I have two games running in parallel in the same time space universe (but both groups play in different days)

The group of evil, which are intermediate (average 12-14), and the group of good, which are high (average 18-19).

The wicked have money and are building a dungeon. But to have a chance to beat the good guys (because the campaign is coming to an end and the good guys WILL get to that dungeon) the wicked need good ideas of traps and rooms at least spend the resources of high lvl characters, and also have the chance to use the advantage of being local.

The basic rules that I as DM put as a filter, are:

  • The traps have to have a way to rearm.
  • The evil group must have a way as a going through the traps and rooms without being damaged.

I had some ideas that I mentioned to the boys (the "evil ones")

  1. Spells as a fog but with a feat as a Cityscape which shapes spells to be invisible. That along with a couple of illusions make a character with true sight be confused enough.
  2. Traps or rooms that seem logical puzzles, but have no logic at all. For example runes with numbers and a mathematical operation on a wall with a slot to put a rune, say that on the wall says 16 +5 * 2 +6 = (Rune) Let's say every mistake long a fireball or a lightning bolt And the answer is get the rune with the 3 and put it in the slot. xDD.

Obviously there are spells that throughout the dungeon will be present, such as interdiction, desecrate, bless their allies, etc.

Clearly we fell short of ideas. Have any other to make it useful to a group lower than the good?

Unimportant but maybe useful to share: Since the players of the evil campaign, made as leader a player whose character is a mummy (named "Mumm-ra Theimmor Thal" xD) The idea of ​​the dungeon is a flying pyramid. To fly, they already have a mythal atunned with the ideals of the party (so you can make a large structure to levitate, and some spells work on building, permanently).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, I don't quite understand what you're asking here. Are you looking for trap ideas or are you looking for ways to have the level 13 characters compete with level 18? (There are quite a few, actually..) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 27, 2011 at 10:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ One of the main tricks here is going to be making the traps meaningful for a level 18-19 party, which should be at least flying and protected from most energy types all the time, if not just plain ol' ethereal or whatnot. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 27, 2011 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Both, given that the lvl13 chars are local, I need them to have a chance to make a stand. \$\endgroup\$
    – apacay
    Apr 28, 2011 at 2:35

4 Answers 4


There's a fundamental assumption error here.

High level D&D parties, especially ones with access to 9th level spells don't need to ever enter dungeons unless it is for their own amusement.

We begin by articulating strategies of 18th level casters faced with an imposing dungeon:

Their central strategy is to force the "defenders" to emerge from behind their protections, face a battery of save-or-die spells... and then die. If the defenders refuse to respond to the threat, it leaves the protagonists able to choose their attacking strategy.

  1. Casters begin by narrowing their area of interest.
    1. Discern Location finds the targets. The only way to defeat discern location is with mind blank, a spell not available until at least 15th level.
    2. If necessary, the party can burn a wish or miracle on this, as they're at their end-of-campaign "not expecting to level" stage. Wish or mircale will burn through any scrying protection.
    3. This provides a teleport target to the attacking party. Any competent dungeon will be completely lined with forbiddance (at absolutely non-trivial expense) to avoid teleportation in.
  2. Players figure out best route to area of interest.

    1. If there are any teleport-weak spots within the area, they will be found.
    2. Areas will be scouted with prying eyes, greater until vulnerabilities are found. If an area is completely impregnable to prying eyes due to screen (which may or may not work, depending if screen counters true seeing or vice versa) players will note that section of the Maginot Line and simply avoid it.
    3. Assuming teleportation is blocked at great expense, ethereal is blocked (which is why forbiddance is necessary instead of dimension lock), astral is blocked (forbiddance), and scrying is blocked as much as it is able. (It's till vulnerable to the high level scry spells) Competent players will use Polymorph Any Object or Earth to Mud to tunnel down through the shortest path. Extraction of transmuted objects is a trivial exercise left for the reader's unseen servants or better. A better option than polymorphing rock is polymorphing players into any of the many many creatures that can pass through (whatever material the opposition constructed their fortress out of). Assuming players don't want to polymorph today can use Stoneshape or Summon a creature to make a tunnel, break through defenses, penetrate down to the forbidden area and cast dispel magic, etc. Therefore, high level players will find the schwerpunkt of the dungeon and apply arbitrary amounts of force to it. Parties that don't include Tier-1 casters can simply purchase scrolls to accomplish the same thing.
  3. Once players have found the best means of approach, they move in, disjunct the enemy, and kill them. If players want to amuse themselves, they can simply use mage's disjunction to penetrate each successive level of defenses, completely wiping out any defensive spells the opposition emplaced. For extra amusement, they can then use stoneshape to turn the defences around on the enemy.

All of these recommendations have been made without using splatbooks. The spells of spell compendium simply advance the levels of "win" for higher level parties. Psionics also makes things more entertaining for higher level characters.

All hope is not lost

This situation is actually a fairly clear one in game-theoretic strategies and military strategies. Most modern forces simply cannot sit in fixed defenses against a technically superior enemy. Large defenses simply mean a larger aiming point for arbitrarily large explosive power.

In order to solve the problem, the idea of mobility is found. We take the idea of mobility, and we combine it with the game-theoretic strategy of random movement. If the enemy has perfect knowledge of you, then any decision you make can be responded to in the correct way. In order to force the enemy to hedge his/her bets, randomness must be employed.

Weaker forces must manoeuvre and feint against stronger forces. Enchanting a plane shift spell into an item that activates randomly for a random sub-plane in the infinite dimension of your choice. It must be linked to a detect scrying and a detect teleportation spell. Any time teleportation is detected, any time scrying is detected, and generally 1/round, the spell must trigger. This strategy is, however, defeatable via going to an appropriate fast-time demi-plane (which the heroes should have access to anyway), casting discern location and an appropriate transport spell before the 1/round ticks over, emerging and then dropping disjunction and/or dispel magic on the target.

This rather destroys the idea of a dungeon, however. To reiterate there is no way that a party of lower-level characters can create a strongly held dungeon against a group of high level characters

If this situation must transpire, then it must take place on an anti-magic demi-plane where creativity and inventiveness have some utility. Even there it can be trivially defeated by a wish.

If you give better requirements as to the resources available to your evil party and the composition of the good party, I may be able to make some specific recommendations.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Reminds me of the mage cabal in Rhialto the Marvellous. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2011 at 8:11

It does depend on what you will allow, and how much money you give the bad guys

As a trick to get the good characters to waste time and use up their resources, this spell Phantom Trap should be used at every corner. There is no save, and if the good characters come across enough of them, they might even start to ignore traps.

One of my favourites is the unhallow spell, binded with dispell magic. For as long as the good characters stay in the unhallowed area, every round all of their buffs and magical items will be dispelled. I know this really isn't a trap that stops the players but not all traps need to stop players. I would have the entire stronghold covered with unhallow spells.

Another trick is that the characters could buy creatures that have been captured with Temporal Statis (once a creature is captured, they don't get any saves, unlike Greater Planar Binding). Put the creatures behind doors when opened trigger the freedom spell. The sad thing is that no way of automatic rearming.

A cool trap is if you can get the good characters into a confined space to have them read writings on a wall. The Sepia Snake Sigil will be used on the writing. The important thing here is finding a way to lower the good characters reflex saves.

Also, don't forget to use Magic Aura spell, so they can't detect any magic. Spell will therefore be hard to detect. I would have that a trap that is only a spell, can only be detected via detect magic.

If the evil characters know the weaknesses and strengths of the good characters, then it will be easier to come up with some more traps. For instance, if the good characters use true seeing then combining spells such as tiny hut and invisibility are a good combination. But there are also other ways to have true seeing work against a character.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Those look a lot like the Stronghold Builder's Guidebook ideas, you have my upvote! unhallow was something i called 'desecrate' (I have some flaws at translation) but I need more ideas. The temporal stasis is a good but not rearm-able. Exploiting the posibilities of the evil ones is another thing to do: Since some of them are undead, characteristic consumption permanent at a place is something viable. A place where high of the room can't be above 8fts ands is labrynth like, may help the evil cqc tank warrior. And a place full of fire anywhere you look could help the red dragon to do his stuff \$\endgroup\$
    – apacay
    Apr 28, 2011 at 2:59

Have you thought of misdirection?

You mention a math equation. Put 3 keys in front of a door. Label the lock with: "2+2", and the keys with "2", "4", and "22". The "right" key would NOT!!!!!! be the one labeled "4". Maybe design the trap to have a spell that will throw a huge fireball with the "4" key, some sort of poisonous fog (minor effect compared to the fireball) with "2", and the right key being "22". Or something similar.

One of my favorites is the Chess puzzle/trap. Construct a chessboard on the ground. What the Good guys won't know (but the bad guys will know) is that the board can only support like 20 pounds on any square except for the correct path. Stepping on the "wrong" square will cause the square to break and the players will see that there is a pit underneath with spikes below. Somehow get to the good guys a listing of chess pieces. So, if it's Pawn1, you take 1 step forward; then bishop3Left, you go three squares to the diagonal left; etc. So at the end, there is a string of squares that are either touching or diagonal to each other that are "safe" to cross.

Another is a "trap". You cast an illusion that an area (like 10X10 foot) is a chasm. As soon as someone attempts to jump the gap, the second illusion, (a huge column) "drops" onto the person and the rest of the party does not see the person who jumped until he walks across the harmless path back to the rest of the party. When my party hit this trap, there was also a part of the illusion that we couldn't hear the other side of the trap. Nasty, especially if you get hosed by the dice. My character botched the roll to disbelieve the illusion 3 times (even after the entire party walked out of the illusion and grabbed him to drag him through the "trap". Path through for the bad guys? They KNOW it's an illusion, so they see the walkway is unobstructed.

I'm sure illusion "traps" can also be used for snake pits or some other nasty that will discourage the good guys, but the bad guys will know they can just run through.

Of course, you always have the various pit traps, etc.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this iteration of the chess puzzle. Another is the one used in the 4e Red Box. You start on one of two squares on one side of the board and then you can only move like the piece that you entered the board (if you enter in a night position you must move as a night does, if you entered on a bishop square you must move as a bishop does). In the puzzle in the Red Box you were opposed by constructs that had movement to the pieces on a chess board. As they are constructs it can easily be reactivated from whatever side the players enter the room. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Apr 27, 2011 at 13:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Remember that the traps should stop a level 18-19 party. They are very likely protected against the illusions (True Seeing), pits Flying) and fireballs. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim
    Apr 27, 2011 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tim, I used fireballs and illusions as examples. The highest level I've ever played/DMed is somewhere around 12th. Maybe instead of fireballs, some sort of damaging spell in the 7th or 8th spell level would work? \$\endgroup\$
    – Pulsehead
    Apr 27, 2011 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem is that such high level characters, it is difficult to force them to take for example "the puzzle of chess, " because they have so many ways to pass without damage given that their possibilities are diverse. Illusions are hard to make players of high lvl to fall for, since true sight is at hand. Misdirection was one of my ideas c up there Now, inevitable traps such as rooms full of water with no chance to breathe out, with average skilled undead (breathe? lol) rings with freedom of movement, or why not, spectrums or ghosts in it, whether it would be challenging for that level pcs, \$\endgroup\$
    – apacay
    Apr 28, 2011 at 3:17
  1. Forbiddance - The spell Forbiddance covering the whole structure is a requirement because it stops all teleport spells. Nothing can ruin a trap filled dungeon better then having the opponents teleporting right through them.
  2. Lead - Line everything with lead. All walls and doors should have a core of lead to stop opponents from just seeing through your building.
  3. Adamantine - Anywhere that is really important should along with lead have an Adamantine lining as well. This will stop the good guys from just busting through the walls and force them to go through the traps.
  4. Permanency - A number of interesting spells can be made permanent with the spell Permanency. For instance the spells arcane sight and see invisible can be made permanent on yourself. Greater Magic Fang can be made permanent on another being. If you have a monster with a "fun" natural attack doing this will allow the monster to hit the good guys better. To make it permanent at the highest bonus of +5 enchancement it would cost by the book 8650gp and require a 20th level druid and an 11th level wizard or sorcerer though if one of the party members is a wizard or sorcerer of 11th or higher level and doesn't mind losing 1500xp then it would only take 600gp and the 20th level druid.
  5. Rust Monsters - They may only be CR3 monsters but you just need one to make its touch attack against some plate mail or good weapon and unless magic it rusts away to nothing and even magic items need to make a save. If they can manage to gather a lot of these swarming the good guys with them is a good idea. They can be advanced up to 15HD for a large one which could cause a bit of trouble especially if you happen to give it a permanent +5 bonus like suggested above.

Number 1 and 2 are pretty much required as far as I am concerned. You can't have the good guys just teleporting past everything straight to the goal and you can't have them looking through the walls for your traps nor do you want them to be able to scry their way through your mazes.


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