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When a Switch isn’t a Switch

by Jae

When working on designing traps, there are a lot of instances when the mechanism that activates the trap is pretending to be something it isn’t. Today we’re going to look at some examples of ways to spring traps that would be overlooked, but definitely trigger them in most situations.

Hiding Switches

A switch or lever can easily be hidden in your dungeon if you know what your players are likely to do. The goal with this type of trap is to subvert players’ expectations in a dungeon where these types of traps might be. A player may walk into a room with a door at one end and want to proceed as normal, but the door is false and the handle triggers a trap. A player may be climbing a ladder and one of the rungs is actually a switch that triggers a trap either above or below them. These are very easy ways to trick your players into simply walking up to a triggering a trap.

fake switch

Hiding Switches Needs to be Situational

You can’t trap everything that a player would interact with. You could, but your group would be less than thrilled about it. The best ways to place these are in strategic locations where your players might not have time to search for traps. If they are chasing someone and that person quickly climbs a ladder, skipping rungs as he goes, they might blindly follow or maybe be more cautious seeing that the person skipped rungs on the way up (Perception checks withstanding). If you were indeed using the ladder trap from the previous example, this causes some situational tension that can help make the trap feel more intentional. In this situation, outcomes are the same if you trigger the trap or take your time to avoid it: the person being chased gets away. This kind of scenario can lead to your players trying to find quick but interesting solutions to these problems, which is ultimately what you want.

Other Switch Examples

The following is a simple list of examples for other types of trap triggers you can use in your own traps:

  • Climbing rope connected to trap switch
  • Door handles (false or otherwise)
  • Removable wall torch
  • Chest lids
  • Weapon rack items
  • Push doors (actually a trap switch)
  • Water pumps or Tap handles
  • Bars for a door
  • Floor tiles
  • Stairs
  • Wall sections

Literally anything can be a trap trigger if you think about it. Just make sure that when you use these you’re thinking about what your players want to do or need to do to move forward. These actions that they would take normally are often the best ways to put in traps where someone is intentionally trying to hide themselves at the end of the area. Only people who know the tricks would naturally circumvent these common actions.

trap ladder

DnD Trap Tuesdays

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For more walkthroughs and trap examples, check out our Complete Guide to DnD Traps article.

Happy DMing!

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