Inspiration for Dungeon Masters comes from many different sources. Official books are the most obvious place to seek ideas for the next adventure with non-official books a close second. There are some great online resources that also assist a DM that’s more digitally inclined. Savvy Dungeon Masters use parts of every bit of media they consume to pull their next plot twist or player challenge. Anyone seeking a devious trap might want to look to their Netflix queue for a bit of inspiration in the form of Ultimate Beastmaster, which premiered in February.
Ultimate Beastmaster is Netflix’s entry into the resurgence of athletic competition shows. Contestants from six different countries do their best to overcome a variety of challenging obstacles for cash and prizes. The genre encompasses all different kinds of shows. On one end you have the gotcha-style obstacles of Wipeout, where the enjoyment of the show comes in watching normal people fall down when they get beaned by a foam thing out of nowhere. On the other end, there are shows like American Ninja Warrior where trained athletes tackle frightening obstacles that look insurmountable to the untrained eye. Ultimate Beastmaster leans towards that side of the range, though there is certainly something to be said for the unintentional laughs brought out by watching a contestant totally whiff on an obstacle and hit the water below.
The show has quite a few challenges that would fit right in a dungeon. Let’s look at two examples and how they might appear written up for a Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons game. These traps use the guidelines that appeared in the most recent Unearthed Arcana.
(Level 1-4, dangerous threat)
This trap appears at the edge of a jump leading to a lower level of the dungeon. It shifts the ground out over the ledge, making the jump to the rope leading below more challenging.
Trigger. A pressure plate near the edge of the jump reacts to more than 20 lbs of weight, shifting the edge into open space away from the passage. Small wall sections on either side also stretch out into the void.
Effect. Anyone trying to make the just must first make a Strength check (DC 15) to press against the sides of the trap. Jumping to catch the rope in mid-air requires a Strength (Athletics) check (DC 15). If the character failed the first Strength check, the jump check is made at a disadvantage. Failure to make the check means the character suffers 2d10 falling damage.
Countermeasures. A Dexterity check make with thieves tools (DC 15) can be made to over extend the moving mechanism. In this case, the Strength check is made at a lower difficulty (DC 10) without the need of the first Strength check.
The Stomach Churn
(Level 5-10, deadly threat)
This trap features three platforms jutting out of a strange, acid-like pool.
Trigger. A glyph on the first platform glows softly as a life form approaches. If the name of the wizard who traced the glyph is not whispered within 30 seconds, the other two platforms begin to rotate.
Effect. Jumping from each platform requires a Strength (Athletics) check (DC 10). However, if the platforms are rotating, the check is made at disadvantage Failure to make the check means the character suffers 10d10 acid damage by being thrown in the pool.
Countermeasures. A Dexterity check make with thieves tools (DC 15) stops the platforms from rotating long enough for a single jump to be made. An Intelligence (Arcana) check can be made to recognize the wizard who carved the rune and say the correct name.
Players love traps. They love them even more when they defeat them!
What is your favorite obstacle course obstacle? Let us know in the comments.
Image Credits: Netflix
Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves, Vulcans and sometimes all of them at the same time. His blog is here, his Twitter is here and his meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.