The Button Unit D&D Trap – The Twilight Zone

In the 1980s, the Twilight Zone released an episode entitled “Button, Button”. A couple who was struggling financially are offered a choice. Push the button on the button unit and receive $200,000. However, someone they don’t know will die. Do they push the button? Spoiler. they sure do, but I think the part of this episode that I remember the most and that sent a chill down my spine was when the couple found out that the button unit was going to be reprogrammed and given to someone they don’t know with the same terms and conditions. It dawned on them that they would be the next to die as a result of someone else pushing the button.

I’ve rewatched the Button, Button episode recently, nearly 40 years later and the episode’s perpetuator, Mr. Steward, is just as eerie and business-like as I remember. Deep in thought about this moral dilemma, I wanted to see if this situation was viable in a tabletop role playing game such as Dungeons & Dragons™.

Below, you will find the written version of the trap so you can reference it for your game, but I highly encourage you to watch the seven-minute video for the full demonstration on how to use the Twilight Zone’s “Button Unit” Trap in your game.

The Button Unit D&D Trap – Twilight Zone

The Trap: A PC finds a strange puzzle box. The box looks ordinary with the exception of a domed, glass top that protects a button inside. There is a keyhole in the side of the box. The box is indestructible and cannot be opened, destroyed, or altered. The lock cannot be picked and will break any attempt with thieves’ tools.

Attached to the bottom of the box is a removable note that reads:
Mr. Steward will meet with you soon.

Soon an NPC by the name of Mr. Steward will approach the character, look at them and say:

Mr. Steward: “You have received the “button unit” we left for you. Good”

Mr. Steward will hand them an envelope and tell them:

Mr. Steward: “Inside the envelope is the key to the button unit so you can open the box and push the button. If you decide to push the button, two things will happen:

Someone will die. The person who dies will be someone you don’t know. Someone you have never met.
Afterwards you will receive a bag of holding filled with 25,000 gold pieces.

Mr. Steward will then nod and say:

Mr. Steward: “You have one day to make a decision at which time I will return to pick up the button unit. Good day to you.”

Triggers and Effects: Pushing the button triggers the trap. In addition, any ability used by a creature to press the button such as having a familiar, a summoned creature or magical effect like mage hand, will also trigger the trap. The character who pushes the button or uses an ability or magic to push the button will be the target of the trap.

When Mr. Steward returns exactly one day later. If the button was pushed, he will say:

Mr. Steward: “Hello, I’ve come to retrieve the button unit.”

Mr. Steward sets down a bag of holding.

Mr. Steward: “You pushed the button, so I have brought you a bag of holding with 25,000 gp stored inside. If you would like, I can wait while you count it.”

Mr. Steward’s arms will extend, and the box will magically appear in his hands. If there are no further questions for Mr. Steward, he will say the following:

Mr. Steward: “Enjoy spending your gold. The button unit will be reprogrammed and offered to someone else with the same terms and conditions. The person will be someone you don’t know. Someone you have never met. Good day to you.”

If the button was not pushed, Mr. Steward will say:

Mr. Steward: “I noticed that you have chosen not to push the button. A wise choice. Good day to you.”

Everything will be fine, for now. However, at a point in your game in the very near future, the character who pushed the button will drop to 0 hit points and die (no saving throw). This is the result of someone the character does not know and has never met, pushing the button resulting in their death.

Countermeasures: Simply returning the button unit when Mr. Steward returns will prevent anyone from dying and avoid the trap. A detect magic spell will reveal abjuration magic (the indestructible box) and necromancy magic (death triggered by the button). An identify spell will reveal this box as a powerful artifact. It will be unclear if pressing the button will bring wealth or death.
Mr. Steward is a fiend. A lesser devil and apprentice of Asmodeus. Any ability that detects fiends will note that Mr. Steward is a fiend. The box unit is not evil; however, Mr. Steward is evil.

So what do you think about using the Twilight Zone episode “Button, Button”, in your D&D game? What would your players do? Be sure to leave a comment below.

On to the next!

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