Today I bring to you the first of a few guest posts as I prepare to kick off my D5C initiative on twitter, it is written by the very talented (and devious) @Macrogeek so do yourself a favor and start following him on twitter if you’re not already doing so. The DMS trap is a wonderful play on a classic trap that could be found in any dungeon, a bit of a one-two punch but the twist is you’re PC’s minds will end up suffering some quite unique effects.
The role playing possibilities and hilarity that may ensue from the DMS trap are priceless so read on, and prepare to give me your best shot when I call out for D5C tweets starting next week. Also check back later today for another new Pixels & Polyhedrals baddie that will really choke your players for options.
The DMS Trap
Not all RPG traps should exist to try to cause a player death or TPK. Some of the best traps are the ones that give you, the DM, a plot hook to work from in future sessions. Thus I give you a trap designed only to cause fun role playing scenarios for your players – The DMS Trap.
It goes a little something like this:
Near the end of the dungeon the party triggers a trap. It’s not important how it’s triggered, just that it goes off.
- Have the “boss” character of the dungeon wear an amulet that triggers the trap if he dies or separates himself from the amulet. (a dead-man switch, he can intentionally trigger/drop the amulet if the PC’s don’t kill him, or it can go off when they take it from him as loot)
- The trap can be triggered when the PC’s remove a certain goal item from the dungeon. They have to remove the item to complete a quest, but doing so trips the trap. Alternatively, when they fail a check trying to open a chest, or disarm what appears to be a simpler trap, the DMS trap can be sprung.
- The fumbling NPC. Make the trigger for the trap obvious, supply a clumsy NPC who has much poorer skills than the rest of the party…have them fail a check. Works well with rescued prisoners, the village drunk, liberated henchmen, local politicians.
DM, you’ve made the players set off your evil trap…what happens next?
The door to the chamber slides shut sealing the PC’s in. Very scary ticking, scraping, clunking, and bubbling noises can be heard in the walls, floor, and ceiling of the room. That’s when they notice the ornamental holes in the podium, wall, ceiling, floor, whatever. You could pass this off earlier as a possible spike or dart trap, or just have the vents slide open as needed.
A thick noxious, smoke starts to very quickly spray up through the vents. It burns the eyes and causes the PC’s to gag and cough. If you have any pesky magic users trying to stop the smoke, or PC’s trying to hold their breath, have them make a series of increasingly difficult checks to continue holding their breath or cast spells, as the fumes will quickly overpower them or make it impossible to concentrate.
Once enough time has passed that everyone has breathed the gas, the clockwork noises in the walls wind down and the door slides open as the trap seems to have reset itself. You can have the characters rush out on their own, or if they failed spectacularly enough, have them wake up when the fresh air reaches their unconscious forms.
The strange thing about this trap is, other than being noxious, the gas didn’t seem to hurt them. Let the players speculate. Perhaps the alchemy components of the gas have lost potency over the years, or the trap malfunctioned. Maybe it was just to scare off intruders.
Or maybe their DM is about to have a lot of fun at their expense…
You see the DMS in the DMS Trap stands for Delusional Misidentification Syndrome. In a nutshell the disorder makes a person think that the identity of a person, place, or thing has changed, or can’t be trusted The PC’s have just been dosed with a rather powerful gas that will cause them to have some of the symptoms of DMS for a period of of the DM’s choosing.
There are 4 main variations, and you can roll a d4 for each party member and assign one, or just give the same one to the whole party.
- Someone close to the PC has been switched with a identical replacement.
“I know that looks and sounds like him…but I don’t think it’s really him. I don’t know if we can trust him anymore.”
- Multiple people the PC’s meet appear to be the same person in disguise.
“Doesn’t this shopkeep look familiar to you? I swear I saw him before.”
- NPC’s that the PC’s meet appear to change identities with each other without changing appearance.
“Did the innkeeper have that accent this morning? Is he staring at me?”
- The PC is convinced that there is someone that looks just like him running around with their own agenda.
“Sir…did you happen to see someone who looked just like me running around here earlier?”
This can be difficult to DM, but the Role-playing opportunities created should be well worth it. I’d recommend keeping notes on who will have which symptoms so you can keep your story straight. Remember that while the symptoms you describe to the PC’s should seem real to them, but they’re not real to the rest of the NPC’s. This means that perception checks can’t be trusted, because the delusion is inside their head.
It’s up to you as DM to decide if this is something that just runs it’s course and goes away after a few days, or if they need to embark on a quest to find a cure for it. If you send them on a quest, the next dungeon can involve puzzles based on identity. Mirror puzzles, illusions, henchmen and prisoners who appear to change faces, that sort of thing.