Our pal the mimic is the poster boy for this kind of thing. He looks like a treasure chest, activates the greed receptors in your adventurer brain, and then makes you pay the price for rushing ahead. However, the mimic isn’t the only way to achieve this effect.

I’m an especial fan of the old Gygax anecdote about the sinking treasure chamber. This one comes courtesy of old-school DM Mike Mornard via the Blog of Holding:

Mike told us the story of one of Gary’s lesser players who decided to go adventuring alone. He encountered a room filled with gems. Apparently, he didn’t suspect that Gary was trying anything devious: he ran into the room and started reveling in his treasure. “It’s great!” said Gary… “You’re in gems up to your ankles!”

The player showered himself with gems like Daffy Duck. “I’m independently wealthy!” (As a one-time recipient of a cache of random gems, I can relate to the player’s joy.) “It’s great!” said Gary. “You’re in gems up to your knees!” The player shoveled gems into his pack. “It’s great!” said Gary. “You’re in gems up to your waist!” I’m sure you can see where this story is going. When the player tried to leave, he found out that he was sinking in quicksand covered with three inches of gems.

Monte Cook pulled a similar trick in my current Pathfinder megadungeon campaign, turning a treasure chest and a couple of magic spears into dangerous animated objects with zero monetary value. Several rooms later, he presented the exact same setup with the exact same treasure description, but this time the loot was actually loot. Watching the players agonize over whether or not to grab the gold warmed the cockles of my frozen GM heart.

In my opinion, you do this kind of thing because 1) it’s hilarious, but also 2) players like feeling smart. Sure they’ll blunder into your golden guillotine some of the time, but when they manage to side-step the trap (thanks 10′ pole!) they’ll feel like tactical geniuses. You want to give your players that feeling every once in a while. It’s a pretty nice boost to the ol’ gamer ego.

Question of the day then: Have you ever rushed ahead in a dangerous situation, only to be hurt be your greed and/or impatience? What happened? How dead were you?