Pathfinder 2e - Practical Guide to Snares
Last Updated: May 11th, 2020
I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- : Good options.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
Snares are a collection of nonmagical items used to quickly build and deploy single-use traps. They're a good trap option for players because they take just a minute to set up and come at a variety of price points, and they're a great tool for GMs because they're single-use, disposable, and can't be looted.
This article will explore some of the practical parts of using Snares in your game, both in terms of how the rules work and from a character optimization perspective. This is not a replacement for the original rules text; it is intended to be read alongside the rules text in order to offer useful insights.
The phrase "Crafting Snares" is immediately confusing. Unlike most items which you can craft and move around, Snares are not portable. You need to carry your raw materials and tools (see Tools and Materials, below) and craft the Snare wherever you want to place it.
Snares are built in a single 5-foot square. While it's not specified, I assume that you need to be in or adjacent to this square throughout the crafting process, but that's never specified. The Snare is triggered when a creature enters the Snare's square, so if you create a Snare in your own space you're fine until you exit the Snare's square. That sounds like an unimportant, pedantic rule to fixate on, but if you're crafting snares in combat the different between placing them in your square or an adjacent square is very impactful.
There's no listed restriction on how a Snare can be placed. It's never specified if the square needs to be on the ground, though I think that's the intent. It's also never specified if more than one Snare can be in the same space. Check with your GM.
You do have the option to craft a Snare as a Donwtime activity in order to craft it at a discount. However, this uses the normal rules for crafting items, so it takes 4 days at minimum and a Craft check, and the Snare still isn't portable. This is generally a terrible idea, but Snares are permanent so maybe it's worth the time to craft a high-level Snare in your home base or something.
During combat, it's unlikely that most characters will craft Snares. 1 minute is longer than many combats, and you can't sit around putting together a Snare while your friends are fighting and dying around you. If you plan to craft Snares in combat, you'll want feats like the Ranger's Quick Snares feat.
Tools and Materials
Crafting Snares requires a Snare Kit, a Formula for the desired Snare, and adequate materials to craft the Snare. A Snare Kit isn't a problem, but the materials aren't described in any detail. Where do you buy them? How much do they weigh? What are they? Totally unclear. As far as I can tell, you spend gold and get an equivalent value of generic snare materials which are ambiguously defined and of negligible Bulk.
Like alchemical items, you'll need a Formula to craft a Snare. You get four when you take the Snare Crafting feat, and there isn't a level restriction on those so you can select Snares across a range of levels if you'd like, or you might take a bunch of high-level formulas to save money later. High-level formulas cost a huge amount of money. The core rules detail 21 Snares, so you'll either spend a ton of money to learn them all or you'll need to pick which ones are worth the cost.
If you're using snares in any significant capacity, strongly consider upgrading to a Specialist's Snare Kit when the 55gp cost is no long daunting. It's a low cost for a +1 Item bonus to your Craft checks, and while you don't make a check to craft a Snare, your Crafting DC sets the DC to detect and disable your Snares.
Be cautious about the cost of Snares. They're single-use and can't be moved, and if you over-use them the cost will quickly eat into your ability to equip yourself properly. The Ranger's Snare Specialist feat allows you to prepare several snares per day at no material cost, so it's a must-have for Snare enthusiasts.
Countering snares is simple: detect it and either disarm it, avoid it, or intentionally trigger it.
Detecting snares works like detecting anything else: you use the Seek action, you pick an area to target, and you make a Perception check. Unfortunately, that's a steep cost in combat, especially over a large area, but there isn't a way around it except to stumble blindly into any square that might contain a Snare. Snares all make either an attack or require a Basic Reflex save, so if you have someone in the party with Evasion they're a great candidate to run around the room trying to find Snares or other hazards.
To disable a Snare, you can either use the Disable a Device action to intentionally disable it, or you can trigger it.
Disabling a Snare requires the Thievery skill, plain and simple, and you need to have your Thievery Proficiency high. You don't need to match the Craft Proficiency of whoever crafted the Snare, but you need to be one step behind them. But if they have better Proficiency, you need to make up the mathematical difference. Infiltrator Thieve's Tools are essential, and look for other bonuses like the Guidance spell.
Triggering a snare intentionally isn't as easy as you would hope. A Snare is only triggered when a small or larger creature enters its square. You could roll a wagon over a Snare, and somehow that doesn't trigger the snare. You could disintegrate the floor underneath it, and RAW the Snare is happy to hang suspended in mid-air and wait for something to fall through it. The creature size limitation also prevents you from triggering Snares by throwing rats into the square, so the classic "bag of rats" abuse case doesn't apply here.
Now that you have your head around how Snares work, it's time to talk about how you make them work for your character.
If you want to craft and use snares, you need three things: Intelligence, the Craft skill, and the Snare Crafting General Feat. You can achieve all of those at 1st level, but you don't necessarily need to do that. Snares cost money, and low-level characters often need to strain their financial resources to acquire all of the mundane equipment that they want.
Still, this initial investment of character options gets you quite a bit. The ability to craft snares opens up an interesting tactical option with a fairly minor investment. Unfortunately you won't be setting Snares in combat, but you can still use them in ambushes and to protect yourself while resting.
Currently, character options for Snare usage are limited. Only the Ranger gets Class Feats to support using Snares, so other classes looking to use Snares will need to invest in the Ranger Multiclass Archetype.
With Class Feats related to Snares spread across most levels, it's easy to deciate most of a ranger's build to Snare usage. Unfortunately for other classes, that also means that any multiclassed Snare users are at a massive disadvantage.
- : The second most important feat, behind only Snare Crafting. You get a bunch of new formulas, and you get to prepare a number of snares per day without paying the materials costs, allowing you to use your highest-level Snares without constantly sweating over the price. You get to Craft these Snares in 3 Actions rather than the full 1-minute crafting time, making it possible to use them in combat.
- : Craft all Snares in three Actions. This doesn't diminish the need for Snare Specialist, but it makes it easy to craft a Snare on the fly rather than relying on the Snares which you prepared at the beginning of the day with Snare Specialist. It will later become obsolete when Lightning Snares becomes avaialable, so plan to retrain it.
- : This makes low-level Snares reliable at any level.
- : If you like to use Snares in combat, this is amazing. Be sure to retrain Quick Snares when you get this.
- : By this level you're likely Legendary in Crafting, so with Snare Specialist and Ubiquitous Snares you can prepare 16 Snares every day.
Types of Snares
The core rules list 21 Common Snares across a wide range of levels. That's not a ton of options, but Snares are a niche option and hopefully we'll see them expanded over time.
1st-level Snares are inexpensive enough that beyond low levels you can typically afford to craft them without concerning yourself with the price. While their utility in combat may diminish quickly, the Alarm Snare and Hampering Snare remain useful nearly any time.
- : There's no saving throw for this snare, making it an inexpensive and reliable way to protect yourself from ambushes, to create distractions, and potentially to locate inivisible foes.
- : Caltrops don't have a save DC; instead, they rely on an Acrobatics check. Most creatures aren't proficient in Acrobatics, so it's a straight Dexterity check for them, which means that this remains useful long after the DC for 1st-level Snares stops being effective. Still, the damage and speed penalty are minor and might not feel impactful beyond low levels.
- : Useful at any level. A creature is only going to move through 2 squares, but that can enough to prevent foes from escaping an ambush, and at such a low cost you could reasonably line up several in a row.
- : Situational. I would hope that this would help with invisible or hidden foes, but it doesn't.
- : Situational.
- : Simple and straightforward. Damage with a Baisc Reflex Save.
- : An upgrade from the Spike Snare. Short of the speed penalty on a Critical Failure, this is essentially a Basic Save.
- : The speed penalty is nice, but the DC to Escape from the effect is detached from the actual save to resist, so the effort to set the trap may not be worth the 1 Action that it costs the target to remove the effect.
- : An inexpensive counter to invisibile foes. Even if the target Succeeds on the save, this still helps to locate the creature.
- : Knocking a foe prone robs them of an Action to stand. If you're setting an ambush that's great, but otherwise it's not good enough to spend the Actions to set a Trip Snare in combat.
- : The Alarm Snare usually solves the same problem.
- : The damage is fine, but unless you can produce the 6 bombs at reduced cost this gets expensive very quickly. Snare Specialist removes the cost to Craft the Snare, but doesn't remove the additional Crafting Requirement. If you're a Snare enthusiast you're likely good enough at Crafting that alchemy is an option, so that might not be a problem. If you have the Powerful Snares feat, this can be an effective way to deliver higher-level alchemical bombs. It's also the lowest-level Snare which deals area damage.
- : Immoblizing a foe holds them in place, so unless they're happy to fight where they're standing they're going to spend an Action to attempt to Escape.
- : Single-target damage on a Basic Reflex Save.
- : The initial damage is less than Striking Snare, but if the persistent bleed damage applies even once it's more damage than Striking Snare. Beyond that, this remains in place for a full minute rather than breaking immediately. If you can hold a foe in place or a push them back in somehow, you can quickly wear a foe down with repeated damage at little cost.
- : Single-target damage on a Basic Reflex Save.
- : A little bit of damage, but the real appeal is the Stunned effect. Lightning Snares becomes available at the same level as Stunning Snare, so you can spend an Action to gamble your Action against whichever creature is unfortunate enough to step into the snare. In a fight where you outnumber your enemies, that's a fantastic gamble because even on a Success the target is still Stunned 1 so it's an even trade.
- : A bunch of damage in a 20-foot radius. As ridiculous as it sounds, you might Craft this then step on it yourself if you're surrounded. Classes like the Ranger get Evasion and often have high enough Dexterity that you could avoid all of the damage on a successful Reflex save.
- : Hail of Arrows does an average of just 20 less damage and can affect multiple creatures. Unless you're in tight quarters or facing a single enemy, Hail of Arrows is typically a better option.
- : A decent amount of damage on a reasonably high attack bonus. You can move the wheel 60 feet with on Action, so creatures will often need to take more than one Stride to get out of range. Creatures can also attack the wheel to destroy it, but it had 200 hit points so that's going to take a lot of time that your enemies could be spending attacking you instead. If they attack the sphere, you win because they're wasting time attacking a disposable resource. If they run, they waste actions running. If they stand still and attack you, you get to use the wheel to attack them repeatedly.
- : A big pile of single-target damage on a Basic Reflex Save. It does as much damage as three hits from Flying Blade Wheel Snare, and in many cases dealing less total damage but dealing it all at once is often better than more total of damage dealt over time because you might kill the target faster and prevent them from harming you in return. You also don't need to spend Actions to make additional attacks like you do with Flying Blade Wheel Snare.