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Trapsmith: The Hand of God

Trapsmith: The Hand of God

Ultimately, a traps’ function is one of protection. Many things deserve protection; it all depends on the perspective of the traps’ buyer. The altar and its various ceremonial and sacred items are cherished by clerics, and thus they often build the hand of god trap in their temples.

Hand of God Trap
“From the temples’ ceiling, statues depicting the faiths’ saints watch your progress as they clutch their deity’s favored weapon.”

A DC 20 Profession (artist) or Perform check reveals that the statues, while aesthetically pleasing, are slightly too large to fit the scene. A DC 23 Knowledge (religion) check reveals that the statues of the saints all bear symbols of protection.

A cleverly hidden panel at the temple’s pulpit (Search DC 25) arms the trap whenever the chief cleric deems it necessary. When the trap is armed, it attacks anyone entering a 10 by 10 feet area in the temple; this spot is often called the Thieves’ Square by the priests. The traps shoots a large harpoon trailing a thick steel chain; this chain is connected to one of the ceiling statues.

If the harpoon hits it deals 2d8 piercing damage, and it immediately begins to tug upwards. The target must succeed on a DC 15 Strength check or immediately be lifted 10 feet towards the temples’ ceiling.

Removing the Lifting Harpoon
If the target makes the Strength check, he may attempt a followup DC 13 Fortitude check. Failing the Fortitude check leaves the target nauseated for 1d3 rounds, while success means he overcomes the pain and removes the barbed harpoon (its barbs inflict 2d8 piercing damage as it is removed).

As an alternative, the target may chop at the chain attached to the harpoon. The chain has hardness 10 and 30 hp. If the target is not lifted into the air, the trap resets and can shoot again in the next round.

Dragged Up to Heaven
Once the target is in the air, the trap yanks the target up 10 feet each round. This deals 2d6 piercing damage to the harpooned target as its barbs tear at the target’s innards. Once the target reaches the statue, the harpoon is violently extracted from the target. This extraction deals 2d8 damage; if the target fails a DC 16 Fortitude save he is also nauseated for 1d3 rounds.

After the harpoon is yanked out, the target must make a DC 15 Reflex save to grab the statue, or else become a victim of gravity and fall to the temple floor. The returning harpoon automatically resets the trap.

If the initial harpoon attack misses, the trap resets itself in 2 rounds, the time it takes to retrieve the harpoon.

The hand of god trap has many variants; the variant described here assumes that the ceiling of the temple is 40 feet above the floor.

Hand of God Trap

CR 4; mechanical; proximity trigger; hidden switch bypass (Search DC 25); automatic reset; multiple traps (harpoon trap, lifting trap, extraction trap, fall); Atk +19 ranged (2d8, harpoon); lifted upwards (2d6 per 10 feet lifted, ceiling is 40 feet high); harpoon extraction (2d8 plus DC 16 Fortitude save or nauseated for 1d3 rounds); DC 15 Reflex save avoids, 40 feet fall (4d6 falling damage); Search DC 24; Disable Device DC 24. Market Price: 25,000 gp.

The statue that hides the trap has hardness 8 and 40 hp. Destroying the statue disables the trap.

Design Notes on the Hand of God Trap

The Hand of God trap is a series of related traps with CR 2 (harpoon), CR 1 (lifting), CR 1 (extraction of the harpoon) and CR 1 (40 feet fall). I have given it a flat CR 4 rating to simplify things.

A Deadlier Hand of God Trap
Turning the harpoon into a magical weapon with the frost, flame, or holy quality can increase the CR by 1 or more. A higher ceiling results in more damage dealt both while lifting the target upwards and also increases the falling distance. Each 20 foot increase in the ceiling height increases the CR by 1.

Love a complex trap? Or got a simple twist you’d like to share? Tell us in comments!

11 thoughts on “Trapsmith: The Hand of God”

  1. Honestly: I can’t remember a more devious trap for any temple, or one named more appropiately. I’d say this is one of the best traps so far!

  2. Thank you. I too feel that this one is one of the best that I’ve done, it is however not the best (IMO).

  3. Phillip Larwood

    Now this is one nasty trap. The one thing Darkjoy didn’t do was give us a few more options for the trap, like one covered in debilitating contact poison (particularly Strength or Constitution based) or one that implemented two hand of god traps placed in separate corners of the ceiling and striking the same target (but what happens when they both start pulling on the same target… ouch). I think I might use this one.

  4. Phillip,

    More is always more! I did consider what happens when you use two or more traps, but didn’t include it in the article.

    If two or more harpoons hit, the target must roll two or more DC 15 Strength checks or he is lifted upwards by 10 feet.

    If the target is lifted upwards, then during the traps next round they must make an opposed Strength check. The trap that loses extracts its harpoon from the target (2d8 damage + DC 16 Fortitude Save or be nauseated for 1d3 rounds)

    Think that should cover it. Adding poison to the traps is even simpler: please consult d20srd.org

  5. I’ve read through many of your traps, and am loving them. It then occurred to me that I had designed a rather devious trap (it was also functional for the residents), but never created stats or even determined its exact lethality (other than I think it is VERY lethal). I created it as a player for a hidden temple complex in the underdark we occupied.

    I would love to give you the idea (signing over all IP rights). So that if you decided it was good enough, you could publish it here for all to enjoy. I would only ask that I get sent a copy of the article. =)

    Please contact me if you’re interested.

  6. James,

    I’d say that querying Wolfgang is the way to go here, the ‘submit’ link at the top of the page holds all the details you’ll need.

  7. Is there anyway to detect this trap before walking into the thieves square?

    Is there any way to raise the CR on this trap into the epic (21+) range?


  8. David,

    The statues provide a hint to the player if the profession or perform check is made. A standard search check would detect the thieves square and the arming element.

    Epic? That can be done. 1) raise the search and disable device DC to 40+ This increase the CR by 4. Increase the attack bonus to your players AC-8, this probably increases the CR by 2. Now this trap is CR 10. Now use a lot of them to give your players a challenge. Don’t forget to change the harpoon’s chain to adamantine or pure force to prevent an easy cutting escape. Use my advice on multiple traps.

    These are quick modifications, if you kill your players I am not responsible ;->

  9. Thanks, Maurice! The party members’ ACs range from 31 to 49. It sort of seems like Table 3-13 shouldn’t extend higher for various items, like making the Search DC substantially more than 30, or the attack bonus substantially above 24. So maybe if I made the Search and Disable DCs 50, I could add +8 instead of +4. If I made the attack bonus +40 maybe I could add +4 instead of +2. So that would raise the CR to 16. Then if I added black lotus extra it would raise the CR to 24. :-D I like the idea of an adamantine chain too. I was also thinking about making it something like a unholy power +6 harpoon, and maybe a large one so that the damage rises to 4d6. The average damage would then rise from 9 to 30.5, so the CR would rise by another +3, to 27. :-D


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