Building hazards designed for your game allows you to customize them to match your story, location, and needs, as well as to surprise the other players at every turn. There’s no wrong way to create a hazard, but this guide presents the information in the order you might see it in a hazard stat block.
The first thing you’ll need is a concept for your hazard. What level is your
hazard? Will it be simple or complex? Is it a trap, a haunt, an environmental
hazard, or something else? If it’s a trap, is it mechanical, magical, or both?
This is a good time to brainstorm the hazard’s name and description, as this
will help you decide how the hazard can be disabled.
The following information builds on concepts from Building Creatures, which starts on page 56.
There are three main types of hazards: traps, environmental hazards, and
Traps are usually built or placed, though they can also form accidentally, such as if a magic portal, through millennia of disuse, malfunctions as its magic warps. Mechanical traps always have some physical component, whereas purely magical traps typically don’t. Magical traps can usually be dispelled, and those without a listed proficiency rank for Stealth can be found using detect magic. Thievery is the most common skill used to disable traps.
Environmental hazards are either living things, like dangerous spores and molds, or simply features of the terrain or environment, like avalanches or rockslides. While they are always physical, some environmental hazards can’t reasonably be attacked or damaged, such as a cloud of poisonous gas or a patch of quicksand. Survival is the most common skill used to disable environmental hazards.
Haunts are spiritual hazards, usually formed when the spiritual essence of a location is imprinted with the instincts and emotions from a living being’s demise. Because haunts lack matter, they rarely involve a physical component, and when they do, that component is generally incorporeal or might even be damaged only by positive energy. The skills and options used to disable haunts vary, though using Religion for an exorcism is common. However, even with a successful check to disable a haunt, it can reoccur until its unfinished business is resolved. Typically, successfully disabling or enduring a haunt provides clues to determine what it would take to lay it to rest permanently.
Much like for creatures, hazard statistics can be extreme, high, or low (hazards
don’t need as much granularity, so they usually don’t have moderate or terrible
values for their statistics). While they are defined in creature creation, when
building a hazard, you’ll use the values slightly differently.
Extreme: While extreme values remain world-class statistics that are extremely difficult to meet or exceed, unlike with monsters, almost all hazards have one extreme statistic because hazards normally activate only if they have gone unnoticed or if someone critically failed to disable them. Does it have an extreme Stealth DC that makes it incredibly hard to find, an extreme Disable DC that makes it perilous to disable, or a save DC that makes it deadly in the event it triggers? These are the most common choices, as each affects a different phase of encountering the hazard.
High: This is a capable level, and can generally serve as a baseline value; this value for hazards covers what would be the high and moderate ranges for creatures.
Low: If a hazard has a weakness, like a poor Reflex save for a bulky mechanical trap or an easy DC to disable for a hard-to-find trap, it usually has a low value. If you need something even lower, use a terrible value from Building Creatures (pages 56–73), or just an incredibly low value like the Armageddon orb’s Stealth (Core Rulebook 526).
When determining a hazard’s combat statistics, first decide how the hazard can be located and how hard it is to disable. A hazard where the main challenge is how difficult it is to find, like the Core Rulebook’s hidden pit, might have a very different effect for its level than a hazard out in plain sight, daring a PC to try to disable it, like the Armageddon orb.
|–1||18||15||12 to 11|
|0||19||16||13 to 12|
|1||20||17||14 to 13|
|2||21||18||15 to 14|
|3||23||20||17 to 15|
|4||25||22||18 to 17|
|5||26||23||20 to 18|
|6||28||25||21 to 19|
|7||30||27||23 to 21|
|8||31||28||24 to 22|
|9||33||30||26 to 23|
|10||35||32||27 to 25|
|11||36||33||29 to 26|
|12||38||35||30 to 27|
|13||40||37||32 to 29|
|14||41||38||33 to 30|
|15||43||40||35 to 31|
|16||45||42||36 to 33|
|17||46||43||38 to 34|
|18||48||45||39 to 35|
|19||50||47||41 to 37|
|20||51||48||42 to 38|
|21||53||50||44 to 39|
|22||55||52||45 to 41|
|23||56||53||46 to 42|
|24||58||55||48 to 43|
When deciding how to disable your hazard, be sure to come up with a narrative
description of how it would happen, which will inform which methods and skills
disable the hazard. You’ll need to decide the proficiency rank necessary to
find the hazard as well as disable it with each method. Remember, a hazard without
a listed rank next to its Stealth DC is blatant enough that creatures can find
it without Searching, and magical hazards without a listed rank are not normally
protected against detect magic. This means most hazards built by intelligent
creatures expecting them to remain concealed have at least a trained rank. Table
2-14 indicates the high and moderate proficiency requirements by level; you
can always use lower proficiency ranks than the ones listed, and you should
consider a secondary, perhaps less efficient, method to disable the hazard using
a lower rank if you use the high rank. For instance, the bloodthirsty urge haunt
in the Core Rulebook can be disabled with master Religion, or by a higher DC
with expert Diplomacy.
If you need a Stealth modifier for a complex hazard, just subtract 10 from the listed DC.
|0 or lower||Untrained||Untrained|
|1–4||Trained (expert for Perception)||Trained|
|19 or higher||Legendary||Master|
When building a purely magical or formless hazard, you can skip this section entirely. If there’s a physical component that a character could break, you’ll need to determine the hazard’s AC, Fortitude save, and Reflex save, using the extreme, high, and low values (preceded by E, H, or L on the table) as well as its Hardness and Broken Threshold (BT).
|* The Broken Threshold is usually half the hazard’s HP|
Some hazards, even high-level ones, don’t make sense with a high Hardness value. In those cases, you can skip the Hardness and use the HP values from table 2–7: Hit Points on page 63. Especially for complex hazards, you might want to divide the durability over multiple sections, located in different positions, to encourage teamwork and mobility.
Almost all hazards need an attack bonus or a save DC, and hazards that deal
damage need to list a damage value. Simple hazards deal about twice as much
damage as complex hazards and have an attack bonus even higher than the extreme
attack bonus for a creature (abbreviated as S. Atk in Table 2–16: Offense).
Complex hazards usually have attack bonuses akin to a high attack bonus for
a creature (abbreviated as C. Atk in Table 2–16: Offense). You can adjust them
further using Table 2–9: Attack Bonus on page 64 if your hazard needs it. Simple
hazard DCs aren’t as accelerated as attack roll modifiers, since effects with
DCs usually have some effect even on a successful saving throw; use the EDC
and HDC columns for extreme and hard DCs on Table 2–16: Offense below.
The damage columns on the table give a damage expression you can use, followed by the average damage in parentheses. If you want to make your own damage expression, remember that average damage is 2.5 for a d4, 3.5 for a d6, 4.5 for a d8, 5.5 for a d10, and 6.5 for a d12.
|Level||S. Atk||C. Atk||Simple Dmg||Complex Dmg||EDC||HDC|
|–1||+10||+8||2d4+1 (6)||1d4+1 (3)||19||16|
|0||+11||+8||2d6+3 (10)||1d6+2 (5)||19||16|
|1||+13||+9||2d6+5 (12)||1d6+3 (6)||20||17|
|2||+14||+11||2d10+7 (18)||1d10+4 (9)||22||18|
|3||+16||+12||2d10+13 (24)||1d10+6 (12)||23||20|
|4||+17||+14||4d8+10 (28)||2d8+5 (14)||25||21|
|5||+19||+15||4d8+14 (32)||2d8+7 (16)||26||22|
|6||+20||+17||4d8+18 (36)||2d8+9 (18)||27||24|
|7||+22||+18||4d10+18 (40)||2d10+9 (20)||29||25|
|8||+23||+20||4d10+22 (44)||2d10+11 (22)||30||26|
|9||+25||+21||4d10+26 (48)||2d10+13 (24)||32||28|
|10||+26||+23||4d12+26 (52)||2d12+13 (26)||33||29|
|11||+28||+24||4d12+30 (56)||2d12+15 (28)||34||30|
|12||+29||+26||6d10+27 (60)||3d10+14 (30)||36||32|
|13||+31||+27||6d10+31 (64)||3d10+16 (32)||37||33|
|14||+32||+29||6d10+35 (68)||3d10+18 (34)||39||34|
|15||+34||+30||6d12+33 (72)||3d12+17 (36)||40||36|
|16||+35||+32||6d12+35 (74)||3d12+18 (37)||41||37|
|17||+37||+33||6d12+37 (76)||3d12+19 (38)||43||38|
|18||+38||+35||6d12+41 (80)||3d12+20 (40)||44||40|
|19||+40||+36||8d10+40 (84)||4d10+20 (42)||46||41|
|20||+41||+38||8d10+44 (88)||4d10+22 (44)||47||42|
|21||+43||+39||8d10+48 (92)||4d10+24 (46)||48||44|
|22||+44||+41||8d10+52 (96)||4d10+26 (48)||50||45|
|23||+46||+42||4d12+48 (100)||4d12+24 (50)||51||46|
|24||+47||+44||4d12+52 (104)||4d12+26 (52)||52||48|
When designing a simple hazard, make sure to select an appropriate trigger and effect. Often, a simple hazard that merely damages its target is little more than a speed bump that slows down the game without much added value, so think about the purpose of your hazard carefully, both in the story and in the game world, especially when it’s a hazard some creature intentionally built or placed in that location. A great simple hazard does something interesting, has a longer-lasting consequence, or integrates with the nearby inhabitants or even the encounters in some way (you can find more information on integrating hazards with encounters in Dynamic Encounters on page 48).
Unlike a simple hazard, a complex hazard can play the part of a creature
in a battle, or can be an encounter all its own. Many of the concerns with damaging
effects when designing a simple hazard don’t apply when designing a complex
hazard. A complex hazard can apply its damage over and over again, eventually
killing its hapless victim, and isn’t intended to be a quick-to-overcome obstacle.
Complex hazards have a lot more in common with creatures than simple hazards do, and you’ll see that a complex hazard’s statistics are similar to those of a creature. A good complex hazard often requires disabling multiple components or otherwise interacting with the encounter in some way. For instance, while the Core Rulebook’s poisoned dart gallery only requires one Thievery check to disable, the control panel is on the far end of the gallery, so a PC would need to make their way across first.
A complex hazard has a routine each round, whether it stems from preprogrammed
instructions built into a trap, instincts and residual emotions swirling around
a complex haunt, or a force of nature like sinking in quicksand. Make sure to
build a routine that makes sense for the hazard; an environmental lava chute
that ejects lava into the area each round shouldn’t be able to seek out and
precisely target only the PCs, but it might spatter random areas within range
or everything within range, depending on how you describe the hazard. However,
a complex haunt might be able to recognize life force and target living creatures.
If you create a hazard that can’t consistently attack the PCs (like the Core Rulebook’s blade pillar that moves in a random direction), you can make it deadlier than normal in other ways.
The hazard should have as many actions as you feel it needs to perform its routine. If you split the routine out into several actions, you can also remove some of the hazard’s actions once partial progress is made in disabling or destroying it; this can give the PCs a feeling of progress, and it can help encourage them to handle the hazard if it appears in a mixed encounter with creatures.