Traps are fun. How do you use them?

Traps are fun. How do you use them?

Traps are fun. How do you use them?

More specifically, DW tells you that the GM never rolls the dice. However, if the PCs enter a room containing a trap, would you be tempted as a GM to make the Discern Reality roll for them and, using the”be a fan of the character” principle, ask yourself and give them the smartest answers?

21 thoughts on “Traps are fun. How do you use them?”

  1. If I were GMing and the players walked into a room that contained a trap, I would do absolutely nothing, other than describe what the PCs see/hear/smell/taste/feel from where they are. Is there a visual indication of the trap? If so, I describe it. The same goes of there’s a particular sound (slowly clicking gears, the deep rumble of magma, or the whistling of air under a very thin floor tile) or smell in the room. A heat variation, trails of ants, whatever. If there is some clue the PCs would be immediately aware of, tell them and then sit back and let them puzzle it out.

    If there is well and truly no indication that the room is trapped, well then too bad. I still describe what the players experience from their fictional position, then sit back and see if they’re smart (or paranoid) enough to start poking around with their 10′ poles.

    I would not roll for them to see if they notice the trap. That’s what Discern Realities is for. If they search the room for a trap, I ask them what they’re doing, decide if that triggers a Discern Realities Move, and then have them roll to determine what happens.

  2. I was thinking in general terms but if you want a particular example, let’s go for the trapped room in Drahzu’ slave pit:

    “a T-shaped room with a strange life-like statue of Drahzu at its apex. The statue is flanked on both side by two solid looking doors. Both are closed. In the shaky light of your lanterns, you seem to distinguish a strange glint in what should be the statue’s eyes”.

    The trap: both doors are trapped. If you do not press the two gem stones that constitute the statue’s eyes, a hidden block of stone will fall from the ceiling as soon as you open the door. 1D6 zombies will then crawl out of the hole in the ceilling and attack you. Removing the gemstone will also trigger the trap.

  3. You are an experienced thief (and also an experience player). I guess you would go for: 

    “I’m not a fool, you know? I start examining closely to see if there are wires or buttons or arrows”

    Would you as the GM then make secretly a Discern Reality roll to figure out if the Thief actually notice the fine trigger mechanism or would you assume that he finds it automatically because he/she is paying attention to the statue eyes? 

    Would your answer be different if its the Cleric rather than the Thief (who is deemed to be a trap specialist) who is doing the investigation?

  4. No, the two answers were totally legitimate. Maybe I’m chaotic and I dive recklessly into danger

    Now, In the second one I’m clearly discerning realities, and there’s no need to roll it in secret.

    In the first one I’m giving you a golden opportunity. Follow up with an hard move.

  5. Julien Tabulazero: no, the GM never rolls, least of all secretly. You take the character’s actions in the fiction and you look to see if they trigger any moves, like you do for everything.

    Are they a Thief? Then they’re totally spending a moment to survey a dangerous area, which means they get to roll Trap Expert, and you answer whatever questions they ask via the move. If they’re not a Thief, you describe exactly what they see. If this leads to a player who doesn’t have Trap Expert finding the trap, that’s completely fine; Trap Expert is just a way of streamlining trap-finding so that it’s easier for the Thief.

    Conversely, if the trigger mechanism just isn’t something they can find by doing the actions they narrate, they don’t find it (unlike the person who has Trap Expert and asks “what triggers it?”) – although I’d argue it’s probably a rubbish trap if it’s written so they can’t even find evidence that it’s a trap when looking for it (disarming it is another matter entirely).

    Remember: the players always narrate what the characters do. If that narration triggers a move, they do what the move tells them. If it doesn’t trigger any move, what they say just happens, and you get to make a GM move in response.

  6. Dungeon World is brilliant for traps! If you’ve got a character wandering recklessly, that’s a golden opportunity and something like this can make a game great fun:

    “The flagstone sinks as you step on it. A pressure plate underneath clicks once, ready to release as soon as you step off. What do you do?”

    Also, never ever roll something in secret from the players. It’s a narrative game where you’re playing to find out, not a versus style game where the GM is against the players.

  7. The answer is always the same: describe what they see/hear/feel and the outcome of their actions. Always remember that.

    If there’s a tell-tale sign that there’s a secret passage, then you describe the tell-tale sign whenever it’s appropriate (if it’s a breeze they might feel it when they walk past, if the wall is hollow they’d have to knock on it, etc.). If there’s no sign, you don’t describe it; although again, if you write a secret passage that can’t be found, it’s a bad secret passage.

  8. I take a slightly different approach with traps. For me, the Discern Reality check is superfluous. If the trap is spotted, the characters will react the same way. Thieves will try to disarm, the rest will try to avoid. If the trap is not detected, then there isn’t really any story goodness from them not knowing how close they came to danger.

    So now, I just tell them that there is a trap. The thief gets to roll trap expert. He either gets the holds as described, or he springs the trap. If the thief fails the roll, then it is triggered, and everyone rolls Defy Danger to avoid the trap effects.

    If the narrative really requires them not springing a trap instead of avoiding the effects, then I have them roll Defy Danger against Wis instead of Dex.

    The benefit to this approach is that it avoids the tedium of players wanting Perceive Reality in every room, 10′ of hallway or object they come across. 

  9. Christopher Stone-Bush absolutely and entirely nailed it. Tell them what they see, hear, feel, etc. 

    If they say “okay, this seems odd, I look over the room without going in, tossing some stones on the floor to see how they react” I’d say” okay, the stones fall to the floor and it doesn’t sound hollow or anything, but you’re definitely discerning realities, roll to see what else you get out of it.” Key points here: I’m telling them the things their character perceives, and watching for move triggers.

    If they say “wait, this seems too good to be true, do I know if this place is trapped” I’d think for a second and maybe ask them some questions. If tit does seem like something their character might know, they’re spouting lore. If it doesn’t, I’d just say “nope, not really, but you could poke around and try to find out.”

    So yeah, even when moves are triggered, always give them what their senses tell them. Your their eyes and ears. Discern Realities and Spout Lore are there to reflect the player character’s abilities, but those don’t negate the player’s smart play. Think of discern realities as the character’s intuition and clarity.

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