In D&D player traps are very popular with rogues and other experienced players. They want to create their own traps all the time, but how would one do so, and what is allowed?
There are guides for how to rule D&D player traps, but they are finicky and usually not necessary. Most player traps are made from creativity and simplicity.
Player traps can technically be made by anyone, and there are a bunch of different variations on how to rule them. You can go by strict Xanathar definition, or you could based on the circumstances not care. There are some major differences between many DM traps and player traps to keep in mind.
DM traps vs player traps
D&D player traps are very different from DM traps. If you want more information on DM traps you should sign up for our newsletter and read our article on traps. If you have already read our content on DM traps, FORGET EVERYTHING!
D&D player traps are completely different and should be treated as such. Here are some of the key differences between player and DM traps.
- Player traps need to be cheap.
- Player traps cannot take too much time.
- DM traps are usually complex and intricate traps that might take a lot of manpower, money, and time to complete.
- Player traps need to be creative.
- There are rules for player traps if you want, but they are lose at best.
These are the 5 main ways that player traps differ from DM traps. Player traps are made in haste in comparison to DM traps and thus have a few different requirements. Players cannot craft a trap in a dungeon by hiring people and spending a lot of time and money. They need it now! Within a few hours or days at most.
This causes player traps to differ greatly from DM counterparts, but let’s dive into the specifics.
We have already discussed how D&D player traps can’t have a ton of money spent on them as a main reason, but this isn’t 100% true. Players are rich people in the world of D&D and if a rogue just steals all their magic items and pawns other stuff, they can easily afford a few dozen traps. Especially lower DC/level traps.
The reason why players cannot spend more money on complex traps is because they are not generally portable.
The more expensive traps that require experts, manpower, etc to setup are stationary. Think of when you saw a portable trap in a dungeon? There are a few. Things like poison needles, but very few beyond this are portable.
Tripwire traps would seem like they are portable, but almost none are. The trip wire can be applied anywhere and to anything, but the trap itself is usually made into a wall or part of the dungeon.
Other trap mechanics like pressure plates are created as part of the dungeon and require time and effort to create. They also are not very portable.
You see the re-occurring problem here.
In order to create player traps they need to be made of cheap components to be portable since players are usually on the move. They are adventurers after all, so they will not be able to stay in one spot for too long or for any reasonable amount of time.
These cheap components are generally portable, but we will get into how to create a trap in the creativity section.
We already established that the players need to have portable traps. They are always on the move and cannot afford to spend time setting up these intricate traps that require time and manpower. Due to this, the traps cannot take too much time to setup.
D&D player traps have to be simple in order to set up and take down easily.
There are exceptions. Sometimes players have their own homes and fortresses. In these places the players can spend as much time and money as they want to set up traps. They don’t follow the normal convention of D&D player traps, and we will not be covering these. Treat them as you would cost, DC, etc for traps that a DM would have.
Instead, most traps are very quick to setup and to take down. This will require being creative in how to create quick traps, but some traps defy this!
Very rarely the players will be out in the wilderness and will want to dig up and set a pit trap. For these traps, they require a few hours, but they are still less than a month or so to setup. These traps are still relatively easy to set up since the complexity is very low.
Player traps are easy to setup since they are simple in nature. 1 simple effect for 1 simple trigger. There are no multi-trapped door or anything else like that. There are not intricate magical traps that require an extremely skilled thief to get through. They are simple, and almost anyone could come up with these kinds of traps.
We have talked at length about how DM traps differ from D&D player traps, but we have yet to talk about how to make a player trap.
Player traps require the player or players to be extremely creative in how to make a trap. They need to have a plan of action, and state how the trap is supposed to work, and with what materials they will use on hand.
For example, a player wants to trap their door while they are sleeping. They need a quick, portable trap that will awaken them if anyone enters the door. Therefore, they just want to tie a taught rope against the door handle. On this rope, there will be a bell. If the door opens, the bell will go off and the player has a chance to awaken like an alarm spell.
If the player wants to deal damage to anyone who enters the room, instead they could have a taught rope be attached to the door handle and a heavy crossbow trigger. Once the door handle is pulled a little bit, the crossbow bolt will fire at the target.
If you wanted to combine the two traps, you could even put a bell on the crossbow. This way, when the crossbow moves the bell rings and the crossbow bolt fires. Win-win as long as the infiltrator isn’t a teammate.
Alternatively, you can use spells to act as traps for yourself. There are only a few that last 8 hours, but an alarm spell is a great option. Put an alarm at the door and have it go off when the door is opened. You will wake up and the rune could even be at the threshold of the door.
These are all non standard traps for D&D. You need to be creative in your methods of how you come up with traps, but beyond this you need to figure out if they work, or if they are even possible to be made by you.
For a quick example of how my rogue would set up traps, I usually do this crossbow trick at the door, have caltrops in front of the door, and tie the window shut as an extra lock. Here is a picture
Most DM traps are a standard DC or attack roll, but you don’t have defined rolls for D&D player traps. In fact, the only statement about how to rule them in any book is in Xanathar’s. This is what it says:
Set a Trap. Just as you can disable traps, you can also set them. As part of a short rest, you can create a trap using items you have on hand. The total of your check becomes the DC for someone else’s attempt to discover or disable the trap. The trap deals damage appropriate to the materials used in crafting it (such as poison or a weapon) or damage equal to half the total of your check, whichever the DM deems appropriate.
As you can see, extremely vague. It does still give us some parameters to work with! You can use the DC in setting or detecting traps.
So if you are using a DC to setup a trap as a DM, you can use thieves tools or slight of hand to setup the trap. You can do this 1 of 2 ways. First, you may chose to have the player roll for their DC. So a thieves tools roll. For the second option, you may make it like spell DC. So 8+proficiency (if they are proficiency in thieves tools/slight of hand)+dex modifier.
For detection, it is the exact same roll. If an NPC is trying to detect for traps and wants to detect the alarm trap they would need to roll spell DC, and for other traps it would be as described above.
Alternatively! (I know, a lot of alternatives) you can just have the player setup the device and not have NPCs check for it since most will not. That bypasses the need to roll all the time, and if the trap is triggered the player can roll for attack or DC as described above.
For wilderness traps you might use survival and the checks may change, but overall it is the same concept. Just adjust the standards you use to figure out the trap DC if necessary.
D&D player traps are a bit confusing. They are not able to be used like DM traps, but they are still doable.
If you have players that want to have traps and are creative to do so, you are able to now figure out the DCs and any other technical way to make them work.
Just remember that player traps are extremely cheap, easy to setup, and creative. I hope that I have helped you with D&D player traps in your game.
This has been Wizo, and until next time keep rolling!