Magical Traps and trapfinding ...

Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

not sure where this fit so, if this is in the wrong forum, apologies, can a mod move it if that's the case?

I'm running a Rise of the Runelords game,and without spoiling anything for anyone, my players are about to come up on magical trap, probably next session.
my question is, how do trapfinders perceive magical traps? What are the tells? I'm unsure how to describe something if I don't know exactly what they're looking for if they don't have Detect Magic active.
If I ask for a perception check, rogue makes said check... "you notice a magical trap" that seems pretty vague to me.

How DOES someone disable device a magical trap without something like Dispel Magic?
"I want to use DD on the trap" ok, seems weird to me but ok, but if trap is set off my proximity, where do they go to try and disable and how is this accomplished? is there a on/off switch of some kind?
and wouldn't it stand to reason that if it goes off my proximity, they shouldn't have a chance to disable? and not really be a trap to be disabled but just a feature of a room?

I hope someone understood that
any help is appreciated.

Technically, magical traps are magic items, so Dispel Magic would only suppress the effect for 1d4 rounds.

As for how to describe the disarming, it's up to you. Some of the ways I personally do it are like this:

-Tracing the magical writing/runes and erasing a key phrase/rune
-Removing the component that the spell requires (i.e., Color Spray requires colored sand, Fireball requires bat guano, etc.)
-Speaking the verbal component for the spell's counter (i.e., speaking the verbal component for Haste into a Slow trap)

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When I last ran a character with trapfinding (goblin rogue/gunslinger with Trap Spotting as well), it worked like this:

"So there I was, walkin' down the corridor keepin' my eyes peeled for kobolds, when I smelled some'in' that weren't right. Sure enough, lookin' up--but only usin' my peripheral vision, see--there was some o' that gobbledegook on the wall, only this time it was definitely magic. While I appreciated the hint o' gunpowder in the odor, there weren't no way I could leave that there to do who knows what to my friends, what with their tendency to just 'read' anything you put in front o' 'em. Who does that? That's like lettin' someone just put somethin' in your head! It's almost as bad as writin'! Good fellers, but not too bright. Must be those tiny heads o' theirs.

"So I got out my Trusty Pokey Things Fun Time Kit, squinted reeeeal narrow, and crept up to the thing. I put my hand over one eye and looked at it sidelong through my fingers from pretty much every angle. I see-lected one Pokey Thing, then another. After about half a minute o' not-staring, I picked up the bit o' rubber from my kit, closed my eyes, and reached for the wall . . ."


"Followin' that was the longest heartbeat in my life . . . but . . . nothing blowed up. The gunpowder smell faded. I opened my eyes. The gobbledegook was gone! I'd dealt another blow to them Literati bastards!

"I hafta admit, it were a little disappointin' that nothin' blew up. Fortunately, I made up fer it later by emptying another bandolier o' bullets into the kobold chieftain. Poor thing looked like one o' them fancy cheeses when I was through."

Think of magical traps as similar to modern security. Motion detectors, laser tripwires, thermal/vibration/humidity detectors, etc. I consider the fact that anybody can detect them means they aren't fully invisible or beyond perception (otherwise how would you use perception to find them?) but they do require some specialized knowledge even beyond that of Disable Device to attempt to disable them. Faint shimmers, distortions like a micro-mirage, or even a sudden jump of static electricity could all be things the wary trapfinder notices. Sometimes it may be the business end, like a statue with a faint scorch mark around the eyes from previous firings, or a suspicious green film in the cracks where deadly gas has settled.

Most of the time actually dealing with a trap doesn't mean disabling the dangerous mechanism though, but rather the trigger. So picture a trapbuster using a handful of iron fillings to suppress the traps "proximity" sensor, or a few quartz crystals to re-route the magical "laser tripwire". If the wizard can have dragon scales and devil blood in his spell component pouch, the rogue can have this stuff in his MW thieves tools.

It may require a bit of seat of the pants inspiration on your part, but this can go a long way to making magic traps feel exotic and fun. "You notice a faint smell of freshly dug earth, unusual since the hall is solid stone. Looking closer, you detect a faint distortion on the floor, a slight blurring of the natural lines of the stone." How I would describe finding a Create Pit spelltrap. Hope this helps you!

This is the kind of the stuff that can make traps interesting tbh. I like Blapher's description of how he notices the trap. Maybe the hairs on the back of the PC's neck stand up. Maybe there's the smell of ozone in the air. Maybe he notices that the air covered by the proximity trap looks a little colored.

As for how they're disabled, you can get creative with that. Sometimes getting close enough to a trap to disable it can be a fun little minigame on it's own. I've seen a simple Alarm spell confound high level parties before they realized that it's an emanation centered on a point that only reacts to living creatures. Wizard mage-hands a tin can to the center of the emanation and covers it. Covered emanations don't work and the party proceeds. For a rogue I'd say they've got a little mechanical spider that does the same thing, or a folding rod with a hand on the end that can extend into the alarm to do it.

Location Trigger: Pressure plates usually fall into this, as might glyphs. The rogue can jam the plate or erase the right part of the glyph.

Proximity Trigger: These are usually keyed off the Alarm spell, and as I said above, if you can encase the center of the emanation, the trap is disabled.

Sound Trigger: From the SRD: "A sound trigger functions like an ear and has a +15 bonus on Perception checks. A successful Stealth check, magical silence, and other effects that would negate hearing defeat it."

Visual Trigger: Blocking the 'Eye' can neuter this trap. Paint-Balloon or something else that prevents the eye from seeing you would work.

Touch Trigger: Plenty of solutions to this. This one is also based off Alarm spells according to the SRD.

Timed Trigger: Easy. The rogue reads the patterns and acts at the right time.

Spell Trigger: Varies and depends on the spell used.

Thanks guys, I am much more clearer on how to handle these things


My Grey Paladin Guide Cardinal's method so far has been to activate the trap and take it to the face. So far, so good. Though she no longer touches anything with a face. Fool her once, and all. "Found another trap!" She says, all to often.

Yes, I also think Paladins are the best trapfinders. :)

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