Friday, July 27, 2012

Thieving Abilities - Traps

Being Friday afternoon, it's a good time for a discussion of new rules, being that they can sit on the blog for three days (I rarely post on weekends).
So taking the thieving abilities one by one ... and not starting with Pick Pockets, as the book does.  I already followed this post with another, so you're probably reading this second, but here you go:

Find/Remove Traps.

I don't really mind the % chance to find traps.  Long ago I implemented a policy that any thief within reasonable distance of an actual, existing trap, were justifiably likely to find that trap according to their % ability, whether they were looking for the trap or notFor those purists who play this game thinking that a thief, put into a dangerous situation, must indicate to the DM that they are LOOKING before they are able to SEE, I wonder why this same puritanism is not applied to remembering to think, pee or breathe?  Why is it the thief is some special exception who's capabilities are stunted by the need to vocalize them?  The thief should be able to recognize a trap just as clearly as any other character recognizes that a room is round or square.  If you describe the various colors of the stone and the various shapes of the statuary, the thief should have sharp eyes that also notice that weird shadow where no shadow should be, or the tightly wound strand connected to the third block from the left.

FINDING traps is not something that is done with the hands, like a blind man picking a tea cup from a strange cupboard - if they were, thieves stupid enough to blunder around with their fingers would soon be conveniently eliminated.  The principle means of finding anything is SIGHT, and any DM dumbass to believe that a thief doesn't see something weird before he feels around for something weird hasn't yet figured out how to hit the toilet with his or her shit.

The fact is people create this sort of necessity ("I search for traps") because it is a deliberate verbal cue for creating drama - but very corny, crappy drama, the kind at which Gygax excelled.  It says, "I am going to be a thief now," as though such-and-such must jump into a dungeonish phone booth in order to transform into THIEF-MAN, finder of traps!  It is purile and naturally embraced wholeheartedly by the very same dungeon masters who like it when their fighters cry out, "I venture to slay the beast, and send it back to its foul beginnings!"

The same sort of sickening sort who just read that and thought, "YEAH, THAT'S THE GAME, MAN!"  Thankfully, we'll be rid of this sort when genetic determination laws are finally overturned.

Ah, a good rant loosens me up.

After the finding of traps, the removal lends itself to some problems.  In the first case, how does one "remove" a pit?  In reality, even if I point out the pit to Stenglapp the Stumbly, there's still every chance that his Royal Clumsiness is going to put a foot wrong and fall in.  So pointing it out isn't a guarantee that it will cease to do harm.

At the same time, where's the difficulty in removing a poison-lock trap if the way to set it off is to stick in a fighter's finger?  If the finger will set it off, then obviously so will any similarly sized chunk of wood.  It isn't as though the poison is set to spray everywhere around the room (how would all the poison fit into a lock?).  The same can be said for most traps.  Setting them off safely isn't much of a hassle - it hardly takes a % roll to succeed, particularly if the person doing the deactivating is a talented, capable thief.  Once again, if the mage can manage the forces of the universe into a ball of fire 40 feet across - without ever conceivably failing, mind - why does a 7th level thief still need to roll a die to see if he's struck by the d3 damage sprung dart he knows is there?

Well, we know why.  Because thieves are shit, and we can't just let them be able.  We must punish them for being thieves by making them constantly in danger of being killed for stupid reasons.

I think it can be presumed that IF all the parts of the trap can be viewed and successfully identified by the thief, or IF the trap itself is fairly simple, we can reasonably suppose the thief has deactivated it safely without having to roll.  IF the trap is some freaking thing from the Tomb of Horrors, infantile as that module is, then perhaps a % roll is in order - but the DM should really question how hard is this thing to deactivate, if setting it off is something that can be done by someone who knows how standing thirty feet away.

Setting Traps.

Really, this belongs in the above section, but the reader's eye is getting tired and a new section makes people think they're making progress.  This inspires readers to keep reading, and that is why journalists do it.

The setting trap problem is in many ways similar to the setting off of traps.   Most traps are just not that complicated.  Hollywood be damned, most trained boy scouts manage to create a snare without actually hanging themselves up from trees; a cord can be tied across a path without danger of tripping over the cord; and digging a hole and not falling into it is something that many children learn before grade 3.  I think we can assume a thief, trained to be a thief, might just be able to manage spring traps, pit falls and collapsible frames without actually having to roll for success.  It is patently silly to think otherwise ... but thinking is not a strong suit for some DMs, and they must be forgiven for their vitamin-D deprived cityfied ignorances.  So far, until above said genetic laws are repealed, these herds must be tolerated before they can be exterminated.

I suppose if you're going to have a thief who wants to create something really complicated, like having the pyramids implode or something according to sand pouring out of a donkey's ass, such a percentage die roll might be in order ... but as DM, you should seriously consider whether said percentage for success shouldn't be reduced to ZERO.  If a simple murder can't be created with a heavy crossbow and a doorway, is the thief really being creative, or just implausible?  It is up to you to decide.

(a small digression - what if I just sit outside your trap-festival for a year or so and wait while the gears and springs rust, the delicate fluids seep from their containers, or evaporate into the air, dust to blow in and soil creep to shift the mountain a few millimeters, so all your stupid traps don't work?  What's amazing about the dumbass sinking stone at the beginning of Indiana Jones is that grit and insect carcasses hadn't simply gummed it solid - were the natives coming in monthly to "tidy up?")

Hm.  This is already much longer than I expected.  I guess I'll have to write a series of posts then.

1 comment:

tussock said...

It seems to me your standard pressure plate trap is designed to look rather much like the floor, which is a reasonable thing for it to do on any sort of tiled ground and not so much on bare stone.

That's a skilled artisan's job to build of course, and easily spottable by running a little water into all the cracks or triggerable with any stout pole.

Maintenance is an odd one. Buildings become traps all on their own given sufficient time. Walls teeter further by the year, weights above sit ever more delicately balanced, floors rot until they barely support their own weight, collapses past send you through dangerous make-shift passageways. The old traps may be visibly jammed, but the jam itself may form a whole new trap for the unwary.


I like the idea though. More of a "how fast you can move and still spot trip wires and such" deal.