Traps overlooked and underused


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

1 to 50 of 213 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | next > last >>

1 person marked this as a favorite.

How often do you use traps in your game ?
I'm a bit of a fan of the random trap i find they keep a party on its toes
How often if at all do you use traps and what are your best traps


2 people marked this as a favorite.

It's shameful, but I use traps in my games basically never. On occasion I throw in a "courtesy trap" JUST so the rogue feels like they didn't waste all their points in disable device.

Traps are just poorly thought out and not a lot of fun, and we can thank DnD 3.0 for that. They're simultaneously too easy and too hard to get around.

Too hard because they specifically require trapfinding and disable device, which are abilities that really only one class has on a regular basis. This means that not a lot of the party can participate in a trap encounter. Each trap is basically a mini-game for the rogue only. Everybody else has to stand back and watch.

A trap is only set off if the rogue misses the DC by 4, which means they have to roll pretty low if the trap is anywhere near their CR, assuming only that the rogue has a reasonably high DEX score, and put max ranks into the skill. Otherwise the rogue can simply try again. Most traps are therefore a bit of a non-issue to disable. They merely take time out of the game.

If there's not a rogue in the game, traps feel like a bit of a "cheap shot" by the GM, as there is just nothing the PCs can do about it, other than summoning small animals to go trigger all the traps which, I don't care if it's not technically evil, that just seems unusually cruel.

Even on the off chance that a trap goes off, usually it just deals damage. But not enough damage to one-shot anyone, so again, it just takes time while you do a bit of out-of-battle healing. It seems pointless and it slows the game down a lot.

I'll keep watch on this thread to see if there are any suggestions as to how to use traps in a more effective/exciting manner, but I've been playing for years and I've yet to run or play in any game where I could say that the use of traps added to the "fun" of the game, rather than detracting from it.


I definitely use traps, but I dislike random traps greatly in most circumstances. Sure, the odd Indiana Jones-type ancient ruin constructed by a crazy lost people might be loaded with traps, or perhaps a tomb trapped to prevent graverobbing, but I find it unlikely that most evil fortresses or wizard's lairs would be loaded with traps. They'd be more likely to fire off and kill your underlings before invaders ever showed up.

Instead, I like to use traps at specific logical locations, and almost all of them have a way for the location's inhabitants to quickly and easily bypass them. These serve as both traps that can be disarmed, and puzzles that can be solved and bypassed.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

I've made the suggestion and I'll make it again: houserule in other skills or abilities for Aid Another on traps and locks and such.

Knowledge skills: the Wizard/Figter/Cleric etc pulls up some obscure fact about the builder of such traps or the religion who uses them or whatever. +2

Strength check: have the strong guy of the group force some part of the trap open briefly so the disarmer can get better access. +2

Arcane Mark, Light or other illuminating cantrip: give the disarmer some extra task lighting. +2

The list goes ever on. Its a houserule and full of potential exploitation and cheese, but if you tell the players about it and allow them the chance it gets EVERYONE involved in the process.

Traps shouldn't derail the action or the game. It's an annoyance or deterrent (unless like Uther said, it's the "odd Indiana Jones-type" of dungeon experience) that the denizens use for a very specific purpose. Consider: in real life we used snares, traps and pits throughout our history for hunting. These were meant to make our food-gathering easier, but we still had to pay attention to them, maintain them and use them actively.

For this reason I submit that traps should incorporate secondary functions when you plan them in as a GM. Maybe the goblins have snares for rats; mites have cages for giant vermin so they can tame them; perhaps the ogres have swinging hooks to immobilize their food. Each of these isn't just Save or Die - they have a condition (Grappled) built in.

More often than not I have traps impose a condition that will benefit the trapbuilder or other lair denizens later on. Poison, Fatigue, Grappled, Blinded or Dazzled; all of these have been imposed on my PCs for decent effect. But there's another piece to having traps like this: active denizens.

4 PCs walk into a room, closing the door behind them. Its empty save for another door and a fine statue with a pouch of gold coins in its hand. Of course, there's a trap in the room. However, if the PCs just take hours of game time figuring it out, rolling dice, and getting paid that defeats the purpose. If however a few moments after the PCs enter that room a bunch of cultists come by for their daily flagellation before the statue or whatever and begin pounding on the door, suddenly there's a bit more excitement.

I recently had a dungeon which was trap-filled for 2 reasons. Firstly a heretical Abadaran priest had holed up in his own tomb, paranoid someone was going to rob him, and crafted several constructs and traps in his last days to protect the hoard. Then the place was found by a sprite sorceress who liked the gems and jewelry and wanted more, so she convinced some locals she was the avenging spirit of the tomb and needed shiny things to keep her placated. While the rubes provided her more resources she added her illusions to the place and called in some favors to burrow sprite-sized tunnels trough the walls of the tomb.

So when the PCs got through the door she would go, room by room, hiding in little bolt-holes or tunnels watching the PCs deal w/the traps and constructs. She'd re-set the traps and using what she saw she formed up a defense for dealing with the characters. So it was that, with a few imposed conditions and some well chosen spells the sprite nearly TPK'd a 2nd level party once they made it to the real inner sanctum areas of the tomb. My favorite was when she used Darkness on half the party, splitting the group in a large hall, then used Dazzle on the party's wizard so he and the monk were just stumbling around bumping into walls and eventually an immobilizing manacle trap. It was good clean fun for everyone!


4 people marked this as a favorite.

The whole concept of CR for traps is ludicrous, traps should be unfair. Not to mention that the "roll perception then roll Disable device" is boring as hell.

I do use traps if and only if they make sense (not just random traps) and I can make a encounter of the trap.


5 people marked this as a favorite.

I've always been partial to the "old school" method of trap avoidance - logic. Instead of attaching trap finding to a character skill, I prefer to have the players work it out on their own. For example, an enterprising player can pour water on the floor to see if it seeps through the edges of a standard pit trap. No roll necessary, but problem solved nonetheless.

One of my favorite "trap moments" was when I was GMing a party investigating a crypt. An evil trickster had rigged an existing pit trap to only open every third time it was stepped on. The party discovered the trick through trial and error, and ended up using it to trap enemies later on. No skill rolls were made, but the encounter was rich and entertaining.

I don't use traps often, unless they're appropriate to the situation, but when I do, they're more like puzzles and less like encounters. It's not for everyone, but there's my 2cp.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Traps only give experience if you detect and bypass them. If the trap goes off, it won.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
tonyz wrote:
Traps only give experience if you detect and bypass them. If the trap goes off, it won.

That's KOTOR not PF


Simple traps quiet often.Things the bad guys can set up cheaply like Punji sticks or Tiger traps which just require a sharpen stick are often used around their bases. Check out traps used by the Viet Cong and other guerillas for examples of those type of traps. And often there a more elaborate traps in the main bad guy lair to protect his valuables. But traps where the Monster live and patrol tend to be are trap free as the lower IQ monster would set them off long before the players got there.
Might mention one of my characters has some Bear trap I set up around the camp when out in the wilderness


Yeah in pathfinder if you survive you win.

I run traps pretty often. Usually they are something that a cautious party can go around if they think. Other times they eat some resources. Other occasions I run puzzle traps where using the skills will work, but there are other means for them to get around them too.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

@ Judge Smails' kid: I think that's why traps get such a bad rap - you can just outthink them and then the fight's over. Talk about boring:

You come to a 30' long hallway. In the middle of said hallway the cautious, slow moving PCs make a Perception check and spot a seam through several of the floor stones that is not a standard grout line. The PCs take all the time in the world, hammer spikes into the wall, tie a rope off, and then use some magic and a flying familiar to do the same thing on the other side. Now they just shimmy across on the rope and win.

Now imagine the exact same scenario, only this time you have a construct vehicle as wide as the hall moving behind them. This thing has several grappling arms an a drill bit on the front, but it moves so slow it can easily be outrun. The only problem is the PCs can't go back, so they have only 2 rounds to deal with "a seam in the floor."

Traps shouldn't just be there, on their own. If a passive area hazard is in a space it's human nature to simply ignore it or instead take all the time in the world to study it from a safe distance. A trap should then have SOME kind of active component, be it magic or monsters or whatever that incentivizes the PCs to deal with it.

Per the CRB the initial Perception check only allows the PCs to detect the trigger. If they roll well they get a clue what the trigger does or unleashes. It then takes them more time to disarm the thing. GMs need to be acutely aware of what info they're giving out on these Perception rolls. With the right information, coupled with an active component, a trap encounter can be really dynamic.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Mark Hoover has the right of it.

Old-style traps (not an edition issue) were bad design. They often made no sense. They would kill the builders or whoever they were supposed to protect.

Worse, in metagame terms they didn't do anything interesting. They simply punished a lack of caution. If you failed to be cautious (or failed a skill check), someone was affected by the trap. Maybe they lost hit points, or were poisoned, or even died. Typically hit points were lost. You paid the price (cleric spent some spells) and then you moved on.

And psychologically, you get "scarred" players who are afraid all the time. I don't think traps "to keep them on their toes" are a good idea. At most, I'd use a shrieker, as that can "summon" an interesting encounter.

Traps as part of an encounter work much better. A fighter who spends a round or two in a pit isn't even concerned about the damage they took from falling. The real problem is, during a raging battle, part of your front line is in a pit. Do you try to rescue him (and sacrifice actions to do so)? Do you find another way to plug the gap, maybe by casting a summon spell when you wanted to cast a death spell instead? What if the bad guys throw alchemist's fire into the pit and cook the fighter while he can't easily escape? Do you heal him (probably a bad option)? What if the trap sapped his Strength - so now even if you get him out of your trap your front line can't do it's job?

Traps as part of encounters were explicitly designed this way as of late 3rd Edition. This means they only appear in set piece (boss) encounters, and cannot (and should not) be used as random encounters.

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsbo)

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Starfinder Superscriber

I agree with most of what's been said here. Traps by themselves are awful, and "keeping players on their toes" just makes your games take forever. I'm playing the trap guy in one game right now, and it's basically just "we search the room and disable the traps". There's no real interaction, but adding that "mandatory" step to everything slows everything down.

In set pieces, however, I use traps all the time. Pits are wonderful tools for encounter design, as are giant gouts of flame that go off every other round, or collapsing ceilings. Those are all things the PCs and NPCs can interact with in interesting ways. The NPC positions himself precisely so that the flames go off around him and cook the fighter, or the cleric gets bull rushed into the pit - wonderful stuff. One of my favorites is to have kobolds run away down a hallway full of traps set to go off when medium creatures step on them.

The key with traps is to make them interesting and interactive, rather than an "action tax".


I don't use them that much not that much fun from players and I don't really enjoy them as gm.


Simple one-skill-roll traps by themselves with no other encounter elements are boring.

Simple traps placed in a larger encounter are fun, and I use them quite regularly.

Complex traps which involve the entire party can be encounters on their own are tricky to design, but I find them far more interesting and engaging than normal combat encounters.


I tend to have the traps be more like puzzles with bad repercussions if failed.

For example, to open a door in an upcoming dungeon of mine, you have to press a few buttons in the right order (which is given in clues in the room), or else trap doors will open and zombies start filling the room.


_Cobalt_ wrote:
For example, to open a door in an upcoming dungeon of mine, you have to press a few buttons in the right order (which is given in clues in the room)

Slightly off-topic, but I hate this. It reeks of computer gaming. Why on earth would the builder of a dungeon put clues to how to bypass a trap in the room with the trap? It serves no purpose but to aid the very people he's trying to kill with the trap in the first place.

There's only one scenario where this makes sense: the classic challenge dungeon, where the heroes are being tested to prove their worth for some kind of reward. Otherwise, it's absolutely silly. It's just as bad as finding the one special weapon that can defeat the nigh-invincible guardian in the same fortress as the guardian.


Lord Pendragon wrote:
_Cobalt_ wrote:
For example, to open a door in an upcoming dungeon of mine, you have to press a few buttons in the right order (which is given in clues in the room)

Slightly off-topic, but I hate this. It reeks of computer gaming. Why on earth would the builder of a dungeon put clues to how to bypass a trap in the room with the trap? It serves no purpose but to aid the very people he's trying to kill with the trap in the first place.

There's only one scenario where this makes sense: the classic challenge dungeon, where the heroes are being tested to prove their worth for some kind of reward. Otherwise, it's absolutely silly. It's just as bad as finding the one special weapon that can defeat the nigh-invincible guardian in the same fortress as the guardian.

You could hide the clue somewhere else in the dungeon, so that if the builder forgets the combination, he/she does not get locked out. But yea, putting it in the same room is silly.


The "hidden clues" reminds me of this adventure I ran twice for Alternity (by TSR), the Killing Jar.

The PCs find computer files telling them a bunch of info, along with the line: "Disposition: Remember to delete these files!" The NPC had tried to be competent, but failed, giving the PCs needed clues.

Puzzles only make sense in a "story sense", not in a realistic game sense. People leaving clues to themselves wouldn't leave clues, but the actual info. (People who make notes with their passwords put the actual passwords on them, rarely leaving just clues.)


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Traps are part of the legacy of the game. Ironically people use less traps and then complain the Rogue is useless.

Old school traps were sometimes heavy handed and unfair. Which a little thought can correct. Not using traps is fine but they can be used for dynamic and add to the feel of dread that should be felt going into a dungeon.

The use and placement should be considered logically placing traps illogically and in such a way that it feels unrealistic is a GM or Adventure design failure not a defect in the concept of using traps.

A wizard who traps his area rug yes is likely to lose an underling. Certainly that is different from trapping the secret compartment that the extra spellbook is in makes sense not to mention the Snake Sigils in its pages.


Almost never. They take up more time than multiple encounters because they have the pc's moving tactically for an hour trying to avoid them. They then take less time to functionally deal with than a single round of combat, being a mere perception and disable device check.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

If you put a trap in the obvious place they'll search for, find, and disarm it without any big deal making it just a speedbump and seldom worth the time it took to deal with it.

If you put a trap in a not-obvious place (such as on a random spot in a random hallway) then you've just slowed the game to a crawl as they (rightly) check every square inch for traps.

There isn't a decent medium between the two. They are either worthless or more of a time sink than a party full of monster summoners.

-S


I have seen traps used as a delaying action to slow pursuit through his secret passages. Seems to make sense to me.

Traps in ancient tombs, or the like seems to make sense as well.

Traps just for traps sake, not worth all the time (or is trivialized to quickly).


Thanks guys a lot of good stuff and no one causing trouble
I think i was a little unclear on my first post like most of you i think simple traps work best as part of a bigger encounter .
I often use them as the start of an encounter having them set of alarm that will bring the monsters running when it goes off, often catching the party in the middle of trying to disarm the trap so it doesn't go off again
Or i use them in areas so the monster don't need to patrol them in much the same way modern landmines are used they limit movement and help control the battlefield


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Your OP asks: what traps are my best. My answer is: ones they KNOW are coming but can't do anything about.

Example

My players arrive at the edge of a thicket riddled with dozens of Tiny sized trails; they look like small game trails tunneled or worn through the undergrowth. Throughout the thicket are a dozen large trees creating a dense, low-hanging canopy. This area is dimly lit despite it being mid-afternoon and it is very quiet.

The PCs have been pre-warned to be cautious of a kind of foul-tempered fey who dwell here called Muddlers (re-skinned brownies). They have been told by their benefactors that Muddlers like simple tricks and traps and don't take kindly to trespassers. They venture in wary... and immediately they are attacked.

A single Muddler, hurling grease spells re-flavored as mud and also using Create Water, Ghost Sound and Dancing Lights, begins dragging the PCs through a series of strangling snares and pit traps filled with, you guessed it, viscous mud. No one took a ton of damage, but the fighter fell in a pit, the cleric was caught in a snare, the monk made a save but then had to make an Acrobatics check to advance.

Once the first pit got thrown open they KNEW full well what the little so-and-so was doing, but they also knew they weren't getting past this area to their destination w/out dealing with him and his traps.

Sovereign Court

I'd rather face a trap rather then another stupid incorporeal undead alpha strike surprise round.

That said Traps need to be considered like everything else. They have to make some reasonable sense for existing, for not having already been set off (though finding a sprung trap is thrilling in a sparing amount) and generally be able to be handled by the party using what resources they have.


I like traps that change what PCs have to deal with: Alarm type traps that give enemies early warning (why does the BBEG have all of his buffs up? Remember that perception roll you made when you walked through that square...), or traps that close secret doors ahead or behind the PCs, forcing them to deal with different encounters or find a different way through the dungeon.

Traps as part of an encounter are also good, they force PCs to change their tactics and adapt to the unexpected. That's much more interesting than "As you walk through the door, a scythe swings out of the frame. Does a 42 hit your flat footed AC? You take 1d8+12 damage and give me a fort save. Carry on."


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Traps as presented in the core rules, I basically try to use never. I dont like them, I think except in very specific circumstances they are more or less non-sense. Sure in a indiana jones sort of situation it makes lots of sense. But who just leaves lethal traps in their home or business? Sure if you know its there you might be able to bypass it. But I dont know about you, but I forget about things. I have tripped over things I 'knew' where there because my mind was occupied. It seems kind of insane to just leave something like that around.

That said, I have enjoyed 'traps as encounters' as precented in the 3.5 dungeonscape book. Those are fun because they are dynamic and inclusive. But if they are binary (like all core rules traps, spot:yes/no disable yes/no if No on either boom) I think they are boring, and just a rather stupid bone thrown to rogues and characters with trapfinding so they can feel useful.


Traps as traps are boring.
Traps as encounters are fun. "hey, you step on a mine. You blow your feet" isn't a very interesting encounter. Specially in a world with Wands of Putting Your Feet Back In Your Ankle at 750gp a pop.

this, on the other hand, is a very interesting encounter


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I use traps as part of more or less every appropriate setting I use. For three or four general reasons:

1) To create tactically interesting scenarios. Walls, pits, portculli, locking doors can be used to divide careless party members in combat or ramp up the tension against otherwise simple combat encounters. Poisons and status effects can be used to modulate the difficulty of future encounters. Or (see below) to encourage preparation and investment in restorative spells, items, and abilities. Something as simple as a weak javelin trap in a narrow hallway accompanied with an alarm that alerts a small enemy garrison with a secret door that opens BEHIND the party can create interesting encounters.

2) To encourage (or discourage) certain behaviors. For example, an enemy stationed at a lever-operated deadfall encourages targeting that foe and/or provides rewards and incentives to classes capable at neutralizing particular targets. A locked/trapped chest filled with breakable valuables such as potions, gems, ceramic art items helps to encourage investment in lock-opening skills, spells, or items. A pit trap on the other side of a door or curtain may discourage simply charging through. Some of us DMs LIKE it, for example, when players pay attention to and react toward elements of the setting.

3) To provide a rapid resource-sink or non-playtime intensive challenge. Contrary to BigNorseWolf's assertion, actual trap finding/disarming/triggering encounters take considerably less play time than combat encounters - collecting initiative rolls, waiting for each player to decide upon and then look up the spells they're planning on using, etc. As long as trap effects are kept mild and infrequent enough, they use up party spells and resources without tending to encourage excessive party caution. Depending on the players.

4) As puzzles - How does one, for example, reach or bypass the mechanism on the high cavern ceiling? What could possibly be the reason for those scorch marks in the corner? Or the bodies at the intersection?


You can also use traps in another way.

example
This trap cannot be disabled, but if you now what to do you can bypass the trapp.

This is a black and white door that randomly opens and closes. The door seems to be made of light and darkness is sharp as hell.
If one jumps thru there is a 50% change to loose a limp or 2. D100 to see whar part of the body is cutt of. This is of course a simple sollution if you have a high enough priest to cast regenerate.
Of course dimdoor to the other side might also work.

The sollution is of course simple. White light, is made of all colors, and therefor if you are multi collored you can just walk tru the white light without any harm..
If you are dark colored you can of course walkt thru the dark side of the door.

This kind of traps require thinking and are fun...


aside from creatively complex trap encounters, this thread has a way to make 'simple' trap encounters more involved (for the lazy DM)

Trap Surprise Round


Either the rogue spots a trap and nothing happens.
Or the rogue does not spot the trap, someone takes damage, and nothing else happens.

There simply is no interaction with traps. All they do is reduce a random character by a random amount of hit points at a random point in the game. So I basically never use them.

I make an exception when it comes to security measures that actually help in protecting whatever they are supposed to protect. Unless the trap instant kills all intruders, which obviously you would never put into an adventure, it needs in some way cause guards to arrive and take care of the intruders. It can also have additional effects that makes the job easier for the guards, like sealing doors or weakening the intruders with alchemical stuff. But if all a trap does is to slightly inconvenience intruders without doing anything to prevent intruders from getting inside, the builders of the dungeon would not have had to bother with it.

Silver Crusade

Kimera757 wrote:

Worse, in metagame terms they didn't do anything interesting. They simply punished a lack of caution. If you failed to be cautious (or failed a skill check), someone was affected by the trap. Maybe they lost hit points, or were poisoned, or even died. Typically hit points were lost. You paid the price (cleric spent some spells) and then you moved on.

And psychologically, you get "scarred" players who are afraid all the time. I don't think traps "to keep them on their toes" are a good idea. At most, I'd use a shrieker, as that can "summon" an interesting encounter.

Hence why 1e veterans act like everyone's going to die if you don't have the thief in the front of the party, being wheeled along slowly on a gurney while tapping the walls, floor and ceiling 10 feet ahead of the party.

A trap showing up suddenly means everything is potentially dangerous, fortunately for DMs this gets ignored the second the Init bell gets rung. Every DM probably has amusing stories of init being rolled and players blundering across traps they already marked but didn't disable.

The major problem with traps is that they become /irrelevant/ if the party has a rogue, and terrifyingly arbitrary if they don't. The rogue can start spotting and disabling the absolute best traps (the CR 20 variety) at around level 10. Meanwhile a CR 11 trap often will whallop an 11th level character far harder then any monster would.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Great thread.

We use traps a great deal when appropriate. This usually means the characters are getting ready to make a run on an ancient tomb, thieve's guild, or some such. At this point we are telling either a tomb raider story or a caper.

It is a lot of fun to see them do the "shopping and gearing up" montage.

Shopkeep: "You want 3 pigs, a 10-foot pole, and a barrel of vinegar?"

Mert the Fighter: "Yes. Oh...and could you also throw in some paint - any color - and a pound of chalk?"

But we also try to avoid having traps in places where it damages the flow of the heroic story.

Lantern Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Walter Leeuwen wrote:

You can also use traps in another way.

example
This trap cannot be disabled, but if you now what to do you can bypass the trapp.

This is a black and white door that randomly opens and closes. The door seems to be made of light and darkness is sharp as hell.
If one jumps thru there is a 50% change to loose a limp or 2. D100 to see whar part of the body is cutt of. This is of course a simple sollution if you have a high enough priest to cast regenerate.
Of course dimdoor to the other side might also work.

The sollution is of course simple. White light, is made of all colors, and therefor if you are multi collored you can just walk tru the white light without any harm..
If you are dark colored you can of course walkt thru the dark side of the door.

This kind of traps require thinking and are fun...

This seems weird. How do you determine whether a character is multicolored or dark colored?


6 people marked this as a favorite.
Walter Leeuwen wrote:

You can also use traps in another way.

example
This trap cannot be disabled, but if you now what to do you can bypass the trapp.

This is a black and white door that randomly opens and closes. The door seems to be made of light and darkness is sharp as hell.
If one jumps thru there is a 50% change to loose a limp or 2. D100 to see whar part of the body is cutt of. This is of course a simple sollution if you have a high enough priest to cast regenerate.
Of course dimdoor to the other side might also work.

The sollution is of course simple. White light, is made of all colors, and therefor if you are multi collored you can just walk tru the white light without any harm..
If you are dark colored you can of course walkt thru the dark side of the door.

This kind of traps require thinking and are fun...

The only thing worse than a simple skill check trap is a GM who thinks he's clever.

King's Quest logic isn't clever. It's an exercise in "Do it again, Stupid" game play that completely fails in any context that lacks infinite reloads.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Rulebook Subscriber
Spook205 wrote:


The major problem with traps is that they become /irrelevant/ if the party has a rogue, and terrifyingly arbitrary if they don't. The rogue can start spotting and disabling the absolute best traps (the CR 20 variety) at around level 10. Meanwhile a CR 11 trap often will whallop an 11th level character far harder then any monster would.

I think this is now not true, or at least needs to be stated differently. There are a number of classes able to detect and disable traps with the right archetype. In fact so long as they aren't magical anyone can do it, you just need to put in the skill points. But, the archaeologist bard, the ranger trap archetype and I believe there is an alchemist one and a weird pathfinder society one as well. so you don't need "a rogue" you need a "trap finder." The ranger one might be the best with wisdom and dex both being typically class abilities.


I've used traps quite often in my games, and have tried to vary the way they've been employed, sometimes to good effect, and sometimes less so.

I've done the Indiana Jones gauntlet style, with a series of traps laid-out that must be navigated. On their own, they are fairly boring, but if you put some pressure on the PCs to move through them, they become more interesting.

Spoiler:
Such as by having some archers harassing the party at range, drawing the PCs into the trap, or forcing them to seek cover on the other side of it.

I've also run encounters with traps in them (similar to the above, I suppose, but different). The two that I thought went over very well were one fight in a narrow hallway where players were attacked by minotaurs from one end of the hall. In the middle, there is a double pit trap.

|====||====| The pits, when opened, are separated by a wall, or when viewed from above, a narrow ledge. I had two players fall, one into each pit section during that encounter. One of them threw a rope over to the other who served as an active anchor to pull the other one out of his side of the pit. I had minotaurs trying to bull rush people into the pits, one acrobatic character use the middle wall to perform a double-jump from one side to the other, and a particularly strong PC managed to knock a minotaur into a pit (on top of the PC at the bottom). It was a lot of good, chaotic fun.

Another encounter-trap I ran:
N
|----------|
|xxxxxxxxxx|
|xxxxxxxxxx_____
W|xxxxxxxxxx_____ramp
|xxxxxxxxxx|
|----------|
S

The players moved up a ramp that can be raised draw-bridge style into a security checkpoint. The area marked with x's is open, with hard to notice holes in the floor. To the north and south are the guard's areas behind bars, and to the west is the exit. There is a locked gates on both the north and south walls into the guard's areas. When the players walk into the space, a guard (in this case they were all undead) throws a switch that simultaneously raises the ramp, barring exit, and activates the floor spikes which made attack rolls to hit (with 1d4 per medium-sized character) and allowed a Reflex save after a successful hit and damage, or become pinned to the floor by the spikes through your feet. Each spike that you fail a Reflex against increases the DC to avoid the rest, and the checks to get out of them (this was in 3.5, so we were talking grapple or Escape Artist, while in PF it would be CMB probably). Meanwhile, the guards would attack with reach weapons from behind the bars, and there was one undead who could crawl along the ceiling and attack with a reach weapon from the same space as the PCs.

I gave a clue to the upcoming trap with a corpse lying at the bottom of the ramp. A Heal Perception or Heal check would indicate that the person had had pointy things shoved through the bottoms of his feet, and was poked full of holes from something else in his torso. I think almost all of them fell into the trap, but one could teleport through the bars to throw the switch to release the rest, and they evacuated the area, found some debris that they hauled back and threw on the floor to prevent the floor spikes from hitting them.

Recently, I've given a band of kobolds (and now the players) a Trapmaker's Sack, which allows a character to create a CR 3 (normally 4, but I lowered it) trap within 60 feet I think as a full-round action once per day! And it creates the trap just as if it had been built into the space. So it can be used mid-combat, or just before combat, and has been used occasionally to create some traps in locations that one wouldn't expect a trap.


Traps are most fun when paired with special effects or as part of encounters.

Two things I did in the last game I ran...

A ruined temple had a number of 'Trespasser's boot" traps (a small foot sized pit with downward pointing spikes; trying to take your foot out quickly results in damage from the spikes). I paired those with ghoul ambushes. The ghouls knew where these traps were and fell back to ambush the PCs if they happened to fall for one. This created an interesting sort of status effect for one of the PCs during the fight.

Another trap I used was an insanity mist trap along falling portcullis and a crypt thing. The trap sprung the mist (which does WIS damage) and the portcullis fell. Crypt thing shows up and uses its teleport burst. That _should_ be a tough encounter, although the Paladin in the party made all his saves and smited the thing. I liked that trap for both flavor and mechanics; made the paladin feel good about his character, that is for sure.

Liberty's Edge

What if.. A high level wizard knew he was dying and as a dying wish built his tomb and used his ridiculous amount of swag to defend it.

Example.

Encounter 1. Pit of water with a door at the bottom, the water is normal. Upon opening door the water falls onto a dirt ground which interns waters the bag of beans in the ground.

Encounter 2. An eversmoking bottle fills a room with 1 hidden door and a smoke elemental.

Encounter 3. a room laid out like a corn maze permanently darkened and filled with 4 wraiths or spirit trolls each having 1 pinch of dust of dissaperance( Ok, That might be a little cruel).

Encounter 4. A "Room" that you have to walk down a 10' wide hallway that skirts the perimeter in the the room are 2 imps each possessing a ring of spell storing. Having the spells Forcecage, cloudkill and delayed blast fireball pick your level. Me I would go 23rd.

Ok, you build the rest but I would include a simulacrum nuking said party from a distance that has many obstacles.


As a player I find traps can be used tactically. In 3.x I played a rogue who used a spiked chain. I was dominated and turned against the party. I took the McGuffin and retreated to a point on the other side of a trap that required people to walk a certain path across the floor. I simply waited on the far side of the trap and attacked people as they crossed the only path to me.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Rulebook Subscriber

I like some of the examples of Traps in encounters, I've used a case where a Troll king had a pit trap in his throne room, with a lever. The king stat back and the goons left an opening for the PCs to move into the room. The result was as the rogue's trap sense moved close enough to see the trap, the king undulated, threw the lever, and got who ever was on the trap and a few trolls too boot. The trolls with fast healing didn't care if they took a little falling damage.

So active trap in a fight can be trilling, especially when your attackers are aware of it.


Another excellent tactic is to force players to make a choice. You know damn well that picking up that idol will have unpleasant consequences, but if you simply leave it the story will take a completely different path.


To OP: I tend to use traps dependent on the characters being played. If there is a rogue in the group or some other class that focuses on disarming (currently I have an Archeologist in my game) then I'll put quite a few in. It makes the investment in skill points more valuable and helps keep them an important part of the team.

In groups w/ no dedicated trap springer then I still put in traps, but not nearly as many. Just enough to convince the wizard to have a spell prepped or the ranger to put a point or two in Disable Device or something for the barbarian to disarm using his excessive HP. This keeps the threat of traps alive but doesn't punish the players for wanting to play something different.

I find that works well in my games.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Rulebook Subscriber

I appreciate the Player's Guides for the various APs which call out if a trap finder role is worth filling in the party or not. One of our GMs prepping a home campaign published his own similar guide to help us get in character.


I use traps a lower levels. At the higher levels spotting and disabling the traps becomes so trivial it's not worth putting them in the game. Usually at that point you have rogue with 20+ bonus in disable device. Take a rogue at 15th level. 15 Ranks, 3 CS, 2 MW tools, 9 Dex, 7 trap Finding for +35. A CR 20 trap has disable device DC of 34. Now you could make the DC harder but rogue can also take Skill Focus and Deft Hands for +10 to their check. Traps just become a waste of time for the GM to design if they are no threat.


I think the role of attrition in encounter balance has changed from older editions. For the better.

The catalyst of this change is readily available healing.

You can still have an adventure where resources are tight for whatever reason, and then attrition plays a role similar to how it used to. But for the most part, these days, I balance my encounters knowing the party will take them at (nearly) full strength no matter where they are in the flow of the dungeon. Multiple encounters in the same site are really about spillover, not sequence.

I know a lot of GMs still assume the old ways. It's not worth it, in my opinion.

Now, all of this affects my basic encounter design assumptions when it comes to traps.

A stand-alone trap that deals hit-point damage is nothing but a speedbump unless it deals enough damage to kill outright. And murderous traps are... for very occasional deployment.

Traps that deal special damage, like poison, ability drain, magic item negation, etc... these can be stand-alone traps in an encounter site. Especially at levels where their consequences cannot simply be healed away. In a way, they are a set-up for the encounter that follows.

But the single best use of traps is as part of an encounter with an enemy. Enemy creatures can use traps as security systems to avoid players sneaking up on them, and as a bonus it tilts the odds in their favor if the players got hit by the trap. Enemies can use traps during combat. This is where having trap CRs starts to actually make sense.

A lot of these things became clear to me when I started thinking of normal HP as "GP damage" to the tune of 3 GP per 1 HP. If you're like 95% of GMs, you keep wealth by level on track no matter how much damage they take. This means that HP damage without the context of a challenging encounter is meaningless — you're just forcing the players to do paperwork between encounters. It's an empty ritual to pay homage to earlier editions of the game where attrition was how adventures were balanced.

Stop and think, for monsters as well as traps. What is the consequence of failure? Does it mean anything? If so, what exactly does it mean? Are the players aware of those consequences?

The Exchange

Even at high levels, though, it's not a bad idea to put one in every so often: once in a while they get sloppy and forget to check. Besides, the guy who invested all those points in Perception gets a warm glow when he's told that his sharp eyes prevented the party from walking right into a Chamber of Liquification or what-have-you.


Evil Lincoln wrote:
A stand-alone trap that deals hit-point damage is nothing but a speedbump unless it deals enough damage to kill outright. And murderous traps are... for very occasional deployment.

I agree with much of your post, but I've got to say - this one's not quite accurate. Many low-level challenges are actually based around the concept of instilling fear in the players rather than causing any serious hardship. For example - many low-level poisons have such low save DCs that there is almost no chance that they cause any serious impairment given reasonable precautions (such as use of the Heal skill). A trap that doesn't kill may very well still affect player behavior. A piddly 2 hp isn't going to do much when the PCs are supporting average hp totals of 50+, sure enough, but there's still a range in which HP loss becomes threatening in the eye of the beholder. And then there's a potential damage range at which traps CAN be lethal to low-hp characters (such as arcane casters).

These things still affect player behavior, such as prompting the party to send the beefy tank characters ahead to do the exploring. And even reward the supposedly less effective martial type characters by giving them moments to feel special.

1 to 50 of 213 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | next > last >>
Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / General Discussion / Traps overlooked and underused All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.