Combat in tabletops can be fun, but every once in a while its nice to mix things up with some traps.
Looking around, most ‘simple’ traps I saw were also boring: make a skill check, you pass and nothing happens or you fail and take some damage.
Instead, I’ve decided to share 5 traps that I used in my run of the Demon’s Maw module. These traps are designed to get the players involved, build intrigue, and bring fun to the table.
These traps encourage collaboration, excite the emotions, and take limited time to solve, allowing you to fit many other encounters into a session.
Description: Non-lethal, psychological. Has more impact the cheaper the character/player is. Best handled in real time. EST completion time varies from 1-10 min.
Setup: The players are transported into this trap.
This trap is a simple setup: an enclosed room with no obvious exits. In the center of the room is a rune-inscribed device with a single gold-coin-sized slot in the top.
Above the device looms a giant, ominous timer of red magical light. The timer begins counting down at 1:00.
The players have 60 seconds until the timer runs out. Every time they insert a gold coin into the device, the timer resets back to 60 seconds.
If you need a timer you can find one here, just have the player’s click ‘reset’ every time they insert a gold coin.
Play: The players will begin asking questions about the room and searching for a way out. During this time, if possible, display the countdown timer on a big screen in front of the players.
The walls, ceiling, and floor are made of the same are boring, featureless stone. If they manage to deal enough damage to break any of the stone a green substance begins oozing out of the hole and filling the room.
Escape: When the timer runs out, a portal appears in the center of the room. Stepping through the portal transports the character out of the trap.
Three Blocks, a Cake, and a Potion
Description: Non-lethal, magic, puzzle. EST completion time 2-15 min.
Setup: The players are transported into this trap.
They find themselves standing atop a 15×15 foot platform (actually a 15′ cube) in the center of stone room that is 50′ on each wall. The top of the platform is covered in intricate colored drawings giving it the appearance of stained glass.
There are two 5 foot by 5 foot blocks on top of the platform and in front of each block is a recess that it can be pushed into.
There is also a fanciful, white tea-table.
On top of the tea table is a slice of cake, next to it a bottle of blue liquid, and a note. There is tag attached to the bottle that says “Drink me” and a tag on the cake that says “Eat me“.
The note on the table reads, “The first block readies the release, the second brings the haze, the third shall set you free.”
Play: If a player drinks from the vial they shrink down to 3 inches tall. If they eat some of the cake they grow to Gargantuan size.
The blocks on top of the platform are (relatively) easy to move: with a DC 15 Strength check they slide and click into place.
When the second block is pushed into place an eerie, purple gas begins to fill the room. At the end of each round it rises 5 ft. Anyone breathing in the gas must succeed on a DC 14 CON save or fall unconscious.
The players tend to figure this out very quickly or else they struggle and panic when the gas enters the room.
Escape: When a player is gargantuan they may make a DC 15 Strength Ability Check to push the platform into forward 15 feet. When the players push the third block into place (the platform on which they are standing) there is a loud ‘click’ and one of the 3×5 inch stained-glass tiles near the tea-table swings open, revealing a portal.
If the players drink the shrinking potion and escape they are returned to normal size when they exit the portal.
Mirror of Unending Undead
Description: Straightforward, combat trap. EST completion time ~1 difficult encounter.
Setup: The players enter a room; the door locks magically behind them. The room is a 60 foot cube with no features of interest except for an elaborate, 10 foot wide oak-bound mirror that stretches to the ceiling. The oak frame of the mirror is covered in polished skull carvings. The door through which they entered has a peculiarly shaped keyhole.
When looking through the mirror the PCs see everything you would expect to see in the mirror, aa well as 2d4 animate skeletons (see Player Handbook or Monster Manual for stats) crowding around the mirror. When looking into the mirror, a DC 16 Perception check reveals that there is a key hanging on the far wall.
Curiously, this key is not actually in the same room as the mirror; rather, it is hanging on the far side of the wall in the room inside the mirror.
Play: To reach the key on the other side of the mirror the players must first shatter the mirror, collapsing both rooms into one. The skeletons cannot break the mirror, though they will try to attack the PCs if they get too close.
When the mirror is shattered, combat begins. The mirror shatters like a normal mirror, but the very fabric of space ripples within the room as skeletons (and the key) are shifted into the room from the mirror-world.
At the start of each round after the first, 1d4 additional skeletons crawl out of the shards of the mirror into the room, acting on the lowest initative in the combat.
Escape: If the PCs manage to open the door behind them, as with a knock spell, they find only a wall.
The skeletons will continue to spawn infinitely.
To escape the room, the PCs must grab the key, which fits the peculiarly shaped keyhole of the door, and use it to open the door to the room.
The skeletons will pursue beyond the room, but once the door is shut the mirror reforms, pulling all the skeletons back into the mirror world.
When they exit the trap, the PCs should find themselves in a hallway on the other side of the chamber as though they had walked through the chamber.
For bonus fun: Use this as an inversion point of a dungeon. Introduce a change in the seemingly familiar dungeon environment that now makes it possible to solve puzzles that could not be solved before: the map is now reversed, certain NPCs now have their alignment flipped, doors that opened inward now open outward, etc…