We've all used the classic pit trap, with and without spikes. But how can we breathe some new life into this dungeon trope?
1. Change the dungeon path: Make the pit the place to go into rather than avoid: hide a secret door or making an obvious path from the pit. It can be helpful to place some clues in the pit to help the PCs (think ladders attached to the wall or handholds; walls that become blocked off when the trap opens or even a trap floor that opens up and potentially separates the players). This can also be used to have a 'shaft' leading to a lower level that the players may fall through. A 'pit' or shaft above the players in a hallway can also be intriguing and fun for your players to explore.
2. Complicate the escape: We all think the DM has dropped the hammer when you fall into the pit, but if you can complicate the escape it will be a more memorable trap. We have all experienced, "I drop a rope and help them climb out of the pit". But what if there are glass shards embedded into the walls of the pit? Or the sides are oiled or greased and potentially flammable? (See if the players drop a torch into that!) The trick here is to be more creative than simply having another monster inside the pit. We all know the fun that can occur when players are forced to think creatively and work together to solve novel and new challenges.
3. Stymie classic solutions: Anyone who cut their teeth in early D&D editions will come equipped with a healthy variety of mundane solutions and tools for any trap they might encounter. This is that classic list of ten foot poles, pitons, chalk/chalk dust, 10' chain, mirror, ropes, and grappling hooks. So consider using simple solutions to stop this stuff. Break up the 5' and 10' design we all cling to; make a pit that is 11' across; add steam or dust to obscure views; leave nothing for a grappling hook to find purchase on or a rope to attach to.
4. Use Creative Triggers: Rather than having those classic triggers that go off when someone walks across, change the weight requirements so you can catch several of the players rather than that single foolhardy scout. Have the trigger based on something shiny! I've used gold coins with a wire attached to one. What player can pass some some loose coins? Even better, set the stage with the skeleton of a previous adventure who was clearly not as skilled as these players!
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