Hoo boy, this is going to be difficult – Day 13 of the 30-day D&D Challenge asks about my favorite trap or puzzle.
Um, I was never a puzzle/trap guy, I tended to be the villain guy. There is a kind of trap I really do like, though you won’t find it in a dungeon: the culture trap. Get the PCs in trouble in a strange place because of some strange custom they didn’t know or chose to ignore. Or get them in trouble because of some unique cultural concept, like the Japanese/Chinese idea of ‘saving face.’
This works best for me in historical or semi-historical milieus, where my players at least have a good idea of what the ground rules are for a certain society.
For real physical ‘traps’ though, nothing beats Nature itself! Weather, loose stones on a mountain trail, slippery moss-covered rocks as the only way across a rushing torrent of a river … these can test player ingenuity as much as any trap, and don’t require the thief to do it. Thieves in my games would do well to prioritize their hiding, listening, climbling, and if included, fast-talking skills over their lock-picking and trap detection.