Traps, Triggers, and Puzzles 3

If you missed the first of this series you should go back and read it. In short, I am gathering a collection of traps, triggers, and puzzles for new GM's to use for their dungeons. Hopefully these will prove useful, or at least interesting, to create your own.

I am using the following definitions for my vocabulary:

Trap – A nonliving danger that is posed to the players that are activated with a trigger.

Trigger – A mechanism that activates some effect, both beneficial and hazardous.

Puzzle – An obstacle that requires a series of actions to complete, usually involving a level of intellectual challenge.

Trap: Collapsing Ceilings

Rocks fall, everyone dies. This may be one of the most common phrases players and GMs remember about tabletop games. At its simpliest this trap is the contents of the ceiling falling onto the victum. This can vary in severity from huge boulders falling from a cavern ceiling or tiling from a broken roof.

This can also be seen as the ceiling lowering on the characters. This can be combined with other traps like spikes. Enjoy the horror of your players faces as the world literally collapses around them.

Trap: False Objective

This is one of my personal favorites,primarily because I love messing with players heads. A false objective is something that simply makes the players believe they achieved their objective before its too late. This can be an enemy who the players might think is the big bad, or a mimic of an item they are going after. This trap is the most vague trap I've covered but that is because it has to be tailored to the quest the players are on.

This could be the spark of an entire quest, having retrieved a cursed artifact instead of the actual artifact or finding an NPC who claims to be the one they are going to save while the real one rots in a dungeon somewhere. This trap requires a ton of thought but can be incredibly satisfying to see pulled off.

Trigger: Valve

No not the company that you give your money to in the summer. It would be under traps if thats what I was covering. I'm talking about the mechanical device that is used control the flow of fluids. What is great about this trigger is that you can vary what it triggers based on spectrum. Most often this is controlled by a type of rotating object, like the handle on your sink's faucet.

This can be a great trigger if you want to play with fluid puzzles. If you want a frustrating but fun example, go look up the water temple from the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. However you can use the valve in more complex ways, like controlling the pressure of another mechanic. As soon as you bring water into traps and puzzles you can get really complex.

Trigger: Key

It surprises me this wasn't one of the first I covered. We deal with keys all the time in a society obsessed with security. Even our computers have keys. No not keyboard keys, I'm talking about security keys (look up SSL if you want an example of a computer key you use ALL THE TIME). In its simplest form a key is something used to open a lock or verify permission. Opening locks may not be the best thing to do. Opening a lock may release some trap or creature.

Keys can also be used to bypass traps. It could be a way for owners of a dungeon to make their way in without fear of the traps. I feel this idea is not well explored outside of heist quests. How many times do players find an item to make a dungeon easier?

Puzzle: Pillar of Burning Light

Sitting in the middle of the room is a pedestal illuminated by a blinding light. On the pedestal sits whatever item or trigger that the party needs to progress. Written in the room (maybe on the pedestal) is the phrase "The light of [insert name of diety or great being] burns in the eyes of the visitor". Characters who inspect closely will see that on the floor surrounding the pillar of light are ashes not distributed evenly. If the character puts a body part in the light, it is incinerated off.

The only way to reach the item they need is to close their eyes and reach towards the object. If they open their eyes as they are reaching, the light burns them again.

Puzzle: Truths and Lies

For many this is a classic puzzle and it may not stump some of your players. Before the characters are two doors with talking faces (or guardians) on them. In unison they say, "Behind one of us lies your destination, the other leads to certain death. One of us tells nothing but the truth, the other tells nothing but lies. You may ask us only one question." Feel free to make what they say fit more to the style of your world. For players who have never encountered this, this can be really frustrating.

The answer to this riddle is to ask the doors what the other door would say is the correct path. The truth telling door would say (or point depending on how your doors are designed) to the deadly door because the lying door would point to the deadly path. The lying door would also point to the deadly door, because the truth telling door would point to the correct path. Since it tells only lies it would say the truth telling door would point to the deadly door. This makes the opposite door the correct door. You can also reverse this and ask for which door is the deadly door, the only difference is that you take the door the doors/guardians point to.

If you do have experienced players you can mix this up a bit. I ran this where both of doors were actually not consistent and enjoyed messing with the party. You could also play it off where both doors tell the truth, or both tell lies. These do not have feasible solutions, so its recommended the that result of their decisions are not punishing. Doing so could result in upset players.

Hopefully these items help improve your game and give your players some challenges to overcome. Traps and puzzles should keep your players second guessing everything you throw at them,  thats how you know you are doing it right!

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