Detecting a Trap. Traps can be detected with:

  • an active search;

  • certain spells; 

  • in passing.

A trap’s description specifies the checks and DCs needed to detect it, disable it, or both.

Magic Traps. A magic trap is usually more difficult to detect than a non-magic trap. 

  • Any character can attempt an Intelligence (Arcana) check to detect a magic trap, in addition to any other checks noted in the trap’s description. The DCs are the same regardless of the check used.

  • Spell traps usually require an Intelligence (Investigation) check to be found. Go here for examples. 

  • Use the find traps spell to determine that a trap is present or the detect magic spell to detect the magical aura surrounding a magic trap.

Proficiency with thieves' tools. See XGtE p. 84 for how proficiency with such tools effects your Wisdom (Perception) checks and Intelligence (Investigation) checks when looking for traps.

Non-Magic Traps. Usually, some element of a trap is visible to careful inspection. 

  • The most common way to detect a trap is by actively seeking evidence of it; you make a Wisdom (Perception) check against the trap’s DC.

  • Less frequently the GM may ask you to make an Intelligence (Investigation) check instead of, or in addition to, a Wisdom (Perception) check.

  • If a tool applies to either type of check and you are proficient in both, the GM could grant you advantage on the check. 

  • Even if there is no active search, the GM can compare the DC to detect a trap with each character’s passive Wisdom (Perception) score to determine whether anyone notices the trap in passing. 

  • Use the find traps spell to determine if a trap is present (but not its specific location).

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