It appears that the trap rules in D&D 3.5 do not make provisions for the construction and deployment of cage-type (live catch) traps. How would a party go about constructing and deploying one within the trap rules?

(Note that a reclosing pit trap doesn't work as it can't be deployed or retrieved by the party, and constructing traps in-place doesn't work for all parties in all environments.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman -- yes, didnt' realize there were trap rules in other places laughs \$\endgroup\$
    – Shalvenay
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 1:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are magical traps acceptable? Is there any limit as to budget? I also want to confirm the goal: Is the trap to be built elsewhere, deployed in the field, then carted away, creature secured within? Or something else? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan -- you are correct on the goal. Magical traps can be done, and just specify how much your trap costs :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Shalvenay
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 23:13

4 Answers 4


Rigging a live-capture trap shouldn't be difficult

The Arms and Equipment Guide describes the cage:

A typical cage consists of a solid metal or wooden top and bottom, solid metal bars equally spaced around the sides, and a door. It has a latch, but any lock must be purchased separately. (21)

Cages come in Diminutive (10 gp; 13 lbs.), Tiny (15 gp; 25 lbs.), Small (25 gp; 75 lbs.), Medium (50 gp; 100 lbs.), and Large (75 gp; 200 lbs.). Most cages have hardness 10 and 30 hp (15 for Tiny cages and 10 for Diminutive cages). (Fine cages are probably just, like, jars.) Serious trappers make cages of ridiculous materials like riverine (Stormwrack 128) (2,000 gp/lb.), which withstands anything up to a disintegrate effect.

Ideally, all one need do is buy a cage, tie a rope to the door, put some food in the cage, hide some distance away, and ready an action, setting the action as pull the door closed and the condition after the creature enters the cage. This does, however, require a creature to wait nearby. Untrained hirelings cost 1 sp per day. Such a trap should work on monstrous crabs and even some orcs but is less likely to work on roadrunners. Plan appropriately.

Mechanical Traps

If further game mechanics are necessary, there are a few more choices.

  • A booby trap (Dungeonscape 54) drop trap has a base cost of 1 sp and take 1 full-round action to deploy for the prestige class trapsmith, a standard drop trap dropping a heavy object and an advanced version dropping a very heavy object on the victim, the latter explicitly including a net. The Dungeon Master's Guide II also lists booby traps, there costing 50 gp or free with a successful 10-min. Survival skill check (DC 20) and taking a successful 1-min. Craft (trapmaking) (DC 20) check to deploy, but those don't include dropping things on folks (but they should).

  • The Dragon #295 article "Building a Better Rogue Trap: New Traps to Bedevil Invaders" supplies pretty much exactly the kind of trap you're looking for but built into a stronghold:

    Cage-drop Trap: CR 3; mechanical; location trigger; manual reset; Reflex save (DC 25) avoids; confinement; Search (DC 25); Disable Device (DC 25). Market Price: 13,500 gp. (60)

    Earlier in the article, if you'd rather build it yourself than buy it, the cage-drop trap's Craft (trapmaking) DC is listed as 20, and its raw materials cost as 4,500 gp. Obviously, the cost is excessive for a Wile E. Coyote-style, ✖-marks-the-spot, out-in-the-wild style trap.

    Races of the Dragon introduces folding traps, magic items that are, essentially, portable traps. One of those is the CR 3 ceiling pendulum folding trap (28,200 gp; 1 lb.). Although the text says, "Other varieties of folding trap might also exist, but they all must involve the use of mechanical traps that have an automatic reset" (124), yet automatic reset adds only 500 gp to the price of a cage-drop trap, still less than the 14,100-gp ceiling pendulum. Cost for a folding trap (cage-drop trap) should then be similar.

  • Races of Faerûn revises the footsaw trap (700 gp; 15 lbs.) from a Dragon #285 article about halflings generically (so it's not like such traps are only ever found on Toril or something):

    This item is similar to others of its kind that are typically designed to trap large animals such as bears or cougars. Its jaws are fitted with thin saw blades mounted on springs, and the mechanism is designed to cut the feet of any captive who struggles against its grip. The ghostwise hin did not invent this trap, but they have made excellent use of it: When enemies threaten, they salt the ground near their campsites with these dangerous devices, hiding them under thin layers of leaves or soil. A creature can discover a concealed footsaw trap with a successful Search check (DC 15). Once found, the trap can be disabled with a successful Disable Device check (DC 15).

    Anyone who walks over a footsaw trap triggers it; the trap makes a melee touch attack with a +8 bonus. If its attack is successful, the trap deals 1d6 points of damage to the victim. A victim caught in a footsaw trap can move at half speed if the device is not attached to another object (such as to a tree or boulder by a length of chain). If it is attached in such a fashion, the victim must break the attachment, otherwise he cannot move. The trap inflicts an additional 1d4 points of damage from the saw blades every round that a trapped victim takes any action that involves movement. A trapped creature can pry open the jaws of the trap and escape (Strength check DC 25) or loose himself with an Escape Artist check (DC 30). Failure means that the trap deals another 1d4 points of damage to the victim and that the victim remains trapped.

    A footsaw trap is a CR 2 trap. They can be constructed with the Craft (trapmaking) skill (DC 20). (159)

    (The revision lowered the original's Search and Disable Device DCs by 5.) A DM might be persuaded to allow a skilled craftsman to create a less lethal version. This, too, seems excessive by comparison. For instance, for the cost of a lone footsaw trap, one can buy 8 Large cages and for, like, 2 months hire 16 untrained hirelings to stand watch and still have gp left over for rope and bait.

Magical Traps

If more money than sense can be devoted to the task, magic can be employed. Instead of equipping untrained hirelings with mere nets and saps, they could throw buckets of cash: beads of force (DMG 248) (3,000 gp; 0 lbs.) capture for 10 min. creatures that fail a Reflex saving throw (DC 16) and iron bands of Bilarro (DMG 261) (26,000; 1 lb.) with a successful ranged touch attack capture a not-too-strong, not-too-slippery creature indefinitely. Likewise, a serious lone trapper may, for example, employ the following:

  • The metamagic feat Earthbound Spell (Player's Handbook II 91) for 1 hour/caster level creates a magical trap from a spell the feat's possessor casts that's triggered when a creature steps on a nearby square. Any of the decent wall spells should be sufficient as would something like the 3rd-level Drd spell dominate animal [ench] (PH 224).

  • The mirror of life trapping (DMG 262) (200,000 gp; 50 lbs.) says

    Any creature coming within 30 feet of the device and looking at its own reflection must make a DC 23 Will save or be trapped within the mirror in one of the cells. A creature not aware of the nature of the device always sees its own reflection. ... When a creature is trapped, it is taken bodily into the mirror. Size is not a factor. ... If the mirror’s owner knows the right command word, he can call the reflection of any creature trapped within to its surface and engage his powerless prisoner in conversation.

    Which, when used for this purpose, makes the mirror also kind of like an interactive National Geographic channel.

But, really, unless the trapper's made of money, the target is extremely high value, or the campaign is based on capturing monsters alive (then, perhaps, training such monsters to fight each other), a couple of commoners and a cage should be enough.


Within the trap rules, you would create a magic trap utilizing the 3.5 spell Hold Person, using the normal rules for setting up activation, concealment and Search DCs, Triggering conditions, and the like. Hold person allows for you to immobilize a creature while keeping it alive similar to a modern cage trap or a bear trap.


The 'trap' part of a cage trap is just the locking/one-way door, which is well documented in numerous dungeon modules.

One reason you may be having trouble finding the rules for this is because the one-way-door variety of trap is not a 'trap' in the 3.5 rules; it is a door, probably a grate. As the SRD notes well,

Doors in dungeons are much more than mere entrances and exits. Often they can be encounters all by themselves.

Unfortunately no CR determining method is given for judging the difficulty of an encounter with an untrapped door, so in this case you would need to determine that CR on your own, should it prove relevant.

The other method-- wherein some internal trigger locks the door after or as a creature enters-- is a simple proximity trap as detailed here. Most published traps that lock the doors to a room are of the 'never miss' variety, but the requisite onset delay doesn't make much sense here. RAW you must include an onset delay, presumably as there would otherwise be no saving-roll mechanism against the trap.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Also: live cage traps are clearly specifically endorsed by the game creators: see the illustration and relevant captions for 'equipment' in the PHB. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 8:21

Any live catch inside your cage trap can spend its time attacking the cage. A steel cage has a hardness of 10, so any creature that can deal at least 11 melee damage will eventually break the trap by attacking it. This makes it difficult to catch large animals with cages (though small animals would be okay).

Technically you could make a cage out of adamantine (which has a hardness of 20) but it would be very expensive. Probably the trap rules you would use would be those for a "portcullis trap", meaning the creature walks into the cage and then a portcullis falls, closing the cage.

You would also have to consider the DC to break your cage, eg, by taking 20 trying to bend the bars or lift the portcullis. The last table here gives some sample DCs, but does not offer any DCs for adamantium bars. Hilariously, if you make the cage out of doors, you can cast arcane lock to add +10 break DC.

If the party can make their own custom magic items, they could make a use-activated plate that shoots a ray of stupidity when stepped on. This deals 1d4+1 intelligence damage if it hits, which will knock any animal unconscious for at least a day. Unfortunately this does not work against vermin such as the monstrous crab.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This is pointing out the problems with such a cage, but fails to address the main thrust of the question decently: how do they make such a cage to begin with? Is there anything for it within the rules framework? What's the method and requirements? To what extent is there just a GM handwave? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 2:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Adamantium is Marvel Comics universe. Adamantine is D&D universe. Just throwing that out there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruut
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 12:01

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