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Trapmaster: Beating Traps, the Kobold Way

Trapmaster: Beating Traps, the Kobold Way

Listen up kobolds! This month we’re going to do something different. Rather than tell you how to trap your lair to keep out those pesky adventurers, let’s discuss options on how to disable traps when you are “visiting the neighbors.” Of course, rogues, wizards, and other adventurers have all sorts of options where they just roll a d20 or spend a spell slot, but we kobolds, we like some regular old common sense.

Step one is finding the trap. We’re going to assume that you have either done that or at least suspect the presence of a trap—otherwise you’d be dead and not reading this advice. So let’s just skip past that part and assume you think you know there is danger ahead, and we can focus on the things you might have brought with you or ways to use your wits and the environment to defeat most basic traps.

Alarm Bells

Some traps are designed to make noise. Without magic, this is difficult to deal with, but there are still options.

Mute Them. It’s possible you can see and reach the bells, but for whatever reason, you know you won’t be able to stop the trigger that rings them. That’s okay. Take some mud, your pillow, an old shirt, wadded up candles, or even chunks of your departed enemies and shove it all in the bell around the clapper. If you can wrap the whole bell in a blanket, so much the better. That should mute it enough that no one will hear it outside of the room you are in.

Ambush the Guards. Stopping noise is rough, but if a bell rings, someone usually comes to check it. Use it to your advantage and set your ambush before fighting them here. You know they are coming, but they don’t know what to expect. Lay your own traps and take cover!

Arrows or Blades

It takes more effort to build, but there is a certain fascination with hails of arrows or swinging blades that come out of unexpected places. Frequently the mechanisms for these traps are inside the wall or floor, and that makes them especially hard to disarm. Try these options instead.

Block the Attack. If you can find the hole that you suspect something is going to shoot out of, you can try to block it. Pile up some doors, rocks, or those super-useful dead bodies in front of the hole and run on through. Hopefully, the trap does less damage than your barrier can take. By the way, you’ll find that dead bodies are actually a tried-and-true solution to a lot of traps. Also don’t underestimate the usefulness of a chest of drawers. Grab two drawers and put your arms in them, so you can block most of your body from both sides. The drawers won’t last, but they should give you a benefit against a trap (+2 bonus to AC if not using a shield).

Plug the Hole. If you can see the hole and can reach it without setting off the trap, you can plug it with dirt or candles. You can pack either into a hole pretty tightly, and it should throw off the arrow or blade as you run past. (A plugged trap has disadvantage to hit.)

Falling Rocks

Some traps like to dump heavy things on you. It’s best to avoid being crushed to death, so here are some ideas on how to do so.

Jam It. If you know where it falls and you are in a tunnel or building, you can brace the falling block with a few doors on end, a pile of furniture, some rocks, or a dead tree. At the very least, the brace should give you a few extra seconds to run through (advantage on Dexterity saving throws).

Roll It. Physics is a thing, and you can get a lot of rocks to roll or slide away from you when they fall. Put a door or two on some rocks, bricks, or some other sturdy base and then wedge the doors against the wall. Then crawl past and hopefully when the block falls it slides away from you. Make sure the pile is more to one side than the other or the falling block might slide toward you! Instead of doors, you can also try using a tower shield, assuming you don’t want it back.

Fire Is Your Friend. A lot of these traps rely on ropes to hold up the falling rocks. A few flaming arrows will burn the ropes and cause the trap to trigger with you safely out of the way. Also, this works for any trap that uses ropes as long as you are willing to set them off from a distance.

Magic Glyphs

Magic is extra tricky to deal with if you don’t have the blood of dragons inside you, but some simple tricks and a limited morality will serve you well.

Detonate from Range. If you can see it, you can wreck it. Fire, acid, or even just a bunch of arrows will wreck most glyphs. Of course, it often also sets them off. But most of them have a range of 30, 60, or 100 feet. It is recommend to back up to 35, 65, or even 105 feet, if you have the room, before you start launching your attacks.

Have Something Else Set It Off. Necromancers have it easiest since they can just have a zombie set off traps for them. Unfortunately, most of us can’t raise up our friends to do our chores for us, so we need another choice. Don’t tell druids about this one, but most animals can be used to set off a trap. If you can summon something (this is the most druid-friendly way since the creatures don’t really die), that should redirect the magic away from you. A lot of magical traps need the creature to be at least Small, so you often can’t just use a rat or frog. You can always try to lob a dead body. You might get lucky in what triggers the glyph.


There are two basic ideas behind any pit trap: they make you fall, possibly to your death, and they block your path to somewhere you want to go. Assuming you can’t just go around, there are two ways you might deal with a pit trap.

Go Over It. If you need to get to the other side, you can go over most pits. Some folks will try scaling walls, swinging on complicated rope systems, or simply jumping it if they’re very athletic. That all seems like a lot of work, and there is frequently an easier way. Put something over the hole and walk on that, requiring a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check if the makeshift bridge isn’t very wide. If you are outside or near the outside, a tree is recommended. They are cheap, easy to find, and plenty of them fall over on their own. Make sure you find one that isn’t rotten all the way through and will hold your weight, using a successful DC 10 Intelligence (Nature) or Wisdom (Survival) check. If that’s not an option, a lot of humanoids use doors. Just pull the pins on the hinges and lay a door over the hole. Of course, if the hole is wide, doors might not be long enough. A third option, particularly if there’s a temple about, is a pew or column. Either should cross most pits, though they do tend to be heavy, so you might need a friend.

Fill It In. Nothing long enough to cross the pit? No problem as long as you’re not worried about making a little noise and the pit isn’t unusually deep. A lot of places you visit have rocks, furniture, logs, or even the bodies of your defeated enemies. Push it all in the pit and walk across.

Swim It. If all else fails, in some dungeons there’s a stream or lake. If very nearby, dig a short trench and flood the pit, so you can swim across it. Be careful not to flood the whole dungeon if you plan to explore deeper.

Poisoned Locks or Doorknobs

A lot of contact poison is green or at least has an oily sheen and can be seen in decent light. So there are a few options, depending on what the poison is on.

Wear Gloves. A pair of sturdy gloves or gauntlets are a godsend when handling poisons. Just make sure it’s not made of thin leather. A lot of poisons are meant to soak through the skin, and most kobolds forget that leather is just skin that’s been tanned.

Remove the Hinges. If you can get at them, just remove the hinges and open the chest or door from the other side! This requires some carpenter’s tools, but it’s worth it.

Drill a Hole. If you can’t get at the hinges and your obstacle is made of wood but you have those carpenter’s tools, an axe, or even a dagger, you can make a hole. For a door, you can now reach the inside knob (don’t forget the gloves!), or if it’s a chest, you can pull the loot out through the hole. Coincidentally this method also damages mimics.


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