Things a DM can put in a dungeon to totally mess with players


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Spook205 wrote:

I don't know if its this thread or one of the ones on traps but..

Its a jerk move to have a door that opens to a flat wall.

Its a really jerk move to have a door that opens to a flat wall with a symbol of death painted on the bare stone wall (and is thus undetectable until the door opens).

Its a spectacularly jerky move to have a secret door that opens to a flat wall with a symbol of death painted on the bare stone wall.

But if I was setting up traps to guard the secret entrance to my tower, that is exactly the kind of thing I would do. Wouldn't you? Why should the brilliant wizard be incredibly less clever than me (or you)?

Silver Crusade

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Oh I strongly suggest stuff like this, but I'd use it sparringly to demonstrate the kind of underhanded, paranoid (but dangerous) dude the players are dealing with.

I've got a professional trapsmith NPC who specializes entirely in existential traps and does stuff like trap the bypass, have levers that disable traps but enable other traps, and who leaves pre-looted treasure chests around to demoralize or anger people.

In one case he hired dishonest spellcasters for spellcasting services, knowing they'd sell the details of his traps, and then after they left, shelled out the cash to have more trustworthy spellcasters come in and revised his traps just slightly such as by having the bypasses actually trigger traps, or having passwords be the kill-phrase, to not only make them effective again, but to destroy the reputation of the spellcasters if they tried to double-dip again.

PCs and adventurers also like to see patterns in things. You can hold them up for hours just by making things that react to them. Make it almost have a pattern, but not and it'll drive them barmy.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Get an oversized d20 counter die.

When the PCs enter a room with a statue or whatever, and they say "I check out the statue," plunk the d20 on the other side of your GM screen, on "20." Every time a PC takes an action, drop the number.

What happens when it gets to "1?" Who knows?!

If you really want to freak them out after you've done this a few times, start on a lower number and count down from there. Or plunk an oversized d6 on the table.


^Used to be an IPhone app for visual dice-rolling that even let you shake to roll. Wonder if it still exists, and if it would support this?

Although if you are using a mobile device for this instead of actual dice (the heresy!), maybe the best way to employ this would be to have it display a countdown timer in strange symbols and wear it strapped to your forearm, Predator-style. Just don't do this in sight of anyone who works for Homeland Security or a police department . . . .


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The Elusive Trout wrote:
I made a dungeon out of a dead outsider and put fleshy deformities and decay all over the chambers. Then, to make matters worse, I put a key item in what looked like a floor sphincter. Said hole had trap oozes in it.

That's funny, because not too long ago, I began an adventure with an "introductory" encounter where the party found themselves stuck in an interdimensional space with The @#$hole of Eternity, which was a talking sphincter occupying a 15'x15' square in a dungeon floor. I actually sculpted a mini for it out of Magic Sculpt surrounded by Hirst Arts tiles.


Blind underwater fight. Squid ink from a kraken preferred. Worst rules ever... because there's actually nothing in the pool with them but seaweed. The kraken tentacle by the edge of the pool leading to a tunnel was a plant. Water starts clear, a trap sets off the ink, the players kill each other trying to survive the kraken attack.

A helper that isn't helpful. He looks totally bad***, but gets fully slaughtered and loudly at the first (and extremely inopportune) chance. This draws more foes to the fight while eliminating help they counted on. Bonus points if he was the substitute party healer and nobody bought potions or clw wands.

Illusory walls. They may not fool anyone, but they do hide the monster, magical trap, or pit directly behind them.

Many people have suggested hiding magical auras, or making mundane items appear magical, but how long will players keep coming back to a spot that has a strong magic aura with no item to be found? It can keep their attention very occupied, for way too long.

A magic cursed item that works half the time, and works in reverse the other half. So the first time they use that wand of cure moderate, it saves someone's life...

NPCs don't lie very well. When they do, or are deliberately misinformed, things can get ugly. "But I rolled a 15 on sense motive... I'm sure this is the right way!"

Don't forget CMB. I've seen a really well built third level fighter, completely trivialized by a lucky Disarm. A single NPC in the opposing team that looks very intimidating and does nothing but disarm and trip left and right can make the rest of your scouting party very dangerous.


An effect like Phantasmal Killer, except it never attacks.


This isn't my idea, I stole it from Dungeon Magazine.

Have the party crawl through a strange, stony tunnel. The tunnel is round and very rough, with what look like recessed spikes or similar along the walls.

Halfway through crawling through the tunnel, cast Flesh To Stone on the gullet of the petrified purple worm they were crawling through.


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I really like the idea of clock that keeps skipping backward and forward. I am just not sure how to proper portray it.


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^I think either the World of Greyhawk or Eberron had something sort of like this called the Doomgrinder, except it just jersey forward erratically, and it looked like a windmill.


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^Stupid phone -- that was supposed to say "jerked forward". One of these days Half lingerie debugging Witch is going to slip past my correction of autocorrect . . . .

Scarab Sages

Have statues/suits of armor lining the halls doing the full Weeping Angels schtick (but keep it VERY subtle so the players have a hard time catching on). The kicker to this: When the time is right, have it turn out that they want to HELP the players battle the evil that has them imprisoned.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Anything and everything from Grimtooth's book of traps.


Simeon wrote:
Anything and everything from Grimtooth's book of traps.

Agree, they were freaking nasty, sneaky and covered every scenario.


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A white linen towel.

At the end of the dungeon (5 levels later) they found a magical fountain and an engraving that stated "Only in surrender, will you go forward."

The only way to continue was to (literally) throw in the towel.

It is possible that I am a jerk.


back in 2ed when there was a wondering monster chart for every dungeon floor

cursed boots (usaly found on a skeleton in a monster lair.test positive for detect magic spell):

the "ever-stinking-boot-of-mud"
once put on they can not be removed without breaking the curse or dieying.
leave a trail of red glowing mud behind the character that smell like rutten meat (to make sure even the unintelegent wondering monsters will be after him).


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Spook205 wrote:

I don't know if its this thread or one of the ones on traps but..

Its a jerk move to have a door that opens to a flat wall.

Its a really jerk move to have a door that opens to a flat wall with a symbol of death painted on the bare stone wall (and is thus undetectable until the door opens).

Its a spectacularly jerky move to have a secret door that opens to a flat wall with a symbol of death painted on the bare stone wall.

Making the Symbol of Death look like a smiley face with "Have a nice day" written in Black Speech is just pouring salt on the wound.


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Quirel wrote:
Making the Symbol of Death look like a smiley face with "Have a nice day"

You remind me of Red Alert III, the allied have a power that sets a timebomb doing almost exactly that.


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Rakes.

Everywhere.


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The two that were my favorites.. were 'A Bell'.

Apparently this bell had to be struck to do something important... or it could be a trap... but we debated on that for HOURS before leaving it be and walking away... thus making the dungeon a thousand times harder....

the second? False doors.

I read in a couple novels where the dwarves would construct a doorframe or something 'sorta hidden' so that the invaders spend days trying to bust through or pick... what is in fact just a wall to the mountain.

LOVE that idea ^_^

OH!!!!

and Statues! Ones that DON'T attack... Every time a statue shows up on a map, our players go CRAZY trying to get around it in a way that won't trigger the inevitable golem.... ;)


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Gazebos now have their own thread.


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A room with 2 pools of consumable liquid, 1 red and 1 blue.

A sign: Do you want to see the truth?

Dark Archive

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neaver made a doungon but a town of sentint rabbits that live in a tiny villege and you have to save them from a horrable beast but its a just a regular fox


One of the things I like to do is put innocents in peril in ways that PCs can't just kill their way through. For example in an APL 1-3 level dungeon, what about a room full of innocents slowly dying from alchemical ooze swarms all over them. If you just light them on fire or hack at them you'll disperse the swarms but you'll also kill the innocent. Other ways to do this would be traps already containing a victim; disarming the trap retracts the 2 blades that are technically holding this person in place/alive for the moment; victims that are drowning or suffocating - PCs rarely take those "breathe w/out air" spells in my games and they always play selfish so they might die attempting to save the vic, so there's always a momnet of hesitation... which is where the innocent inevitably expires.

If you REALLY want to annoy your players... taunt them. At the beginning of my campaign I warned my players that not every encounter was a fight; use all your skills to assess threats. A couple games in the PCs encountered a band of fetchlings. These creatures were far lower in level than the APL and while I said they have obvious weapons and move with caution they never actually drew and attacked until AFTER the party did. So in the end the PCs killed 3 of 4 neutral NPC fetchlings that were intended be be a diplomatic encounter to give them info they would use further down the road.

Fast forward: the final level of a dungeon involves helping a group of fetchlings against an undead menace. The leader of the fetchlings made a point to interject, often: Man, I hope my kinfolk we sent to the surface for aid are ok... they haven't been back for days... one was carrying this really great masterwork axe we found... say, you guys didn't see them up there did you? Man, I really hope they're ok...

So for a couple game sessions I taunted them with a tough decision they made. Other ways to do that would be if they fail to save an innocent, have an image, item or kinfolk of that victim show up. If the PCs lose a bunch of gols foolishly, have some suddenly rich smarmy guy show up talking about how his master plan swindled these jerks out of their cash and he's buying everyone drinks. Taunt your players, they hate that.


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A bedroom with a highly attractive female prisoner who is eager for release that has a mystical anti-demonic seal on the door ... turns out that she's a hostage held for random and the seal was there for the succubus that was slain a few years back. Turns out she's entirely human. My players are so expectant of that trope and I've played to it twice ... it's about time I do an About Turn and have it be about nothing at all.


Have innocent NPC behave like something else in dim light and see if the players are paranoid enough to jump into action before making out what's wrong.


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All manner of unpleasant liquids worked into traps to cover the adventurers, requiring armour or clothes to be changed less there be problems. Honey, oil, tar, goose feathers, off-beer, rotten milk, sap and of course glue.


Ezakim wrote:

Rakes.

Everywhere.

A fan of the deception series?

Shadow Lodge

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RHMG Animator wrote:
Simeon wrote:
Anything and everything from Grimtooth's book of traps.
Agree, they were freaking nasty, sneaky and covered every scenario.

Goodman Games is working with Flying Buffalo to publish a compilation of the first five Grimtooth's Traps books. Kickstarter is up, already met 7 stretch goals.


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Oh, another one I put on the PCs at low level: prestidigitation to make them smell bad. There are some insects that are attracted to the scent of rot. Also mites have the Smell ability. When my PCs were going down into a mite-infested dungeon I had them hit by one of the little pests' prestidigitation that made them smell like rot... for an hour.

Suddenly no matter where they went in the dungeon all their Stealth checks were -8. The giant beetles they fought all got +2 attack/damage from being so attracted to the smell. That was the ONLY time that the annoyance of a prestidigitation turned into something game related that really worked well for me. For them... not so much.


You don't even need a spell for that. Just give the party what KestrelZ suggested on the first page of this thread: an encounter with a skunk.

Silver Crusade

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You don't need magic when common household nonsense will suffice.

Also a PC's worst enemy is the PC. Once you grok how he thinks things should work, you can design stuff to mess with him.

For example, simply gluing gold to the floor. Or making sure the treasure can't be easilly (7,3283 copper pieces!) divided can go a long way towards messing with the players.


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Use encumberance rules


They finally crack open the bottom level dungeon under the ziggurat, slay a mighty golem and find a great horde of treasure and plenty of magic items.

The best items are cursed. The weakly enchanted useful items, are not.

Too good to be true.


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DM Under The Bridge wrote:
The best items are cursed. The weakly enchanted useful items, are not.

Swords that start singing epic songs when sneaking up on monsters?

An enchanted fullplate of gender switch?
Amulet that makes you talk backwards all the time?


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Liranys wrote:

1. An actual red herring (figurative and literal)

I am currently running a campaign in a very strange world, so weird that its not even a world, where all the herrings are red.

In this world the PCs were trading in an island called Talk [pronounced toll-k] for the reproductive fluids of small villages that was valuable as it could be made into high quality cosmetics.

It took them a long time to realise they were trading in Talk cum powder.

And if you really want to mess with players, impossible geometry and 4 dimensional geometry work really well.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Unexpected underwater encounters.

No one is ever ready for an unexpected underwater encounter!

Also-- when the PCs are fighting the Big Bad, I metagame big time-- that's how I simulate super-genius intelligence! I know the PCs' tactics, and a sufficiently intelligent mastermind should also know their tactics, and plan for them speficically!


Kthulhu wrote:
RHMG Animator wrote:
Simeon wrote:
Anything and everything from Grimtooth's book of traps.
Agree, they were freaking nasty, sneaky and covered every scenario.
Goodman Games is working with Flying Buffalo to publish a compilation of the first five Grimtooth's Traps books. Kickstarter is up, already met 7 stretch goals.

Sweet.


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A gelatinous cube that has consumed several vials of ink and is currently completely black. Right on the other side of the door the PCs open.

Instant mobile hostile darkness, and they'll never trust darkness again.


The business card/advertisement of the trap maker that made the trap the PCs either set off or successfully disabled. That's all the treasure there is.

Bonus points if a PC died before they got the "treasure".

The Emerald Spire:
This happens on the second level, "The Cellers." My Sunday group loved it!


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A sobbing girl/young woman in rags. Any PC approaching her will get the spoilered message "you've startled the witch"


Chyrone wrote:

A sobbing girl/young woman in rags. Any PC approaching her will get the spoilered message "you've startled the witch"

I said that while watching "Grave Encounters" with friends on Halloween. It was... fitting.

Lantern Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

It's been a bit since I checked this thread, but I've always liked fake doors. Add in a fake "combination lock" that actually triggers a trap (or ominous sounds nearby).

Heck, I read an article somewhere about adding mysterious noises to your random encounter tables and have been using that tactic ever since. Really keeps the characters on their toes.

Shadow Lodge

Stolen from a update for the Grimtooth's Ultimate Traps Collection:

A urinal with a block of lithium in it.

(lithium reacts explosively with water)


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A graveyard, grouped in sets of four graves to a plot, naming adventurers and their style of combat.

The sign says "Trophy Graveyard of the Tucker Kobold clan."


Wall of force blocking dug in grab holes for climbing. Just to tick them off. :P

Scarab Sages

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A powerful and ominous-seeming magical item, like a talking skull that can teach rare spells and casts horrid wilting on the bearer's enemies once per day or something like that, that the PCs acquire with suspicious ease. It must be cursed or corrupting, right? Everyone knows this kind of power just doesn't come without a catch, right? The thing is, there is no catch. It really is just free awesome power - but good luck disproving a negative to suspicious PCs....


Kthulhu wrote:

Stolen from a update for the Grimtooth's Ultimate Traps Collection:

A urinal with a block of lithium in it.

(lithium reacts explosively with water)

Unfortunately, it also reacts with the water in the air, it's not going to stick around to be a trap.


Just now, upon opening a room they see a small child eating from a rotting corpse.

It's a giant spider with an illusion on it.

Shadow Lodge

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Loren Pechtel wrote:
Kthulhu wrote:

Stolen from a update for the Grimtooth's Ultimate Traps Collection:

A urinal with a block of lithium in it.

(lithium reacts explosively with water)

Unfortunately, it also reacts with the water in the air, it's not going to stick around to be a trap.

Put it in the world's first air-conditioned dungeon.

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