Hi guys! Can you help me check if this reasoning is correct? (see diagram)

Yesterday the pc lvl 1 rogue was exploring town with an evil Drow npc, and the Drow npc ordered the pc to climb the tower and open the top door lock (30 feet high) and retireve the treasure within. The lock was fire-trapped and the rogue suffered trap damage and the explosion blew him away and fell to the ground and died from the fall. I feel sad for the player and I think maybe it was a little too much for the little guy and no fun for anyone since the pc did not make the choice to climb the tower for himself.


  1. Oney Clavijo when you say “the NPC ordered the PC to climb the tower and open the top door lock… and retrieve the treasure,” was the drow NPC using some sort of mind control? Assuming so, how did you resolve that?

    In other words, what did you “soft” GM move look like when the NPC gave the PC the mental command? What did the player/PC do in response? What, if anything was rolled? And then, assuming the PC failed whatever roll it was, how did you play out the PC going after the treasure?

    The reason I ask: I’m having a hard time following your diagram, but I think you’re basically saying “don’t kill or maim the PCs if they are doing something stupid that you (via a magical effect) made them do.” Which, yeah, I’d agree with that.

    But I think the bigger picture question is: how are you handling mind control in the first place? Because it is a touchy topic.

  2. Hi Jeremy Strandberg the Drow just asked the rogue to do it. He lets the Drow boss him around. No magic involved not even a charisma roll. The Drow said “climb the tower, open the lock and retrieve the treasure inside! – the Rogue replied: Sure!

  3. Seriously?

    So it was just an NPC saying “hey, do this stupid/dangerous thing for me” and the PC was like “okay, boss!” I think that PC deserves any consequences that come his way.

    Now… I am interested in how the fire trap played out. Regardless of why the PC was doing this, it seems a bit harsh for a single miss to 1) blow up and deal a bunch of damage AND 2) toss him out the window to deal more damage (and then Last Breath).

    So if it was something like this…

    GM: you’re at the door, it’s all locked up and secure looking.

    Thief: I pick the lock.

    GM: Uh, okay, roll Tricks of the Trade.

    Thief: crap, 4!

    GM: it blows up, take 1d10 damage. And it blows you out the window, take another 1d10 damage from falling.

    Thief: srsly?! Yikes, that’s… oh, no! 18 damage! I’m dead!

    GM: maybe, roll Last Breath.

    …I’d say that’s a bit harsh, no matter what reason the player had.

    But if it was like this:

    GM: you’re at the door, it’s all locked up and secure looking.

    Thief: I pick the lock.

    GM: you sure? you don’t want to investigate it first?

    Thief: Oh, right. I check for traps! Trap Expert! 7-9… I ask, is there a trap, and what activates it?

    GM: Yup, trap! You realize there’s a double-lock. The obvious one unlocks the door, but the other one is hidden under some decorative metal work. You’re pretty sure that if you turn both sets of tumblers, a trap will go off when you open the door.

    Thief: Ooh, okay. I’ll try to pick both of the locks! Tricks of the Trade? Crap, a 4!

    GM: Uh oh! Looks like you had to do the locks in a particular order, or something like that, because as soon as you turn the tumblers on the trap-lock, BOOM! Your world explodes in fire!

    Take 1d10 damage, ignores armor, and you’re blasted out the window! _

    _Thief: Ouch. 9 damage, but still up. I’m blasted out the window?

    GM: Yeah, like everything goes slow motion and you’ve got like just a moment before you start free-falling towards your doom, what do you do?”

    _Thief: I’ll grab onto the window sill!

    GM: Sounds like you’re Defying Danger with DEX to me, roll it!

    Thief: oh no, another 4.

    GM: oh, dear. Okay, take another d10 damage as you fall. Ignores armor.

    Thief: oh no, another 9! I’m dead!

    GM: maybe, roll Last Breath!

    See the difference? The GM gave the PC a reminder to use their skills (Trap Expert). Then on a miss, the GM made one hard move (fire trap, explosion, damage) followed by a soft move (falling out the window). The player missed again, and then made another hard move (falling, damage).

    Alternately, let’s say that the Thief got a a 10+ on Trap Expert and also asked “what does the trap do when activated?” and you told them something like: Looking through the keyhold, you see the glint of fire gems worked into the mechanism. You’ve heard of these! They blow up with incredible force, probably flinging you out the window. What do you do?

    If the Thief didn’t make any preparations and was just like “I try to pick the locks & disable the trap” and rolled a miss, then I’d be okay hitting them with both the explosion and the fall. They knew what they were getting into!

  4. Jeremy Strandberg very well, it was a little like the second case that you explain. Although personally I never remind Thieves to check for traps before picking locks.

    It went like this…

    Drow: Climb and get me that treasure or are you useless?

    Player: OK I’ll climb (roll success)

    GM: once you climb 30 feet you come to a wooden door secured with a lock.

    Player: oh no I don’t have my thieve’s tools so I can try to pick the lock anyways?

    GM: You can but it’s going to be hard so take – 2 to the roll.

    Player: too risky, I don’t want to fail, I shout to the Drow “hey, the door has a lock! What shall I do?”

    GM (acting as the Drow): Don’t you have an axe? Hit it open or you are good for nothing!

    Player: (checks character sheet) OH yeah I have an axe, I’ll hit the lock as hard as I can to open it.

    GM: The lock reacts as some kind of magic protects it. You have sprung a fire trap! Since you are in the outside of the tower grabbed of nothing but your nails the explosion causes you to loose hold of the wall and you are falling. The fire damage is the least of your problems as you hit the ground you are dead.

    The Drow steals your equipment and treasures and escapes.

  5. I believe this player is the process of learning natural consequences. =/

    Had you decided in advance that there was a fire trap on the lock on the outside of the locked tower door? If so, was there any reason for the player to suspect that it might be trapped?

    Personally, I wouldn’t do what a drow told me to do. But I also wouldn’t naturally expect the locked door on the outside of tower, 30 feet up, to have an exploding fire trap on it.

  6. Jeremy Strandberg well, the city major (a kind golden dragon in human shape) warned the pcs to stay away from the tower.

    No, the tower was blank except for the magic weapon inside and the gossip that it was holding a powerful weapon. I decided it was trapped when the rogue started climbing. My concern is about fairness. The flow chart intends to create a secure system to avoid taking harsh desition towards player characters that can steal from the fun. Rules enforcement VS. Fun, balance.

  7. If I understand the situation correctly, the PC did in fact make the desicion to climb the tower himself. But maybe the player didn’t feel like the information he acted on was made clear? Did he know this drow and trust him? Was there perhaps some miscommunication about the height of the tower?

    I’m not sure I understand how this situation was resolved mechanically, was it the result of one failed roll, or several? Did you know the door was trapped, or was it trapped as the result of a failure? Did he fall and go straight to Last Breath, or did he take fall damage and that killed him?

    Anyways, I think I would have resolved it something like this: when he got to the top, I would have underscored the height of the tower: “you reach the top quite easily, but when you get there, you look down and you see the hard cobblestone beneath. It’s a three story drop, and there’s no safety railing at the top, just this small platform and the door. The door looks menacing. There’s like a carved face in it, leering at you.” (telegraphing the trap.)

    The Thief goes straight to picking the lock, without a care in the world.

    He sets of the trap, you describe runes along the face burning like a fuse.” What do you do?”

    From there I guess it depends on what he answers and how he rolls. One failure might send him flying of the tower, but perhaps with a chance to do DD to cushion the fall. Three stories isn’t high enough to go straight to last breath, in my opinion. A 7-9 would maybe have him hanging by his fingers of the edge, with another DD to see if he can get up before his fingers give out.

    Fall damage I usually do classic dnd-style: 1d6 per 10 feet above the first 10, with perhaps a debility tacked on.

  8. You can also try to play with the rule I use to handle PCs deaths in Shadow Lords (which is not a pbta though): always describe deadly happenings by leaving space to save the pc and then let the player choose if the pc dies in a glorious way (usually helping their mates in a big way or at least getting what they want) or to barely survive with a permanent consequence (in Shadow Lords that would mean adding a D4 negative trait to one of your legends, like scarred, or limp).

    That way you are granted that no silly, unwanted, unfunny deaths are cast on players’ pc.

    In your example, probably the pc would had to choose between dying but falling on the drow and killing him too, or surviving: “you fall from the tower in flames, and the drow cuckles and leaves you for dead… however a local boy sees you and poures water on you, saving your life… though you are now horribly scarred and bed-ridden in aches for some weeks…enough time to plan your revenge on the drow…

    Note: Shadow Lords is a “classical Sword & Sorcery” themed rpg, and for classical I mean it tries to convey the sort of themes and atmospheres you got from Howard, Vance, Leiber, Moorcock, etc., that’s why this rule for example lends itself to letting pcs be heroic but still live in a hard and gory world, while preserving their “main hero of this story” role.

    P.s.: if you are interested in Shadow Lords stay tuned to me and/or http://www.shadowlords.net

  9. I’m with Jeremy Strandberg , a theif who listens to an insulting Drow, stands on a precipice, doesn’t check for traps, then smashes a door open with an axe gets last breath on a failed roll. Lots of checkpoints to make that a safer situation that they passes up.

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