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Author Topic: [Donjon] Traps  (Read 5053 times)
Stefan / 1of3

Posts: 88

« on: March 01, 2007, 02:02:53 PM »


Donjon includes very nice rules for creating monsters and foes, but it's a little thin on traps.

So which traps have you made up? And what advice would you give for traps in general?
The Dragon Master

Posts: 115

« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2007, 10:13:22 PM »

I created a pit trap for my players. To handle it, I had them run a discernment trap (they had no abilities to allow them to find it other than their discernment score) against Medium difficulty to discover (since it was hidden), and Easy difficulty to avoid (since all they had to do is walk around it). The best advice for figuring out the difficulties that I could give you, would be to use table 4-2 on page 26. It gives some great examples of what the relative difficulty of different kinds of uncontested actions would be.

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Stefan / 1of3

Posts: 88

« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2007, 06:51:59 AM »

So what can I do with a trap? In a usual dungeon crawl I can trap certain squares or doors before and the trap goes of when a character steps on the square, opens the door etc. That's somewhat different from an attacking monster.

A trap in Donjon on the other hand is not very different from a monster. Both more or less suddenly appear. The problem now is, that combat usually is more interesting.

Plus, I can press the characters harder with combat tactics, unusual monster skills etc.

The traps presented in the Fungus adventure work like that.

- Roll to find the trap
- Roll to evade the trap (~ trap attacks)

That's in fact quite boring.

In my last adventure I used a trap monster, kind of. Goblins wanted to mine an elven village and brought Killer Bulbs into the ground. Creatures with illusion powers to lure targets, tentacles for attack and a telepathic network to spread information they had learned about their victims (= bonus dice for fellow Bulbs).

That was much better already, since the characters could struggle with the tentacles and try to get to the main bulb to kill it. They could have come up with other ideas like sending telepathic white noise, too. And so on.

So maybe it would be useful to make normal traps a little more like creatures. Any suggestions?

Posts: 576

« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2007, 11:31:08 AM »

Lets face it, your basic trap is sort of boring.  A pit in the ground that you either see or you don't see, rotating blades that you either dodge or you don't dodge, etc.  I'm not saying they shouldn't be used, but I don't think you can expect much from them.

I think your creativity in the Killer Bulbs example is a good way to go, which is make traps more flexibile in what they do.  Its not simply a pit in the ground, its a pit that moves around and TRIES to grab the players.  Trap=Monster, essentially.

A second way: treat important traps strictly as a chance for struggle over fact declaration.  By this I mean that you set the difficulty pretty high on any set of traps that matters, to give you as the GM a chance to state facts that make the players lives annoying.  In this case, instead of saying something like "Pit Trap, Medium" in your notes, instead you say "Trapped Corridor, Very Hard" and leave the actual details of the traps, what they look like, and how they affect the characters to the outcome of the roll and who gets fact authority.  Facts are where the fun is in Donjon, and the more of them that get bandied around the better.  It also encourages the players to work together to hand dice over to each other to ultimately get past the set of traps. 

A third way; instead of having individual traps listed with their own statistics, have the traps be either a normal or magical ability of some adversary.  For example, if Krotus the Dragon is the owner of the lair the characters are adventuring in, perhaps Krotus has a magical ability called "Fully Trapped Dungeon", with magic words such as "Pit", "Spikes", "Blades", "Concealment" etc.  You don't have any traps designed up front in the Lair.  Instead, each "trap" is really an instance of Krotus attacking the players through the use of his magical ability.

A fourth way: make the environment itself one or more characters actively oppossed to the players.  Krotus's Lair could be a character with abilities, stats, etc., and the traps would be facts that Krotus's Lair declares on successful actions.  The players could "wound" Krotus's Lair by hacking new passages through walls, disabling its mechanisms, etc.  There was another thread about someone using a TSOY Bringing Down the Pain to represent an entire dungeon crawl; this is a similar sort of thing.

Do I have actual experience using any of these methods?  No, its all theoretical, so take it with a grain of salt.  The Donjon games I have run have not focused on these kind of challenges.

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Posts: 42

« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2007, 12:58:09 PM »

Couldn't you have what the pit is dependant on the same rules that determine the rest of dungeon building?  It's a pit.  With a door at the bottom.  But that door is an illusion.  Because the dirt bottom actually barely covers /another pit/.  Into spikes.  Or covers a pressure-plate.  For poison darts.  But the poison is old and not as effective.  Or some monster was supposed to re-set the trap and forgot so there is only one dart.  Which has on it the worksmanship of a master-craftsman that was supposedly kidnapped -- hmmm!

Traps, in my experience, can be just as important as the door you're trying to get though.  (Why is it trapped?)

Kent Jenkins / Professional Lurker
Stefan / 1of3

Posts: 88

« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2007, 02:19:06 PM »

A second way: treat important traps strictly as a chance for struggle over fact declaration.

I didn't think about that one. I'll try that.

A third way; instead of having individual traps listed with their own statistics, have the traps be either a normal or magical ability of some adversary.

I have done that, too. It works fine, when the trap owner is near by. Those nasty Goblins used their Set Traps skill to get bonus dice for an ambush.

The dragon's Fully Trapped Dungeon skill on the other hand is basically, where I started: Attack rolls falling from the sky. If Donjon had a more general conflict mechanism that allowed the player's to get back on the dragon, it would be fine, too. But Donjon is deliberately somewhat old-school, and the only form of extended conflict is direct physical combat.

A fourth way: make the environment itself one or more characters actively oppossed to the players.

That was what I suggested in my last post. Of course item characters are fine Capes, for example. But again it seems not quite right to give the Donjon dungeon some flesh wounds and saves against confusion. (OK, saves against confusion could work for an artificial intelligence or something.)

So in order to keep the spirit of the game this approach would require a different set of stats for structures. Much like, say, Warhammer 40k uses different stats for vehicles than for soldiers.
Stefan / 1of3

Posts: 88

« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2007, 04:45:34 AM »

I just had another idea. Like always the problem is all about currency flow.
I knew that phenomenon from character generation. If there are two ways to get a single stat from the same resource, people will take the more rewarding one. (Assuming they are clever enough.)

Now, in Donjon both monsters and other obstacles are very similar. They may have a different procedure, but have the same condition (they come up, whenever I want) and follow the same basic formula (solve problem => get XP).

My resource is playing time, so I am urged to use the more gratifying way, which is monsters.

That means, the only thing I have to do, is to change the condition (make it random or something) or change the output (get something else). Or both.

Over the years I came up with an important rule of RPG design: If you have two mechanisms make them absolutely the same or as different as you can. So I change both.

First, what can the characters get? There is already another reward in Donjon: Treasure. For treasure though there are no hard and fast rules, and I often forget to put in some treasure. Beating characters up is usually more fun than tossing around gifts.

Another thing I miss in Donjon is something like the prepared Advantage for the monsters in Agon which the characters can try to mitigate before facing the creep.

I'll keep both. Variatio delectat.

So what about the condition? Donjon is "old-school dungeoneering with an all new bent". Or so reads the cover. Actually there is not really a dungeon at all. There are just scenes popping up. But can I still get this feeling of walking around? After all a trap would usally be located somewhere, and characters happen to find it when they come in.

Yes, I can. There is in fact a game about walking through a non-existing dungeon and facing obstacles. Those obstacles include nothing but Drowning and Falling, but I'll find another way to bring in the cards' color: Red is treasure, black is monster advantage.

So I'll do the following:

I write on post-its for every act a certain number of locations with an obstacle: A standing stone with strange scripture, a locked portal, a canyon. Furthermore I add a standard method to solve the obstacle: Decipher the script, disable the lock, fly over the canyon.

I put the post-its face down on the table and stick to each a playing card also face down. So neither I nor the players know what card is sticked to what obstacle. More surprise for everyone. The players can now point to the location they want to visit next.

The card represents the basic difficulty of the obstacle. Number card = normal, court card = hard, ace = very hard. If the players use a less apropriate method to solve the obstacle the difficulty rises one level.

If the players succeed a red obtstacle they can find treasure as if they opened a treasure trove. If they fail a black obstacle they did not manage to disable a monster advantage. I'll make up the advantage at that time.

The only thing missing is a formula to calculate the worth of treasure and advantage from the card.
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