The Goonies

The Goonies

The Goonies

I’m usually not very creative when it comes to traps. A pit trap, falling rock trap, or maybe poison arrow trap are my go to’s.

The Goonies movie has some of my favorite traps ever, and I’m disappointed in myself for not working harder to use them in play.

The Goonies traps have a quality that I feel I SHOULD be emulating, but I’ve gotten so used to “standard roleplaying traps” that I just throw them in as a quick hazard.

What is that quality? Tension!

They take a little time to fully go into effect. What does that do? It adds tension and drama. They can see it coming. They know they’re going to get crushed by the gigantic falling rock (rather than just getting crushed by a gigantic rock), or fall to their deaths if they don’t play the piano correctly – “If you don’t play this right, we’ll all b flat”. It’s not “we triggered a trip wire and a rock fell on us”. It’s a LOT more tense than that. They add tension in another way too by slowing them down, allowing the Fratelli’s to catch up. Each time the kids got a good lead on the villains, a trap slowed them down just enough to let the Fratelli’s catch up again.

Now I’m not saying that every scene or game should be a chase. But I think traps should add tension, and not just be a quick hazard. I’m going to try very hard in the future to make my traps tension-generators rather than hazards, and I feel that DW’s narrative structure is the BEST way to achieve that!

How have you used traps as tension-generators? I’d love some ideas for my future campaigns!

10 thoughts on “The Goonies”

  1. I feel like there is a way to get the table to help you in making super bizarre and interesting traps. Say you have the instinct you want a trap somewhere, so you say, “Thief! What alerts you to the possible presence of a trap here?” Then have them roll Trap Expert. When they ask “Is there a trap here and if so, what activates it?” Answer yes and either turn the second half of that question back on them or tell them the answer and ask them, “but there is something decidedly odd about this trap, what is it?” or “but this trap seems ridiculously complicated or intricate? Why? What kind of intelligence do you think designed it?” I feel like players, in just making shit up, will give you all kinds of nightmare fuel! 🙂

  2. So I’ve always telegraphed “be on the lookout for traps” with stuff like “You see a skeletal leg sticking out from under a pile of rubble that crashed down form the ceiling” and “a not-so-recent corpse lies skewered on wooden stakes at the bottom of a pit”, but I’ve always strayed away from “hey thief, are your spidey senses tingling” because I didn’t want to just come out and say “THERE”S A TRAP IN THIS ROOM”.

    But, in the case of wanting traps to be memorable and tension-filled I can absolutely see where this would be a better way to go. I WANT them to know it’s here, and having them help me shape it will make it a lot more memorable them.

    Thanks Ray Otus!

  3. Right. And there’s always the chance that they fail the roll, then you have a free chip to spend to spring a trap on them. It doesn’t actually HAVE to happen, RIGHT THEN. Though that is what is implied by the mechanics, it’s not explicit. You can hold your hard move until later in the scene, or even for another scene later in the session.

  4. He rolls an 8 to find the trap, but when he tries to disarm it, he fails the roll, getting his hand lodged in the device. “You see a large, perfectly round rock making it’s way down what looks a track of some kind that you didn’t even notice before. You can see that it’ll fall into a hole very soon. You look up at the ceiling and see several spears connected at the haft hovering right over your head, swaying slightly as the ball moves towards it’s destination. What do you do?”

  5. Brian Holland, if you’re prepping these in advance, you could set up a little chain of Grim Portents for the trap. E.g.:

    [] The heavy iron doors slam shut, locking them in

    [] Water starts seeping up from the drain in the floor!

    [] The water is up your knees

    [] Oh, c’mon! Now the ceiling is getting lower?

    [] You’re stuck in a cube of water, no air left. What do you do?

    I had a pretty trap-heavy dungeon one of the first times I ran DW. Let’s see…. here! Session notes:

    Session 1:

    Session 2:

    Looking back at those, the first room definitely had that “Goonies” feel to it. But (and I think this is important), we let the dice and the character’s moves do their thing. They actually averted the trap pretty easily through a Bend Bars/Lift Grates roll, a 10+ on Spout Lore, and a lucky roll (it’s not in the notes, but I recall telling the Artificer that he recalled the correct sequence of runes, but didn’t know which pillar he should “start” with… so it was a 1 in 4 chance to get it right on the first try… and sure enough, he got it!).

    Interestingly… after that trap (and the pit trap that came almost immediately after it), the possibility of traps started to generate its own tension. When they got to the sarcophagus chamber and saw the caryatid columns and the glowing blue gems, they were like “yup, totally traps!” and started getting all cautious and clever and creative about how to deal with them.

    Which I think leads to another observation: the “obvious trap” can be a good source of tension, too. Like, put a trap in front of the PCs with no obvious way to disarm it. Make it clear that it’s a trap! (With the same kind of foreshadowing you mention above, Brian.) Then… see what they do about it.

  6. Very cool Jeremy Strandberg. I like the idea of writing Grim Portents for the trap. Even if I make them on the fly I can structure them in that format. It definitely makes what would otherwise be a throw-away hazard into something special and memorable. It also allows me to better foreshadow part of the trap knowing what’s coming next.

    Also, thanks for letting me take a look at your session notes. I always enjoy seeing how other GM’s run games (I watch a LOT of actual play videos) and/or how they take notes.

  7. AngryGM of all GMs had a great article about Traps and I think if I was to use them I think I would follow his advice.

    Basically you make one or two traps at the start of the dungeon and make them easily find able or triggered. But throughout the dungeon that trap is in a lot of places and the players have to figure out why the trap was in its particular place, or how the trap functions.

    So for example you have a trap of tripwires in the middle of two statues, make it almost the first thing they find. If they trigger it and don’t figure out that its the statues well the statues are going to get them throughout the dungeon meaning more HP loss. But if they do well…the statues are still there, the trip wire is still there. Now the players have to figure out how they get past those statues and obviously the only way to get the magical treasure is to go past those statues.

    Anyway good article I recommend:

  8. Thanks james day, that article is great. Yeah, make traps thoughtful, not just random hazards! Doing traps right can add a LOT of fun to a dungeon / area. I suggest everyone read the article!!

  9. There was a good blog post on Ars Ludi about traps, where he talks about “zap traps” vs. “interactive traps”.

    The former are traps which just happen, and then you deal with the damage and move on. They’re not very satisfying.

    An interactive trap like you describe, or even an obvious zap trap they can see and try to bypass before it hits them, is way more interesting to the players than one that just blind-sides them.

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