By Thilo Graf
This pdf is 24 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and one page advertisement. That leaves 20 pages of content.
The pdf starts with a short chapter explaining skill encounters and how to run them. (5 pages)
After that, we get the first encounter/trap. Before I get into reviewing this product, I have to admit something: I love traps and I hate how they are treated most of the time: The rogue goes ahead, tries to disarm it and there we go – one roll while the rest of the PCs waits for the rogue to do his job or die trying. This little pdf introduces traps that have something for the whole group to do and can’t be overcome with one single roll.
That being said, let’s delve into the first encounter, the classic vicious spike pit. (3 pages) The skill-encounter features two complex sets of checks to deal with the trap: Escape & Disable. Both are fractured in the encounter, spells are dealt with, etc. However, one of the complications e.g. mentioned churning blades, which aren’t factored into the stats of the trap, somewhat rendering them a bit strange. The same goes for exploding spikes. I know that the DM is supposed to scale them, but I nevertheless would have liked that being done for me.
The next trap is the poisonous gas chamber. (4 pages) This encounter features a sample map of the room, including grids and the like. Once again, two ways to solve this are presented, “smash it” and “plug it” – both are interesting, but I personally preferred the complications for plugging it.
The next trap is the sucking vortex. (3 pages) This skill encounter is interesting due to being both individual skill encounters and a group encounter to shut down the vortex as well as a sample map with a grid for the corridor with the vortex. While being an iconic and simple idea, I really loved the presentations and complications of this one. Nothing to gripe about here.
The next challenge is the flooding room. (3 pages) I really did like the encounter, the complications and so on. However, I’d have loved to see a twofold variation here: One mechanical trap and one magical flooding room – they also would have made a great combination trap.
The final trap derived from a tried and true statement in gaming, the classic “Rocks fall, all die.” – The last skill encounter is the collapsing dungeon! (3 pages) This skill encounter is by far my favorite among the ones presented – not only because it is iconic and cool, but also because it is lethal, it’s mechanics are simple, yet interesting and due to an added “Buried!”-mini skill encounter.
As I’ve already admitted in my first skill encounters review, I’m a sucker for them: I e.g. immensely enjoyed the collapsing dungeon and the vortex. However, there are still some minor problems with this pdf: While the artwork is ok and the whole file is full color, I would have loved to see a printer-friendly version without the yellow background and with less pictures and more mechanics – both with the poisonous gas chamber and the flood chamber, I think that we could have had more complications/ideas instead of pieces of artwork. Editing and formatting is concise and makes running the encounters easy. I’d really like to give this a full five stars, but some of the skill encounters made me want more out of them or just didn’t strike me as too interesting. Combine that with the lack of a printer-friendly version and I’ll settle for a good 4 stars rating. I really hope to one day see a massive tome of skill encounter traps, with more exotic and far-out traps intermixed with the new take on classics. If you’re a DM who is sick and tired of the one-die-roll-trap, be sure to give this a try, you probably won’t regret it.