When it comes to major hazards that an enterprising GM can fill a dungeon with, it’s easy to find sourcebooks filled with the obvious answers. Folios of new monsters top the list, with books of wicked new spells (all the better to have NPCs cast on your heroes) following closely behind. Traps, however, rarely get this sort of attention, and that’s a shame because traps can be some of the worst threats a character can face; this is especially true regarding purely mechanical traps – in a world where monsters can morph into furniture, or a long-cast magic spell can suddenly turn you into ashes, it’s easy to forget that a well-designed series of pulleys, chains, and a blade or two can quickly bring severe misfortune to a character. If you’re looking for something along those lines, then look no further, as 14 Traps, from Scavenger Studios, delivers on that score.
Before we go any further, let’s examine the technical workings of this nefarious libram. Eighteen pages long, the PDF does have full bookmarks, which is good, but they have all been labeled as “traps5,” which limits their usefulness in ease of navigation. Page borders of intricate machinery twine their way of the sides of each page, meeting along the top of them in the countenance of a metallic skull. Beyond this, each page has illustrations in the form of diagrams showing how the trap on that page works. There is no printer-friendly version of the document, but I’m waiving my usual objection to such an omission simply because the diagrams are necessary to understanding how these traps operate.
Having said all of that, there’s one thing that needs to be made absolutely clear about this book: it’s system-neutral. Despite being released under the Open Game License (which isn’t reproduced in the product, though the d20 STL is), there are no statistics of any kind to be found here – not the damage the traps inflict, not the DCs for detecting or disarming them, and not for how to construct them. I’m assuming this was on purpose, despite the licensing for this book, and so am not holding that against it. This is a diabolical book of traps for whatever kind of game you’re running.
Regarding what kinds of traps you’ll find here, the table of contents artificially breaks them up into four sections: literary traps (books or scrolls that are trapped), booby-trapped containers (things like trapped chests), solitary traps (traps set into the surrounding area, such as blades that pop out of walls), and doors of doom (trapped doors/doorways). The former two sections have three traps each, while the latter two have four. Thus, you have traps for whatever circumstance you’re looking for.
As for the traps themselves, let me tell you: these are nasty (in a good way)! When you’ve got traps with titles like “groin gouger” or “face ripper” you know you’re dealing with things much worse than just a spiked pit! Each trap is purely mechanical in function, which makes their varied designs very impressive for their ingenuity. While most are lethal, or at least designed to inflict serious harm to their victims, a few, such as the handcatcher chest, are designed to restrain would-be thieves, allowing for a nice bit of variance.
Overall, this book presents a diverse series of traps that display a fiendishly twisted imagination in how they’re constructed, all without magic (which I think broadens their appeal). They make lack system stats, but the originality and excellent displays won me over regardless. If you like springing traps on your PCs, this is a book that you should definitely pick up.