D&D (2024) Searching and Safely Triggering Traps and Secret Doors

Azzy

ᚳᚣᚾᛖᚹᚢᛚᚠ
However, each time a trap/secret door/whatever is present in an adventure, it should include a statement about what the markers are - the visible (audible, etc) clues that indicate that it is there, and also how these can be detected (a casual glance, a detailed search). A successful check, or a described equivalent, will reveal the markers only. The DM should essentially never say "you find a trap" - it is for the player to realise that that is what they are seeing.
I'd be on board with that.
 

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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Just like stealth... I've always felt the vagueness was kind of the point. Because there's no single system that will please everybody, so trying to go deep on any one method is just going to tick off everyone else who didn't get the system they wanted.

Everyone has their own ideas of what they want and they need to get traps, sneaking around, encumbrance, attacking with surprise, tracking, the skill system, etc. to work the way they think it should go. And WotC either chooses one and goes all-in on it, or they just present a barebones foundational system of "Here's the thing, and here's how to mechanically do the thing" and then lets every experienced DM who has their own ideas add on or re-write the system to be the way they prefer it to work. And WotC lets their own work push new DMs forward on the beginning path they've marked off.

Could WotC go more in-depth on teaching DMs how to make more involved traps that turn them almost into encounters themselves, giving all kinds of lists on "Here's how traps work, here's the ways they can be hidden, here's the ways they can be triggered, here's the ways mechanical traps should differ from magical traps, here's all the different skills and/or spells that could be used in these ten different patterns to find/disarm the traps along with the ideas players should be figuring out to even allow those things to be used in the first place"? Of course. But then you'd get that one DM who'll start ranting something like "Once again, MAGIC is now been crammed into another part of D&D and WotC shows their bias towards spellcaster superiority once again! This whole thing is CRAP!" And the same arguments will be made by any number of other DMs for any number of other parts of the system WotC put together.

At some point I just think that we experienced DMs should just accept that baseline D&D is not written for us. Because we don't NEED it to be. We all have piles upon piles of other books, other systems, magazine articles, websites, rules compendiums so on and so forth that we have collected over our lifetimes that we've used to assemble our perfect method for running our games in the style we prefer. But if we have all of this stuff, then why do we then need WotC to include it in their books too? Just for the ego boost? "Ha! I run D&D the proper way! The way WotC agree with me on!" Seems to me it's no different than the DMs who've been complaining about Spelljammer-- "The new Spelljammer books haven't gone far enough!" Well, of course not if you have compiled 30 years worth of Spelljammer material already! But if you already own all that stuff, why in the world would you need WotC to reprint it in their new books?

These books are all just tools. And there's nothing wrong with having outgrown your "introductory tool kit" that you got originally for Christmas and you start using the more advanced tools that do the jobs you need done. WotC sells us the manual Phillips Head screwdriver. We don't need them to be the company that sells us the DeWalt 20V MAX Cordless Brushed 2 Tool Compact Drill and Impact Driver Kit With Magnetic Bit Holder too. And least not in their introductory took kit.

 

Vaalingrade

Legend
To belabor the baking analogy, the rules being vague and useless is not how you teach people how to DM. IT's basically like deciding the best recipe for new bakers is: Sugar, eggs, baking powder, milk, flour, bake.

You have rules and structure (recipes) that are tried and true that can give someone new a solid foundation and only after they've got those fundamentals down encourage them to branch out, experiment and make things their own.

The problem is that D&D always assumes every group starts with a seasoned DM that is already not only 100% okay, but already skilled in improvisational game development and also teaching new DMs. That's why it is constantly trying to hurl new DMS in the deep end, shouting 'figure it out!' while they drown: It never expects the actual rules to be the teacher.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Just like stealth... I've always felt the vagueness was kind of the point. Because there's no single system that will please everybody, so trying to go deep on any one method is just going to tick off everyone else who didn't get the system they wanted.
DMs and Players can always run things differently, that's not a great reason to not define something in the first place.

The issue is this mechanic is such a core staple of the game, finding traps is dungeoneering 101. For something that in a standard dungeon crawl should be coming up ALOT, you would hope the rules for it would be pretty solid and clear.

1) Is trap-finding an automatic thing or do players have to note they are looking for traps?
2) What does finding a trap mean? Does it literally mean the players KNOW its a trap, or is the DM just describe something for the players to look at deeper, but doesn't necessarily tell them its a trap?
3) Probably a big one, how LONG does trap finding take? Is it reasonable for a rogue searching a room for traps to take 1 minute, 10 minutes, an hour?

There is a level where added description becomes legalese, but when it comes to traps I don't think we are there. They could absolutely throw in a few more good rules and clarifications, because again this is such a core element of many games, its not a once in a while scenario that you rarely care about.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
DMs and Players can always run things differently, that's not a great reason to not define something in the first place.


1) Is trap-finding an automatic thing or do players have to note they are looking for traps?
2) What does finding a trap mean? Does it literally mean the players KNOW its a trap, or is the DM just describe something for the players to look at deeper, but doesn't necessarily tell them its a trap?
3) Probably a big one, how LONG does trap finding take? Is it reasonable for a rogue searching a room for traps to take 1 minute, 10 minutes, an hour?
Well, I can't speak for anyone else... but when I read the 'Detecting And Disabling A Trap' section on page 120 of the DMG... it talk about how traps will specify the checks and DCs needed to detect it, disable it, or both... how characters who decide to actively look for a trap can make a check and how people just passing by can make passive checks... how if a character detects it you can call for an Investigation check to determine how it works and deduce what needs to be done to sabotage it... and that most trap's descriptions are clear enough to adjudicate whether a character's actions locate or foil the traps. The very basic questions you ask are all there in a basic form (at least to me). The only thing it doesn't state specifically is the exact time it would take... and sure, I'd have no problem if the game said a standard search of a room or the disabling of a trap took "10 minutes" (or whatever). Put it on the same timetable as casting a ritual, that's fine. But in truth, I don't even think noodling that much about granular time like that is really that worthwhile to most players anyway. How long does it take to disarm a trap? As long as it needs to take. The actual amount of time doesn't actually matter because everything moves at their own pace and not on any strict timetable. And if a trap disarm needs to go faster or slower from "however long it needs to take"... the specific amount of time it takes and the reason why it takes that long would be built into the description of the trap itself.

Worrying about time in most non-combat D&D situations to me seems rather pointless and I don't feel as though the game needs to add it in. I personally don't think the game gains anything for doing that. It's the same reason why I think the One D&D playtest packets having new "Actions" like Influence [Action], Search [Action] and Study [Action] are unnecessary, because no one does any of this stuff in a counting situation where having it take an "action" (aka 6 seconds) actually matters. If you are walking down a corridor and not in initiative, it does not matter in the slightest how long influencing, searching, or studying take... so calling them Actions is adding a descriptive point that doesn't need to be there. And I would say Disarming a Trap falls into the same thing. 6 seconds, 1 minute, 10 minutes... unless it matters for the trap itself (and thus would be written into its description), I don't feel there is any use to be gained by choosing one time period arbitrarily and putting it in the book. Now ultimately I wouldn't care if WotC did do that... but I don't personally feel anything is lost if they don't.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Just like stealth... I've always felt the vagueness was kind of the point. Because there's no single system that will please everybody, so trying to go deep on any one method is just going to tick off everyone else who didn't get the system they wanted.

In the very least, spotting things, figuring out where things are, and disabling or opening things, should have rules all in one place.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Well, I can't speak for anyone else... but when I read the 'Detecting And Disabling A Trap' section on page 120 of the DMG... it talk about how traps will specify the checks and DCs needed to detect it, disable it, or both... how characters who decide to actively look for a trap can make a check and how people just passing by can make passive checks... how if a character detects it you can call for an Investigation check to determine how it works and deduce what needs to be done to sabotage it... and that most trap's descriptions are clear enough to adjudicate whether a character's actions locate or foil the traps. The very basic questions you ask are all there in a basic form (at least to me). The only thing it doesn't state specifically is the exact time it would take... and sure, I'd have no problem if the game said a standard search of a room or the disabling of a trap took "10 minutes" (or whatever). Put it on the same timetable as casting a ritual, that's fine. But in truth, I don't even think noodling that much about granular time like that is really that worthwhile to most players anyway. How long does it take to disarm a trap? As long as it needs to take. The actual amount of time doesn't actually matter because everything moves at their own pace and not on any strict timetable. And if a trap disarm needs to go faster or slower from "however long it needs to take"... the specific amount of time it takes and the reason why it takes that long would be built into the description of the trap itself.

Worrying about time in most non-combat D&D situations to me seems rather pointless and I don't feel as though the game needs to add it in. I personally don't think the game gains anything for doing that. It's the same reason why I think the One D&D playtest packets having new "Actions" like Influence [Action], Search [Action] and Study [Action] are unnecessary, because no one does any of this stuff in a counting situation where having it take an "action" (aka 6 seconds) actually matters. If you are walking down a corridor and not in initiative, it does not matter in the slightest how long influencing, searching, or studying take... so calling them Actions is adding a descriptive point that doesn't need to be there. And I would say Disarming a Trap falls into the same thing. 6 seconds, 1 minute, 10 minutes... unless it matters for the trap itself (and thus would be written into its description), I don't feel there is any use to be gained by choosing one time period arbitrarily and putting it in the book. Now ultimately I wouldn't care if WotC did do that... but I don't personally feel anything is lost if they don't.
I dont necessarily disagree with any of this, but I do feel like exploration part of the game could use a little more heft and imagination. I think the DMG and adventure modules could add to this more than adding rules to the system.
 


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