Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Trap Tuesday- The Pit

We've all used the classic pit trap, with and without spikes. But how can we breathe some new life into this dungeon trope?

1. Change the dungeon path: Make the pit the place to go into rather than avoid: hide a secret door or making an obvious path from the pit. It can be helpful to place some clues in the pit to help the PCs (think ladders attached to the wall or handholds; walls that become blocked off when the trap opens or even a trap floor that opens up and potentially separates the players). This can also be used to have a 'shaft' leading to a lower level that the players may fall through. A 'pit' or shaft above the players in a hallway can also be intriguing and fun for your players to explore.

2. Complicate the escape: We all think the DM has dropped the hammer when you fall into the pit, but if you can complicate the escape it will be a more memorable trap. We have all experienced, "I drop a rope and help them climb out of the pit". But what if there are glass shards embedded into the walls of the pit? Or the sides are oiled or greased and potentially flammable? (See if the players drop a torch into that!) The trick here is to be more creative than simply having another monster inside the pit. We all know the fun that can occur when players are forced to think creatively and work together to solve novel and new challenges.

3. Stymie classic solutions: Anyone who cut their teeth in early D&D editions will come equipped with a healthy variety of mundane solutions and tools for any trap they might encounter. This is that classic list of ten foot poles, pitons, chalk/chalk dust, 10' chain, mirror, ropes, and grappling hooks. So consider using simple solutions to stop this stuff. Break up the 5' and 10' design we all cling to; make a pit that is 11' across; add steam or dust to obscure views; leave nothing for a grappling hook to find purchase on or a rope to attach to.

4. Use Creative Triggers: Rather than having those classic triggers that go off when someone walks across, change the weight requirements so you can catch several of the players rather than that single foolhardy scout. Have the trigger based on something shiny! I've used gold coins with a wire attached to one. What player can pass some some loose coins? Even better, set the stage with the skeleton of a previous adventure who was clearly not as skilled as these players!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Trap Tuesday - Outside the Dungeon

So far we have been talking about dungeon traps. But, traps are a wide and varied subject. Today, we're going to talk about a different kind: the political trap. They don't play at all like a dungeon trap, but they are some of the most important when weaving a story.

Political traps take time, and subtlety. They start small, usually with someone taking an oath: to protect a kingdom, ruler, lover or object.

From there, things slowly push on that oath. A trusted adviser to the ruler tells the oath-taker that something is needed. A magic ring or a flag can protect what was sworn to be protected.

The oath-taker leaves to retrieve the item. Meanwhile, the "trusted" adviser whispers that the oath-taker forsook their oath. And with that, the trap is sprung.

It works much the same way with a lover. A scream in the night pulls the hero to protect an innocent. This leads a seed of doubt in the lover. They begin to wonder why the oath-taker must protect others? They promised to protect me! And again, the trap is sprung.

When the hero(es) return, they are confronted by whoever they swore the oath to. The ruler (or lover) demands to know why they were left unprotected? They may play this part in different way. A lover may show weakness: crying, trembling, yelling or cursing. All of this leads to an ultimatum: do not leave the protected's side.
Meanwhile, the ruler may show strength: calmness, brashness, or accusations. These lead to several options; banishment, imprisonment, or giving a task to prove the oath.

Now, the oath-taker feels the barbs of the trap. They must do what they swore to do. But, how to do that while imprisoned, or banished? The hero should know the adviser is the problem. How to solve it without a head on the chopping block? That is a great trap.

What of being forced to staying near their charge, unable to recover the item needed to stop the inevitable? This trap lends even more storytelling to the game. The group still must adventure, but now they have an albatross around their necks. Do they take an irregular step and Charm an ally? Wrap the protected one in armor and spells and carry them across the wilderness and dungeons?

Where they go from that point is up to the players. And that's why these are great traps.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Trap Tuesday - Green Slime

Ahh, green slime. One of Gary Gygax's cruelest tricks to play on players. For a reminder, let's go over it in a couple of editions.

A creature that comes into contact with green slime takes 5 (1d10) acid damage. . . Against wood or metal, green slime deals 11 (2d20) acid damage. . . (5E DMG, 105).
(Note, these damage values are for a thin layer of 5x5 green slime.)

Swords & Wizardry
Green slime isn’t technically a monster, just an extremely dangerous hazard in underground tombs and other such places. Any metal or organic substance it touches begins to turn to green slime (saving throw). It can be killed with fire or extreme cold, and the transformation process can be arrested by the use of a Cure Disease spell.

AD&D 1E (Quoted from 1E Monster Manual, page 46)
Melanie Cook
MOVE: 0"
% IN LAIR: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil
Green slimes are strange plant growths found in subterranean places. Although they cannot move, they slowly grow, feeding on animal, vegetable and metallic substances. They are sensitive to vibrations and will often drop upon passing creatures from above.
Green slime will attach itself to living flesh, and in 1-4 melee rounds thereafter turn the creature into green slime (no resurrection possible). It eats away wood slowly, consuming but one inch thickness in an hour. Green slime eats metals quickly, going through plate armor in 3 melee
rounds. It can be scraped off quickly (if the scraper is then discarded), excised, frozen, or burned. A cure disease spell kills green slime. Other forms of attack- including weapons or spell - do it no harm.
Occasionally huge slimes or colonies of dozens have been reported.

Turning the Slime Into a Trap
As you can see, the green slime is a trap in and of itself. It doesn't follow the normal rules for a monster, as far back as 1E. Just fireball your friend before he touches you. But, it can be so much worse.

Forgive my awful drawing skills.
Today, we are combining the green slime with a covered pit trap. When someone walks across the covered pit trap, it drops them into a massive vat of green slime. Someone alone in a dungeon that doesn't find this trap will almost surely die to it.

But, what about groups? That's where this trap gets fun. A halfling rogue may scout ahead of the party, and not even trip the trap. You can set whatever amount of weight you want for the pivot.
Two warriors go next, single file. They weigh about the same, so the trap doesn't move. But, when the wizard steps behind the second warrior, the trap triggers (because the wizard doesn't have heavy armor and weapons.) Oops, two dead adventurers. And the cleric is still on the far side of the trap, freaking out.

How I Would Adjudicate The Trap
First, I would describe the room or the hallway its in. "The air here is sharp and acrid. It's also somewhat dry compared to the other areas you have been in the complex. You occasionally hear a drip noise from somewhere you can't pinpoint."
Next, I would set a fairly high DC for finding the pit. For 5E this would be 20+. For OSR games, it would be a 15% penalty to Find Traps. The reason for this is twofold. First, this is a high-level trap. I wouldn't throw it at any characters less than level 10, no matter which system. Second, I want wiggle room for how they explore the area. If they just tamp with a 10' pole, no bonus (remember to set the pivot weight at 40+ lbs). If they pour water down the hallway, I will give them a bonus. Players are creative people, and I want to be able to reward the creativity without sacrificing lethality.
Finally, I would use the trap as intended. If it is not found, it should kill someone. Like, gone forever. And their gear. If it is found, I would let them come up with creative solutions to "locking" the trap. Maybe they lay ropes tightly over it, and spike them into the ground. Maybe they just use it as a gold storage facility (keeping the upward-moving side at ground level). Maybe they come up with something entirely unexpected.