Here's the thing: when the players win, the DM doesn't lose.
The second of Baphomet's tests is called the Hall of the Crimson Whip, and it features one of the most memorable environments in Thunderspire Labyrinth - a lake of blood watched over by two mammoth statues of whip-wielding minotaurs.
Two podiums at the far side of the lake hold the haft and blade of the bloodhorn blade, one of the four items players will need to cross the Proving Grounds. There's no obvious way to get to the podiums without walking into the creepy red pools.
It's an obvious trap. Players know they're going to get screwed; the excitement is in finding out how. It's going to involve the statues, and probably the blood itself. Players are asked, essentially, to bet on how they think the trap is going to work, with a good guess allowing them to minimise the damage they take when it springs.
As it turns out, stepping into the blood, or putting so much as a foot on the walkway that divides the chamber in two, springs the surprise. The two statues pivot at the waist so as to strike practically everyone in the room - if they hit they do damage, knock the target prone, and slide them into the blood. The blood itself deals damage to any non-humans who are immersed in it, and to make matters worse there are three evistros (carnage demons) hiding under the surface. The evistros deal bonus damage in the blood pool and get massive buffs for hunting as a pack.
It's a vicious trap and it doesn't get better once the bloodhorn blade has been retrieved - at that point, the blood starts to drain from the chamber, creating a tide carrying everything in it to the west - that is, away from the exit.
This is a good encounter; it's an excellent example of a trap with character and menace and it's probably going to be one of the most memorable bits of the module. You should look forward to this one.
My guys, though, neutered it.
I don't often mix the anecdotes of my personal game with the general analysis of the encounter, but I think it's worth the time here. When my group got to this encounter, they correctly guessed that stepping into the blood would be bad news. So our Eladrin Fighter, Alcarian, put on his boots of water walking and took a casual stroll across the surface of the lake to get the blade.
The trap still triggered; it went off when he got to the walkway. But high Fighter defenses allowed him to avoid the statues' attacks, and the rest of the party were safe in the doorway. The evistros were unable to catch him and pin him down, and with the aid of some double moves, his fey step, and a dose of luck, he scooped up the magical items and hightailed it to the door without taking so much as a scratch.
My first reaction was to be immensely frustrated. A combination of factors had come together to let the group skip one of Thunderspire's best moments. But it was a bad reaction.
Alcarian didn't shortcut the encounter by dumb luck or by abusing some inherently broken mechanic. He did it by using an otherwise underpowered magical item that he'd earned through combat, together with the iconic strength of his class (Fighter high AC) and race (Eladrin fey step). In other words, he did the job he'd specifically built his character to do. That's a huge success for him both as a player and as a character, and it's a more memorable victory for him than any amount of evistro-killing would have been.
Sometimes breaking an encounter can be more satisfying for a player than completing it as intended. Beating the system can be more memorable than mastering the system and when players earn a shortcut, giving them the benefit of that will make everyone have a better game as a result.
My guys earned their shortcut here. But for everyone else, let me know how this one went for you, won't you?