D&D General Traps, Agency, and Telegraphing Dangers

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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?
Seems fine to me. If the creature was smart enough to realize there could be sightlines under the sleet storm then its bending down or going prone to check for such (and use them if found) makes perfect sense.

Losing one character against a foe that tough is also kinda par for the course once the decision to attack it is taken.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So the question that come to my mind - if we had known it had disintegrate would we have retreated? I think so.
But you didn't know. Now you do, and in the event your party ever meets another one of those things you'll be forewarned.

Sometimes the only way to learn is the hard way. :)
 

The 8th level party is in a dungeon. There is a low ceiling-ed hallway in front of them, 5 squares long, with a ridiculously valuable magic item at the end of the hall. The DM tells the party (in character, somehow): "There is a deadly trap in one of these squares, and it will be sprung precisely when you enter the square. It will be a complete surprise to you when the trap goes off. There are no clues about where the trap is, or it's nature. The only way to avoid the trap is to go down another hallway."

The rogue thinks for a moment, then stands up an proclaims "There is no trap! If the trap were on the final square, it could not be a surprise. By the time I was on the fourth square and no trap was sprung, I would be sure to know the trap was on the last square. Therefore it would not be a surprise, therefor the trap cannot be there. Likewise, the trap cannot be in the fourth square, because I know the trap cannot be on the fifth, and for the same reason I will know when I stand on the third square that the trap is not in the fourth. By the same logic, the trap also cannot be on the third, second, or first square. Therefore, the trap cannot exist!"

The rogue then runs down the hallway. In the third square, a trap activates that casts "Power Word: Kill" on the rogue, killing him instantly. "Hey!" says the rogue, "That shouldn't be possible with the scenario you presented." The DM smiles and replies, "I'll agree to bring your character back to life as long as you promise to never debate 'agency' ever again."
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The 8th level party is in a dungeon. There is a low ceiling-ed hallway in front of them, 5 squares long, with a ridiculously valuable magic item at the end of the hall. The DM tells the party (in character, somehow): "There is a deadly trap in one of these squares, and it will be sprung precisely when you enter the square. It will be a complete surprise to you when the trap goes off. There are no clues about where the trap is, or it's nature. The only way to avoid the trap is to go down another hallway."

The rogue thinks for a moment, then stands up an proclaims "There is no trap! If the trap were on the final square, it could not be a surprise. By the time I was on the fourth square and no trap was sprung, I would be sure to know the trap was on the last square. Therefore it would not be a surprise, therefor the trap cannot be there. Likewise, the trap cannot be in the fourth square, because I know the trap cannot be on the fifth, and for the same reason I will know when I stand on the third square that the trap is not in the fourth. By the same logic, the trap also cannot be on the third, second, or first square. Therefore, the trap cannot exist!"
And while the Rogue is busy saying all that the Mage casts Unseen Servant and tells it to go get the item. It either gets the item or sets off the trap thus allowing the Mage (or anyone else) to get the item; either way the party have the job done before the Rogue is done talking. :)
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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?
An intelligent creature would get out of the sleet storm to be able to see if it was in a fight, though I wonder why it just didn't walk out of the storm rather than duck. I don't have an issue with it and wouldn't suspect a DM of doing it for the sake of taking out the wizard.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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.
Was there any chance through a knowledge skill to know what it was?
 

Hussar

Legend
Personally I like telegraphing traps because it’s guaranteed that the players will set it off. Show an obvious trap to players and there will always be at least one person at the table who can’t resist fiddling with it.

My last two pc kills were a direct result of this. Obvious trap is like catnip.

Much more fun that way.
 

Golroc

Explorer
Supporter
Variations of this have come up a few times so I wanted to have a thread on the topic.

The argument seems to go like this: traps that are not telegraphed are gotchas, and that's bad because without being able to make an informed decision, my choices as a player are meaningless. The whole point of player agency is to have meaningful choices. Non-telegraphed dangers violate my agency as a player, therefore should not be included in the game.

The counter argument seems to go like this: no one would ever build a trap that's obvious or telegraphed, therefore traps that are telegraphed make no sense. This is the immersion and worldbuilding counter. Also, no player is ever going to willingly trigger a telegraphed trap (unless they're a chaos goblin), therefore traps are a waste of time. This is the pragmatic counter.

While I'm an absolutist when it comes to player agency, I cannot bring myself to agree with the first argument, because the inevitable result of that would mean that nothing bad can happen to the player's PC without the player's consent.

Where do other people stand on this? What are better arguments for or against telegraphed dangers?

It depends on whether it is a hardcore dungeon crawl or a more varied kind of experience - and whether it is a campaign or a one-off. If someone is running a dungeon crawl for the challenge, it's not inconceivable that un-telegraphed traps (and other dangers) would be more than acceptable. One can prepare with defensive buffs, appropriate party formation, etc. - or make a judgement call on whether time/effort should be spent on searching for traps.


If we're talking a multi-session campaign where the focus is on story and character development, then it's perhaps not likely to be appreciated by most players if their characters ends up falling down a trapdoor and dying a horrible death - with no warning - and even if there is a chance to avoid the trap and if it's not always lethal it can feel unfair.

Then there's realism (I know it's a dangerous term, but you know what kind of realism most people would mean) and risk - some want gritty realism and/or high risk games. Some want unrealistic and/or low-risk games. I know players who loathe traps and don't want them in games even if telegraphed - and certainly not if not telegraphed.

I am an absolutist when it comes to fun. People play games to have fun. So I'd go with whatever the group wants. For my own part - on a one-off I would prefer maximum lethality and a hardcore approach to traps. But I would not like a long-term campaign character to be at risk of dying "unfairly" from a hidden trap (unless it's strictly a continuous series of dungeon crawls style campaign). But in most cases I'd be ok with it. If I am on the other side of the table, I'd go with what my players wanted. If they want high risk un-telegraphed traps - fine. If they want low-risk, only kill my character during climatic fights - fine. I do think "only death with player consent" is not a great concept and I'd try to reach a consensus on not having it dominate, but if it's really important to someone, I'd adjust.

I would find a dungeon which is full of weirdly telegraphed traps to be kind of stupid. It's not easy to give a fair warning on every trap (especially if they are relatively common) without it becoming really dumb really quickly. I think low-lethality traps is better in that case. But traps where preparatory mitigation is possible is better than both of these - as it allows for un-telegraphed traps.
 

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