The Handbook of Traps And Tricks III
(No Greyhawk Included)
(See, It’s Like “Tokyo Drift”, only, “Greyhawk Drift”, because Old School.)
When last we left our intrepid author, he had just finished writing about… erm… lemme see… Posts… All Posts… Search…. Traps…Ah, here it is!… Grudge Traps, aka, “Screw The Monty Haul Players” traps. And I’d promised to cover, uh, “Maya And Other Illusions” next. Well, I’d better do that, then. (For those who somehow stumbled here at random, first, may whatever gods you worship take mercy on you, and second, here’s the first part.)
I find it interesting this gets its own section. As noted in the prior article, many of the traps thus far have had illusory elements. So, let’s see what, if anything, sets these apart. (EDIT: As often noted, I write these extemporaneously, commenting on each page as I get to it. So having finished this section, I can come back and answer: These traps all rely on dispelling illusions (or magic in general) to trigger the trap. As such, they’re pretty clever.)
Bliss Of Ignorance: This trap starts with a flood of illusory gold coins that do real damage, because that’s how illusions worked back then. If you cast “Dispel Illusion”, you see the truth — you are suspended mid-air above the flames of hell, 500′ below. Demons are flying towards you! Save vs. Fear or flee! No, not “save vs. illusion”. The demons are real, the floor was an illusion. At least, the image of the floor. You’re standing on solid… something… and fiery pits are below you. It is up to the GM if the demons can actually break through the floor or not. (It is not really clear why the players would suspect the gold coins are illusory, and disbelieving/dispelling them is the key to this trap. Maybe if they try to catch them or leave the room, they vanish?)
Let Twenty Pass: The party sees a rough stone wall with a golden door set in it. Touching the wall shows it to be smooth and there’s no indication of a door. Dispel Magic/Dispel Illusion reveals the wall is transparent glass, and there’s a basilisk staring at you. Oooh, I like this one.
Enchanted Forest: There’s an improbable natural feature, such as a forest or a lake, in an area where it shouldn’t be, like, the fifth level of the Pit Of Painful Perils. Within this odd environment, a dinosaur is fighting a smaller monster. If you dispel the illusion of the forest, it turns out, the dinosaur was also an illusion, and the smaller monster now attacks you. Given the prevalence of environmentally-impossible geography in D&D, I’d figure most players would say, “It’s probably some wacky druid’s experiment” and attack anything that looked like XP on the hoof, dinosaur or not.
We then have some short, functional lists of “ways to get a party to dispel magic” and “things that might also be dispelled, which the players weren’t intending to dispel” such as hold portal or polymorph. (In the “Knights Of The Dinner Table” comic, Gary Jackson was pissed at his players hiding inside their fortress, shielded by powerful magics. He had an NPC archer fire a normal, non-magical arrow through an arrow slit. It didn’t hit anyone… but the anti-magic aura on the castle broke the polymorph on the ravenous greater spotted owlbear (or something Hackmasterish like that), which then proceeded to run amok in the small room all the PCs had been huddled in. Heh heh heh.)
This section begins with a comment about how GMs who stock their settings with deadly contact poisons and envenomed weapons soon want for players, then we get some examples of not-quite-instantly lethal poisons. These really aren’t specific traps, just a selection of varying ways to use poisons with slower effects and subtle hints something is going on, such as gradual weakness, skin discoloration at the point of contact, etc. It’s good GM advice, and probably still useful with things like Pathfinder 2’s “afflictions” for some sorts of poisons. But no real traps, per so, so on to…
Five PCs Walk Into A Bar. The Sixth Made His Reflex Save.
This section covers “spikes and bars”. “Spike in a bar” is covered in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer RPG.
Birnam Woods To Dunsinane: I have no idea what that means (EDIT: It’s from the Scottish Play). Anyway, this trap is designed for long corridors, where, after reaching some point, giant spikes begin to erupt at opposite ends, growing taller, and then the next set, slightly closer, starts, and so on. The intent is more to trap/delay the PCs rather than kill them, unless the spikes eventually reach the point where they are.
Delayed Action: An easily-detectable set of holes in the floor will release spring-loaded spikes a few feet in height. A few rounds later, the spikes extend further, reaching the ceiling, and possibly impaling anyone who was on the seemingly-done squares.
Once A Trap, Always A Trap: This one is the “ruins” of an iron cage, the bars twisted and bent, as if someone criticalled on their Bend Bars roll. Surprise! It’s actually a mutant plant, an “iron tree”, and as soon as potential num-nums approach, it will spring to life. Or bar to life, I guess. Because it’s not a slinky. It’s a bunch of iron bars. Or plant vines. That look like iron bars.
Get It? Like “Raise Dead”, Only…
My Genius Is Wasted Here.
Or, in other words, ray traps. These types of traps, it is noted, require little physical room in the dungeon and thus can be placed almost anywhere. Gems which reflect light are particularly apt sources. As these require little mechanical detail, they’re pretty short.
A Very Wilted Power: A soft green ray of light turns weapons (armor? Wands? It’s not clear) into warm, malleable, wax. I guess when the fighter talks about how this trap destroyed his favorite sword, he is waxing nostalgic! Hah! Hah? Hmf…. Fine. Be that way. Somewhere, I am appreciated.
Cool And Cautious: A freeze ray which will instantly kill anyone who fails their save and merely does 10d6 cold damage otherwise. The text — not me, the text — notes, “this is definitely a chilling effect”. So blame them.
Gee, It’s Warm In Here: This one does minor (1d6) heat damage… but roasts scrolls, wooden staves, and presumably bows. Another in the long, long, list of “deprive players of items” type traps, endemic not to just this book, but to old-school gaming generally.
This is going to be a short one (“That’s what she said!”), as I’ve got a lot of projects I’m trying to work on and I’d like to have some content more regularly here, rather than no content for many weeks. Even so, it’s still three weeks since the last update, which is better than a month, I guess. We’ll see how it goes.