On The Thursday Trick, More Player Agency and Some Pits

Missed the last few weeks, so making up for it with bonus tricks and further dissuasion on how to relate traditional dungeon events non-mechanically while maintaining player agency.

Sliding or Elevator Room (Special)
Trigger:  Magical: Proximity or Visual
Mechanical: Latch or Switch 
Effects: Multiple Targets
Never Miss
Onset Delay
Save: None Duration: One Round To One Turn
Resets: Automatic Bypass: None or Switch/Lever

Description: This is a trap designed to fool mappers and delvers into misrepresenting the dungeon space on their map. It often occurs soon after entering a room, at which point traditionally the doors slam shut and the room moves, only letting the players out once they have reached their destination. Although this is easy to do by fiat, it often informs the players that this has occurred. We'll look at some options of describing these effects in ways that just inform the player what information his character has received without outright stating that they've entered an elevator or sliding room.

The sliding room moves them either to another floor (elevator room) or another area within the same floor (sliding room), denying them access to where they have come from. There is either a timer (usually 10+2d12 turns) or another trigger further on that returns the room to it's original location.

Detection: A dwarf should automatically get his check to detect this if it is in a dungeon or any sort of stone environment. For those groups that fail their roll, or do not have a dwarf in the party, the following are some signs and descriptions of shifting or elevator rooms. You can use these to insure the players have agency, without giving the trap away. Some description options to be inserted in with other detritus in the room are listed.

  • A shaking or vibration is felt. ("The floor vibrates for a few moments" "For a second the surface of the dungeon seems to lurch and then all is normal" "As you touch the wall a slight tremor is felt" "When you look at the puddle of water, you see small ripples flow across its surface" etc.)
  • A mechanical noise is heard. ("You hear a distant grinding." "There's a loud rumbling that seems to come from every wall and shakes the floor" "You hear a mechanical groan, and then a steady beat that goes on for a few moments")
  • Other senses of the characters may be triggered ("You feel a sicking drop in your stomach." "A wave of nausea overcomes you for a moment.")
Teleporter Trap (Special)
Trigger: Magical: Proximity
Or Magical: Visual 
Effects Never Miss
(Possible) Multiple Targets
Save: None Duration: Instantaneous
Resets: Automatic Bypass: None (Special)

Description: This is thematically similar to the Sliding or Elevator rooms, though can be much much harder to detect. Teleporters transport people, either for the purposes of movement or deception. Since we are (primarily) focusing on the second function traditionally these are used to move people from an area which is more open to one that is more restrictive and dangerous. "Traps" of the first kind are also a possibility in complexes that have been long abandoned.

There are a number of ways that these teleporters can appear - primarily invisible, but also as a mist, or a distortion or a glow. Magical: Proximity or Magical: Visual is given as the trigger, but it can set the teleporter to teleport once a weight or physical threshold is reached, or when a certain number of people have passed, or even only for those that lack a certain item or device.

Teleporters may simply confuse mappers by being connectors between areas, allowing tunnels to go in a direction where the dungeon already is, because a hallway sized portal actually transported the characters to a different area. There may be no sign of this, or there may be some sort of visual anomaly. 

Teleporters instantly transport their targets to another location within space-time.

Detection: An elf or mage could be given the opportunity to notice or detect this sort of trap - as should any pure thief who is actively searching for traps, without specifying any sort of information about looking for teleporter sign specifically.  For those groups that fail their roll, or do not have an elf or mage in the party the following are some signs and descriptions of teleporters. You can use these to insure the players have agency, without giving the trap away. Some description options to be inserted in with other detritus in the room are listed.

  • An untouched further area covered in dust or long disused. ("Ahead on the floor of the corridor lies a thick coating of dust as if no one has walked there in a long time" "It looks like a thick layer of grime and dust is covering the dead end, but you are still too far away to make sure" "The footprints end in the middle of the hallway - they just seem to vanish about 10' ahead" etc.)
  • A glow or shimmer may appear ("The path before you seems to shimmer in your torchlight like a desert on a hot day" "The hallway ahead glows and small motes of light drift back and forth")
  • There may be no visual indicator - just the sensations of teleporting ("You all immediately feel sick and nauseous." "As you walk down this hall you feel your stomach drop as if someone just walked over your grave" "There is a strange breeze and your skin is covered in Gooseflesh."
 And now, for two of my favorite pits

The Shallow Pit (Pit)
Trigger: None Effects:Never Miss
Save: None Duration: N/A
Resets: N/A Bypass: None (Avoid)

Description: This is simply an open pit, in any particular low corridor or room the characters come across. Notably it traverses the entire width of the room, not allowing anyone to avoid it by 'going around'. The inside of the pit should be filled with some nefarious or viscous substance to deter anyone from attempting to cross the pit by going down inside - I'm partial to traditional favorites like acid and lava, but Black Puddings work equally well.
The pit is not that far across, and enterprising characters could easily make the jump, except for one fact - the ceiling is low, and jumping requires both length and height. Any character attempting to cross the pit will strike his head against the low ceiling as he jumps.

Detection: There is nothing hidden or mysterious about this trap - the ceiling is simply too low to cross the pit. When first describing the room or corridor is the appropriate time to explicitly mention that the ceiling in this room is just six to eight feet high.

The Sidelined Pit (Pit)

Trigger: None Effects:Never Miss
Save: Spells Duration: N/A
Resets: Automatic Bypass: Special

Description: This is a simple pit illusion. In the center of a room or corridor is a pit that runs almost to the edges of the room. On either side of the pit are small safe looking ledges about two feet across. The inside of the pit should be filled with spikes or snakes - something nasty.

What's actually going on, is that the center of the room is actually just a safe room floor. The image of the pit is an illusion. However the ledges on either side of the pit are actually deep (20'+) pits filled with many sharp spikes (preferably poisoned) covered in the illusion of a safe floor.

Detection: Like any purely visual illusion, this one is easily detectable by doing any sort of testing of the pit or the sides before attempting to cross. Let the first attempt give each observer a save versus spells to detect the illusion. If the illusion is detected, just relate the results of the action taken.

For instance if a coin is thrown on the center area of the main pit, and they make their save versus spells, let them know the coin seems to float above the pit at floor level. If they toss a coin on either safe looking platform, let them know it appears to vanish as it falls right through the illusion.

Of course with a higher level party you may feel free to use a higher level illusion, one with tactile response, making the trap more difficult to detect in general.

Both the shallow and sidelined pit are ideas from Grimtooth's traps, a trademark of Flying Buffalo Inc. games.


  1. I like the Sidelined Pit. A lot. Makes me want to do a whole dungeon full of nonsense like that.

  2. Wurst of Grimtooth's Traps, p. 16: "It presents the delvers with a room, the center of which is occupied by a spike-filled pit. The only way around the pit appears to be walkways to either side of the spikes... The visible pit is an illusion, as is the section of roof above the walkways. In reality, the roof is covered with rows of spikes not unlike those in the pit... So, walking across the “pit” is actually the safe
    way through. Using the walkways causes the springs beneath the floor to slam those sections against the ceiling. Ouch."


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