In 3 days I'm hosting a session and I devised a horribly fun trap.

The trap kills them with a powerful poison in 1D4+2 rounds if they fail the consecutive saves. After the poison kills the target, they are reincarnated as a random hilarious creature immediately after (assuming they let the reincarnation go through). The players have cash to undo the effects if they manage to finish the dungeon.

How can I disguise this blatant poison trap from guarded level 12 adventurers? It's design to be on a door knob right now, via needle.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ However you choose to hide it, if players find it within game mechanics, let them find it. If you have a trap that is undetectable due to story but has a mechanical effect, your players are likely to feel frustrated and cheated. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Oct 8, 2014 at 5:12

2 Answers 2


Don't make it a trap. Instead, have a bejewelled chamber with a button on the inside. "Do not press." the button reads. Let their curiosity do the rest. Make a prop of the button on the table, and have it be invitingly easy to press.

Beyond that, this "hilarious" trap seems mostly tedious. The character's reward for not treating every step like it has happy-fun-ball traps in it... is to suffer a hideous and inevitable fate of having to recalculate everything on their character sheet.

Instead of trying to hide this, play up the "trapped" nature of the trap. Start with a button, then a series of levers (the first two just light up signs of "don't pull the next lever."

Save-or-die spells are tedious enough. Save-or-hilariously-die traps in a dungeon will dramatically slow down your dungeon crawl (due to justified paranoia) for very little return.

For hilarity, have the entire dungeon be OSHA compliant... and let the players' disbelief and curiosity do all the damage. Have the dungeon be extremely paternalistic, with clear labels. Assume the mentality is "anything that is not allowed is forbidden with deadly force." and have very clear labels to that effect. Use this as a modern times parody, with a kobold's union and a goblin's union, each engaged in their own squabble, and let the players' feelings of being smothered do most of the work of having them rebel... and die.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ahem. The Gnomish Industrial Grotto And Networks-of-Tunnels Inspectors Collective would like a word about their lack of representation in this "dungeon" you're hypothesizing. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 8, 2014 at 5:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you suggesting the OSHA compliant dungeon actually enforce the rules with deadly force? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 8, 2014 at 5:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, yes I am. It's the very model of a model lawful evil dungeon. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 8, 2014 at 5:39
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Don't you mean the Gnomish Interstitial Agents National Tunnel Syndicate? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 8, 2014 at 6:01
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Never confuse the disorganized scabs of GIANT with glorious workers of GIGANTIC! \$\endgroup\$ Oct 8, 2014 at 6:07

First Things First

While it might be hilarious to poison the PCs to death and reincarnate them as fuzzy animals, I urge against it. In my experience, such events are seldom as funny at the table as they were when imagined. I suggest instead a supernatural poison (perhaps inhaled) that as its damage inflicts an effect like baleful polymorph. This is much easier to remedy, probably won't have any long-term campaign impact, and is just as hilarious.

A Fair DM Can't Make Traps Undetectable...

Following Pathfinder's guidelines for traps means that an adventuring party willing to commit the resources (e.g. creaturepower, effort, money, spells, time) will at least find if not avoid all of a dungeon's traps. There is literally nothing a fair DM can do if dealing with PCs who have decided not to fall for printed traps. Bonuses to the skills Disable Device and Perception will make such traps trivial exercises in die rolling... if dice are even rolled, given that in many situations the party can just take 20 on the Perception skill check and take 10 on the Disable Device skill check.

(A DM can eliminate a lot of the PCs arbitrary bonuses by plunging the room into deeper darkness and other unusual circumstances, breaking their toys, or forcing the PCs to do things on a clock. Often, however, only this last doesn't feel punitive unless handled carefully.)

...But a DM Can Be Fair about Being Unfair

The DM can provide multiple warnings about the potential unfairness of his upcoming traps. The DM can...

  • allow the PCs to hear rumors of the horrors that have befallen those who've entered the dungeon.
  • have the PCs meet crippled survivors of the dungeon who tell them of its nastiness.
  • leave abandoned adventuring camps (complete with starving mules) near the dungeon entrance to which no adventurer has returned, perhaps with makeshift maps of the first few rooms, warning of hazards.
  • deposit the corpses of those who chose poorly near vicious traps.
  • inconvenience, maim, and murder henchmen, hirelings, summoned creatures, and flocks of sheep first--before the PCs--to demonstrate traps' horrors.
  • allow monsters in other dungeon rooms to warn the PCs of upcoming dangers, perhaps in desperate attempts to get the adventurers to spare their lives.

Then the DM can spring upon his players a trap requiring an arbitrarily high Perception skill check to spot and a subsequently arbitrarily high Disable Device skill check to disarm. The DCs for mechanical traps are set by the DM, and after the DC is higher than 29 it doesn't increase the CR of the trap any further to set the DC at 30 than it does to set the DC at infinity. So set it to infinity. Trap goes undetected, it's sprung, and hilarity ensues.

Thing is, when given these sorts of warnings, some PCs will wisely heed them. I hope there's an alternative adventure planned for when they do. I also hope that--if someone encounters a DC infinity trap and survives--he has my favorite Pathfinder magic item, the trap-stealer's rod.


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