Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Glog, Trap Finding and Player/game time

In a brilliant post, DIY & Dragon made a long list of various resources in RPGs and how they are often managed in D&D.  She highlighted the fact that the ULTIMATE resource is not hp, xp or spell slots, but *player time*.  This time should be spent wisely doing something fun, and not spent on tedious tasks that are not the goal/fun parts of the game.  If  you are really into intrigue, you don't want to spend 1/4 of your time fiddling with encumbrance.

In this vein, I've been thinking a lot about the GLOG and my experience with it, and what worked and what didn't.  I really liked the minimalistic aspect of the game play, which allowed the players to focus on scheming, shenanigans and hilarious mishaps, along with dabbling with magic.  Great stuff. However, the trap detection system is non existent… and my understanding is that in old-school gaming, you just describe how you are detecting traps:  I look for a trip wire, I look for a pressure plate, I look for holes in the ceiling from which darts, burning acid or bees would come out etc etc etc.  This procedure takes a lot *player time*, and I'm not sure if it's actually better than "I search for trap"  "Ok roll for it" and adjudicate the results. 

And if you agree that the trap finding part is tedious and not a good use of player time then... a trap finding skill is needed...

… and from that, it's just a hop and a skip to claiming that a proper skill system should be added to the GLOG!  And well... as long as it was fairly simple, I *think* that it would be ok.  BUT it would be *essential* that the fundamental principle that "a good plan works and doesn't need a roll" be respected.  If the trap is a trip wire, and the player specifically looks for those then... it's found.  

What skill system?  I don't know. I hear that LotFP has a good one?  I'm reasonably satisfied with the 5e one, although, ironically, I find it is at its worse when traps are concerned - there is something called passive perception, and a high passive perception basically auto-detects traps.  And that's not great either. 


  1. I'm glad you liked my post! Here are a couple I've been thinking about recently:

    DM David talks about how the conflict between "find the trap by describing how you look for it" and "find the trap by rolling some kind of search check" is baked right into initial evolution of the Thief as a character class.

    The Retired Adventurer talks about is approach. I really like, and remember saying so at the time, but it must have been on G+ rather than his blog. He recommends a 2-step procedure for searching. First, the players describe how they search. If they say something that would reveal the thing, it's revealed, and you can stop right there. If they don't find anything, move on to step 2, and roll the dice for a search skill check. And that procedure is something you can use regardless of whether you had d6 skills, d20 skills, or any other system.

  2. Rolling for traps is like rolling to win the game: it complete misses out what makes traps fun. The PCs should occasionally find dead bodies, scorch marks, strange holes in the walls, uneven floors, and the like. These should make smart players suspicious, and if they characters investigate they should probably be able to guess at whether this strange environmental detail is dangerous, and if so, how to defeat or bypass it. But the fun is in never quite knowing, of making hypotheses about the world and risking their characters (or the player time of developing them) to test them.

    Thieves got the specific power to "find small trap" with just a roll. But that never meant that other PCs couldn't find them with inspection, even if some poor DMs played it that way. Not until modern D&D did thieves ever gain anything regarding trip wires, moving walls, etc, and people played just fine without them for those ~25 years.

    Rolling for it is like every other sin of modern D&D, removing the ambiguity of the world in order to simplify the experience.

    Rolling dice to "find trap" fundamentally isn't fun ("I roll to find traps in this room. I roll to find traps in that room" is no different or better than checking each 10' square in older bad D&D), and if you reach that point they are just a randomized hit point tax ("you have a 3-in-6 chance of not finding it and being hurt. is this what having fun looks like?") rather than a challenge to be overcome, and only exist due to historical inertia rather than adding something to the game.

    Give clues. A 30' deep pit across the passage is a challenge to be overcome as much as a beheaded body in the middle of a corridor as much as a sleeping dragon on a pile of gold. If there is a trap and the dungeon is populated, *something* will at some point have set it off, leaving evidence. The challenge is interrogating the world, and it disappears if you fall upon rolling dice.

    1. I think part of the problem is that a lot of traps are just there for … reasons? The great majority of places shouldn't have traps, because people live there and would fall in them.

      Dungeons are strange places, and most traps, once set off, would not reset or would be dismantled by the locals.