Traps, Triggers, and Puzzles 4

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: Mimic

This trap is a staple of Dungeons and Dragons. It comes up in nearly every fantasy game and they seem to terrify everyone. Mimics, in their simplest form it is a creature that takes on the form of an object to surprise its prey. When we think of Mimics usually it is in the form of a chest that we assume it to be as its a common form for them to take. Adventurers LOVE chests and whats inside them. Sometimes they are too hasty to open them resulting in being eaten.

What may be unknown to some newer players is that mimics can take the form of ANY object. To give an example from one of my own games, I had tasked my players with going to a wizards tower and retrieving "The Wizards Staff". Once they had made it through the trials of the wizards tower they found his room with all of his stuff, including a staff that lied at the foot of his bed on a type of wooden footlocker. The ranger assuming everything safe went up and grabbed the staff only to find out that the staff and the footlocker together were a mimic. What they were really after was a book with the title "The Wizard's Staff".

Trap: Spells

A traditional trap is a very simple one, pick a spell from the Player's Handbook and cast it at the player. The key to this trap is the delivery method. For instance, once a player steps on a tile it applies shocking grasp to the one who stepped on it.

Sometimes this will effect everyone in the party (i.e. fireball). You should also note what else the spell effects in the room. Is there another element to the puzzle that feels the effect of this spell? If so what kind of cascading effect will it have?

Trigger: Spells

Yeah I know, I just covered spells in the traps. How could I talk about using spells for these things without also talking about how they can be used for triggers? Using a spell as a trigger does require a bit more creativity as there are only a handful of spells in the Players Handbook (at least in 5th Edition) that could really be used as a trigger.

The one that immediately comes to mind is the alarm spell. An area of effect that more or less alarms the person who cast it, or everyone in the area. However you can invent your own spells that act as triggers and leave your players puzzled. After all in a world with wizards there are always those wizards who are experimenting and coming up with new things.

An example could be a spell that triggers a trap to activate when two objects touch. This could lead to a reverse Indiana Jones scenario where players place an object on a pedestal and watch as a boulder comes at them.

Trigger: Words

"Open Sesame" is a phrase that nearly everyone in my generation seems to know even though probably the closest they've come to reading "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" is through Disney's Aladdin. Yet everyone associates it with some magic words that open doors. That should illuminate the possibilities of what speaking magic words can do.

For instance you could have a question/riddle on the wall and the answer be the solution to progress, or it be a red herring and activate a trap. It also does not simply have to be a specific phrase. You could have it so it triggers whenever you speak, causing a cascading effect as your players keep shouting in character because horrible things are happening around them. Or it only activates when there is silence for a certain amount of time.

Puzzle: They All Fall Down

The room locks behind the players as skeletons wake from their eternal rest. Words border the door forward: The way forward is open when all lie low. The party kills the skeletons but find that the doors do not open. After a few moments of rest the skeletons put themselves back together looking for another fight.

This scenario could go on for hours if your players fail to realize that they themselves must also lay on the ground once they defeat the skeletons. It should be important to note that to an inexperienced group the skeletons will probably get more swings in making the encounter that much more dangerous depending on the level of the group.

Puzzle: Ordered Books

Many of my favorite puzzles start with a single question. In this puzzle what that question is can be up to you depending on the context in which you use this puzzle. In its simplest form the players must order a number of books in a specific way in order to progress. The way they obtain this is up to you as the dungeon master.

When I ran this puzzle for my players they found a series of books in a library that took the idea of "books take you to new worlds" almost too seriously. At the end of each adventure book they found another book that transported them back to the plane they were on. In this campaign they needed three.

I also had the question line the ceiling on each floor of the library having the players find that ad the place where some book shaped holes were. On the spines of these books were their organizational code. I went with the one we use in the Unites States for fictional books, which is to take the first three letters of the authors name. From there the players had to place the books such that those organizational codes spelled out "KNOWLEDGE" which when looked at carefully was perfectly nine letters.

While this is how I ran the puzzle you can come up with your own variations by changing the question and answer. You can also change the organizational code of your libraries to make for more interesting challenges.

Hopefully these traps, triggers, and puzzles help to improve your game, make your players paranoid, and bring fun to your table.

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