Dungeon crawlin' (traps)

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Dungeon crawlin' (traps)

#1 Postby blusponge » Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:48 am

Hey all,

All this talk of a new DnD edition has reawaken my high fantasy itch. So when my group's Solomon Kane game wraps here soon, I think I'm going to revisit my old Savage Fantasy materials and give them another. And while it won't be THE focus, you can bet there will be some dungeon crawling involved.

Now something I've heard, but seen no details about, is that SW doesn't handle traps well. Or rather, it's easy to optimize characters so that traps are a non-issue. They become either a nuisance, or deadly hazards. I'm wondering if anyone has experience with this and would care to elaborate.

I suspect the problem is one of conflicting resource management systems. In D&D, a simple trap and strip the character of a few hit points and send him on his way. SW doesn't have hps, and a wound (or fatigue) is arguably a heftier penalty. I've been toying with the idea of traps designed to injure (as in the injury table). This opens traps up to a much wider variety of effects, from strip characters of pace, attribute values, etc.

Thoughts?
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#2 Postby The Dread Polack » Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:31 pm

I am not a big fan of traps, in general. Traps that actually make sense should really just kill someone instantly. Electrical jolts or painful poisons might serve as a non-lethal deterrent.

Although you might not consider them traps, some things just keep people out, or seperate them, like sliding doors and walls. These can ocupy people for a while- just make sure it's not boring. Something akin to the garbage compactor is a great trap to get everyone involved and up the stakes. A dramatic action might be called upon to disarm, but failure would likely mean a TPK, and that's lame.

Traps can do all kinds of things other than wounding people. They can cause fatigue for a number of reasons. Take a look through the powers and you can use most of those with non-magical trappings, like entangling people.

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#3 Postby SteelDraco » Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:01 pm

Traps that are by themselves I find extremely dull. If they have to be dealt with during a combat encounter they become much more interesting and dynamic. I have monsters and NPCs use traps in combat, luring PCs into them during a fight and such.

I think it makes sense to use injuries to reflect traps as well as powers. They can have all kinds of effects, no reason to limit them.

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#4 Postby Jordan Peacock » Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:02 pm

I think you've hit the nail on the head regarding traps and "resource management." In old D&D games, I recall that every now and again, there would just be a trap, out of nowhere. Walk down a corridor? Spear trap, pit trap. Open a treasure chest? Poison needle trap vs. the thief trying to pick the lock. Etc. Naturally, we'd take a few HP of damage on the way, but at higher levels this wasn't all that big of a deal and we might wait until taking more damage before having the cleric use a healing spell or before quaffing a potion, in order to maximize resources.

In Savage Worlds, I use traps as a different sort of encounter. E.g., here is an obviously trapped room, and you have to figure out how to traverse it without getting skewered/sliced/crushed/etc. Typically it's something that can be dealt with via strategy, or a simple skill check, and the players might well think outside the box and find another way to get around it - and I'm just fine with it. It's mostly just a chance to let the players take a moment, figure out their plan, then execute it.

If there are any "surprise" traps ... well, I usually try to give the players fair warning before there's anything really dangerous. If it's an ancient tomb, then there is the corpse of a previous explorer who ran into the first spear trap - or the first trap is fairly easy to avoid with a simple Agility test, or it automatically "rolls low" on its Shooting roll the first time. I've sometimes used this opportunity to inject a token tip of the hat toward "realism" by having traps that fail to trigger as intended, because they've been sitting in this tomb for so long waiting for someone to set them off; the springs rust, the wood rots, etc. But their presence still adds to the sense of potential danger (the next trap might WORK).

Rather than forcing the group to have to "check for traps" in every single room, I assume that this is exactly what such a character is doing once he's alert to the possibility. Once the trap is encountered, THEN I make the requisite skill checks to see if it was spotted in time first. E.g., the party declares its intention to move forward, and THEN I have the "rogue" roll his Notice check. If he passes, he noticed the trap before bumbling into it, and presumably warned the others as well. If he fails, THEN we resolve what happens when someone stumbles into it.

I don't want to plan on "HP-whittling" in an adventure, because the heroes don't have "hit points" to spare. Bennies can serve this role to a limited extent by allowing Soak rolls, but it's still a random proposition. I might have a few just because we EXPECT that something in this environment should be surrounded by deadly traps, but I don't want to overdo it (and especially not "just to give the party rogue something to do").

I think the injury idea is interesting. There are specific instances where I can imagine it makes perfect sense. If there's some sort of spring-needle trap to thwart someone picking a lock, the victim's hands might be the target. (And suddenly gauntlets and gloves might become important.) If a rock drops from the ceiling, the head is likely to be hit (and suddenly that 50%-coverage open-faced helm provides 100% coverage against the rock).

Since this is specifically decided upon for an encounter, I don't think it really adds a layer of "complexity" to the game as house rules might. This isn't something that's going to happen with every attack in combat - it's just for a specific trap/encounter.
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#5 Postby ogbendog » Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:06 pm

Think of movies with traps. The Mummy. Raiders of the Lost Ark.

They took some die rolls to avoid, and added some dramatic tension, I think if handled right they could work

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#6 Postby amerigoV » Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:33 pm

ogbendog wrote:Think of movies with traps. The Mummy. Raiders of the Lost Ark.

They took some die rolls to avoid, and added some dramatic tension, I think if handled right they could work


Along these lines, should Traps really be a Dramatic Task? The GM needs to step back and really think about the trap, but make the PCs come up with creative ideas, there are obstacles ("oops"), etc.
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#7 Postby blusponge » Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:34 pm

Jordan Peacock wrote:I think the injury idea is interesting. There are specific instances where I can imagine it makes perfect sense. If there's some sort of spring-needle trap to thwart someone picking a lock, the victim's hands might be the target. (And suddenly gauntlets and gloves might become important.) If a rock drops from the ceiling, the head is likely to be hit (and suddenly that 50%-coverage open-faced helm provides 100% coverage against the rock).


This is exactly what I'm talking about. Just looking down the list of injuries gives you a lot of possibilities:

A poison needle trap could kill you, or it could give you the One Arm Hindrance for X hours.

A spear trap could hit you for X damage, or perhaps it just gives you a temporary Guts injury (-1d Agility, Vigor, or Strength).

A tripwire trap could give you the Lame Hindrance for X hours.

To me, these are a lot more interesting than a wound or fatigue. It gives traps more versatility because they affect Traits rather than Wounds. A -1d to Strength, for instance, doesn't give you a -1 to all trait rolls; it reduces your damage potential, your carrying capacity, and penalizes you for a specific kind of trait rolls.

I think wounding traps still have a function, but mainly if the characters are bringing allies and hirelings along (1 wound generally means 1 dead hireling).

Don't get me wrong here. I'm not planning any sort of "Tomb of Horrors" esque adventure (yet!). But for a classical fantasy RPG scenario, I like the idea of traps being a hazard the GM can employ.

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#8 Postby blusponge » Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:38 pm

amerigoV wrote:Along these lines, should Traps really be a Dramatic Task? The GM needs to step back and really think about the trap, but make the PCs come up with creative ideas, there are obstacles ("oops"), etc.


I think certain traps SHOULD be a dramatic task. But they would need to be a backdrop or element of a larger encounter or else they are too easy to overcome by the group.

BTW, has anyone here read the Traps pdfs from Misfit Studios? Do they offer anything I wouldn't get from the dozens of AD&D>SW conversion docs out there?

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#9 Postby blusponge » Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:40 pm

Oh, and one more thing. With the DOZENS of Hellfrost Adventures and OSFantasy adventure series from Reality Blurs, do any of those titles present a good "old school" classic dungeon adventure? Keeping to the topic, I'm looking for a good mix of combat, puzzle and trap encounters.

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#10 Postby Tavis » Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:23 pm

Jordan Peacock wrote:In old D&D games, I recall that every now and again, there would just be a trap, out of nowhere. Walk down a corridor? Spear trap, pit trap. Open a treasure chest? Poison needle trap vs. the thief trying to pick the lock.


Jordan Peacock wrote:I might have a few just because we EXPECT that something in this environment should be surrounded by deadly traps, but I don't want to overdo it (and especially not "just to give the party rogue something to do").


I think this is an important point.

Do you want traps that have no 'reason' to be there, because it's 'Old School D&D' - in which case, just have them there. If you want traps that have a reason for being there, then they become more of an enounter.

Short of a 'Deathtrap Dungeon' scenario, where the whole point of the exercise is to overcome the fiendish traps that have been set before you, old school D&D 'trap fest' dungeons just don't make sense to me. But YMMV as they say.
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#11 Postby The Dread Polack » Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:36 pm

In my current Earthdawn campaign, the players weren't trap-conscious, until someone fell down a pit trap with spears in it just in front of the first door. Since then, they've been tapping the ground with their 10-foot pole ahead of them the whole way, and there aren't any more traps in this pre-written dungeon. Luckily, we're all fairly mature roleplayers, I assume their being cautious, and they know I'm not out to get them, so they don't need to make sure they tell me every minute.

Jordan Peacock's idea of assuming caution, and only rolling when a trap is encountered is the optimal solution, IMO. In fact, I don't think you really need to roll the character's notice in secret if you trust the players to play appropriately. I know I can call on my players to make a notice roll, and even if they guess that it's for a trap, they keep going as they appropriate, and spring the trap if they failed.

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#12 Postby Timon » Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:13 pm

Sundered skies actually uses traps as a standard obstacle when exploring ruins. The traps make shooting (arrow trap) or fighting (blade trap) attacks, as an adversary would, so I would see it as being just as fair as an encounter with a guard. The kicker is that a trap which does not get noticed has Surprise and potentially The Drop. That could make for a very deadly attack.
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#13 Postby Virgobrown72 » Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:19 pm

I tend to think, "If I were making a trap, why would I make anything less than lethel?" :twisted:

In leu of classic D&D style traps, I would definitely go toward the Indiana Jones style trap. Make it exciting and scary, but keep the action going. It gets silly after a while if everybody is always moving at a snails pace searching for traps. That being said, the traps should be more of a plot device than just the occassional nussiance. Rolling boulders, swinging razored pendulums, crumbling bridges, all that kinda stuff makes for cool game play!!! :cool:
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Re: Dungeon crawlin' (traps)

#14 Postby robert4818 » Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:27 pm

BluSponge wrote:Hey all,

All this talk of a new DnD edition has reawaken my high fantasy itch. So when my group's Solomon Kane game wraps here soon, I think I'm going to revisit my old Savage Fantasy materials and give them another. And while it won't be THE focus, you can bet there will be some dungeon crawling involved.

Now something I've heard, but seen no details about, is that SW doesn't handle traps well. Or rather, it's easy to optimize characters so that traps are a non-issue. They become either a nuisance, or deadly hazards. I'm wondering if anyone has experience with this and would care to elaborate.

I suspect the problem is one of conflicting resource management systems. In D&D, a simple trap and strip the character of a few hit points and send him on his way. SW doesn't have hps, and a wound (or fatigue) is arguably a heftier penalty. I've been toying with the idea of traps designed to injure (as in the injury table). This opens traps up to a much wider variety of effects, from strip characters of pace, attribute values, etc.

Thoughts?
Tom


If you want to do a purely "mechanical" approach to traps, I would require 3 rolls. (as opposed to DnD's 2).

1. Notice - Obviously the ability to "search" for traps.
2. Varies - This would be skill needed to best "figure out" what the trap is. Most likely it will be some sort of Knowledge skill.
3. Varies - This would be the skill needed to best bypass/disable the trap. This could be spellcasting for magical traps, repair for mechanical, athletics for bypassing, etc.

Beyond that though, I would make traps be an encounter themsleves, that rely on the players to actually figure out, instead of a series of rolls.

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#15 Postby Virgobrown72 » Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:29 pm

If you want to do a purely "mechanical" approach to traps, I would require 3 rolls. (as opposed to DnD's 2).

1. Notice - Obviously the ability to "search" for traps.
2. Varies - This would be skill needed to best "figure out" what the trap is. Most likely it will be some sort of Knowledge skill.
3. Varies - This would be the skill needed to best bypass/disable the trap. This could be spellcasting for magical traps, repair for mechanical, athletics for bypassing, etc.

Beyond that though, I would make traps be an encounter themsleves, that rely on the players to actually figure out, instead of a series of rolls



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Re: Dungeon crawlin' (traps)

#16 Postby blusponge » Thu Feb 23, 2012 10:41 am

robert4818 wrote:Beyond that though, I would make traps be an encounter themsleves, that rely on the players to actually figure out, instead of a series of rolls.


Completely agree. SW doesn't work well with random "surprise" traps. As Virgobrown72 said before, the Indiana Jones model seems to fit SW best. Cinematic and exciting, potentially deadly traps as opposed to the "darts shoot out of the wall for 1d4 damage" style traps. The other option that would work is the 4th edition DnD model, where a trap is another combatant. This is where Amerigo's suggestion of Dramatic Tasks to defeat traps really shines, because now the pressure is really on.

Of course, this sounds great and theoretical. I'd love to actually see something like this in practice. That's why I'm curious about the Misfit Studios trap pdfs. But I'm still waiting to hear anything remotely like a review. Still, at $1.55 a pop...

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#17 Postby Timon » Thu Feb 23, 2012 3:56 pm

The piece of advice I got from a D&D column about traps that I want to pass on is: never make a trap that takes a player out of the action.

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#18 Postby Virgobrown72 » Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:17 pm

If someone gets stuck in the greasy pit during the climactic fight with the Big Bad they will never, ever forgive you.


Especially if someone throws in a burning torch to ignite said grease... :twisted: MWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! :twisted:
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#19 Postby SavageGamerGirl » Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:21 pm

Triple-Ace Games' Perilous Places & Serious Situations has rules for all sorts of interesting things, such as combat on rooftops, various environmental situations, and traps.

They use card draws to randomly generate a trap, which can be done spontaneously at the table or by a GM before hand. It's definitely worth the price.

http://www.tripleacegames.com/store/ind ... ducts_id=9
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#20 Postby jasales » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:26 am

SavageGamerGirl wrote:Triple-Ace Games' Perilous Places & Serious Situations has rules for all sorts of interesting things, such as combat on rooftops, various environmental situations, and traps.

They use card draws to randomly generate a trap, which can be done spontaneously at the table or by a GM before hand. It's definitely worth the price.

http://www.tripleacegames.com/store/ind ... ducts_id=9


I have this and it is an excellent source of ideas both ready made and you can't help but start coming up with variations on the themes presented. The trap stuff is well done. I second the recommendation whole heartedly.


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