• Justin Handlin

Engaging Traps!

Listen: Episode 24 Crit Academy brings you 10 tips on how to make your Dungeons and Dragons traps fun and engaging, as well as 10 pit falls (see what I did there?) to avoid when running traps.

10: Traps without a cause:

  • Traps should guard or protect something or assist their allies in combat.

  • Traps that have no apparent reason can be kind of annoying.

9: Traps out of Scope of the Creator

  • If there is a magical cross bow guarding a Worgs layer, there better be a damn good reason for it.

8: Too many traps in expected places.

  • If you constantly place traps on treasure chests, you can bet the players will likely throw the next chest they find over board or down a ravine. This also applies to things like doors and statues.

  • Use traps on common objects sparingly. We don’t need heroes being paranoid.

7: Traps that counter PC planning.

  • A castle full of fire demons shouldn’t be full of ice traps.

  • Players that plan for fire traps and take proper precautions should be rewarded for their planning by giving them what they expect.

6: Traps in unexpected places.

  • It may seem realistic or effective but putting traps in mundane, surprising or otherwise unremarkable area, but placing them in places the players take for granted means they can’t do so anymore.

  • They could end up testing every location and slowing on the pace of the game a lot.

5: Traps designed to defeat the rogue.

  • If your players devote resources to defeating traps, don’t punish them by making traps more difficult to over-come.

  • They will be a lot happier if their investment and choices have a meaningful impact.

4: Traps that make a PC sit out of the fight.

  • Try to avoid too many traps that lock down the player entirely, leaving them to do nothing. Especially something that lasts the entire combat encounter. This just gets boring for them at what should be the most engaging part.

3: Traps without countermeasures.

  • A trap without countermeasures is about as fun as fighting a monster that’s invincible.

  • Give the PCs multiple means of defeating a trap. Just like you would a challenging monster.

2: Traps that don’t give experience.

  • Sometimes it can feel like a player didn’t earn experience for circumventing a trap with a clever idea or high roll. Sure they were lucky but to them, it feels like great success!

1: Deadly traps.

  • It may seem like a more deadly trap is more fearsome, and it is, but a player killed by a single trap instantly without any warning is about as fun as getting home from work and finding your house on fire.

  • You can make them dangerous but don’t allow them to outright killed players.

10 ways to make traps more fun!

10: Reward the PC’s with treasure.

  • Perhaps the remains of victims of the crushing ceiling or wall are still in the trap, along with their belt pouch and weapons.

9: Reveal details of the world.

  • Perhaps the crushing ceiling or falling boulder reveals an ancient glyph that reveals the true deity of the ancient temple.

8: Have an encounter with the trap maker.

  • The PC’s can meet/interrogate the creator of the trap(s)

  • Allow them to gain information and insight into traps they may run into later.

  • (False information from the trap keeper could be a thing too)

7: Give an adventure tip.

  • The iron portcullis that drops down to seal the PC’s in a room of pendulum blades has a carved representation of the dungeon complex in the pattern of its iron bars. It’s a map.

6: Give the players something to learn.

  • If removing the red gem sets off the statue’s trap, stepping on a red mosaic in the floor sounds an alarm, and pulling the red-handed lever made the bridge turn sideways, the PCS might think twice about opening that giant red door.

5: Reveal a new section of a dungeon.

  • Give that spiked pit a secret access tunnel so that bodies and valuable can be retrieved with-out a risky climb into the pit itself.

4: Team it up with other traps

  • A poison needle trapped chest is much more interesting when it’s sitting between two fire breathing statues in a room that is spitting lava darts out of the walls.

3: Give PCs control.

  • Let them reset traps and allow them to lure their foes into the trap.

  • Or let them jury-rig the trap to go off when it is supposed to be safe to pass.

2: Provide ways for every PC to contribute:

  • Maybe a spell caster can reveal a secret panel hidden by an illusion spell.

  • Perhaps the group’s strongman can try to hold the trap open with strength checks long enough for the group to pass.

1: Combine it with Combat!

  • A room with a spiked pit trap is much more interesting when the monsters are trying to shove the PC’s down it, or vice versa.

  • Have a fight on a set of stairs that turns into a slippery ramp with a spike pit at the bottom can be most interesting.

Unearthed Tips and Tricks: New and reusable D&D content for you to bring with you on your next adventure.

Character Concept: Last of the bloodline

Character is part of a special bloodline and is the last one alive.

Why are they the last of a blood line?

Are they royalty of sorts?

Is there blood line feared or hated?

Is there blood line known for hating a particular race?

Monster Variant: Eyerot Shrub

Origin: Awakened Shrub


Variation of Sight Rot (inhale variation)A creature who ingests the pollen from this plant gains a painful infection that causes bleeding from the eyes and eventually blinds the victim. The spores are released into the area around the spore either by high winds or rustling caused by contact.

The creature must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or become infected. One day after infection the creature’s vision starts to become blurry. The creature takes a -1 penalty to attack rolls and ability checks that rely on sight. At the end of each long rest after the symptoms appear, the penalty worsens by 1. When it reaches -5, the victim is blinded until its sight is restored by magic such as lesser restoration or heal.

Sight rot can be cured by using a rare flower called Eyebright, which grows in some swamps. Given an hour, a character that has proficiency with an herbalism kit can turn the flower into one does of ointment. Applied to the yes before a long rest, one does of it prevents the disease from worsening after that rest. After three doses, the ointment cures the disease entirely.

Encounter: Pendulum Corridor!

Characters are engaged with enemies in a large hallway, preferably against smaller opponents such as kobolds or goblins. An enemy type with a leader who could care less about his cannon fodder. The enemy leader triggers a trap of swinging pendulum scythes in the corridor during combat.

Creates additional danger for both sides

Gives lesser actions meaning – Shove? Trip?

Creates difficult terrain – via blades or bodies

Gives a trap to be dealt with or ignored

Creates a bloody mess – who doesn’t love that

Magic Item: Sailors Dream (Aurican’s Lair)

Sentient Tattoo – This tattoo can be purchased from magical gypsy women the outskirts of a port town. The ink she uses brings this tattoo to life to cure the loneliness most sailors experience on the high seas. Aside from the tattoo being able to dance, it also can hold its own in a conversation. DM’s Discretion if the tattoo is jealous of others of the opposite sex in the party or when a character speaks to an NPC of the opposite sex.

Dungeon Master Tip: Reinforce statements.

When a player says something, that’s it, it’s done!

Player: “I gut the dirty little goblin! Oh wait, I want to ask him a question first!”

DM: Too late!

Player: “Hehe, I slap the noble. Hahahahaha”

DM: He shouts. “Guards!” and has you arrested.

Player: “Wait, what? I was just kidding!”

DM: He didn’t think it was funny.

Reinforcing statements of the players can help maintain focus on the story, as well constantly remind them that the world is living and breathing, and there are consequences for the characters actions.

Player Tip: Don’t be a dick! You can avoid dickitude by...

Sticking with the group!

Don’t be the guy who goes off on their own every time the part wants to do something!

Slows down the game unnecessarily and puts your character at risk, often for no reason other than to be different.

If you have any feedback, unearthed tips and tricks or topics you would like us to discuss, please send them to us. You can email them to us at critacademy@gmail.com or find us on twitter and facebook @critacademy.

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