7. Traps on Level 1


i fucking hate writing ...
Staff member
Room 12 came on the map with a big black hall pit. I'm not a fan of 'random" traps in a hallway. Keeping with the religious theme I had going on, I turned it in to an abstract design. A feature of every trap I place, I hope, was/is some kind of hint that the trap is there (at least at lower levels.) The knapsacks get people stopping in the hallway and also that there may be something weird going on. Likewise, the dwarf body in the acid pool in room one, and so on.


Should be playing D&D instead
Recall too that the term "traps" in adventure design can often be interchanged with "obstacle" if it suits the situation better. If you don't want your players to fear every square of hallway, make hallway traps into obstacles instead - obvious problems with non-obvious solutions.

Your pit "trap" for example - yes it makes no design sense to have a pit in a thoroughfare, especially if things are moving around in the area. Instead of an intentionally designed pit trap, have your pit be a section of collapsed floor that's just a weee bit too wide to simply jump over, and with some serious discomfort hinted at if the party tries to just climb down > walk across >climb back up (like a zillion rats roiling around, or water of indeterminable depth, or whatever at the bottom).

This way you still get the same fun that you would with using a trap (and less malicious player vs. DM "gotcha" gameplay), and it seems more natural to be in there. And you don't need to worry about ham-fisted warnings and telegraphing things to the players beforehand.


It's semantics but I think a "trap" inherently has a strong connotation of surprise, or at least having some kind of hidden danger.

However I do very much agree that it's important to have obstacles that don't necessarily pose a physical threat, both for verisimilitude and keeping player interest. The problem is when designers include features like this it's usually not part of the stocking process, it's part of the design/shape of the map itself, which is an area that comparatively lacks hard guidelines for new designers. The lack of an explicit procedure to include interesting terrain is probably why flat, featureless stone tunnels with pit traps scattered about are so ingrained.

Maybe there's a case to be made to include geographic features as a separate category when randomly stocking. Using the traditional procedure, an obstacle like the crumbled floor you describe would probably not even be included (maybe as a 'Special'? seems too mundane though).