Friday, September 4, 2020

6 Ways to do Boulder Traps

[1] The Classic
In this scenario, the character(s) activate the rolling boulder to release when they get close enough to it that it will build up speed faster then they can run, such as down a long incline. The ball may also roll along a flat, level floor if it stars up in a chamber above the main hall, enough to give it the momentum it needs to crush people. At the end of its path it may be deposited in a secondary chamber or niche, waiting for a monster or magical thing to reset the trap.

[2] The Path
In this scenario, the boulder is large enough and wide enough to be set at the end of a hallway or long room which is difficult for people to traverse. Such as in the example picture; tight walkways that the ball can travel over in a straight line, but people will have to follow a long and winding path, meaning there is no way to escape this except by hanging on to a ledge and letting the boulder roll over your hands. Could also be fit in a room filled with mud and just a few thin rails that the boulder rolls on. Essentially- the boulder rolls faster then traverse the room.

[3] No way Back
This trap is set up to gather speed but not actually to crush the adventurers. Instead, there is a side passage or door the adventurers can easily escape through that has a small tunnel. The ball then goes over a ledge or through a secret wall and falls into a chamber where it stops. This blocks the way back, thus meaning that the adventurers cannot follow their own route back through the dungeon- this serves as a method to cut them off from the familiar paths they've taken before.

[4] Fake Safety
The boulder trap in this scenario starts rolling towards the group, but with some speed or luck you can get through a side passage to safety. This side passage should only be through a very thin wall or on the end of a ledge that is impossible to climb the other direction. The ball rolls past them, but as they catch their breath from running away the boulder will come back, either smashing through a false wall or coming down a long and seemingly unconnected corridor. Hopefully, the targets of this trap will be caught unaware as they try to catch their breath. Secondly, this second fake safety chamber could have doors or hallways leading off that just lead to brick walls or don't actually exist, being illusions or tricks of the light, thus keeping them stuck in this hallway. Essentially, this boulder gets two passes to try and crush the people who activated it.

[5] Trap Niche
This method is much more cruel then the above, and would probably make people upset if you used it in an actual game. The boulder is on a slope but with perception and speed you can get out of the way into a small niche or side passage. However this niche or side passage is always a dead end; with the floor having a false bottom or secret depression that is activated shortly after the trap is sprun. The boulder stops rolling in that hole and essentially just traps whoever went into the side passage behind the rock. This could be anything from wasting several turns to destroy the boulder or pry it loose, to having the person inside suffocate after several hours or even starve to death over many weeks. I also like the idea of this trap letting you only “escape” it if you essentially reset it; you have to push the rock back up in to place and avoid triggering it to move past, since even if you unblock the side passage the main passage would be blocked.

[6] Fake Boulder
Finally, this trap subverts the entire boulder trap. From a distance, the boulder appears as a round object that will roll towards you and crush you, but it is actually a large piece of worked stone. It may have a chain or weight that, when activated, slowly moves towards the players. It can't go far though because the chain it is connected to instead pulls a new trap in motion- the sliding of the floor or a bunch of spikes come out or some other trap is activated down the line where people will run to avoid the rolling boulder that they think is coming. This also acts as a plug for the hallway as nobody can squeeze past the boulder; the space behind it could be empty or simply require you to activate the trap and let the “boulder” fall down far enough you can step around it to go past it.

[Bonus] The classic boulder trap is sometimes said to be flawed due to the ability to dive into a the corner of a square hallway in order to escape it. I do think this could be a legitimate tactic depending on the size of the hallway, but one way to fix it would be to have raised corners or filled in tracts running alongside the main path. You could even set this up to be secreative; have the corner space of the hallway near the floor filled with dirt, slanted edges to act as “drains” or pipes from further on down in the dungeon so pesky adventurers can't escape a crushing boulder.

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