The consequence of a trap in DnD usually ends with players taking damage. Players come to fear if their next step will cause them to get spiked, fire-balled, pummeled, or worse. This can lead to paranoia that can hurt game play; you may find your players saying “I check for traps” every 5 minutes. If this happens, you’ll want to change your players’ perception of traps by focusing on ways you can use traps that don’t inflict damage. Today we’re going to look at one such use: moving players with traps.
Traps For Moving Players
A trap in a dungeon can serve a lot of purposes. If you’re thinking about the intention of the in-game dungeon builder, they likely made the trap to keep people out of a place or from stealing something important. However, a dungeon designer might not want a lot of bodies lying around, and a compassionate dungeon builder might not want to kill an adventurer at all.
In these cases, traps that serve to relocate the players instead of harming them make a lot of sense. There are a few good examples to look at, but right now we will focus on three: pit traps, teleporters, and labyrinths.
Falling Into a New Area
Though classically used to deal damage, pit traps are excellent ways to move players to new locations. Where someone ends up when they fall into a pit depends on the location. They might end up in a cell in the dungeon basement, or they could pop out in an area that is not connected to the dungeon in any other way and leads them out into an inconvenient area.
By moving a player through the pit you now have a chance to present them with a new puzzle. This is a great opportunity to introduce a simple puzzle and give the targeted player something to think about while you work on maintaining other parts of the campaign.
One of the effects of moving a player via a pit trap is that they know that they are physically connected to where they were. They might know where they are now, but other players could call down to them or they could reason that they are somewhere below where they were before.
This kind of information is helpful when navigating other players and allow them to make decisions about where to go and what to do next. If they fell down, they will naturally look for a path that goes up. However, there are times when this is not the effect you’re looking for and that’s where teleporters come in.
Teleporter Traps and Blind Movement
The main difference between teleporting a player and dropping them is that the player is blind to the movement. A player who is teleported might go to the exact same spot as they would from falling into a chute, but from their perspective they could be anywhere. Where the pit trap grants a sense of direction, a teleporter leaves them with no clues as to where they are now. It gives the players less navigational information, but it also means that no path is out of the question. When a player falls they want to go back up, but from a teleporter, up or down could both be the right path back to the party.
Players can find themselves in spaces that are otherwise inaccessible with a teleporter. This can be used to move the story forward. The trap is still punishing since it moves them against their will, but it is rewarding the players by moving them into a place where you can provide context for the adventure.
You can turn a dungeon into a puzzle by stringing teleporters together. You can even have rooms with multiple teleporters that all look the same and only the correct sequence of teleports will get them out. These kinds of puzzles can easily be solved with marking the rooms or by following an algorithm that would allow them to check each teleporter.
A labyrinth trap is unique to traps that move players by having players move themselves. You can have the players reach an area where they can open a door by completing a task. This door opens the labyrinth where a different task would open a different path into the dungeon. Players may not immediately recognize that they have entered a maze unless they are currently making a map of their location.
Labyrinths are great tools for introducing obstacles to your players. You can stock it with monsters, add in story elements, or even have paths to progress through the dungeon. You can even add a Goblin King. But the important thing to remember is that the players get themselves into this kind of trap and common sense and reasoning should be able to get them out. If not, you can add in clues or literal writing on the walls.
Mazes are very hard to complete when you don’t actually see the maze. You need to be very clear with your descriptions and make sure your group understands what you are saying when you describe the path they are taking. Tell players with high Intelligence or Perception that they notice the floor tiles are all the same size, then start telling them how many tiles they travel before each bend or turn. This will make mapping easier for them and descriptions easier for you. It’s no fun if you get them lost because you described things poorly.
If your players get stuck or lost, you can have them find a partial map hidden away on a skeleton. When they find the skeleton with the map they can see how wrong they are and try to finish the maze from there.
And now that your players are on the path to solving things you get to decide if they can go out the way they came or if they need to exit somewhere new. You might hide a lever they need to pull in the maze or perhaps the door they came in closed and the way out puts them somewhere else.
Moving Players, Moving the Game Along
While these are just a few suggestions on how to use traps to move your players in a dungeon, it’s a good start to get you thinking about what will make sense for your next session. Do you need to move your players around? Can a trap act as a catalyst for an exciting part of the adventure? Do you really need spikes that murder them, or will dropping them in a cell do the trick? We hope we’ve given you something to think about so you too can get your players moving.
For more walkthroughs and trap examples, check out our Complete Guide to DnD Traps article.