Friday, February 27, 2015

Half-Thoughts on Traps

The Dungeon's Front Door was going to include the following material, but it was cut for not fitting into the theme of the essay.  I thought I ought to include the content somewhere, however.

Traps are founded on well-understood principles: that they might be found anywhere; that they can be detected; that they can be deactivated . . . and if not detected or removed, that they will deliver damage, poison or some other consequence.  But are we willing to consider the possibility of traps that have no effects?

The practical joke with the little flag that pops out of the gun and says BANG! - though crass, remains disconcerting if the gun looks real.  The dungeon trap that is easily found - yet strangely difficult or even impossible to remove (because it is not, in fact, a trap) can easily tie a party up for a long time.  The party will go into it with the assumption that any trap can be removed.  Since this 'trap' has no discernable mechanism, however - what should the party do then?

We can also introduce a circumstance where the removal of one trap will guarantee the firing of a second trap.  We can play with this idea in several ways.  We can allow the players to find both traps (or all of them, if more than two are involved) with one roll, so that they can see plainly how the traps are rigged to go off.  Or we can stipulate that only some of the traps are found, depending on whether or not the thief rolls successfully for each trap.  I personally prefer the first option - because that suggests the thief could stop trap A from setting off trap B, if the cord on trap C is pulled in this manner (using the party's fighter) and if this flagstone in the corner is stood on (using the party's bard), compelling all the players to take some part.  Then if the traps go off, it could be the fault of the mage or the druid.  

There is a certain fascination, however, if the party realizes there are more traps, but they don't know how many or even how these traps are connected.  Add in that some of these traps may be 'dummies' and we have a real conundrum.  Hah.  And I keep saying that I don't like puzzles in dungeons!

We don't have to consider the impracticality of some fool putting this arrangement in place, do we?  I mean, we've seen Saw, we have other cultural references - we're just willing to accept that some premise exists.  A party, I'm sure, would think it reasonable that someone would put something valuable behind a mess like this.

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