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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Morph Bark's Avatar

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    Default Traps, Puzzles, Riddles and Dungeon Design: The Central Thread

    To those currently in my group, please stay out, for the sake of our enjoyment of the game. Also spoilers. (That means especially you, Markus.)

    Up 'til recently, I had a thread open for the creation and playtesting of NPCs of various homebrew base classes (here). As we are now moving the campaign to a more dungeon-crawling-based format, I told everyone there that the services in that thread would be discontinued for that reason, but the suggestion arose to instead continue forward with the creation and use of traps, puzzles and more suchlike. Therefore, this thread! This thread will be for the creation of traps, puzzles and riddles, preferably as best integrated into a dungeon as possible.

    Little traps, for instance, are nice and all, but tend to be incredibly boring ("you're poisoned now", "that's it?").

    Riddles can be great, but are often poorly executed because they're very hit-or-miss. The players either get it, or don't, and even with clues it can be very hard. Players often don't like riddles for this reason. A riddle at a vital point in a dungeon with clues strewn through previous parts of it that make guessing the riddle much, much easier, though? That's great design. That makes a riddle both tough and easy, but requires more work to make it easy.

    Puzzles are an entirely different thing. They're like riddles, but instead of words, there are physical objects to work with. They're like traps, but instead of being hidden, they're out in the open, and you want to trigger whatever it is they do.

    I'll provide an example of all of these combined in the form of the

    Cavernshrine of Tarrabor

    I'd provide the drawing, but I lost it, and with it it might become harder to understand the exact lay-out of the complex.

    The Cavernshrine of Tarrabor was the fancy name of an underground dungeon my players encountered at 1st-level in one of our earlier campaigns. The first hallway showed scenes cut out from the stone of dwarven myths of their gods and the seasons, with Tarrabor being the god of seasons and coming in four different forms: Fire (Summer), Stone (Autumn), Ice (Winter) and Water (Spring). In Dwarven, there was also a somewhat-cryptic message below it that said that the keys to the heart of Tarrabor was found in the four seasons.

    At the end of the hallway they came to a large, round room that went up a long distance. They noticed a large hole high up on the left, and another high up on the right, while the exit to the room was right ahead of them. Once they crossed the room, however, they found the floors began to move! The floor was in fact made up of two separate platforms, one on the right and one on the left, which functioned like a scale. If a heavy PC stood on one side and a lighter PC on the other, the heavy PC's side would drop and the other side would go up. This made for a balancing act to get everyone across, where they found a button on a pedestal next to the exit, which locked the two platforms in place and prevented them from moving.

    In the room ahead was a large gate with a large dwarven statue over it. The gate had two keyholes in it, but there were no keys. The players turned back and figured that they'd like to get to the holes high up on the left and right. Fiddling around with the platforms, they got one high up enough by putting the heaviest PCs on the other platform, attaching a grappling hook to the platform that was to go up, and then hitting the switch (one PC staying behind to operate the switch). Doing this, the PCs that went down on the other platform discovered another hole there that led to a hallway filled with piles of ashes and a bowl filled with wood and oil, waiting to be lit. What they didn't know, was that in the hole high up on that side was a room filled with a large pool of water that was frozen over, with the key hidden at the bottom of the pool. If the fire were lit, the pool would thaw and the key would become accessible. (The room would become incredibly hot, however, requiring that they get out immediately or succumb to the nonlethal heat damage. Lighting the fire also animated fire pixies from the piles of ashes.)

    On the other side there was also a room at the bottom, which they later discovered. In this room, there was a switch. Flipping it would cause the room to become incredibly cold, but in the room above it, where there was a second pool of water, the water would be frozen over, allowing access to a ledge where there was the second key. However, if they accessed this room before flipping the switch (or upon going back and flipping it again), they could swim through the water to a deeper part and find some treasure. Furthermore, one of the walls was actually a gelatinous cube with another treasure room behind it, but the cube would become stuck and frozen over if the switch were flipped.

    Upon gaining the keys, the party could open the gate, but I forgot what I had figured out for what would happen after that. A good idea could be to include books earlier in the game that reference a friend of Tarrabor who was turned to stone and that upon unlocking the gate the statue would come alive and start fighting the party whilst shouting "SAY MY NAME!" and it would only stop once either destroyed or they say the name of Tarrabor's old friend. In the room beyond there'd be either magic items relating to each of Tarrabor's seasonal forms, or a minor artifact called Tarrabor's Heart, which would change its form and power every season.


    Of course, anything you post here doesn't need to be as big as a whole dungeon like the Cavernshrine of Tarrabor, as long as they are easy enough to integrate into a bigger dungeon. Let us all get cracking!
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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Deepbluediver's Avatar

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    Default Re: Traps, Puzzles, Riddles and Dungeon Design: The Central Thread

    It honestly sounds a little bit like a video game, something Zelda-style.

    That's not necessarily bad, its just my impression, if your group is into that sort of thing.

    What I always liked where setups where you have multiple choices for how to proceed. Instead of just a linear tunnel with monster, pit trap, monster, spike trap, locked door, boss monster, etc, There would be a multi-pathed complex, where there are monsters in one area, a suspiciously empty looking corridor, and some new excavations that wheren't part of the original construction. Something like this gave our group a choice, basically, of what method we wanted to approach things from.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
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    Troll in the Playground
     
    Amechra's Avatar

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    Default Re: Traps, Puzzles, Riddles and Dungeon Design: The Central Thread

    TESSERACTS! Tesseracts, man...

    Also, trap-wise? Leave props near traps so it looks like they were triggered by hand (like broken strings or (nonfunctional) levers), to make your players think hard about what they need to do.
    Quote Originally Posted by segtrfyhtfgj View Post
    door is a fake exterior wall
    Due to time constraints, I will be away from the forums until early in January. Take care until then.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Traps, Puzzles, Riddles and Dungeon Design: The Central Thread

    Trapception
    The idea is that you must spring a trap in order to bypass another trap further on. For instance triggering a classic rolling boulder that chases the party down the hall or a compressing pair of walls is linked to a much larger mechanism that opens up another room. If you disable the trap that room cannot be accessed or requires additional resources to get to.
    For example,
    Going down a corridor there is a pressure plate (pretty easy to find), linked to a spike trap that extends blades at various points along the corridor at irregular intervals and times. Triggering this also unlocks the door at the end of the corridor, but disabling the trap breaks the locking mechanism and the door must then be forced open. Bypassing the trap means the door is still locked, and unlocking the door also springs the trap it is connected to.
    For extra lethality, have some kind of guardian in the room beyond that will engage the party if they attempt to force the door.
    Simple to set up, simple to put into and use in a game.

    Deja vu
    The idea here is that there is a whole bunch of rooms relatively near each other with only minor differences between them. Have them be thematically appropriate but each room has one or two little things out of the ordinary. If these oddities are tinkered with they will either set off a trap, open a secret area, uncover hidden loot, etc. On top of this there is a possibility the party may become disoriented if all the rooms are more or less identical unless they are well prepared and know how to find their way. For extra points use a little magic to make it more involving

    A little too easy
    The premise is a maze made from invisible wall of X spells. When you enter the room it looks more or less bare and you see exit(s) on other walls. Walking straight towards them is rather difficult as you keep getting stopped or affected by the wall of X spells. Detecting Magic will pretty much light up the entire room like a christmas tree and seeing invisibility or true sight will show you the maze (though not the way through it).
    The party will have to expend resources to bypass/remove the maze or waste time trying to navigate it.
    Bonus points for including other invisible spells like web, grease, black tentacles, etc that make going through the maze annoying but not lethal. maybe even have some paths 'discouraged' by walls of fire that can be walked through and other paths open but longer or dead ends.

    Note: Seeing as most parties are very capable and D&D offers so many means of doing things it would probably be easier for you as a DM to design traps and such with the purpose of slowing down the party and fighting them via attrition rather than deterring them or stopping them entirely. Also more fun for the party that way, though make sure to have a nasty killer trap somewhere if they get too cocky.
    Last edited by Kane0; 2013-04-05 at 08:29 PM.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Morph Bark's Avatar

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    Default Re: Traps, Puzzles, Riddles and Dungeon Design: The Central Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Amechra View Post
    TESSERACTS! Tesseracts, man...

    Also, trap-wise? Leave props near traps so it looks like they were triggered by hand (like broken strings or (nonfunctional) levers), to make your players think hard about what they need to do.
    That one's amazing. I ended up using it yesterday and for the next session as the location where one of the PCs (a Planeswalker, so appropriate) shows up to join the party, while being chased by an ancient dragon who is angry with him because he was imprisoned there.
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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Traps, Puzzles, Riddles and Dungeon Design: The Central Thread

    One more trap that our DM used against us yesterday...

    The avoid-only trap
    This trap is difficult to disarm, difficult to bypass and difficult to destroy, like a well placed sentry gun.

    Eg. A magic trap mounted on a supporting pillar of the dungeon. Magic trap is movement activated (or activated by living creatures in its area, etc) and cannot be disarmed from the bottom. Destroying the trap destroys the support, which collapses the roof.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Traps, Puzzles, Riddles and Dungeon Design: The Central Thread

    A personal favorite of mine: a dungeon with subjective directional gravity (everyone can change where "down" is for them at any time) in a three dimensional maze-dungeon. Throw in some other traps as shazam!

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Traps, Puzzles, Riddles and Dungeon Design: The Central Thread

    Two ideas I came up with:
    1. Have a door that's behind bookshelves (it's a normal door, not constructed to be secret, so Detect Secret Doors won't help find it), and then they need some other way (probably involving distance calculations) to find that there's something there so they know to move the shelves and look behind them.
    2. Have a trapped door where the trap is part of the unlocking mechanism (i.e. it pokes out a poisoned needle, which is also what's obstructing the handle from turning. Now instead of just disarming the trap, they have to find a way to have the trap activate but not do any harm. (It's best for something like a lich's inner sanctum, where the proper user is just going to ignore the trap because he's immune.)
    Last edited by Yitzi; 2013-04-08 at 10:53 PM.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Fyermind's Avatar

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    Default Re: Traps, Puzzles, Riddles and Dungeon Design: The Central Thread

    I am a big fan of encounter traps. Encounter traps are deadly if approached straight on, but allow for some manner of making them solvable that requires specific skills of a certain party member.

    another of my favorites is to have a golem that radiates an antimagic field (like a colossus, but this only works at lower levels) and a room full of magical walls. The walls vanish near the golem allowing them to pass through the room. The golem can be far stronger than the party if it's commands restrict it from taking optimal combat actions. Extra plus for having it trap some of the players in cells that reappeared as it left.

    Another fun one is a dungeon without doors.
    The concept is a three dimensional game of minesweeper. Some times a room exists, sometimes it doesn't. Each room contains a teleporter that will jump you to any adjacent space. If there is no room there, you get shunted to the nearest space and take damage. Each teleporter can have a puzzle or monster associated with it. Each room can have hints or information about what rooms around it exist.
    This combines well with most puzzles and similar encounters and since the method of transportation is aim and shoot, it works fine in any dimension. As a fun trick you can have it start out linear, and have them unlock dimensions with items. Each time the beat a dimension the gain access to the next dimension.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Traps, Puzzles, Riddles and Dungeon Design: The Central Thread

    I'll *draw* it out

    Floor 1:
    K well, forum isn't showing my images for some reason. So here's the link..



    This is a trap designed for 4 people, yet it can be adapted for different quantities.

    This dungeon was an old crypt, constructed by god-knows-who in attempts of sealing an ancient power.
    We enter through room M, at the bottom. Room M is simply the 'main' room.

    It's a simple room, about 25 x25 , lit by 4 torches at each corner. When you enter, you can't see much, except for an broken door on the other side of the room, it leads to a room which is fairly more illuminated.

    At your left you see see a hole in the wall. Pitch black, the little light that you see comes from the 4 torches in the main room. Inspecting it closer, you can see the full size of it, an 'entrance' about 7ft high and 4ft wide; but most importantly, you notice that there's no floor. Atop archway, on the wall, there's some glyphs written in an unknown language, which if the rogue or wizard would be so kind to put their cipher knowledge to work would reveal that it says: "One must kneel to be a king". Not knowing what to do, and because of curiousness aswell, the party goes to the lit room [p].

    At the very entrance of room [p] is the main trap of this whole mechanism. It's a telekinesis trap which the rogue (hopefully) won't save. The trick to this is that this trap starts a chain reaction; a hole opens in the middle of the [p], revealing a [p]it (I'm so smart, I know); the telekinetic'd rogue fastly moves towards it while a whole set of traps of all kinds set off everywhere in the room and the broken door starts fixing itself at an outstanding pace (AKA: Guys, you have 1 round to decide what you gonna do). The rogue drops and the party is left with -1. Now, they can go through all of the traps and fall into a pit (???), or they can go back.

    If they choose to go through, great for them, they'll get hit by all the amount of traps that you want them to get hit by; and they'll notice the huge mistake they did while they watch the hatch closing and the broken (now fixed) door sealing them shut. Personally when I did this trap the meanest hazard were gorgon (MM 137) heads set in the walls that had a permanent breath-weapon effect (Gorgon breath petrifies).

    So. Your party didn't follow him, great. They can do another thing. Fall into the pit. The OTHER pit? yeah the other pit. Well it's not a pit technically. It's a small room. Really small. 4-5 people fit not so comfortable small. The floor is made of a Force wall and it's a weight-activated elevator. Thing of it as a half of a scale. The second part of the dungeon is like this


    [e] F1
    |
    [e2] F2
    |
    [e3] F3
    |
    [e4] F4
    |
    [e5] F5

    For each 1 person, the elevator goes down 1 floor, No people = e, 1 person = e2, 2 people = e3 and so on. Each floor is separated by 50ft of stone. The only way the elevator will go up is when someone drops off at a floor.

    There's traps in each floor, which you can decide which does what, and after completion they reveal a small violet dent near the wall where this kind of elevator is. Pressing or breaking the crack allows a 'permanent' access to that room. Atop the contraption, at e, a fissure of the same color forms at the side, with each room being a determined length of this crack. For example, we have a crack that's 3ft long. The first room lights up the first 3th and the last one the last 3th. With the crack at each floor, they may summon the elevator to their location, but there's, as always, one more trick. They may not summon it until the floors on top of his/hers' are already available.

    Activating 3 cracks disables the traps at [p] and activates the same mechanism as this for that room, in the middle pit. Should they do that, which they should, they'd find their friend with a minor back pain from falling 30ft. 20 minutes ago.

    So you might've noticed that, if things /did/ go down like I wanted to, the 4th floor would've never been visited. The main point of it is that if they were to go down there, they'd find a room with a small chunk of stone (5x5ft) in the middle, surrounded by water. The stone in the middle Whoever read or touched the runes, he/she would rechannel the magic in the whole dungeon to them, thus, indeed, deactivating the traps that they wanted to deactivate; but also the elevators. Because of this, the room would heat like a cauldron and start boiling the water instantly and super heating the room. Fog, fire damage, nonlethal from high pressure and heat. And whatnot. Go crazy.
    Last edited by Kazy; 2013-07-25 at 10:19 AM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Traps, Puzzles, Riddles and Dungeon Design: The Central Thread

    I tormented my players with a dungeon that looped back around on itself repeatedly. There was one part with intersections pretty much every ten feet that you could probably get lost in for hours.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Traps, Puzzles, Riddles and Dungeon Design: The Central Thread

    A cool trap my dm used on us. The party was in an abandoned mine that was overrun by kobolds. With lights on it looks nothing shows up, however with no light you see beams like lasers in spy movies. The kobolds see them because they don't use torches because of darkvision. Pretty awesome trap though we figured it out. Also throwing the exact same trap later. We figured hey the dm wouldn't use the same trap twice and got caught by it.
    4/10/2013 is this first day I used blue text. Isn't that soooo cool
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