Geomorph – Trap

Zap-a-doodle do...

This is the sixth instalment of Inkwell Ideas Geomorph Contest, which is currently on hiatus through GenCon. The secret ingredient this time around is "trap."

I have a love/hate relationship with traps. At their best, traps engage players as their characters try to neutralize them. At worst, traps are how sadistic or railroady GMs justify dealing out damage to PCs. Effective traps can be (1) detected, (2) avoided, and (3) disarmed. By contrast, bad traps are sprung no matter what precautions PCs take, ultimately subjecting the characters to whatever effects the GM wishes to impose (in a mostly Tomb of Horrors sort of way).

In my dungeons, traps are more like "dangerous puzzles." PCs who look for odd details or probe ahead with that 10' pole automatically get to make a Find Traps, Search, or Observe roll (depending on what I'm playing) every 10' of dungeon they explore. The lead PC makes the roll himself, and since it's made every turn, I don't worry too much about what the players read into failed or successful results when there may or may not be something there.

If the roll succeeds, I tell the PCs what they see (the better the roll, the more details I give), and they explain how they'll avoid, disarm, or neutralize the trap. If the PCs want more info, they have to make another Find Traps roll - more success grants more information, but each roll consumes a full turn and a bad failure usually springs the trap.

The PCs execute their plan whenever they're ready. This requires a Remove Traps (or equivalent) roll, modified by the detail and brilliance of their approach. Note that this roll is only required if the approach could fail - if the plan is iron clad, or the players come up with a really solid approach, it just succeeds.

As a side note, when I place a trap, I don't think about how to disarm it - I just include details about how it's sprung. This way, there's no "right" way or single approach to overcoming the trap, which removes the problem of forcing the PCs to guess at some solution only I'm aware of.

Lightning Chamber

The attached geomorph is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Trap (1 sq = 10')
Trap (1 sq = 10')

Along each wall of the central chamber is a statue of a wizard who appears poised to hurl a lightning bolt at the square pillar in the room's centre. Carved upon each side of the pillar is a short paragraph (written in some ancient script) highlighting an amazing achievement of the mage it faces. Stepping on one of the inverted triangle squares "primes" the trap: any PC standing before the central pillar has 1 round to read aloud the paragraph facing him or suffer a 2-dice lightning bolt from the corresponding statue. The water in the western fountain grants a +1 save bonus vs. lightning; the grate next to the fountain leads to a lower level.

Final Words

The layout here doesn't look right to me, but I suspect that's asymmetry taunting my left hemisphere. One thing I am struggling with is showing walls that break up an otherwise open space - I'm experimenting with making lines thicker than the geomorph grid, but so far, it's not looking great. Tips or suggestions welcome.

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