Nonlethal Traps for the Discerning Dungeon-Owner
Sometimes the owner of a dungeon doesn't want to kill its intruders, just detain and embarrass them a bit.
A series of traps and puzzles that are sure to cause pause in your players without killing them..... maybe.
Players descend a metal staircase about 100ft in length at a steep angle. Below is a circular chamber that appears to be empty. Once 200lbs of wight or more is applied to the steps, they flatten to form a slide and the floor of the below chamber opens up to reveal a pit. Players must succeed on a DC15 dexterity saving throw to either slow their descent or catch the edge of the slide. Those who do not succeed are hurled into the pit, falling 20ft and landing on a soft velvet cushion that covers the bottom, taking no damage. As they hit, the cushion expels an odd-smelling dust. Players must make a DC15 constitution saving throw or fall unconscious for 8 hours as if affected by the sleep spell (for the purposes of racial bonuses and resistances, this is considered a poison and not magical sleep). As they lay on the cushion, it begins to envelop the players, weaving itself into their clothing or around their armor to trap them. Players must be cut from the cushion or wiggle free of their vestments in order to escape. Those who managed to not fall into the pit can see there is a narrow ledge about 3ft wide that circles the pit, allowing them a place to stand. This shouldn't be a lethal trap.... Unless they try to burn the cushion to free their compatriots.
A room 100ft wide by 100ft long and 40ft high with a metal floor and two identical doors at opposite ends each with a stone platform in front that's 1ft taller than the rest of the floor and 5ft wide by 20ft long. Around the room are 5ft tall brass pillars with no apparent purpose other than decoration spaced evenly across the floor (the placement and number is at the DM's discretion). Those who make a perception check can notice the floor appears to be shiny. As the players step onto the metal floor, it begins to tilt in the direction that is bearing the most weight and sinks a maximum of 5ft. The players must make a DC15 acrobatics check to remain upright on what they now realize is a heavily greased floor, falling prone on a failure. The floor continues to tilt in the direction that is currently heaviest-- players can choose to try and stand back up with a new acrobatics check or push themselves off the walls and slide, becoming covered in more and more grease the longer they slide around. If a player makes contact with one of the poles, roll a d20. On an odd number, nothing happens. On an even number, the pillar explodes into chicken's feathers, coating the greasy player (and if you're really nasty, you can have it incur the blindness effect until they wipe their eyes). Players who are crossing upright must make a new acrobatics check for every round's worth of movement, and must make the check at disadvantage if they choose to run. If you so wish, the walls also may have gems set into them at intervals that will dispel and flying or levitation magic for those players who have the means to try and bypass this trap.
Well Well Well
In front of the players is what appears to be an ordinary stone well. Peering over the edge reveals it's around 20ft deep and has a handful of gold coins and a small treasure (either a minor magical item or a semiprecious stone) at its bottom. If the coins are removed, nothing happens. If the small treasure is removed, players find it takes some force to pick it up (around 10 lbs of force which is more than what mage hand can exert). As the item is pried 'free', the player learns it is attached to the floor by a small metal chain... which, when pulled, activates a set of metal doors at the well's opening, effectively trapping whoever is inside. The metal of the doors is relatively thin, with a DC 20 strength check allowing them to be bent or pried open.
A very, very deep pit. Players who look over the edge cannot see the bottom. If a player jumps, falls, climbs or is pushed into the pit they fall 120ft, but do not hit the bottom. Instead, they are teleported to the ceiling of the room above the pit... and begin to fall again, repeating the process endlessly. This could have been used as a safety mechanism to avoid accidental death by falling for those working on constructing the pit or maybe it's part of a trap system that also uses a spring-loaded pushing wall to bump careless adventurers into its depths...
Alcove in the Wall
A small tunnel no wider or longer than an arm is carved into the wall at about shoulder-height. At the back of the tunnel is a shiny gold ring. When removed, the player sticking their arm into or standing directly in front of the tunnel must make a DC13 dexterity saving throw or be covered in magical purple dye which stains the user's clothes for 1hr and permanently colors their hair. The ring is theirs, however!
Alcove in the Wall, Redux
To be used with the above trap, an identical tunnel to the above is found in the dungeon some distance before or after the other (DM's choice). At the back of this tunnel, however, is a small indentation that would perfectly fit a shiny gold ring. When the ring from the previous trap is placed in the indentation... nothing happens.
The Laughing Door
On a set of metal doors is the image of a laughing copper dragon. When players approach, the dragon comes to life and asks the players, 'Where does a king keep his armies?'. The dragon will pause for several seconds to allow players who wish to try and answer to do so before replying 'In his SLEEVIES!' Any player who genuinely laughs, smiles or enjoys the joke is healed for 1d4+4 damage. Any player who groans, criticizes or rolls their eyes at the joke takes 1d4+4 psychic damage for not playing along with the dragon's fun. As long as the joke elicits some sort of response, the doors will open. If the joke is answered correctly or if there is a neutral reception to the joke, the dragon will pick a new joke to tell until it is successful.
A tight spiral staircase with walls of stone. The players can't see the top of the stairs from the bottom so they must ascend. This staircase is actually a mix of clever illusory magic and ingenious mechanics. As they move out of sight of the room they are leaving, the stairway activates-- becoming a self-powered treadmill with the walls spelled to look as if they are moving to the speed of the stairs, giving the players the visual of progress being made as they climb when they are, in reality, stationary. For each hour of climbing in this way, players with a constitution modifier of 2 or less take one point of exhaustion. If a player decides to descend back down the stairs, the trick is immediately revealed as they round the first corner and are suddenly back in the room they started from. The DM can either choose to have a hidden mechanism stop the effect and allow the players to ascend normally, or have no way to turn the effect off as the stairs actually do not go anywhere. Players who do not touch the floor to ascend are not subject to the trap's trick.
This trap is best suited to be the very last trap in the place players explore, placed directly in front of the end goal. A long hallway 10ft wide and 10ft tall extends before the players. Hidden in the floor are 5 pressure plates, spaced 10ft apart, that are 10ft wide and 5ft across so that they span the width of the hallway and must be jumped over to be avoided normally. A DC13 investigation check can reveal the pressure plates. As the players step on them, they have the following effects:
1. A click is heard, nothing happens.
2. A click is heard, nothing happens.
3. A click is heard, nothing happens.
4. The pressure plate catapults the player who depressed it back to the previous pressure plate, dealing 1d4 bludgeoning damage. As they land, the force of the landing causes plate #3 to activate, covering the player in hot pink colored powder and catapulting them to pressure plate #2, dealing 1d4 bludgeoning damage. As they land, the force of the landing causes plate #2 to activate, covering the player in bright yellow powder and catapulting them to pressure plate #1, dealing 1d4 bludgeoning damage. As they land, the force of the landing causes plate #1 to activate, covering the player in bright green colored powder and catapulting them to where they started, dealing 1d4 bludgeoning damage. (A total of 4d4 bludgeoning damage and they are covered in hot pink, bright yellow and bright green colored powders).
5. A click is heard, nothing happens.
As the players clear these plates, they will believe they are home free... except there is one more plate that is 10ft wide and 20ft deep hidden in the floor positioned 20ft away from their goal. It is revealed on a DC17 investigation check. As weight is applied to the plate, iron bars shoot out from the floor and go into the ceiling. They are spaced 1 inch apart and form a cage 10ft wide and 20ft deep (same as the plate itself). A mechanism on the wall closest to the goal deactivates this trap.
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? Responses (8)-8
A very small number of typos but great fun, and an enjoyable read
This is why I shouldn't write things when I'm half asleep! Thanks for the heads-up, I'll edit it when I get the chance. ;)
It is nice to see a new person on this site. :)
Fixed a few grammatical and spelling errors. ;)
I may have voted this higher than I should have but with good reason. I personally find it difficult to come up with trap ideas on my own and there doesn't seem to be many resources out there for good, unique traps. So I personally really enjoyed these. I may modify them slightly but thanks to your ideas, my mind is now on overdrive. I was just thinking of a possible twist to 'The Wiggler.' Using the tilting floor, if it tilts too far in one direction the floor actually gets too low to reach the door on one side while the floor on the opposite end actually covers over the door effectively preventing exit through either door. A party that splits into two groups would then be able to exit the doors (after the party is split into two groups.) I think that would be a fun way to split the party up momentarily and then later the separate corridors they've entered funnel into the same room so they could rejoin each other.
i like this take on traps. They are well described and ready to add to a game. I also appreciate the non-lethal aspect. Traps are a institution of the dungeon crawl. One I don't generally like to use because they aren't really encounters. A classic trap, like the pitfall or the darts in the walls, is just away to bleed hit points off those that fail their saves. But your traps are more like puzzles.
And while the traps alone would just be obnoxious delays, they could be used to heighten tension. For example, lets say you have a frenimies party or a party of uneasy allies (say you are playing Shadowrun) and one gets stuck in the well or the alcove. Do the others help? What if there is another threat as well.