Sometimes a trap doesn’t need to deal damage to hurt your players. Sometimes what really hurts is taking your players’ gold. This trap is simple, effective, and easy to place and use.
Jewels are easily one of the players most exciting finds, as they are valuable and very rarely have any downsides. That all changes here. These jewels are nestled along with other treasure or on their own and are meant to be taken easily. Once procured, the jewels themselves give off either a liquid, gas, or magical aura that corrodes and destroys gold. The players may go on a long adventure before ever discovering that they have made themselves penniless. These fake jewels and disappearing gold will make your adventurers think twice about mindlessly looting in the future.
The trap should be one where the jewels look normal and cannot be discerned by the average person, but someone could appraise them and find out that they are indeed fake. This DC should be high. The next time someone checks their treasure, it should be immediately obvious what is happening and the loss of gold should be proportional to the amount of time that has passed since the jewels were picked up.
Triggering and Disarming
There is no disarming these beyond leaving them alone. If they are disturbed in anyway, they are set off and their effect happens very slowly over time. If you find them with other gold but leave them and come back later, the gold may be destroyed as the jewel’s effects go off with even the slightest jostling.
These little gold eaters have a ton of great uses. Thematically, they are fantastic when put in a dragon horde or near the entrance to a treasure room. Intelligent creatures may keep them around to spite thieves that would steal from them. When used on their own, you can have them simply be a one-off punishment for not being careful. More constructively, these are a good signal to players that treasure may not be what it seems and can be an indicator that curses or traps within the treasure may lie ahead.
These are really important teaching items. When first introduced as a concept, they can help your players understand the type of downsides that can come with greedily hoarding treasure. If they keep all their wealth on them all the time, this may be used as a setback that indicates they may be better off finding a bank or safe to store their goods.
Another way this item is really interesting is that it only destroys gold. If the players have platinum, silver, or copper, those coins are unaffected. This in itself can lead your players to visit a money changer to get weighty gold converted into platinum pieces.
Where Not to Use this Trap
Don’t do this to new or inexperienced players. It’s rude when you are just starting out and don’t have the background for when magical items can go wrong. This trap becomes more usable when it does not cause your players to become completely broke all at once. If your group uses a single player as the gold mule, don’t use this trap. Having a whole party lose all their money at once, while funny to you, is not fun. A lot of players save up for big purchases and gold is an important part of the progression system.
Alternatives to Damage
It is our hope that this article has shown you that you can hurt your players with more than just damage. Sometimes it’s nice to sneak in a cheeky trap like this to remind everyone that they can never be too cautious in the world of DnD. This trap might be just the reminder your players need to curb their greedy habits and get back on the straight and narrow.