Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review: Traps & Treachery

Traps & Treachery
Fantasy Flight Games
169 pages + some ads and the OGL
MSRP $24.95 ($5 on RPG Now)

This book is d20 System supplement centered squarely on traps - often very elaborate traps.
It's kind of a cousin to Grimtooth's Traps, but much less ridiculously lethal. These traps range from relatively simple, to complicated but technically simple, to complex and over-engineered. The conceit is that they are from the workbook of an increasingly-erratic trap designer, who started out a bit practical and clever but who got crazier and let it show in his traps.

The book is broken up into five chapters.

Chapter One: Way of the Rogue - This chapter talks about the profession of the rogue, and not just traps. It covers theft, Thieves Guilds (with advice for both player and the DM making them),

It has prestige classes and new thiefly feats as well, which I can't judge because I don't play 3.x D&D. It also has new gear, new poisons, and new magic items - all of which are good inspirational fodder for a game with a little conversion. I especially like the Urchin Ring, which lets you attract 1d6 kids under 12 and order them about, and which gives them some thief skill bonuses while under your influence. Hah.

It's got practical advice, like not worrying about silent lockpicking after a noisy fight, using Silence spells to sneak a noisy group around, when it's useful to re-set a trap and when to just permanently disable it. It also makes the assumption that the player must describe how he or she is disarming, disabling, circumventing, or setting off a trap. It's not just "You make a Traps roll, move on." The latter is a common stereotype of modern gaming, but it's certainly not the case here. That makes it a useful supplement for folks who do purely descriptive (player skill centered) trap disarms as well as those who do description-assisted die-based (character skill centered) trap disarms.

Chapter Two: Trap Design - this chapter goes into the details of traps.

It covers them both game mechanically (CR x, y GP, etc.) and descriptively. It covers construction, activation (triggers, magical and non-magical), the trap's trapping mechanism, effects, and so on. The detail is solid, too - you get both roll modifiers and descriptions of the way it works. You get detecting traps penalties, but also descriptions of ways you might describe that - which naturally doubles as ways you might spot the trap descriptively, too.

Especially nice is are the sections "Traps As Challenges," "Traps As Security Systems" and "Traps As Special Effects" - covering the gamist, in-game, and verisimilitude-boosting aspects of traps in a game. It's all straight-up useful advice. Some of it might be obvious to a long-time referee, but it's well presented.

Oddly (to me), there is also a new monster in this chapter. A trap-loving monster, of course, but still, it just seems jarring. Still, new monster = potential source of good ideas.

Chapter Three - Mechanical Traps - This chapter is just an extensive catalog of mechanical traps (as opposed to magical ones - Chapter Four). Each trap gets a full writeup of type, construction, activation, trigger, mechanism, effect, attack rules (to hit, damage, save), DC for searching and disabling, CR, and construction time. They also get a very detailed description of the trap, with color text you can really use. It also has descriptions of how a trap could be spotted or disarmed, too - sometimes one is easy but the other hard, especially for traps with remote triggers.

Each trap also gets a picture, showing how the trap physically looks (great for the complex area traps) and works. Extremely useful.

Chapter Four - Magical Traps - Another catalog, this time of spell-based traps. It's exactly like the prior chapter but the effects are less "rock falls on your head" and more "spell kills you."

Chapter Five - Puzzles - The third and final catalog section, this time of puzzles. Some of them are trap-like, others more like obstacles, others more like IQ tests to achieve a reward. They're all pretty interesting and very inspirational even if you don't use them straight-up.

Like I mentioned before, it's very Grimtooth's Traps, but without the killer DM aspect to it. Many of them are overly elaborate, but it fits the conceit of a progressively less-sane designer.

Overall, I really like this book. It's OOP, but you can get it for less than cover used. If you like traps, I think it's worth reading. It's useful to me running GURPS, despite a completely different rules set, because of the extensive descriptions of the traps. Spells are all up on the D20SRD, too, so it's not hard to figure out what some obscure spell does, either. Recommended.

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