D&D General Traps, Agency, and Telegraphing Dangers

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
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.
I expect to hear quite a bit of pearl-clutching over the idea that there can be a rule which restricts GM behavior. But this is a relatively reasonable thing, and provides a good demonstration of why having a Rogue in the party (and not just any dextrous, sneaky person) is desirable.

I should like to comment on your scenario later @FrogReaver, right now my brain is fried.
 

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What on earth does that have to do with anything?
Just pointing out how players hostility towards the DM effects things.
Littering the game with instant-death traps is teaching them that every wall and floor could hide instant death. So they will respond rationally: they wish to keep playing, and wish to avoid failure and danger. Thus, they will take every possible precaution to avoid these extreme dangers, which means inch-by-inch exploration (and I don't mean "inches measured on the battlemap"!) and repeatedly going through the same safety checklist each time. That such activity is tedious and has little thought involved is a historical fact--it's the reason Gygax introduced the blatantly gamist ear seekers, which make no sense whatsoever biologically, but perfect sense as a way to scare players out of "standard operating procedure"-induced complacency.
Again, this only teaches the Hostile Players. Once the DM "attacks them personally" with a trap in the game, they will react by being openly hostile. The hostile player feels justified showing their hate as "the DM started it."

It is not rational at all to think "humm, the door to that BANK VAULT was trapped.......THAT means EVERY door is trapped!". Only an irrational person would think that.

Not sure why history matters when your talking about dragons, unicorns, magic, fantasy and fiction. That real world tomb might of had no traps....but it also did not have a magic sword.


Players aren't dumb. They pay attention to the consequences of their actions, and those consequences teach them what kind of game they're really playing. You can say all the live-long day that you don't want murderhobo players, but your GM actions will always speak louder. The second or third time the PCs get jumped by enemies they'd previously shown mercy to, no matter how realistic that might be, they'll learn that mercy is a sucker's game, that the only way to be safe is to always go for the kill. Because their enemies always do--and any assurances they make otherwise are simply lies. Same goes for crime and authority/law enforcement. If they see that crime pays and that the authorities are corrupt, incompetent, or malicious, they will make use of that. If they see that people they ally with frequently betray them, they will stop forming alliances unless betrayal is impossible or (more likely) they intend to beat the betrayers to the punch. Etc.
Well, you can't say "all" players are one thing. And sure some players pay attention...but some do not. And some players never learn anything.

The problem your stuck on here is the One Way problem, that you often get in a simple casual game. If the players just do senseless random actions like "show mercy" it might very well come back to haunt them. You agree this is true, but will quick add it must be rare.....and even more quickly add that as a fan of the players/characters you want to "teach" them that...er...when they make a random choice it will always work out for the best because you will alter the game reality to make it so. It's the kind of "lesson" they teach in "educational" cartoons for kids. The good guys capture the bad guy and show mercy: the bad guy then turns over a new leaf and becomes a good person. Everyone lives happily ever after. It works great for cartoons.

I play the Sumiluation Game: that is to say it's "kinda of" like reality. So if a person who is shown mercy might come back and attack or such is based on the person. Some will never change. Some might change a bit, but will need lots of help. Some need lots of help and guidance. Some can really only do it with magical help. Some might 'just change' too. But you can't just show random mercy to a random NPC and just expect them to transform into a saint in seconds.


There's no malice here. There's no "hatred" of the GM or whatever. It's literally just being rational. If you see that something works, you do it more. If you see that something bites you in the ass all or almost all of the time you do it, you stop. If an action has no value (noting that moral value is just as valid as any other form of value), players will stop doing it.
Except this is the Simple Casual way of looking at it.

The player has their character always throw their long sword at foes: it does not work out so well. So after throwing the sword dozens of times, the player just has the character give up swords and only punch to attack. Rational?

The player has their character shoot fireballs to attack, but when fighting the fire elementals the fireballs do no damage. So this player stops using the fireball spell at all ever. Rational?

You reap what you sow. Fill the world with deadly traps, and players will become hyper-cautious trap-hunters. Fill the world with backstabbing jerks who repay mercy by coming back with reinforcements, and players will spare themselves the trouble of dealing with a second fight. Fill the world with traitorous scum who break their word and betray their allies, and players will avoid ever allowing someone close enough to betray them--or (try to) get in on the betrayal game first. Fill the world with lucrative criminal activity and authority figures that are malicious, corrupt, or incompetent, and players will commit crime and resist/bribe/undermine authority whenever it benefits them.
Again, this is only for the Simple Casual game. In the Simple Casual game, a player can have their NPC just go shopping anywhere and they will have a fair, honest, nice time at the store and be able to buy anything they want.

In the simulation game...well, it depends on where you go...and how your character acts...and what the character does...and all sorts of things like that. Each NPC is an individual, and might act in many ways. Though, by default, many NPCs are greedy, if not out right evil. For example, meeting a demon in a dark alley is no the "best" place to go shopping.


Again, this has drek-all to do with being "hostile to the DM to begin with." It's being rational in response to the actions GMs take. And many, many, many GMs are simply unaware that this is what they're doing. Oftentimes, this is because the GM's desire for "realism" or "challenge" is actually at odds with the tone and theme they prefer, but they don't realize this.
This is true for some DMs.
Again, you use insults and canards, rather than engaging with what I've described. You mock my playstyle as being infinitely permissive, involving no gameplay, difficulty, or challenge, where absolutely everything is sunshine and rainbows forever.

How does this contribute to the conversation? I have told you, point blank, repeatedly, that these descriptions are simply wrong. Yet you keep making them. Why?
I'm sure I never said that.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
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?
Yeah, I tend to concur that it was a justifiable move for a creature with powerful ranged attacks to duck and look under the storm/obscurement to see what was happening and potentially use one. The DM had given the PCs the prior round off from its powerful ranged attacks, which seems like pretty good value from the spell already. The Wizard made a high risk/high reward play and lost their gamble.

Having Disintegrate on a monster that a 5th level party faces is not going to be to everyone's taste, but if you know it's the kind of game where random encounters can result in the occasional low-probability encounter with something extremely dangerous... Especially since you describe the location as telegraphed for danger, and having a chance to retreat after the initial round of strong ranged attacks from it, I'm leaning toward calling this one fair.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Yeah, I tend to concur that it was a justifiable move for a creature with powerful ranged attacks to duck and look under the storm/obscurement to see what was happening and potentially use one. The DM had given the PCs the prior round off from its powerful ranged attacks, which seems like pretty good value from the spell already. The Wizard made a high risk/high reward play and lost their gamble.

Having Disintegrate on a monster that a 5th level party faces is not going to be to everyone's taste, but if you know it's the kind of game where random encounters can result in the occasional low-probability encounter with something extremely dangerous... Especially since you describe the location as telegraphed for danger, and having a chance to retreat after the initial round of strong ranged attacks from it, I'm leaning toward calling this one fair.
So the question that come to my mind - if we had known it had disintegrate would we have retreated? I think so.

Or to say it another way - there’s a certain uncertainty around just how strong the creature was before choosing to engage.

Knowing it was more dangerous/stronger than what we had fought before is great but all it really does is put a lower bound on the enemies strength, the upper bound could be anything.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
So the question that come to my mind - if we had known it had disintegrate would we have retreated? I think so.

Or to say it another way - there’s a certain uncertainty around just how strong the creature was before choosing to engage.

Knowing it was more dangerous/stronger than what we had fought before is great but all it really does is put a lower bound on the enemies strength, the upper bound could be anything.
Agreed. There's still a good deal of uncertainty and I can understand why folks debated it. If you guys had a general table understanding of "20 on the random encounter chart always means something that can one-shot a PC", then the stakes would have been clearer and you might have immediately decided to evade/retreat.
 

Andvari

Hero
My players were recently in a small maze where the "wrong" passages had saw blade traps with a 1-2 in 6 chance of being triggered when a creature passes them. The minotaurs living there know the safe route through the maze, and thus never walk into them.

They are all hidden and are automatically found by searching the walls where they are. I placed a "quantum" clue by alerting the party to some brown stains on the floor when they first approach a trapped area. Dried blood left by a victim and obviously not something the creator placed.

So they are a classic "haha! You didn't search! Now you take X damage!" trap, but I left a clue that the creator didn't place there and which I think makes sense. Presumably the victim either got away alive or their remains were (mostly) removed by the minotaurs.

So once they suspect traps, the party has the choice of spending time searching (risking more random encounters), risking the traps or staying in passages they know are safe.

I've experimented with obvious traps that are more interactive, and those are more memorable and require more creative problem solving, but they are harder to come up with.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Agreed. There's still a good deal of uncertainty and I can understand why folks debated it. If you guys had a general table understanding of "20 on the random encounter chart always means something that can one-shot a PC", then the stakes would have been clearer and you might have immediately decided to evade/retreat.
To be clear we didn’t even know till after the encounter that it was a random roll. If we had and known what that could mean I think your right that it would have changed how we approached.

Also there wasn’t a debate for us, just thought it would be a good example here.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
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.
It seems to me this is the space that passive checks occupy. I wouldn't want to be in the position of telling a player they can't have their character act suspiciously for any reason they are free to imagine. If the roll of the die is going to influence their decisions in a way that I don't like, then there's passive checks and progress combined with a setback in the event of failure.
 

Andvari

Hero
You can let players roll if there is an immediate consequence, such as triggering the trap if the check fails. “You search the floor, but miss a near-invisible trip-wire. Poison darts shoot out from a row of holes in the west wall.”
 

Stalker0

Legend
It seems to me this is the space that passive checks occupy. I wouldn't want to be in the position of telling a player they can't have their character act suspiciously for any reason they are free to imagine. If the roll of the die is going to influence their decisions in a way that I don't like, then there's passive checks and progress combined with a setback in the event of failure.
That’s why we discuss it ahead of time, and so in 3 campaigns I’ve used it my players love it. They never worry about missing a trap because they didn’t check tile X or door knob Y, and likewise they don’t abuse it.
 

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