Flavouring small details of your world can really help bring it alive, to make it seem like a real place where people actually live. From the food people eat, the currency they spend or the holidays they celebrate. Today I’m looking at traps in particular.
Small details can be tailored to personalise encounters such as traps to your world, a specific location in it, a group or faction etc. From simple cosmetic changes to altering damage types or effects.
Below I’ve took five generic types of traps i use and encounter when playing myself;
Very simple, step on a pressure plate or trip a wire and boom. Dart to the face. Arcane enemies might have a magical sensor naked to the eye as their pressure plate and a spell like magic missle as their dart. Underworld organisations may lace their darts with various poisons or change the trigger to a door/chest opening etc. You can theme the look of the dart to tribal enemies or a specific race, undead may fire a rusted dart or one made from bone. Little details make traps more memorable and build on your setting and antagonists.
Pit traps are a staple d&d trap, I don’t think I’ve ever played a campaign without one! But they haven’t all been the same, spikes are a common element added but to further that poison? Or inhabitants, I’ve fallen into Gelatinous Cubes inside pit traps, landed on top of swarming insects and undead, once fell through a pit trap with a portal in it and ended up back at the start of the dungeon… You can also alter it’s disguise, above ground you could have a light enticing treasure, an illusion floor etc.
Depending on who created the bear trap it may appear different, be more difficult to disarm. A magical one might be a illusion of a common bear trap while casting a hold person spell on the target, I’ve even seen bear traps magically change from mundane hunters traps to actual bears… Your traps are only limited by your imagination.
Whether it’s a mechanical trap or a baddie throwing one you can theme it to them, different materials can show more of the attackers. Spider Silk for Drow, intestines for cultists or arcane energy for evil wizards. A net doesn’t just have to restrain, it could be laced with a poison or sleeping agent, it could convey a magical effect similar or one of obedience.
Who doesn’t remember the boulder from Indiana Jones, it’s an iconic scene. So why not make it an iconic trap, does it have to be a simple boulder. A statue head of the antagonist, a ball of fire, a huge falling creature? I’ve used a portcullis at the bottom of a boulder trap before tho force my players to combat the boulder, to try dive under it at the right moment or circumvent it with magic and abilities.