Friday, September 3, 2010

Roughly the Though Process I Use When Sketching Tricks And Traps

1. Is the trick/trap sane or insane? i.e. Is this an actual security system or testing device or whatever that a rational actor would employ?

1a If yes, who put it there?

1b If no, is it a trick or a trap? i.e is there a possible reward, or does it just hurt people?

2. What's the general atmosphere here? Spooky with organic components like living spider webs or is it one of those lever/button kinda setups or occulty circle-of-salt-around-a-demon or what?

3. Is this going to be one of those paranoia things where the real action is not the danger itself but rather all the stuff the PCs have to do to try to detect the trap? If so, do you need to do anything to let the PCs know there might be some kind of trick or trap going on here to get them paranoid? Because if you don't then they will probably just fall into it and it won't be any more interesting than a non-custom designed "hey-I-checked-for-traps-did-I-find-it?" garden-variety trap.

4. Is it going to be one of those things where the obvious randomness is part of the fun? Like "Oh, you walked through the door, roll d6..." In which case, how will you set it up so that it'll get used more than once so that the fun of the randomness actually is on display to the PCs?

5. Can it be reversible? Like can the PCs "use" it in some obvious way? If so, can it just be something really simple that work in conjunction with other parts of the dungeon?

6. Will common sense be rewarded?

7. Will boldness be rewarded?

8. If you went ahead and made it make no sense after question 1, then, now that you've made it, do you want to retroactively go back and find some reason it actually does make sense?

8a. If so, does that imply anything else about the dungeon you can use?

9. If it's a rational security system, why is it so weird? Can the fact that the trap designer had limited resources explain it? Did they expect a different kind of intruder? etc...

10. Did any of that help?

11. Is the only solution some totally obscure fucking arbitrary thing?

11a. If so, is Kimberly playing?

11b. If Kimberly is playing, how are you going to keep her from gouging everyone's eyes out with frustration while they run around trying to find the totally obscure fucking thing?

11c. Should there be a clue? Should the clue be some insane-wizard arbitrarily-placed-there clue "Like 'Roses are red, violets are blue, copper bumblebees like to screw" or should it be something that could end up there by rational means (i.e. a note found scrawled on the body of a dead adventurer in another room)

12. What about illusions? Have you thought about that, Zak?

13. What about feedback-loop-consequences? i.e. failure to do it results in not death but escalating entertaining inconveniences?

14. What about hands-on problems: like "Here's a maze, solve this maze in 12 real-time seconds or die"?

15. Can I kinda make it half-good, but then throw a monster into this room and jsut let the PCs monster, and trick/trap interact in some crazy way for a while?

16. I'm hungry.

17. Ok, really, really, this will be the best trick/trap room ever, Think, Dammit!

18. Is it possible to design this trick/trap such that it will affect the PCs yet they will never know it because they--more or less by sheer luck--did the right thing? If so, do you want to change that,or just let it go?

19. Did you think of something yet? If not, grab a book off the shelf and start reading...

20. Whoa, I didn't know we still had this. Oh look, I underlined something here..."...within that complex of nylon and starched cotton lay a large inert nipple, its pink face crushed by the scented fabrics..."

21. Wait, I'm supposed to be making a trap here. Ok, let's say they go into the room and there's this pink face and it's crushed this going anywhere?

21a. If no, return to 1.


  1. The only way I have been able to add fun traps is to go into like, crazy parallel goblin world or crazy parallel Silent Hill world.

  2. *grins* Just redeemed my crappy night, Zak. Thanks.

  3. How complex have you made a trap? As in, how many sequences would your PCs have to go through before setting it off?

  4. @evapilotone
    i usually make tricks/traps that are weird but fairly "one-step". I don;t usually go in for the sci-fish "lever--button--twist--threee-layers-of-antimagic-shells" trap.

    but i'm open-minded on that score.

  5. From a new RPG players POV, it would be interesting to see just how complex you could make them. I would imagine that there's a lot to consider, seeing as one roll check could screw the whole thing completely. It would be bloody satisfying to see a trap, say, 6 or 7 steps going off!

    Oh, and thanks for you and you're followers for pushing me in The Swords direction. I'm loving them.

  6. This is only tangentially related to this post, but you can think of the following idea as trap related.

    I was just watching an episode of Naruto in which a super strong character punched a massive hole in a cliff face and, totally out of left field, a swarm of giant wasps came swarming out to harass the combatants.

    That event fused in my head with your random auto accident table. It seems to me that big attacks that do a lot of collateral damage to the surroundings should occasionally cause unexpected results that can change the flow of the battle. It kind of makes the environment into a player, and mixes things up.

  7. Since I was talking about checklists in your last post, I'm imagining this one as showing what it would look like if you used them. Still very different in style.