On The Thursday Trick, Agency and Arrow Traps

Arrow Trap (Ranged Attack)

Trigger: Mechanical: Pressure PlateEffects: None
Save: WandsDuration: Instant
Resets: AutomaticBypass: None (Avoid) or Disarm

Description: Most commonly found with the venerable pressure plate trigger, this causes a projectile (dart, arrow, javelin etc.) to shoot out of a hidden panel, with a chance to strike the target that triggered the pressure plate. Variations include other types of triggers, triggers that cause ranged attacks to be made at other party members, and great variation in location and placement of the projectiles (ceiling, floor, etc.)

Detection: This trap is the most common 'gotcha' trap, causing a lack of player agency. It is often just used as a punisher - first through the door? Take an arrow to the chest. How do we go about returning player agency?
  • These locations that the projectiles come from should be painfully obvious to anyone who simply notes they are looking at the surface of the wall. From my personal experience playing Oblivion, projectile traps are impossible to miss if you simply examine (i.e. glance) at the surface they project from. This should require no check on the part of the players - even if there was a cover for the hole at some point in time, it likely will have fallen off. Letting your players check the surfaces of rooms and corridors is a good way to focus on player skill versus character skill.
  • Broken arrows (or whatever projectile the trap uses) should litter the floor at the terminal projection of the trap. Just noting "a few broken shafts of wood litter the south wall" or "small pieces of metal and fragments of wood are piled in the corner" or even "a single arrow lies in the floor of the corridor ahead" with no other comments should be enough to pique the interest and caution of the players.
  • Dead bodies are another way to make this trap more than a gotcha. My players first though when seeing dead bodies is to check to make sure that they are not undead by shooting an arrow or two in them. Showing the dead target should make the players aware of the danger.
Note that just because the players are aware that there is a trap present - even if they are aware of where it is located, does not mean that they know how it is triggered, and can either disarm or avoid it.


I've been writing these articles for several months now, is it worth my time to continue to do so? Has anyone used any of these in a campaign? Has anyone found any of the discussion of player agency useful? They get few hits and fewer comments, and if no one is interested in seeing various traps described, perhaps I could devote the time to something else. If someone has used them in a game, please let me know how that went in the comments below.

16 comments:

  1. shoot I just discovered them! Is there a PDF collection of these? Keep them up!

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  2. Well, I do read them. Mostly on my feeds, but haven't used any; but then, my D&D-ish game isn't due to start until next week and I haven't used a lot of traps yet.

    I only tend to comment when I have something useful to say; which, sadly, isn't as often as I'd like.

    What other stuff do you think you'd have a go at posting about?

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  3. Actually, I'm glad you made that comment, as I've now looked over to the sidebar and remembered those wonderful PDFs and lists you made: some of which I've looked at, downloaded and filed away and then forgot all about them.

    No more! I've just looked through the Tricks PDF, and that is exactly what I've been looking for, when designing my dungeons; wanted a bit more randomness to them; and this is perfect.

    So thanks for all the work you've put into these, and the blog, and keep up the good work: more traps please, but more tricks and 'special room' stuff too :)

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  4. I'll pile on and say that I enjoy reading these and will be using a few in my upcoming campaign.

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  5. Actually I think these are great, and I'll continue reading as long as you keep posting. I'm returning to RPGs after a long hiatus, and while I'm "only" playing at the moment, I am considering the idea of GMing once again. So posts like these are something I'm very grateful to have the chance to read, since they help get the GM juices flowing for a "pseudo-newb" like me.

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  6. I'm obsessed with traps and have been loving this series. I especially like this one, since you address a problem I've been noticing lately, that traps are more fun for the DM than the players. I think this kind of signaled trap is awesome. Just enough to make the players paranoid without making them feel like their part of the adventure is just as place-holders that occasionally make saving throws.

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  7. Yes, please continue! I've been preparing for a new campaign and these have been of great help. I can't wait to hear the "I check for traps" litany and the start of the stocking-up on the 10'-foot poles.
    Great work! Keep it up! Like many, I hate to comment with simply "Great work!" or "Love it!"--it gets old and doesn't provide a lot of insight; therefore I don't comment very much. I'm trying to do better, but as an old dog....

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  8. These are a good elucidation of how games can get past the zap trap rut, but yeah, I would really value a collection of them.

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  9. I really appreciate the detail with regard to how to run the traps. It seems most materials assume the DM is born with this knowledge, which certainly isn't true, at least in my case.

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  10. You can add my vote to this series as well. I don't necessarily use the traps directly, but I find the discussion of player agency always interesting and helpful.

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  11. Excellent series! Please continue (& compile, as others have suggested)

    Cheers,

    98

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  12. Although the question has been answered long ago, I'd just like to express my thanks for this series!

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  13. A year later and I am just discovering these. Having stumbled upon your blog this week and truly impressed with its content. The series of trap articles is very useful and I am happy to see it. For years I have hated the zap trap... These are some of the first helpful suggestions I have seen to make traps enjoyable without grinding a game into a pole searching fest (though I remember the appeal of such games). I am sick of modern gaming and your posts have helped me to put my finger on why. I am very interested in looking into OSR, as my wife and I have both played Hackmaster and enjoyed the game. Again thanks for these and for much of what you have said across the site!

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  14. I think these are great! I just found your blog and I dig a lot of the articles you wright. Keep it going.

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  15. I just found this site today, and I've enjoyed reading through everything over the past... 10 hours. I'm definitely using a lot of this stuff in my world! My favored tool for DMing is stealing from everywhere. Thanks a lot!

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  16. I just got back into D&D after a 20 year break. I stumbled on your blog and although the mechanics don't work with 5E, the ideas alone have filled my head with all sorts of devious ideas for my PC's to stumble into. Thanks for the effort you put into this series.

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