Looking Over Book of Challenges: All of the Treasure, None of the Traps


It's just cover art

Premise

A winding passage is full of triggered traps that rearm if the treasure at its center is disturbed.


Good

The basic idea of having inactive traps that the players can rearm inadvertently to give hints about their effects is great.


In general, I like the use of some effects that add complications for future encounters, like scare and bestow curse, rather than just picking damaging effects for all of the traps. For this particular encounter, I dislike their lack of leaving behind evidence, but those are the sorts of traps that tend to spur more interesting play if reused elsewhere.


While most of the treasure stash is boring, the inclusions of a high-value diamond (though conveniently not of high enough value for 3E’s raise dead) and a magic cloak (even if it is a boring mathemagical one) are welcome.


Salvageable

Except for the rearming mechanism (called out as using a pressure plate trigger), all of the traps are seemingly set off by magical proximity sensors. Depending on the context, more mundane triggers might be necessary.


The encounter is unclear on whether the traps are disabled because they work only once per arming or for other reasons. While my gut instinct is the former, I can imagine justifications either way, so the GM has to make a choice. The fact that the variant rule sidebar even highlights that any given trap may reset automatically or manually makes the discrepancy all the more apparent.


The pendulum trap seems like it would need slots in the walls to swing between for adequate coverage.


The floor and ceiling should also be blackened and singed by the fireball trap.


Casting detect poison should not be a prerequisite for using other skills to identify the poison on the whirling blade trap.


Once again, we have a situation where a rogue has been through an area shortly ahead of the PCs. While there isn’t any clear time constraint on when that happened, unlike in Trouble Cubed, it’s still something that ought to be worked into a greater context to avoid feeling contrived (and potentially to hint at some of the traps that don’t leave evidence of their effects, such as by having the traps make sounds/smells/etc. as she’s going through that the PCs might notice or by having her make notes about them that the PCs could find).


I might’ve been willing to accept identifying the flame strike effect from its soot if the text had included some hint at the divine nature of that spell. Alas, it didn’t, but the GM might be able to.


In the context of this encounter, I’d apply the scaling up advice of having some traps summon monsters to replace at least one of the scare, bane, and curse traps, if not all three (depending on what I did with the rogue), maybe even allowing the summon monster to cast that same spell to retain the original trap’s effect. That would help address some of my complaints about traps that leave no evidence in an encounter all about showcasing the evidence left behind by triggered traps.


Bad

The sidebar about PCs knowing a trap’s location/effects is worthless. I’d expect any GM to already be open to modifying rolls for interacting with traps based on what the PCs do to protect themselves, regardless of whether that’s because the players figured out the trap’s details or any other reason.


The boxed text for the pendulum trap calls out the corridor turning to the right while the map shows it turning left. The shatter traps’ boxed text mentions turning left correctly, making the error feel even more pronounced.


I’m not sure why the singe marks from a fireball would be identifiable as different from any other magical blast of flames that could cover the same area.


Likewise, I’m not sure why the scorch marks would be identifiable as coming from a lightning bolt.


Considering this encounter is about giving the players a preview of all the traps before rearming them, it feels like poor form to have no noticeable aftereffects from three of them.


Needing to find a hidden lock on the wall to disable the whirling blade trap (which protrudes from the floor) is such a half-assed effort to suggest interesting trap interactions that it annoys me more than leaving disabling the trap ambiguous would’ve.


The advice warning against going “overboard” with making the individual traps more deadly because that might grant “a lot of XP without encountering significant risk” is exactly the sort of short-sighted nonsense that leads to traps having a bad reputation at large. Just because the PCs didn’t trigger a trap doesn’t mean that they weren’t in danger. Just because the players didn’t realize their PCs were in danger doesn’t mean that they weren’t in danger, either. The encounter even demonstrates that traps don’t need to have damaging effects to be dangerous, so why it’d undermine that point at the end is incomprehensible.


Overall

For all that I love the premise here, the actual execution has so many issues that I can’t imagine ever using it as written. There are some good ideas, and I’d even be open to reusing some of its traps in other encounters, but this encounter as a whole requires too much effort to be worth fixing.


All in all, this is worth reading through and filing away for idea fodder, but there’s no need to consider running the whole thing.

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