Traps

(Lee Barklam)

Traps are a staple of underworlds – reliable deterrents against looters and defilers, remaining in place until their mechanical parts corrode, usually far beyond the lifetime of any mere creature posted as a guard.

This section covers the four elements of placing a trap:
  1. Triggering a trap
  2. A trap’s effects
  3. Detecting a trap
  4. Disabling a trap

Triggering a Trap

A trigger is anything that causes the trap to go off, which could be opening a door, opening a lock, applying too much (or too little) weight to a floor tile, plinth, chair, etc. When considering where to place a trap, consider two things. Firstly, how realistic is the placement of this trap and, secondly, what purpose does this trap serve.

When considering realism, imagine what mechanism must sit concealed behind the walls and the floors to make this trap work – a simple tripwire that breaks a couple of vials of volatile liquid is simple enough, but a switch under a tile that causes the sea to break through into a dungeon corridor might take a bit more imagining.

As for the purpose of the trap, consider the motives and circumstances of the trap builder – if the trap is in a home, how do the residents cope with having a deadly mechanism poised to destroy them if they turn a door handle clockwise instead of anti-clockwise? Who would take the risk of poisoning themselves every time they put something into their safe unless there was something very valuable in there? Remember that the engineering tools available to the Dragon Warriors world may mean triggers are far from 100% reliable.

Effects of a Trap

The effect of a trap is the action the trap takes when it’s triggered, which could be to shoot a dart (poisoned or otherwise), mix chemicals to create a poisonous cloud, acid or an explosion, release blades from concealed recesses in the wall to swing towards someone or something, etc.

Traps do not need only to affect the person triggering it. If the purpose of the trap is to prevent a client list falling into the wrong hands, a trapped box might release an acid to dissolve the scroll contained therein, not necessarily to damage the person attempting to break into it.

The GM should also note in the trap’s description whether a trap resets after being triggered or whether it can only be activated once.

Detecting a Trap

First and foremost, a trap’s greatest weapon is surprise (and a fanatical devotion to the Pope) – if a character knows that the lock they are about to pick is protected by a poisoned dart trap, he will take adequate precautions to minimise his risk of being poisoned. A pit in a corridor is an obstacle, not a trap, and unlikely to cause a party of well-prepared adventurers any grief, but a concealed trapdoor that catches a character unaware is much more likely to cause the character to fall.

All traps therefore have a Stealth score. Stealth scores for traps generally run into double digits and this should be the target for an initial Perception check (the characters are not doing anything special, but the GM rolls secretly against their Perception to see if they notice anything amiss with the environment ahead). On a success, the GM should indicate that something does not look quite right, but be vague and unspecific. This should be enough to prompt the characters to be more cautious and search for traps.

If the characters actively search for traps, they receive a +5 bonus to their Perception scores. Note that a particularly cautious party may search for traps at every opportunity, whether or not they have had any forewarning. This will significantly reduce their movement rate to about 10’ per minute and increase their chance of being surprised to 1-2 on a d6.

Disabling a Trap

Lastly, once detected, characters will want to disable or bypass a trap to prevent it from being triggered. This can be as simple as wedging closed a trapdoor or cutting a tripwire, to as complicated as identifying which cog in a complicated clockwork device should be turned backward and fixed in place. The GM should assign a difficult factor to a trap against which a character should check Reflexes to determine if the disarm attempt failed. If the disarm attempt fails by more than 5, the trap has been triggered in the attempt. Otherwise, the character cannot identify how to disable the trap safely (nor may he retry).

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