Players often try to get the jump on their enemies, which can lead to obvious and predictable game play. If you want to switch things up and make your players consider their tactics more carefully, an exploding statues trap is a great addition to your dungeon.
Utilizing Exploding Statues
This trap has a two-part set up. In the first area of the dungeon, your players will need to encounter a statue-like creature that they can get the drop on. This can be gargoyles, golems, or even inactive Warforged. The idea is to set the precedent early on that the players can destroy these enemies before they awaken by some sort of trigger. This can be a lever, entering a certain part of the room, or opening a door. Regardless of what triggers the enemies or what type enemy the players face, you need to make the set up repeatable and easy to understand.
The trap comes into play after the second or third encounter with enemy statues. In this room it is likely the players will go to destroy the statues without checking them, and in doing so they will trigger an explosion. The explosion trap is a simple one: any percussive force to the statue sets it off. It is important to note that they are not touch traps, but instead require damage. This is a special kind of trigger that the Dungeon Master’s Guide does not cover. The damage should be minimal but sudden and make your players see that the dungeon design is a bit more clever than they anticipated.
This trap is not designed to be hard to spot, but instead designed to punish the players for not looking at their surroundings. If your players inspect the statues at all, they should be able to see that they are statues and not enemies. In the case of gargoyles, you can show that the stone is chipped and worn, which gargoyles would not be. For golems, you can indicate that there are no joins and the stone seems to be one carved piece. Additionally, you can make the trap even more obvious by including runes or written wards that explain the volatile nature of the statues.
The only trigger for this trap is attacking the statues. They explode when they take damage of any type. It may be possible to avoid this through clever spell use, but it is unlikely that the players will be able figure out how the trap works until they’ve already set it off.
The exploding statues should deal force or fire damage that does no more than 1/4 your parties average HP in a 10 ft radius. Anyone who does not trigger that trap but is in the radius should get a Dexterity save for half damage. The person who triggers it should be considered unable to make a Dexterity save as the damage is sudden. Try to roll your damage with many lower sided dice and no modifier to allow for a wider variance in damage.
There is no disarming this trap beyond leaving it alone. The trap does no damage unless disturbed, so your players should take that into account. If your players try to weaponize the trap, let them; it’s funny and inventive, and it gives you a chance to have something go horribly wrong during player set up.
Exploding statues only makes sense if you can trick the players into disturbing the statues in the first place. The trap is there to serve as a reminder that the place they are in was designed purposefully and that the players should not get too comfortable with a predetermined solution. When used well, it will put your players on edge a bit and help avoid players trying to skip what may be meaningful combat sections of your game. It may go without saying, but don’t use this trap on its own unless you’ve hinted at this danger somewhere else in your campaign or earlier in the dungeon. Making gargoyles common makes this trap more meaningful, or having clever, mischievous dungeon construction can lead to this being a reusable staple of your campaign.