D&D General Traps, Agency, and Telegraphing Dangers

Stalker0

Legend
One convention I do in my game is the “rogue rule”. All rogues in a party always receive a check when getting near a trap, aka they are “always looking for traps” unless they are specifically doing something that wouldn’t allow for it (such as racing down a hallway).

On the flip side, the players must accept the result of the check, they can’t suddenly go “you know suddenly I’m feeling extra cautious let’s check that area again”.

It’s worked very well in my games, it lets me use traps without the players getting hyper paranoid and wanting to check for traps every 5 ft kind of thing.
 

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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
"I can't open up a door and have an unexpected encounter because that is an untelegraphed choice and therefore a meaningless one."

Um, no. Part of player agency is players are free to try to, or not try to, mitigate danger. They can do things like look for tracks, listen at doors, and do other things which may or may not be successful. Among the things they can do to try to mitigate danger is look for traps. At the cost of time, which may be an unlimited or limited resource in the current situation.

Traps in no way invalidate player agency, because the player agency is choosing or not to try to mitigate those dangers, just like they could other dangers.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Indy is a good example of where I stand on the subject. For me it depends on where the trap is. If there's a trap in the city of Trapopolis which has lain in ruins for 10,000 years, there's a good chance that it has been triggered before and since it's a ruin, nobody has been around to clean up the mess left behind. Telegraphing appropriate! However, if the party rogue is trying to sneak away from a dinner at the king's palace to locate the treasure room, the traps protecting said room will be maintained and so no telegraphing is appropriate.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark the first trap he finds has left a skeleton dead due to the arrow trap. It's telegraphed. When he gets to the end, the boulder trap is not telegraphed but he knows about it due to perhaps experience and tries to gauge the weight of the statue to disarm the trap and fails, releasing the boulder.
And in between, there's a trap triggered by him stepping on a pressure plate and hearing the "click", which gives him something to react to.

I've employed that sort of device. Rolled the d6 to see if a trap was triggered, had it hit, told the player there's just been a click as they stepped on a pressure plate, and asked them "what do you do?" Depending on the action they chose, they might avoid the danger or harm entirely, or they might give themselves a bonus or penalty on the save. Of course, if they already knew that hall was trapped and were checking with a pole or by some other means, that could also alter the situation.
 

Pedantic

Legend
And in between, there's a trap triggered by him stepping on a pressure plate and hearing the "click", which gives him something to react to.

I've employed that sort of device. Rolled the d6 to see if a trap was triggered, had it hit, told the player there's just been a click as they stepped on a pressure plate, and asked them "what do you do?" Depending on the action they chose, they might avoid the danger or harm entirely, or they might give themselves a bonus or penalty on the save. Of course, if they already knew that hall was trapped and were checking with a pole or by some other means, that could also alter the situation.
This is generally my preferred middle ground as well, and it would be nice to see it more proactively integrated into design. You can imagine a kind of encounter using something very like (or even identical to) combat initiative that's specific to traps. Maybe model it as shorter rounds that only permit reactions (or some other smaller action type) and then give players abilities to interact with bad stuff happening at that speed.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
One convention I do in my game is the “rogue rule”. All rogues in a party always receive a check when getting near a trap, aka they are “always looking for traps” unless they are specifically doing something that wouldn’t allow for it (such as racing down a hallway).

On the flip side, the players must accept the result of the check, they can’t suddenly go “you know suddenly I’m feeling extra cautious let’s check that area again”.
This would be where I'd run aground: the attempted takebacks and retcons would never end. So, were I to use something like this I-as-DM would be quietly making the rolls behind the screen.

Unless the party doesn't have a Rogue/Thief/Trapfinder, in which case they're trap bait all day long. :)
 

Stalker0

Legend
This would be where I'd run aground: the attempted takebacks and retcons would never end. So, were I to use something like this I-as-DM would be quietly making the rolls behind the screen.
That's part of the covenant. The rogue enters an area, I give them a roll. If they pass, I note the trap, if not, they don't see anything. They don't get to reroll.

I also have made it clear to those who join "the covenant" that you can't suddenly start acting suspicious and go "you know for some reason I just don't think we should go into his room, lets go around".

Now if you would rather do secret rolls to ensure that, more power to you. I know some groups liek the dice more open.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
A lot of it depends on the (initial and-or current) reason for the trap being there.

Is it mostly intended as a deterrent to intelligent creatures? If yes, telegraph it all day long! Telegraph it so much that when they get to it they disappointedly say "Is that it?". The whole point is to make them so paranoid they turn around and don't come back.

Is it mostly intended to catch unintelligent creatures? (this covers most hunting snares, crab traps, etc.) If yes, telegraphs that only intelligent creatures can interpret e.g. a literal sign nailed to a tree saying "Caution - traps in area" make lots of sense.

Is it mostly intended to catch and-or kill intelligent creatures? (e.g. a hunting trap set by man-eating Bugbears, or a cage trap set by a vampire who wants some fresh blood to drink) If yes, then telegraphing is counter-productive to the trap-setters and thus will at best be accidental.

Last but not least, is the trap mostly intended to (violently) stop raiders and-or adventurers from proceeding further, by captuirng or killing them where they stand? (e.g. a collapsing-passage trap defending a tomb, or the business end of a "honey trap" designed to catch would-be thieves or invaders) If yes, then no telegraphing is required: the intent is to catch or kill rather than to deter.

The second type of trap is by far the most common but the fourth type will be what is most frequently met by adventurers, as they tend to make it their business to go where the (original or current) occupants would prefer that they not.
 

Raiztt

Adventurer
I don't use traps very often, so as not to inspire paranoia in the players, but when I do use traps they are non-telegraphed, even if they are detectable.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
So this happened in our 5e game over the weekend.

We had decided to go to a peculiar location and explore. There were some unique creatures we hadn't encountered before. The first few we fought were easy to kill but did fairly high damage - we quickly learned to AOE them. We next encountered a larger creature and some of the smaller ones we had fought before. The large one never ended up hitting us. One of the wizards blinded it and we were able to DPS it down in 2-3 rounds.

Then we shifted to a telegraphed more dangerous location. In exploring we drew the attention of an even larger creature = described as 40ft tall and taking about a 20ft square. We decided to wait on it to get close enough to engage, but it outranged us. It landed it's first attacks and they were strong. We could have tried to retreat at that point but decided to try and go for the kill. One of the wizards cast sleet storm 20 ft in the air to obscure it's vision while still giving our party the opportunity to get in range and attack it (dm ruled it possible and sleet storm is only 20ft tall). The other wizard rushed forward with a dash and misty step to try and hit it with a tasha's hideous laughter but still wasn't in range. The creatures next turn was spent standing up after being proned by sleet storm, backing out and starting to go around the outside of it. The rest of the party advanced again and the wizard going to use tasha's got just short of being in range to Tasha'a the creatures. This is when what happened was 'interesting'. The creature went prone to see what was under the sleet storm and shot a disintegration beam at the soon to be tasha's laughter wizard who failed the save and massive damage later and she was disintigrated. The rest of us retreated after that. *Note the party was only level 5, but fairly good magic item access.

*Also in case it is important the DM rolled a random encounter and essentially got 20,20 as the results.

I have no issues with what happened but I do think it makes a good case to talk about. There is a bit of a lingering question as to whether the creature was made to go prone because the DM knew the 1 PC wizard was in terrible position if he did that or if he would have had the creature do so even without that PC's position. But either way it was a justifiable move for an intelligent creature IMO.

Thoughts on this scenario?
 

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