Thursday, April 4, 2019

GURPS and the Unminded Trap

Over in Castle Whiterock, the PCs hit into a fairly dangerous trap.

It's a good illustration of something I noticed in using D&D-style adventure approaches to GURPS - traps, unattended and unminded by active, intelligent, and hostile forces, are not as lethal as in D&D.

One thing about D&D that GURPS doesn't have is the attritional aspect of most resouces. In D&D, especially AD&D as I've played it, resources bleed away from a finite pool. You only have so many HP, so many spells, so much healing. Extra time doesn't help much - you can lose more HP in a 20' pit than you can heal back by rest in a week.

Because of this, traps left unminded generally just cost replaceable resources - you lose HP, but that can be healed with magic that costs FP that come back in minutes. Repeated healing penalties mean this spigot isn't endless, but it's not nearly as limited as in D&D.

For a trap to have a solid, lasting impact in GURPS, it needs to be lethal, crippling, destructive (to equipment or resources), or all three - and a good way to make it so is to connect it with active threats.

A reverse gravity trap with a force wall is nice, but if there are foes who can take advantage (perhaps fighting on the ceiling, and you can only reach them by "falling" up to them), or who have effective ranged weapons unimpeded by magic, or area effect attacks - then it's a real threat. A pit is good, but a pit that drops a few PCs in and covers them up as foes swarm in to attack the rest - that's a winner.

Such traps have a real threat, not just a sigh, puzzling out of the most efficient way to solve them, and then a solution followed by a short rest - perhaps even no rest if your spellcasters rely mostly on Energy Reserve.

For GMs prepping old-school style traps for GURPS, my advice is to keep in mind that they don't really act like much of a resource attrition as they do in D&D-based games. They're much more of a threat coupled with actual active threats. Because of this, it's worth mixing in both unattended traps and attended ones. This way PCs have to treat all of them like a combined-arms attack by foes with a dangerously slanted battlefield, which adds to the fun of dealing with them. If they don't, they'll get caught out by foes waiting for the trap to spring - which also adds to the fun of dealing with them.


  1. The Reverse Gravity + invisible spikes on the ceilling trap was potentially lethal, but it rolled very low damage on Polly, and (after a use of Luck) pretty low damage on Zaber. After that, it was a mere matter of having someone with Flight to come get them.

    The infinite falling trap in the vault beyond was also potentially lethal, but by then the PCs were totally on guard, and the first one in had Flight and a lot of armor and HP, so it was pretty underwhelming.

    Having some monsters there would have increased lethality, but then so would just having more falling damage.

    Ultimately, killing PCs is pretty easy. The trick is making it fun. I think they had fun with these traps. Hopefully if they get killed by a trap in the future, it remains fun.

    1. I agree with your last point, but my point isn't really about fun or not fun. It's that traps don't have the same effect on the game that they do in a system where resource recovery isn't a simple thing. That trap was just a good example of that - it would have sucked away resources that couldn't be recovered in a game session in D&D, but in GURPS DF it doesn't do that, it either kills/cripples or you've lost some time.

  2. To be fair, Zaber's effective Perception of ~25 prevents a lot of traps from being fully effective. They party is probably more heavily invested spotting stuff than anything else I could think of.

  3. My only issue with this assessment is this:

    "Because of this, traps left unminded generally just cost replaceable resources..."

    Time is a resource. That your Felltower doesn't often feature this is a choice of your design*. But time management can be its own hell if the GM has made this a part of the overall theme of the adventure.

    * Yes, time is ultimately an element of your game, the Players only have so much time, and this in turn limits the Characters, however zoomed in, it isn't a problem you often place before them.

    In a "properly designed" adventure even unaccompanied traps can scrape away that previous and finite resource, if the adventure accounts for a time limit.

    1. You have to force the trap to cost time, and make time critical. That is hard to do on a consistent basis.

    2. You do have to go all in on the "there is a time limit" theme, so yeah, not something to do all the time. But here and there. Maybe a timed Portal run, or some Important Townie's family member is lost in Felltower and needs rescuing before they hmmm. You really don't have any well-known viable baddies left besides the orcs, so... ahem, kidnapped victim needs rescuing before the Orcs do something nefarious to them.

      Oh, I know, you don't run quests, but eh. It was an idea.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...