Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Trap Tuesday: A step back

I will get back to Tomb of Horrors soon. I found a topic that was interesting enough to take a break. While interacting in a 5E group on Facebook I talked to another blogger, Just Kay. She recently blogged about traps here. She wrote a very informative article on traps that made me think.

In Kay's article, she points out there are 5 reasons to build a trap: capture, delay, frighten, kill and something she calls "the Trail of Worth." I agree with 4 of the 5. Kay doesn't explain what a "Trail of Worth" trap is.

Using Kay's classifications, let's revisit the Tomb of Horrors.
How do you classify the pit traps? They could be any of the choices. Realistically (beacuse of character level), they are delay traps.
The Green Devil Face is obviously a kill trap.
The Arch of Mist is a delay trap.
The 3 (4) Armed Statue doesn't really fit with any of the criteria. As I mentioned in Pt 2, I consider this a puzzle. But, it also acts as a trap, It eats resources. (I will touch more on this in a bit.)
The Magic Archway is a delay trap and also extracts a heavy resource toll.
The False Doors in the Great Hall of Spheres act to both delay and kill (?)
The chest traps are kill traps.

Rarely do you see a frightening trap or a capture trap in D&D. Both can remove player agency. A capture trap can be used to drive a plot forward though. An example: The DM needs the characters to negotiate with an orc tribe, and he uses pit traps and net traps to capture the characters in order to facilitate the story.

I suggest adding a couple of more reasons to build traps. The first is alarm. A tripwire attached to a bell isn't made to capture, delay, frighten (although it could double as a deterrent) or kill. It is placed so sentries are warned of intruders before their arrival. Some traps have effects on the trap-maker, not the trap-tripper.

Secondly, a trap may be made to protect something or make it inaccessible. If a diamond on a pillar is protected by a tripwire (or pressure plate, or laser sensor or other trigger) that diamond may drop into a hole that sends it into a vault deeper within the complex. Although similar to a delay trap, this affects the mcguffin instead of the PCs.

Finally, some traps exist only to consume the PCs resources. Tomb of Horrors has 2 (so far!)

As I continue to explore the subject of traps, this list will be expanded. But, as of now, my trap types are:
Affects PCs:

  • Capture
  • Delay
  • Frighten
  • Kill
  • Resource denial
Affects Objects or Enemies:
  • Alarm
  • Protection
Next week, we will get further into the ToH. Unless I find another McGuffin to distract me. Until then, see you in the dungeon halls!



  1. Read to the end of Just Kay's blog. In a Post Scrip she explains the Trial of Worth Traps.

  2. I get the point Kay was making, but I would posit that "Trail of Worth" is actually more of a plot device than a trap.

    In their entirety, they added a ton of value to the story, but, individually, they were each a specific kind of trap: the humble in the face of the lord was a kill trap (as evidenced by the number of dead henchmen), the walks in the name of the lord floor was another kill trap, and the leap of faith over the chasm was both a delay and kill trap.

    I think that there is an additional type of trap which is the trap which combines several types of traps into one. For example, a trap door which opens to a pit with alligators at the bottom of it might be lethal to a low-level party but would be a mere nuisance to a higher-level party.