Take the 2-minute tour ×
Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I recently acquired a bunch of old modules for 2nd and 3rd edition. Most of the module has been very easy to convert, however there is one thing I'm a bit stuck on. Traps.

It seems that some of these modules want to convince players to use their 10 foot pole, and check for traps every 5 feet. However I find that style obnoxious.

For example. A pit trap is given a DC of 22 to detect, then a DC of 18 to disarm, and is also given a DC of 20 to search and find a 6 inch walkway that bypasses it along the wall.

I've tried doing passive perception and asking players to roll perception all the time. I've also tried just having them fall into every third trap they pass, unless they do something special. None of them have been rewarding IMO. They either slow things down too much, or jar the players too much.

So far, I've been going through the modules, being able to explore 10-20 rooms an hour and having lots of fun, but I'm not sure how best to convert traps (on almost every hallway, door, or chest) and still keep a quick pace.

I don't want to remove the traps entirely, because they can be interesting if the players get creative, or they search and find neat treasures as a reward for dismantling the trap, or other story related wonders.

So, how do I convert traps to fit 5e from older modules?

share|improve this question
This doesn't really sound like your problem is in converting the traps to the new edition. Your problem seems to be more that the old adventures have too many traps and you want less of them. Could you edit the question to clarify which you are looking for? –  Grubermensch May 21 at 15:46
The number of traps is not relevant save for magnifying the problem of them ruining the flow 'as written'. How should I clarify? –  GMNoob May 21 at 15:48
"It seems that some of these modules want to convince players to use their 10 foot pole, and check for traps every 5 feet. However I find that style obnoxious." This section suggests that the problem is too many traps. It's not clear to me how this pertains to converting between editions, as a large quantity of traps in earlier editions will tend to slow down play just like it will in 5e. –  Grubermensch May 21 at 15:51
Yes, does my edit clarify? –  GMNoob May 21 at 15:54
It's still not clear to me what problem you want us to help you solve. Traps are by their nature a break in the flow of the adventure: either you notice them and stop to disable/avoid, or you walk right in and have to deal with the consequences. –  Grubermensch May 21 at 15:58

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

In 2e, traps are there specifically to slow down the party and force them to be cautious. Even in 5e, traps are a break in the action and can be triggered before anyone sees them. The 2e style doesn't sound like your playstyle at all, but even the way 5e uses traps by default seems to not be your style either. So...

Tell them the trap is there

Traps are interesting when players interact with them. Tell them the trap is there! Yes, 5e has Passive Perception for this purpose, but don't let that ruin your fun if giving the check away "for free" will significantly improve your and your players' enjoyment of the game. (Passive Perception is still useful for surprise encounters and ambushes, after all.)

By telling them that a trap is present without telling them exactly where and what, you get straight to the interesting interaction, as they investigate the trap to figure out where it is, what it does, and how to circumvent or disable it. They may play it smart or they may make mistakes and suffer the trap's consequences. Some traps will be boring (and quickly dispatched) and some will be super-interesting (and be super-interesting). Either way—smart or disastrous, trivial or super-interesting—you are keeping the part of traps you find fun (the players messing around with them), eliminating the part you find frustrating (caution bringing the dungeoncrawl to a literal crawl), and quickly moving along to wherever the fun is actually to be found.

So skip straight to the fun, and tell them that there is a trap here. Let them figure out what kind and where exactly, but tell them:

As you move to cross the threshold, your keen adventurer's survival instinct tells you something is wrong. There's something not quite right about either the door's stone frame, or the room's floor… or maybe it's something else nearby that's off. Anyway, what do you do?

...and cue the flurry of investigation!

DCs for the traps, should then be converted like most DCs in 5e. 10 for easy, 15 for moderate, 20 for hard, 25 for very hard.

share|improve this answer

Be creative and descriptive; try elaborating on the scene, and leaving little clues as to a traps location/type, but don't give anything away. There's a huge difference between:

"You are in a 20x30 room, roll perception to check for traps. rolls You know that there's a flame trap that will hit you if you step on a hidden plate."


"You enter the sanctuary, full of old and weathered , but still solid, oaken pews. The smell of musty air pours down from the vaulted ceiling along with the dust that coats everything. There are footsteps etched in the dust, moving past the largest of the urns piled in a corner, and past an oily soot stain on the floor, stopping only at the rear door. As you enter, you almost trip over the uneven floors, quality not matching the stained glass windows, nor the ornate bronze dragon gargoyles on the walls."

share|improve this answer
And then what? Ask for a roll? If they just walk in, assume they trip the trap? –  GMNoob May 21 at 12:04
I'm unclear on what being this flavourful does for dealing with traps. I guess I'd approach the soot stain, if I picked up on it, so I guess that creates an intermediate step before "roll perception to check for traps"? –  Jonathan Hobbs May 21 at 12:34
I think the point Yenski is trying to make here (correct if I'm wrong) is to tip off the presence of traps without asking for a roll and let a perception check for traps be the players' idea. –  wax eagle May 21 at 13:15
@waxeagle So trip the trap if they don't say anything, don't compare passive perception, and let them offer the roll? –  GMNoob May 21 at 14:20
@GMNoob to me, if their passive meet the DC detecting it, they see it, add it to your narration, it's not well hidden. –  wax eagle May 21 at 14:27

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.