For this DnD Trap Tuesday we’ll be looking at a novel way to trap your players and give them a puzzle at the same time using swapped positions.
Swapped Positions as a Trap
This trap focuses on the simple concept of swapping the position of the player with another creature or object that puts them in trouble. Overall, the trap setup is simple enough, but it can be made into complex puzzles or a centerpiece for a larger dungeon. The trap offers flexible triggering and outcomes, but all centers around a single mechanic of switching positions. Think of them like short range warp tiles from Pokemon games.
Basic Trap Set Up
The way this trap works is by having a target in the room that is in view and a trigger that causes the player and the target to swap positions. This becomes a trap when the player needs to re-orient themselves to their new surrounding and possibly avoid danger.
In the most basic set up the player and a statue swap positions every time the player steps over a certain color title in the room. This leads to a puzzle where they need to swap positions multiple times to move through the room using the statue as an anchor. In more elaborate set ups of the same puzzle the statue might move as you move, or the room might contain a maze that players can see from one side but not the other.
The player enters a room with glass walls that forms small labyrinth. Immediately upon entering they see a map of the room on a pedestal. The map shows that the room is divided in half and the exit is not connected to the side the player is on. Also on the map and on the floor are turquoise tiles, and across the way (not on the map) is a statue on the other side. When the player steps over the tiles, they swap spaces with the statue and the tile deactivates, becoming the same color as the floor.
To solve the puzzle and escape the room the player must swap with the statue the correct number of times to be on the side of the room with the exit and also have no swap tiles between them and the exit. This will require you to draw a map of the location and provide it to your player so that they can see where they are and how they move. As an alternate escape route, the player could smash the glass and deal with the consequences of wasted time or enemies appearing at the sudden loud noise in the dungeon.
Expanding on the Trap
To make this more difficult, you don’t want to obscure the player’s vision of the map or the room. If you do. this becomes a bad puzzle that is frustrating and seemingly random. The player needs to be able to see what is going on to be able to reason through it. Even drawing a more complex map for this can be challenging enough, so try to keep your placement simple and the solution easy to understand.
If you want to increase complexity more fairly you can have the statue move as the player moves. If either the player or the statue cross a title they will switch, so now it’s a movement puzzle with clear rule but a complex mechanic. If you want to increase the danger, add a creature in the maze on one side they have to avoid by swapping at the right time. They will be able to see the creature in the maze, but will also need to be careful because the creature can see them.
If you really like puzzle crafting you can have other mechanics that trigger on swapping. The ceiling could lower with each swap, or changing places might activate different types of floor hazards every other swap.
Introducing Swap Mechanics Early
If you want to use a trap like this it’s a good idea to have the swap mechanic crop up early in the dungeon. One of the easiest ways to do it is by using it as a method of entering the dungeon itself. Players then get used to it right away and think about it more as they explore, allowing them to solve all sorts of puzzles with it. This is similar to how in Zelda and Metroid video games their dungeons introduce key items and their uses in early stages of a dungeon and expand up on them as they go.
Mix Things Up
While this trap is a bit more difficult conceptually, it can make for a fun mechanic if it’s not made overly complicated. Try putting a few smaller ones into areas of your dungeon that allow for your players to reason them out. Once they’ve gotten the hang of them you can even try adding them into combat scenarios and focus on swapping as a form of movement throughout your dungeon. Have fun disorienting your players!