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DnD3.5e: I'm in need of a master trapsmith

   
I'm in need of a master trapsmith

So, as an attempt to put together a game idea that I had, I'm trying to build two dungeons. One is relatively small (three levels, each fit on a 40x40 grid), and the other is going to be rather huge (I haven't decided how many levels it will be, but in this case, "dungeon" means "tower").

My problem is, I'm finding it difficult to become inspired. I have a handful of trap and creature encounters for the small dungeon, but I'm already staring at a huge wall of writer's block.

So, I was wondering, do any of you experienced GMs have a handy list, sourcebook, or webpage of tricks, traps, and other nasties that I can draw on?

Book of Challenges is the obvious sourcebook, featuring a good amount of random encounters, traps and puzzles. It is a bit old (I think t dates back from the 3ed. days), so probably many of the traps featured there are already known to the general public - probably you know them as well - but if you are okay with modifying them a bit you can bypass that writer's block.

I'm not sure, but the Wizards site usually has ideas of the sort. You could also check their official adventures for ideas and/or general pointers (Tomb of Horrors is a deadly trap inside a deadly trap covered with many little deadly traps).

Actually, as somebody who's never seriously DMed before, I'd never even heard of Book of Challenges, so thank you for that info. I'm going to start reading through it right now.

Some anecdotal traps (from either the GM point of view, or the player's) is encouraged, aside from official sources. Some of the best traps and dungeon rooms I've ever heard of came from ingenious and sadistic GMs.

Actually, some of my trap ideas and concepts came out of Uncle Scrooge comic books XD
Comic theme aside, a pressure plate triggering huge hammers swinging around are no laughing matter - those are deadly!

I'd say it depends on how paranoid your players are, and how well you can predict what they'll do. I once designed a trap where the obvious feature was a small hole in the wall next to a door. When the rogue probed the hole with his 10' pole, poisoned darts shot from the ceiling 10' away from the wall... exactly where he was standing.

When he called BS on me, I handed him the index card I had written on when I designed the trap.
Quote:
Poison Dart Trap (CR 3)
touch trigger; automatic reset; Atk +8 ranged (1d4 plus giant wasp poison (DC 18 Fort, 1d6 Dex/1d6 Dex); Search DC 24; Disable Device DC 24.

When the contact plate is pushed, needles shoot from the ceiling 10' away from the wall; this is a defense against one of the common techniques used by "treasure liberators". Sucks to be that guy, doesn't it?

Of course, his paranoia was justified, since that trap also included (on a separate card):
Quote:
Contact Poison (CR 1)
The contact plate is smeared with malyss root paste (DC 16 Fort, 1 Dex/2d4 Dex). A DC 18 Search check will reveal this fact, and it can be bypassed easily since it's merely a contact poison. Pushing the plate opens the door but triggers the poison dart trap.

Which means if he took time to look more closely, he could have pushed the plate from 5 feet away instead of 10 feet, completely bypassing the trap. I like that.

For the record, I don't want this to be like Tomb of Horrors, where the death rate is near 100%. I want to make the dungeons challenging and interesting, with the possibility of death, but I don't want to make my players paranoid.

Or should I be trying to make them paranoid?

Concerning traps, my experience in tabletop gaming is fairly straigtforward: one single trap in a dungeon will make the players look for other traps in every single door, room, chest... I don't know if this happens in pbp, but including traps comes with the likely cost of making players paranoid for as long as they are in that dungeon.

Fair enough.

I guess my gut instinct was correct then. Doing a few traps-within-traps helps the experience.

Keep in mind that a trap can exist in a game as one of several forms:

As an alternative form of puzzle, a trap is sometimes a fun encounter. In order for this to work, the players must be aware that the trap is there and need to be able to glean some information about how the trap works based on your description. Death traps are only acceptable here.

As a supplement to an encounter, a trap is something used to make an encounter more difficult or more interesting. Fighting the vampiric dragonkin is cool, yes, but doing so when his spells are exclusively variations on shatter and disintegrate and you're fighting on a searing-hot floating island in the midst of a magma sea is interesting (I'm treating the damaging environment as the trap). Or, fighting the enemy archers would be a simple matter, except that a gas fills the chamber, lowering the players' dexterity so that they cannot respond in kind. This sort of placement is a way to make people consider different tactical options than they've gotten used to.

As a well-hidden source of almost-inevitable damage, a trap is useful only to demonstrate that someone or something in-game is a total douchebag. Mage McMageypants, the BBEG fights the players and loses. The players take their hard-earned spoils and find his spellbook. On the front cover is a symbol of insanity, which causes the party to kill each other down to two members. What did this accomplish? It was something that was either found (and presumably disarmed easily), or not (in which case, many people die). From the perspective of the players, neither result is satisfying. If found, it was just a source of easy experience. If not, then it was an inevitable effect that the party couldn't really fight against. Challenging things are really only satisfying when you can beat them. As DMs, we do terrible things to our players to make it so that the ones who survive feel epic. There's no ultimate victory over something that happens without warning and then is gone.

I've come along a grand circle from the early days of my D&D experiences.

I was thinking about something: how difficult do you guys find it to balance damage from traps against the party's resources and future monster encounters?

For example, I'm thinking of starting the game at level 4, but due to certain circumstances, the characters won't be starting with anything other than trashy basic gear. Which means no potions, no scrolls, etc etc. How do I balance that against damaging traps without arbitrarily padding it all by throwing consumables at them?




 

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