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So, one of my players simply refuses to use any common sense and acts with suicidal indifference to obvious traps.

For example: In front of the PC stands a medium-sized scale statue of a dragon. Deep in its mouth, he sees the glittering of a deep blue stone the size of one's fist. In front of the statue lies a pile of dust and some discarded adventuring gear. His Perception is 21, so he also notices that the floor and wall are razed clean of any dust, growth, vegetation or paint in a straight line from the dragon's mouth, to the far wall.

The player then loudly declares, every single time, "I ignore all of this and reach deep into the dragon's mouth to grab the gem!"

Now, I don't have a problem vaporizing people as the DM. I do have a problem with the Rogue plainly stating that they ignore the warning signs, and then putting themselves in a position where there is no possibility for a Dex save. This player will argue, endlessly, that they get a save against the lightning trap, despite the trap setup imposing a condition in which no save is possible. By the time the Rogue has triggered the trap, it's literally impossible for them to dodge anything due to the position they put themselves in. It would be akin to locking their own character in a chest with a delayed blast fireball.

A good answer will have sourced information with respect to mechanics.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This might be an ok time to metagame just a little bit - if the trap is certain death, I, as a GM, would probably tell the player something like, "Are you sure? You realize that this course of action is so indescribably stupid that I can't even justify giving you a saving throw." Maybe I'm too merciful though. \$\endgroup\$ – Walt Mar 3 '17 at 18:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I glossed over the fact that this is a repeat problem with this player. The example of the delayed blast fireball inside a locked chest was his. He's a hardcore rules lawyer who loves to argue and tried to use that as support for this position. That particular example netted him a hard ruling that regardless of what Evasion says, he doesn't get a DEX save when locked inside a chest with the fireball. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Mar 3 '17 at 18:15
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"Removing" a save is not (explicitly) supported by mechanics

Let us first consider what your player is doing. When his character moves into a trapped area willingly, he is betting that his reflexes can save him from whatever clever ruses those trap setters put into place. To see similarities of this style used in media, take a look at this clip of the 2011 Three Musketeers film, starting at 0:40.

That said, the player cannot demand a saving throw either

Under the PHB, players do not normally ask to make saving throws.

Saving Throws,

A saving throw—also called a save—represents an attempt to resist a spell, a trap, a poison, a disease, or a similar threat. You don’t normally decide to make a saving throw; you are forced to make one because your character or monster is at risk of harm.

[...]

A saving throw can be modified by a situational bonus or penalty and can be affected by advantage and disadvantage, as determined by the DM.

The operating word here is "normally" -- they willingly put themselves in risk of harm, so they expect a save. However, they do not get to demand one from you if you didn't want one.

However, traps cannot always be avoided

This question looks at a similar issue, but that one looks at it from a metagaming perspective. I will quote the list of things a trap can do, however, other than attempt to harm you.

  1. more damage
  2. different damage
  3. traps that actually trap you
  4. alarms

The top answer on that question is very good, so I advise you to give it a read. However, do note that a trap which unleashes a Wall of Force will not offer a save (trap #3), and sometimes when he expects to trigger a trap and you say "You do it, and nothing happens." (trap #4) -- sometimes, that is more frightening.

Traps are expected to have DCs

From the DMG, the section on traps says:

Trap Effects

The attack bonus of a trap, the save DC to resist its effects, and the damage it deals can vary depending on the trap's severity. Use the Trap Save DCs and Attack Bonuses table and the Damage Severity by Level table for suggestions based on three levels of trap severity.

If your players know this, and their characters have come to expect this, it is only fair to give them a save.

The players might get a kick out of it

Note that Traps Suck, at least according to a certain angry GM, and your players may actually not like traps. Being able to "outsmart" these things with sheer skill/talent/brute force, that they can essentially bypass the puzzle you gave them, is something they might enjoy.

Players love bypassing entire sections of the plot by being outside the box. I know I do. And dealing with traps straight up can seem so "out there" that it might be considered outside the box as well. After all, no normal person in their right mind would trigger that trap willingly.

That said, removing the save entirely will also spoil a bit of their fun, as that was something they were supposed to be good at.

The final levers of control

As the DM, if you ask for a saving throw, you can rule a save to be made:

  • At a penalty (+/- 2/5 usually)
  • With advantage/disadvantage

Should you feel the situation warrants one or the other, or even both, then feel free to apply them. However, you can also of course take the saving throw away as it is within your rights.

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When deciding whether to use a roll, ask yourself two questions:

Is a task so easy and so free of conflict and stress that there should be no chance of failure?

Is a task so inappropriate or impossible- such as hitting the moon with an arrow-that it can't work?

If the answer to both of these questions is no, some kind of roll is appropriate. (DMG 237)

As the GM it is not only your right, but your job to decide which actions warrant a roll and which do not. As such you are free to deny any roll.

If you feel like there is some misunderstanding between you and the player regarding the in-game situation (eg. how hard it is to avoid the trap when reaching for the gem), you could explicitly warn the player that their approach will not allow a save.

Also note that there is the option of giving Disadvantage on the save if you feel something makes it harder to avoid. Your call though.

Consider imposing disadvantage when ...

  • Circumstances hinder success in some way.

  • Some aspect of the environment makes success less likely (assuming that aspect doesn't already impose a penalty to the roll being made).

  • An element of the plan or description of an action makes success less likely. (DMG 239, emphasis mine)

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Your specific situation is the sort of thing that triggers a pet peeve of mine, which is that you're trying to apply real-world mechanics to a fantasy world. Your premise contends that there's no way to avoid the trap, which is provably false when you consider the other things that this Rogue has likely avoided that can't really be avoided in the real world: dragon's fire, being within the radius of a fireball, lightning (presumably moving at the speed of light), etc. These phenomenal feats of agility are supported by the rules as written.

Currently I'm playing a mid-level monk with the Dungeon Delver feat. He knows from his own experiences that traps are generally not very dangerous to him and uses this to his advantage on a regular basis. He knows this to be true because this information is conveyed to me (his player) by the PHB which helps to establish the world's perception viewed by both myself and the DM. If the DM opts to change that, then the effects are substantial and almost invalidate the rule book. Furthermore, it sucks for me because my character's abilities were denied simply because he opted to do the thing he's best at.

Your proposal to take away the rogue's chance to save isn't supported by the RAW. Instead, the rules would suggest you impose disadvantage. Just because it's hard to believe using our world's rules doesn't mean it's out of the realm of possibility for a rogue in the fantasy world.

If it bothers you, consider a few ways that the Rogue's Evasion might function comparable to the real world: Perhaps the magic needs a second to build up a charge during which time the Rogue can attempt to shoot himself out of the way and evade the trap. Maybe the character finds a quick way to ground himself against electricity. Maybe the lightning is shooting a narrow, straight line and he contorts himself around it like a Cirque de Solei performer.

I think it's worth considering that by doing this the way he's proposing, the player is essentially giving you a free attempt to hit him with this. If he blows the save, he's going to lose a bunch of hit points. He could do something tricky with a 10' pole, a rope, and a donkey, but once that works too well, too regularly you're going to find yourself wanting to ad hoc things together to prevent 10' pole-rope-donkey contraptions. He's the group's designated trap mitigater and perhaps he's playing a cocky character. In addition, if lightning is loud, then he's probably tripping an alarm.

Overall, he's giving you a gift via a free shot on him and whatever else tripping the trap entails. Have him roll with disadvantage or increase the DC and move on.

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Applying harsh mechanics after the fact is quite likely to lead you into arguments and post-hoc justifications. After all, it is in the player's interest to argue your reasoning, and you are enabling that behaviour by engaging in reasoned argument. Some players will just take their lumps and get on with the game (in fact most in my experience, although some will grumble, especially if you have just blocked use of a core character ability). So good advice is to talk to the player outside of the game and try to resolve the rash and argumentative behaviour whilst there isn't a crisis over hitpoints.

If as DM, you see a situation like this developing, and you know that the player is argumentative about rules, then you may fare better by laying out the mechanics consequences of the character's actions. It is not required of you, but may save some headaches.

E.g. instead of saying "Doing that makes the character quite vulnerable!", say "If the character takes that action, they will be effectively Restrained for their action whilst their hand is inside the Dragon."

Then rule as per the Restrained condition, which includes Disadvantage on dexterity saves, if there is a trap.

Or even more directly "If there is any consequence, you won't get a save!" Essentially it is the same in-character advice you are already suggesting, but not possible to argue against it rationally later. For it to remain ambiguous whether or not there is a trap or ambush of course you need to flag up other times that the character does rash things when there is no immediate consequence.

I could not find an appropriate mechanic that would remove dexterity saves entirely (e.g. it does apply for Stunned, but there is no realistic way to frame this thief as stunned). However, if you want a trap that does auto-damage, no save, or maybe rolls to hit - now with advantage against stupid self-restrained thieves - then write the trap that way. This is used in official published traps. Comments suggest Castle Ravenloft in Curse of Strahd contains automatic, no-save traps for example, so such things should not be a problem in homebrew situations either.

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When a player character seeks to overcome a challenge, he should be making an ability check (not a saving throw).

"An ability check tests a character’s or monster’s innate talent and training in an effort to overcome a challenge." - PHB, p.174

For example: Indiana Jones switches the idol with a bag of sand - roll a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check. A player character attempt to Disable a Trap - roll a Dexterity check (I hope he has Thieves' Tools with him). A player character tries to jump over a pit trap - roll a Strength (Athletics) check.

When do you use a Saving Throw?

"You don’t normally decide to make a saving throw; you are forced to make one because your character or monster is at risk of harm." - PHB, p.179

What does a successful Saving Throw look like?

"The result of a successful or failed saving throw is also detailed in the effect that allows the save. Usually, a successful save means that a creature suffers no harm, or reduced harm, from an effect." - PHB, p.179

In other words, saving throws aren't used to overcome a challenge. Ability checks are used to overcome a challenge.

Is it appropriate to remove a dexterity saving throw when in an inescapable position?

Yes. For example, when a creature is paralyzed...

"The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws." - PHB, p.291

Inescapable positions exist.

So for a player character trapped in a chest with a Delayed Blast Fireball... normally he makes a Dexterity Saving Throw:

"Each creature in a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on that point must make a Dexterity saving throw. A creature takes fire damage equal to the total accumulated damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one." - PHB, p.231

As you can see the Dexterity Saving Throw is explicitly called for by RAW. But in the specific situation of being trapped in a chest, you could easily rule that no dexterity saving throw is allowed. Moreover, regardless of the outcome of the Delayed Blast Fireball, he can't use a saving throw to escape the chest.

The same thing is true if he encountered a pit trap. He can't use his saving throw to leap over the pit trap. If a player character says, "I stand on the pit." He should not expect the GM to say, "Make a Dexterity Saving Throw" and, if he is successful, he winds up on the other side of the pit.

When he grabs the gem, you can easily rule that he has placed himself in an inescapable situation (similar to jumping off a cliff) and bypass his saving throw completely. OR if you are a 'kind' GM, you can decide that he gets a Dexterity check to Sleight of Hand the gem away and a Strength check to remove it from its secure moorings. And if he fails one or both of the checks, he may have a saving throw to avoid the terrible effect (although at that point he still comes away empty handed). It's up to him if he wants to try again...

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