OSR: Postwald's Cunning Deathtraps

Postwald is a Tin Dragon in my upcoming Veinscrawl (underground Veins of the Earth derived hexcrawl).

Postwald... is not a very good dragon. It's only the size of a horse, it's not very bright, and it ruins every plan it encounters. Postwald thinks it's a very clever dragon. The long-suffering kobolds that serve it are forced to agree.

If Postwald captures the PCs it will subject them to one of its many Cunning Deathtraps. Postwald's kobolds can design proper deathtraps and quietly despair at their master's attempts. Postwald gloats like a Bond villain.

Matias Cabezas Montoya

1d10 Cunning Deathtraps

1. The Ruination of Friendships

(2, 4, 6, etc. PCs)
A rope hanging from a pulley with a bucket on both ends. PCs are loosely tied and distributed evenly between the two buckets. The buckets are suspended from a sturdy beam over a (very real) acid pit and carefully balanced. 

Kobolds will chuck pebbles into the buckets from the windows around the deathtrap room. "As the rocks fall," Postwald gloats, "one bucket will become heavier than the other. But wait! You can save yourself... by putting rocks into your friend's bucket! Ooooh, how cruel!"

The PCs can escape by:
1. climbing the rope.
2. throwing rocks back at the kobolds to knock them out.
3. very patiently filling in the acid pool with rocks.
4. swinging the buckets from side to side to get to a window

Postwald can't fit into the room or any of the nearby passages.

2. The Pit of Death and Poison

(Any number of PCs)
A bucket and a well. "Full of the deadliest snakes in all Creation," Postwald will boast, "and vicious biting scissorfish! If the poison* doesn't kill you, the biting jaws of my precious fish will! Ahahaha!"

The snakes and fish died long ago. The bottom of the pit is odorous but not dangerous. If PCs scream and wail and act out dramatic death scenes, Postwald will be satisfied and leave them alone without checking. Its eyesight isn't very good, so even if it does check it might not notice the PCs moving around. A ledge in the pit leads to the fish feeding room (abandoned) and the rest of Postwald's lair.

*Postwald means venom, but it doesn't know that.

3. The Minecart Problem.

(3 or more PCs)
"Aha! You see before you a horrible dilemma! On the left track, one of your friends. On the right track, the other. By the use of this lever,  you alone control the path of a minecart full of rocks, which will soon come rushing down this track! Which friend will you mangle?"

Postwald is standing on the leftmost track. It will not move until it's too late. The minecart will knock the wind right out of it; all the kobolds in the area will rush over to check it, giving everyone plenty of time to escape. Alternatively, the lever can be wedged in an intermediate position, causing the minecart to derail and scatter rocks everywhere.

4. The Prisoner's Intriguing But Difficult Choice

(2 or more PCs)
"I offer you this simple choice! You must choose whether to Suffer or Betray. If you choose to Suffer and your friend chooses to Betray, I will eat you and let them go free. Similarly, if they choose to Betray and you choose to...

No wait, let me start again. If you both choose to Betray,  you both will be eaten! But if you both choose to Suffer, I will let you go free. Now... what do you choose?"

The PCs are all in the same room. They can communicate freely.

5. Chess

(Any number of PCs)
"A game of wit and daring. Chess! The true game of wise people. If I defeat you,  you will die. But if you defeat me, I will let you go free."

Postwald doesn't understand the rules of chess. It has the basics, but it can never remember how the knights move. It will also ask the PCs for advice. Any reasonable bluff, and several unlikely ones like the "Queen Death-Spiral rule" and the "Reverse Castle Mortgage" should work. If the GM has a chessboard, they could act out the game against the players.

6. The Horrible Saw of Messy Death

(Any number of PCs)
The PCs are strapped to a thick iron table on a sliding rail. A huge spinning sawblade whirrs menacingly. "Goodbye, intruders," Postwald gloats. 

As the PCs approach the blade, Postwald rushes over and shuts off the machinery. "No, wait, that's not right," it says, and rotates the table so the PCs are heading into the saw feet-first. "Much better."

The saw will hit the metal table and explode. PCs might be lacerated, but the room will fill with smoke, sparks, panicking kobolds, and secondary explosions. The saw fragments will cut a few of the leather straps binding the PCs.

7. A Duel of Honour

(Any number of PCs)
"We shall fight like nobles. You may have your weapons. I will have my teeth and claws and fearsome intellect. Ten paces, turn, and then the duel begins. Ready? One, two..."

Postwald has its back to the PCs. The exit is unguarded; all the kobolds have also turned away. They can easily make a run for it. When Postwald turns around, it will pause, then shout, "Invisible, eh? Well have at you! Hah! Aha!" as it stomps around, smashing furniture and fighting imaginary opponents for several minutes.

8. Your Just Reward

(Any number of PCs)
"As a reward for your greed, you will be given a fitting gift. Molten gold! Yes! Bring the cauldron forward!"

Observant PCs will note that the cauldron is more... warm-ish than molten. The kobolds will object but Postwald will silence them. The cauldron will tip over, dropping a shower of gold pieces and warm-ish block of solid gold onto their heads. One PC might be concussed. The block of gold will also fall on Postwald's toe, causing it considerable pain. The PCs can easily escape in the chaos.


9. Agonizingly Slow Drowning In A Glass Tank

(Any number of PCs)
"You shall suffer exceedingly slowly as this tank fills with water. I'll come check on you every so often. Try to hold your breath! Ahahahaha!"

The 15' high glass tank is slowly being filled from a water channel. It has no lid; the PCs can hop out once the water reaches a certain height. Additionally, the glass is fragile, and can be broken with well-timed blow. The real trick is timing the escape to avoid the occasional patrolling kobold.

10. The Deadliest Game.

"I will hunt you like a cave spider hunts a cave cricket, except much bigger, and also you can't jump as high. To be noble, I will give you a head start. You have until the sand runs from this hourglass to evade me."

The PCs are given all gear and items back. They have a 30 minute head start. Postwald, despite its claims, is not a mighty hunter. Its kobolds will try to push the PCs into an obvious path or trap them somewhere Postwald can't possibly miss.... but it usually misses them anyway.


  1. The Prisoner's Intriguing But Difficult Choice - classic! :)

  2. I usually don't get attached to NPCs, especially other people's NPCs, but I love Postwald. He's such a clever and interesting foe.

    I also like the idea of the most dangerous thing in Postwald's lair not being him, but his kobolds. You said in your last post on the dragons (I think) that they were experts of secret murder and protecting their master, so I like to think they're like Tucker's Kobolds, but with disguises that make it so they can appear from underneath piles of discarded newspapers with crossbows and acid-bombs.

  3. Skerples, for the minecart one, are you imagining three tracks total (PC 1, PC 2, and Postwald)? Or is he standing on one of the tracks the PCs are tied to?

    1. One of the tracks a PC is tied to. I've included a helpful diagram.

  4. "Before you are two magical, talking doors. One door always tells the truth. The other door never lies. You may ask one question."

  5. This is absolutely brilliant. I was looking for non combat "obsticales" to run in my Kids RPG.

    Thank you!

    More like this please :)

  6. These are tremendously funny, especially the Prisoner's Intriguing But Difficult Choice. That one had me burst out laughing.