DMs Guild Review – Calpurnia’s Guide to Practical Traps

Over 40 traps and triggers, along with a trap-filled hex crawl adventure.

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A review copy of “Calpurnia’s Guide to Practical Traps” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Joel Kelley

Calpurnia returns! After blessing us with an excellent supplement regarding Lesser Magical Items, Calpurnia’s Guide to Traps details over 40 traps as well as an entire 20+ page, trap-laden adventure.

The supplement smartly organizes traps into different types, such as Mechanical, Alchemical, and Illusion, as well as a separate section for triggers. These traps are fairly straightforward, and could get a lot of use in lower level campaigns and dungeons, like the classic pitfall, taut-wire, poison needle, and spring trap.

Each trap is given extensive details that include potential countermeasures, special effects, crafting rules (including materials), and optional variants. Countermeasures for the Poison Gas trap, for example, include noticing ventilation holes with a Perception check, using thieves’ tools to disable the mechanism, and/or blocking the holes to stifle the gas. Optional variants include replacing the poison with smoke, or using Dust of Sneezing and Choking.

My favorite traps were of a magical nature, especially the clever Illusion-based traps. A primed spell scroll is a great example of using a rather mundane spell in a brilliant way. First priming a scroll by reading all but the final word, a spellcaster casts Illusory Script to showcase only that single word on the page. The scroll is placed in an enticing way so no self-respecting adventurer could resist seeing and saying the word, thereby casting the spell, which could lead to all kinds of hilarious or deadly shenanigans.

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Illusion traps look like a fun way to jack with your players, including illusory bridges over pits, illusory foes or spell-casters to goad PCs into wasting spells, and an illusory mouse that runs across a very real trap, hopefully tricking the PCs into thinking the mouse is real, and the trap is not.

Calpurnia provides helpful and enjoyable commentary throughout the supplement via sidebars. Her voice injects a welcome dose of personality. “A grouped cluster is just begging for a Fireball. Is a wasted Fireball such an awful thing? If you answered ‘No,’ you obviously can’t cast Fireball.”

As much as I enjoy Calpurnia’s commentary throughout the 50+ page supplement, the layout leaves much to be desired. Tiny text, plain white background, and few pieces of art drag the overall quality down. It’s particularly noticeable when there’s no artwork or heading separating the rather substantial adventure from the rest of the product.

The entire second half of the supplement details an adventure, “The Spectre of Sanguine Isle.” I have mixed feelings about the adventure overall, but getting a 20+ adventure in a trap supplement is still very impressive.

The adventurers are hired to track down a villainous ranger on an island near town. Unfortunately for them, the man is the leader of a seasoned mercenary group of monster-hunters called the Spectres, and they’ve fortified the entire island against incursion in order to protect their leader.

It’s not a bad idea for an adventure, and there are lots of fun little scripted events and encounters, including a false camp near a bear cave, a rolling flaming boulder on a mountain, and the true hideout, which features collapsing roofs and trip-wires.

Making the island one big hex-crawl was a mistake, however. Each hex is supposed to generate a random encounter, which has a not-uncommon chance of leading to a fight or yet another trap.

The designer even acknowledges that your party may not enjoy being constantly harassed as they blindly explore the island hoping to find their quarry. If you have to include “Warning: May Not Enjoy” on your adventure, maybe think about redesigning the adventure!

The end is surprisingly satisfying, as the leader ends up not being the villain the angered noble painted him to be, and could lead to some interesting role-playing opportunities – provided your party hasn’t already quit the adventure in disgust. With some important modifications “The Spectre of Sanguine Isle” could be a solid adventure, but when it comes to showing off a multitude of traps, I would’ve preferred a much smaller scale.

Pros:

  • Organized into types such as Mechanical,  Alchemical, and Magical.
  • Trap details include countermeasures, crafting, triggers, and optional variants.
  • Clever Illusion-based trap ideas.
  • Insightful commentary by Calpurnia.
  • 20+ page adventure that utilizes plenty of practical traps.

Cons:

  • Hex-crawl trap-focused adventure can be a slog.
  • Plain, unattractive layout.

The Verdict: With dozens of detailed yet intuitive trap designs, crafting rules, and an entire trap-focused mini-adventure, Calpurnia’s Guide to Practical Traps is an excellent addition to any DM’s toolbox.

A review copy of “Calpurnia’s Guide to Practical Traps” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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