Friday, May 10, 2024

Random Notes & Thoughts for 5/10/2024

End of the weekdays means random stuff!

- So, this comic was exactly how I was running Handsome. Well, except for spending money on bow-related stuff, he literally looted everything else combat-related after character generation.

The Weekly Roll #150

- I like this line of thought - making traps totally obvious and force you to engage with traps. I may need to do more of this.

Don't Hide Traps

I'm not sure how I'd implement it to makes Traps a still-useful skill, but still.

And I do like hidden traps enough to keep them around.

And it does mean it's pitting my knowledge of engineering vs. my players that include folks who are actually engineers, one architect, a guy with a degree in materials science . . . which is extremely challenging vs. just putting a Link spell with an offensive spell on it. Because honestly I suck at the very things they're good at, and pitting my knowledge vs. theirs in a way sure to consume time and then bitching about turning dungeon exploration into physics and engineering problems . . . well, it seems like a poor choice for me.

Still, I like "the more dangerous it is, the more obvious it needs to be." And I do find the hazards I put in the dungeon - and the "trap here, beware!" encounters - generally create the most fun.

- Why the weird wizard garb?

I like this a lot.


  1. I like to make traps hard to find if you aren't actively looking, and easy to find if you are, usually with some sort of tradeoff between the two.

    And then you design the trap so that it is not obviously avoidable, so every discovered trap is something the players have to actively engage with if they want to follow the course they have set for themselves.

    Courtney Campbell's Hack & Slash blog used to have some good advice of traps, particularly how to telegraph their functioning while keeping the "engineering" in a black box. I think he might have published some of that at DriveThruRpg.

    1. "Artifices, Deceptions & Dilemmas" by Courtney Campbell

    2. Thanks for following up with the name. Here is a link for everyone:

      "Artifices, Deceptions & Dilemmas" by Courtney Campbell

  2. Suffice to say I disagree with almost everything "Don't Hide The Traps" has to say. For various reasons, from yours of "But then I have pit my engineering versus the PCs (many minds level) of engineering", to mine of "So... we're not rolling for these things? Why do I have to roll for combat again?" pet-peeve*

    How I handle traps: (largely the way you have)
    1 - Hidden traps are usually easy to find //if// the PCs are spending the resource called TIME and looking, or if one PC is so super specialized in it that they make it trivial even under extreme situations ("It's -15 to my skill? I roll a 14 and succeeded by only 4...") - which means that PC spent the resource called CHARACTER POINTS to make traps trivially easy to find. But they require a resource of some sort to be spent, this engages choice, choice which is removed if every trap is an //obvious// environmental hazard. Which begs the question if this guy even uses inobvious environmental hazard and why not?

    @ - Obvious traps are just environmental hazards and I don't bother to treat them like traps. An open spiked pit is not a trap, it's a hole in the ground that's extra spicy to fall into. Okay, I guess I have done the old "obvious" shotgun trap pointed at the door thing (which is obvious if your on the right side of the door) and then still treated it like a trap (a roll to disarm)... but those obvious traps are pretty rare. Mostly if it's "obvious" it's because the Players are genre savvy and know that the welcome is always covering a bottomless pit...

    C) By keeping a roll, I'm keeping the choices made during chargen and advancement relevant. Traps will exist and while you r party //might// be able to 'Barbarian their way through them, that's also a choice. Removing all those choices and just making a "narrative dealt with environmental hazard" removes all those choices.

    .* This pet peeve normally shows up in the form of "just make the speech and I (the GM) will decide how well your character does at getting the town's loyalty", or "Just haggle with me, we don't need to roll", or (the exceptionally creepy) "just rp the romance with me, we don't need rolls..."

    But yet the GM never wants to take rattan or NERF weapons out and fight out the combats...

    Social combat is just as important to roll for as physical combat, some Players aren't as socially competent as their PCs, just as most GMs and Players aren't anywhere near as physically capable as their paper men. And that goes for trap finding and springing as well.

    1. I fall into the middle ground. I've described this as:

      - you need to decide what to do. You can't roll to have your paper man decide for you. The better your decision, the better your odds of success. A sufficiently poor decision is an automatic failure. Sometimes, a sufficiently good decision is an automatic success, but this is more rare.

      - you need to roll to see how well you do. No amount of description will definitely remove the need to make a roll to see how well you do it.

      Which is why I can't either go purely "just roll" or "just describe." I like to think of this as the worst of new school + the worst of old school.

    2. Yes, the player decides what they intend to say or do. If the outcome isn't obvious based on the approach, then you ask for an appropriate skill or ability check to determine whether, or how well, the character does it. If the outcome is obvious based on the approach, then no check is necessary (cf. "seducing the dragon").

    3. BTW, Courtney has put some of his trap designs back on the website for free:

    4. Pretty much as you describe, yes. We roll if failure is interesting (at least to me), or if success is possible but not assured. If it's just obviously one or the other, we don't roll.

    5. "The better your decision, the better your odds of success. A sufficiently poor decision is an automatic failure. Sometimes, a sufficiently good decision is an automatic success, but this is more rare."

      I'm not sure I understand this... for me the decision doesn't impact any bonuses of penalties on a "trap disarming" roll. If they decide to avoid dealing with trap or just find a way to avoid, okay, that's fine, they've avoided dealing with it, no rolls needed for the trap (but other things like spells or other abilities probably still require rolls). If they decide to "Barbarian" or "sacrificial minion" the trap (send some one/thing in to trip it and suffer it) that also probably doesn't require any rolls (I mean, it's being tripped, it probably needs like HT rolls or Dodge rolls, but that's different).

      But I'm at a loss as to how a "good/bad decision to deal with the trap" would give a bonus/penalty to the disarm rolls. Can you give an example of what you mean?

    6. Bonuses or penalties can come from decisions such as choosing to use a particular tool, time use, angle of approach (some traps are more difficult to disarm in certain arcs), brute force vs. delicacy, whatever. It varies greatly depending on the traps.

      For a very simple example, a tripwire crossbow trap pointing down a hallway. You won't even need a roll to disarm it if you clear the tripwire and get behind it and just set it off with a pole or the trigger. If you prefer to disarm the tripwire, that'll take a roll, and deciding to take your armored gloves off will reduce a penalty. Deciding to carefully hold the tripwire while someone else cuts it and ties it off is probably a bonus, depending on the setup, but doing it yourself isn't going to get the same.

      It really depends on how the situation is and how the players interact with it. If they just want to say, "This isn't how I want to spend my time on Sunday, I just roll" they can often do that, but then it's just a flat skill roll instead of a chance at a bonus or automatic success.

    7. Ah, time and tools, yeah, I use those. I don't tend to care much about "angle of approach" in terms of bonuses/penalties (though if the PC does something so out-of-the-box that could apply, I suppose) but more in a "have they removed themselves from the consequences of failure" thing, and I never do an "automatic" success for disarming a trap. It's a roll. Unless they are 'disarming it' by setting it off, then, sure, automatic success. Maybe. Those pesky self-arming traps can make that troublesome...

      I also don't do "automatic failures". If the Players is going seriously out-of-pocket with the description in a manner that is obviously not going to be successful - in which case I say, "Your character knows that won't work to disarm that, what is it you are trying to accomplish?"

      But this goes back to my hard line of "There is a skill and a level on the Character sheet for a reason".

    8. Go back far enough in the D&D editions, and you will find character sheets that don't have a skill listed on them.

      I like the amount of engagement required of players by narrative play, so I often design the trap so it can be detected and/or disarmed automatically, as an incentive for players to engage in this manner. If they would rather roll, that's fine too.

      This works particularly well for detection. For instance, if you pour water on the ground, and it runs over the floor, but drips into the seam at the pit lid. Or runs under a pressure plate.

      Or say they open a chest lid just a crack, and see a switch set into the rim of the chest that is rising with the lid. They could deduce that was a trigger. They could also try holding it down with the edge of a knife when they open the chest. If that is indeed how I intended that trigger to work, I will let them open the chest that way, no roll required.

      Note I don't need to worry about the black box that is how the trigger is connected to the poison needle or gas cannister or whatever. I only have to worry about the parts of the trap that PCs might interact with. So I don't care if there is an engineer among my players.

      Also, if they decide to touch the crossbow trap with a sphere of annihilation, I won't roll to see if that works, either.

    9. For me, there is a skill on the character sheet for a reason - which is to roll against when we don't already know the answer to the question, "What happens?"

      If I know, I don't roll. I don't roll when a trap is dealt with in a way to automatically cause it to fail, or to automatically cause it to succeed, any more than I roll to stick a sword into an unconscious foe. It just works because we don't have a question that's more interesting to answer with a "huh, didn't work."


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...