Cursed Book Trap

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Today’s trap is for the bookworms in your group. This trap involves cursed books, some dangerous scenarios, and Wisdom saves.

The Trap – An Interesting Book

Your group of adventures find themselves in a small library. Several shelves are full of different volumes of text on magic, history, and just about every other subject worth writing down. A bit further on in the room is a lone chair and table with a small glowing stone, presumably for reading, and a single tome bound simply in ornate red leather. The language on the cover is obscure, but the group’s wizard can read it. He picks the book up and has a seat at the chair as he begins to thumb through the book.

What seems like an instant to the wizard feels like ages for the rest of the group. By the time the wizard looks up, he finds the room around him in disarray, his party badly wounded, and everyone quite mad at him for not stopping to help them at all! Only then does he realize the book he’s reading is full of nonsense and he’s been staring blankly at incomprehensible gibberish for the past several minutes.

Mad party

Breaking it Down – Mechanics for a Beguiling Book

The book itself contains no recognizable language and is filled with what is akin to Lorem Ipsum: a bunch of gibberish just to fill the pages and give the eyes something to follow. Whenever a character with a high Intelligence looks at the book, they believe they can read it. The exact level of Intelligence can be set based on your party, but the level should be set so that it is a fairly high number for your group. If multiple players meet the threshold they both believe they can read it, but will believe the text is written in different fictitious languages they’re convinced are real.

If someone decides to study the book, even a cursory glance into it will trigger a Wisdom save. Again, set the DC based on your party; it should be fairly high, but can be adjusted for any group. Failing the Wisdom save causes the player to become beguiled by the book and they will take no action other than reading the book for the next round. At the end of their next turn they can make another Wisdom save. While beguiled by the book, players will also ignore almost anything and taking damage will give them advantage on their next save.

Ignoring surroundings

The book itself is not dangerous, but what happens after it is picked up is. The real trap is the monsters that enter the room after someone picks up the book. You can put all sorts of things in a library or study. Some books might be mimics, there may be oozes that drop from the ceiling, all sorts of baddies are at your finger tips. While you can choose just about anything, the nature of the trap suggests the creatures you choose should be ones that your high Intelligence casters are well equipped to deal with. Creatures that are vulnerable to magic or things that are resistant to physical damage are your best choices.

This trap prays on players who have unbalanced parties, groups with dedicated rolls, and wizards that make Wisdom their dump stat. A series of bad rolls could leave a party member out of combat for the whole fight and put together some fun role play scenarios for when the character is confronted for not helping.

Overcoming the Cursed Book

The cursed book is a great trap item because it doesn’t really pose a threat on its own. It will not lead to an “unfair” death of any of your players caught in it and it gives them something to reason through.

There are lots of ways to overcome the trap. First is by not picking up things when you don’t know what they are. The book gives off an aura of Enchantment that can be found using Detect Magic. If multiple players claim they can read the book’s cover, it gives them clues they can use to realize it’s a trap.

Book magic aura

Additionally, once the trap has been sprung, other players can spend a turn obscuring the book, wresting it away from the affected player, attacking the affected player to give them advantage, or covering the affected players eyes. The rules on this item should not be too rigid. It’s a fun little item that acts as a nonlethal trap and should be adjusted for your group’s composition.

Variations on the Cursed Book

The book can be altered in a variety of ways. It does not have to prey on Intelligence, but could use any other stat in its place. The mechanism for the trap is that a player with a particularly high score feels it’s something that only they might be able to understand, which is what makes it tempting to interact with. No matter how ominous you make the item, players like to feel special just as much as they like to feel smart, so it’s a good hook.

High int high arrogance

Additionally, triggering monsters with the book is only one option as well. The room might begin to fill with a gas or a liquid of some kind instead. You could also use the book as a distraction for non-combat thieves who leave it out to get an easy pick-pocket attempt.

Another much more cruel variation is to have the Wisdom save DC increase based on the Intelligence of the affected creature. This makes the trap incredibly punishing for high Intelligence casters, but completely inert for low intelligence players. This might give you a chance to let other players shine in a combat when a power-built wizard has been hogging the stage a bit lately. Like all traps, the best ones have uses outside of annoying the players.

Liquid trap

Unique Rewards

The book itself can be used as a reward for your group after they endure the trap. A cunning wizard may be able to reverse-engineer the spell and add it to their arsenal. You might want to give it to the party as a magic item, having its effect be reset once each day and people who are aware of the books power, or have fallen prey to it once, become immune to it. The book itself, while full of gibberish, might be a valuable item on its own that players could attempt to sell for a fair bit of coin.

Book as loot

Spell Reference

If you do want to let your players reverse engineer the spell, here is the homebrew for it. While tested, it may need balance for your campaign.

Beguiling Text

Wizard Spell – 2nd level – Enchantment

Casting Time: 1 h

Duration: 3 days

Material Components: 1 Book filled with gibberish in a common script – worth at least 50 Gp

Effect: Upon casting the book is filled with a beguiling aura that targets intelligent creatures. Any creature who sees the book and has an intelligence of over 15 believes that they can read it and it is in a language they can understand. If they attempt to read the text, opening the book in anyway will transfix their attention.

To break free from the text, the affected creature must beat a DC 15 Wisdom save or have the text forcibly removed from their line of sight. In combat or other loud distracting scenarios the creature may attempt a Wisdom save at the end of each of their turns, outside of combat at the end of each five minute interval.

Once the creature has been freed from the book’s effect, they do not realize any time has passed and believed they just picked up the book. As soon as the effect ends, they no longer believe the book is filled with anything but gibberish and the spell wears off of the book.

A Simple Cursed Object for Easy Trap Set Up

This trap is fun, easy to use, and comes with more than a few practical applications. As far as traps go, it’s a bit more unique and a lot less straight forward then your average damage trap. A perfect fit for any trap dodgers or Intelligence-heavy groups.

If you use this trap in your game, let us know how it goes. We’d love to hear what comes of it and how well it worked out for your party.

Happy DMing!

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