View Full Version : Interesting traps/surprise encounters(system neutral)

2013-01-25, 05:40 PM
Anyone have tales of interesting environmental traps/ambushes they've used while GMing/encountered while playing?:smallsmile:

A few I've used(two ambushes and two traps);

A pool of sticky--and more importantly flammable--tree sap, with an oddly shaped stick, and a few pebbles and coins in it.
The trap happened when a player went to try to search the pool of sap, getting some on himself...he then light a torch with flint and tinder...the sap, being flammable, caught fire, burning him a bit(though I did rule it burnt out quickly).
I do find it entertaining I was able to lure a PC into sticking his arm into a pool of unknown(but pine sap scented) sticky liquid by putting "an oddly shaped stick" at the bottom of it.

Same campaign, right before they entered the tunnels where they found the pool of sap, I described a small pond, covered with pond scum with a few tiny bubbles rising to it's surface from time to time.
He then searched it by poking around with a stick in it, hitting a small patch of "rocks" and knocking loose three fresh cucumbers, one partly eaten, from the rocks(this was a campaign where they had encountered Asian creatures/aspects before, so I had sort of expected them to guess what was coming next)..
They then seemed completely uninterested in the cucumbers(which struck as weird...doesn't it seem unusual to poke a pond and get a salad?) and began to wander off when a confused kappa(whose shell they mistook for a patch of rocks) came out of the pond and asked for it's food back.
It didn't end up a combat, as they figured it out quick once I told them what a kappa was, and gave him his cucumbers back(in exchange he told them where the NPC they were seeking had gone from there).

Same campaign(a while after the sap incident, but still in the same cave/tunnel system) the PCs came across a section of tunnel about fifty feet long, where streams of water were leaking from the side of the tunnels, creating a bunch of shallow rivers...the trap being that the deep parts had very sticky silt, hence why the tracks they were following were zigzagging(which is apparently a word?:smallconfused:, according to my spellcheck anyway) along the tunnel, avoiding the deep bits.
I do wonder if the conversation they were having at an npc right after they got there was why they fell for it, as it may have distracted them from the presence of the streams.

2013-01-25, 05:51 PM
When it comes to mechanical traps, make them useful for the builders purpose. A trap that just deals 1d6 points of damage and then the intruders just keep on walking doesn't do anything. Any useful trap would have to reliably take out any intruders in a way that they are no longer a danger. They are also boring because by the time you know that there is a trap, it already has done all its work and the players can no longer interact with it in any way.

But you don't want to have "you failed a spot check, you are dead" situations. So mechanical traps should be all about confining intruders and allerting guards.

2013-01-25, 06:34 PM
I can't tale credit for this one - it was in a module, but it played out almost perfectly for optimal entertainment when my PCs ran through the adventure.

They burst into a room full of humanoids. Over in a corner is a chest. Elsewhere in the room is a small pillow with a gem on top of it. The chest is trapped - it causes the gem to explode if not disarmed.

How did my PCs handle this one? They burst into the room. Most of the party engaged the humanoids. However, the party rogue spent the first round telekinetically bringing the gem to her and stowing it in her pouch of goodies. Once the combat was over, the rogue checked the chest and didn't find any. The PCs suspecting a trap had most of the party move out into the hallway, leaving the party's fighter and cleric (the toughest members) to open the chest. The two of them laughed for several minutes straight when I described that they heard a boom out in the hallway when they opened the chest. Those out in the hallway were naturally bunched together, hoping to avoid whatever fate befell the two in the room, which ended up with the explosion hitting ALL of them, plus spilling the rogue's pouch of ill-gotten gains all over the hall.

2013-01-25, 06:57 PM
One of my favorites (gotten from the Dungeonscape book) is the "wall catapult". While it is technically a combination of two traps, both are needed for the entire effect.
The first mechanism, which is typically triggered by stepping on a panel, slides one of the walls open while tilting the floor towards the now open area and forcing a balance check. This is typically pretty harmless, until someone (or someones) falls though the opening into a large basket. This is the second mechanism, which triggers the wall to slide back into place as the first trap resets. The next round, the basket, being part of a catapult, fires those unfortunate enough to have fallen victim out of the area in a very wide arc.
This can end up as either an inconvenience, if the characters are simply returned to the front of the entrance, or be extremely deadly, such as when the entrance they are shot out of is along the side of a very steep cliff.