or Passages

Sometimes the party knows a room or passageway is full of traps, and just wants to get through them all without dying. Traps are always a tricky proposition for a GM, since they're not actually all that exciting for players, even when they're playing the thief who can actually disarm them. For the thief, it's just a skill check, and for everyone else, their health and well-being hinges on just how good that skill check comes out. Not exciting, just annoying. Instead, make it a group check, after someone spots the first trap, to have everyone try to navigate through this parade of swinging-blade-, poison-dart-, spiked pit-, sharks with laser beams-filled Hallway of Death™.

  • Everyone in the party rolls an Acrobatics or Movement check (their choice) against an Average DC for the Challenge Rating of the traps or area. The players need a number of successes equal to to the number of party members present (including any NPC's).
  • Cruel Traps: If the traps the party are attempting to bypass were created by highly intelligent trapsmiths, renowned for their ability to create clever and unpredictable traps, increase the target DC to Challenging, or even (rarely) Hard.
  • Sloppy Traps: If the traps were hastily created, or made from scavenged junk by idiots or crazy people (like goblins), consider reducing the target DC to Easy.
  • Mounted: If the party is mounted (or has pack animals), increase the number of required successes by half the number of mounts present (round down, minimum 1). Mounts can be really hard to lead around a series of pressure plates in a floor.
  • Clever Mounts: If a mount knows the Entertain or Perform tricks (see Handle Animal), their rider may, if they wish, roll a skill check for the mount using the rider's own skill, and add this result to the overall tally for the party. If the rider prefers the mount doesn't roll (because their own skill isn't great), they can elect not to add their mount's roll into the mix instead. Useful!
  • Clumsy: If the party isn't really in control of its own movements (because they're drunk, or the trapped hallway is a slope covered in ice, etc.), increase the difficulty category by one step (e.g. Average to Challenging).
  • In a Hurry: If the party wants to move at full speed, increase the difficulty category by one step (e.g. Average to Challenging). This includes double moves. If the party wants to run through the trap-riddled murder palace, increase the difficulty by two steps (e.g. Average to Hard). If the difficulty category would ever be raised above Impossible, increase the number of required successes by 3 for each step above impossible. Good luck with that.

Group Skill Check Outcomes

  • Success: If the party equals or exceeds the number of required successes, they manage to navigate the area without setting anything off.
  • Almost, Not Quite: If the party rolls 1 or 2 fewer successes than the required number, they make it most of the way through, but make one little mistake.
1d6 Consequences
1 The party arrives at the end of the trapped passage (or the exit of the room) Prone and a stone door closes, sealing off the passage they just came from. The only way out is through!
2 The party almost makes it through, when a trap door opens beneath their feet, dropping them 30 feet to a level below where they were (and causing them to take 3d6 falling damage). Then the trap door slams shut, leaving no indication it was ever there. The party's avenue of retreat is now uncertain unless they can find a way back up.
3 Someone steps on the wrong thing, and a bright flash goes off. Everyone in the party becomes Blind to all sight-based senses for 1d4 minutes. During this time they hear large sections of stone moving around. When the blindness wears off, the area has completely rearranged itself.
  • Moderate Failure: If the party rolls 3 or 4 fewer successes than the required number, they make it most of the way through, except for that tripline no one saw. The party takes 1d4 points of (bludgeoning, fire, acid, psychic, etc. -- pick one) damage per CR of the traps in this area. They can reduce this damage individually if they have ER or DR of the appropriate type.
  • Abject Failure: If the party misses the required number of successes by 5 or more (or simply fail to achieve any successes), they try their best, but just keep falling for some new trigger. Multiple traps are set off. Everyone must make a Reflex versus an Average DC for the CR of the traps in this area. Those who fail the save take 1d6+1 points of (bludgeoning, fire, acid, psychic, etc. -- pick one) damage per CR of the traps in this area and are Crippled until cured. Those who succeed on the save take only half damage and are Impaired until cured.

As with the other examples, these results should be changed up each time, but can be used as a guideline for what is reasonable.

  • Instead of simple damage from a moderate failure, maybe the party's next encounter is an ambush, since they made so much noise getting there that the monsters had time to prepare for them.
  • For the worst failures, instead of Impaired and Crippled, any other moderate and weak status condition could be chosen. Coupled with damage, this uses up valuable resources in the party, and makes the next encounters more dangerous, especially if they happen while the party is still trying to recover. Alternatively, maybe the traps only do a bit of damage, but they make so much noise that an encounter occurs right away. Worse yet, the encounter happens when the party's back is to the trapped hallway, and the monsters are smart enough to do bull rushes, forcing the party back into the hazardous terrain if they can.

As you can see, group skill checks are extremely useful ways to quickly abstract part of an adventure when the action might otherwise lag. They're simple to adjudicate on the fly, and can still be exciting for a party if applied well.

Trap Encounters

Trap encounters are the classic dungeon 'big scary traps' that the players have stepped into. The classic is the 'crushing room' trap, which is well represented below. We present a selection of such Encounter traps below, each of which is designed to be integrated into a combat as part of the battle, because a crushing room trap is so much more interesting when it has a batch of lunatic goblins in it WITH you, trying to kill you before the trap gets everybody.

These trap write-ups are designed to be used with the The ConTRAPtion, and can adjust the CR to match any campaign, and then Complications can be added to keep traps from feeling monotonous. Have fun tormenting your party, but remember, always be fair!

List of Traps

Bladed Terror Trap

Burninate Trap

Crippling Ray Trap

Forest of Spears Trap

Implacable Crushing Trap

List of Complications


Lingering Pain

Moving Origin Space