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Book of Challenges: Dungeon Rooms, Puzzles, and Traps (3e)
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Book of Challenges: Dungeon Rooms, Puzzles, and Traps (3e)

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Danger Around Every Corner and Behind Every Screen!

The greatest threat to any adventuring party is a devious Dungeon Master. This book is spring-loaded with ideas, both subtle and sinister, that will ensure every gaming session is appropriately hazardous, including:

  • Over fifty encounters designed to be dropped into any campaign.
  • Scalable scenarios that can be pitted against characters from 1st to 20th level.
  • Advice for creating your own deceptive and deadly situations.

Dungeon Masters who want to keep their players on their toes will be inspired by the invaluable material within these pages.

To use this accessory, a Dungeon Master also needs the Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide, and the Monster Manual.

Product History

Book of Challenges (2002), by Mike Selinker with Daniel Kaufman, Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel, and Skip Williams, is a DM's book for D&D 3e. It was published in June 2002.

Continuing the 3e Line. The 3e softcover splat line was mostly filled with player books — starting with Hero Builder's Guidebook (2000) and running through Stronghold Builder's Guidebook (2002). The line included one book that was mostly intended for GMs, Enemies and Allies (2001), but you couldn't tell that from the cover, which was brown, just like the rest of the line.

Book of Challenges was something different: it was a blue-covered book, clearly marking it as a companion to the 3e Dungeon Master's Guide (2000). It was also one of just a few blue-covered books in the whole 3e line, alongside the hardcover Manual of the Planes (2001) and Deities and Demigods (2002).

Book of Challenges was the last of 3e's softcover splat books. After that, Wizards moved away from splat books for 3e; when they returned with D&D 3.5e (2003), the splat books would be hardcover, like the rest of the line.

It Takes a Meanie. Mike Selinker had a reputation for being the meanest GM at Wizards of the Coast. He says that he treated players like they'd just keyed his car, and so he had a good collection of wicked traps, tricks, and puzzles. He also had a reputation as being the "puzzle guy", with puzzles published in Dragon, GAMES, and even the New York Times. Add those up, and it's no surprise that the Powers that Be at Wizards suggested that Selinker write some of his D&D puzzles and traps up in a new sourcebook. He assembled the team of Kaufman, Kestrel, and Williams, and they got to work.

However, Book of Challenges isn't just a book of traps and puzzles. It's a book of encounters. Many of them include puzzles, tricks, and traps, but it also features complicated combats. Their ultimate goal? To have no sympathy for the PCs! All of the encounters are also carefully correlated, to ensure a variety of CRs and monsters.

Finally, the Book of Challenges is also a book of advice that tells GMs how to create great encounters of their own.

A History of Traps. The idea of tricks and traps goes back to D&D's origins as a competitive game. The short list of "traps and tricks" in OD&D (1974) was pretty innocuous, with sinking rooms and teleport traps being mainly a danger to mapping. However, one of TSR's first adventures, S1: "Tomb of Horrors" (1978), showed the flip side of traps — with many of them being of the infamous insta-death sort.

Traps were prevalent throughout D&D's early dungeon crawl days, then they started to fade away in the more plot-oriented adventures of AD&D 2e (1989). Meanwhile, Flying Buffalo took up the banner of trap mastery with the publication of their Grimtooth's Traps books (1981-1994).

D&D massively revamped the way that traps worked with the release of D&D 3e (2000). Now, traps were fully detailed with their own stats blocks, which also described how to defeat them. It marked a sea change for how traps worked. In the Oldest of Schools, traps were primarily solved by player ingenuity, but beginning with the advent of the thief in Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975) character skills became increasingly important. That transition was now complete, and skill rolls were the end-all of trap solving. Insta-death traps, which had faded over the years, were now entirely dead as well.

Future History. Kaufman was interested in producing a "Book of Outdoor Challenges" as a complement to the underground challenges of this volume. It might even have been on Wizards' schedule at one time, but somewhere between the dropping of the softcover splat book line and the revamp of D&D 3.5e (2003) it disappeared

About the Creators. Selinker got brought in as this book's Lead Designer, but he didn't want all the puzzles to be in his style, so he encouraged the other designers to create puzzles and tricks of their own — which gave him time to have fun with some of the combat encounters. Soon after his work on Book of Challenges, Selinker moved on to work with Wizards' board games, such as Axis & Allies: D-Day (2004) and Risk Godstorm (2004).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

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February 6th, 2008
This was an excellent download. There were quite a few good ideas in the book, however I dont really enjoy having to read and use 5 pages of info to set up a trap, it would be nice if there was a book with simpler ideas (ie riddles, puzzles etc.) [...]
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File Last Updated:
September 21, 2015
This title was added to our catalog on September 22, 2015.