Traps & Secret Doors

I’m probably just over-thinking this, but I’m trying to figure out what the best method for dealing with secret doors & traps would be.

Just straight-up say there’s a trap/secret door in here, roll to find it? And just play up the dramatic irony if they fail to find it?

Or wait until someone specifically says they’re searching for one or the other and have them roll if one exists? And if there’s not one just say there’s not one here. The only issue I have with this is there’s no reason for the characters not to always say they’re searching for whatever. Then it just becomes “You enter this new room, etc etc.” “I search for traps/secret doors!”

Wouldn’t testing to search for traps/doors take up a turn? That alone is a delicious disincentive.

I think no test = no turn.

That said, players might start out searching every room, and why shouldn’t they? They’re explorers, after all.

The problem becomes, “what if there’s actually something to find?” Now you’re locked into a test that you might not be ready for and a turn that you might not have time for.

I think that might prevent any shenanigans. And really, if they do search every room, it’s not a problem. That’s just more action and fun waiting to happen.

(And yeah, I’m assuming that if there’s nothing there, it’s “You search around a bit and there’s nothing there. What now?”)

Right. But if there’s no trap or secret door then why have them roll?

Oh, that’s a good point, Ludanto. If they just get in the habit of always searching and getting off free when there’s nothing, but when there is their stuck with the roll, which means burning that turn. So, it may be a self-correcting thing where they only ask if they’re really concerned and have the time to spare.

Here’s how I’d see it. If there’s no trap or secret door, you give them 100% assurance that there’s no trap or secret door. If they don’t search, they don’t know.

What they gain out of a successful test is a security that they paid a turn for. If they don’t search, I think that exposes them to the trap, if there is one. So do they pay a turn to know that it’s safe, or risk the chance that there’s a trap to get through faster?

That’s how I’d think of it, anyway. It seems to fit with the risk-reward paradigm of Torchbearer. It’s a bit merciless, but…well…that’s the game.

ADDENDUM: I could see it going the other way, too, where you just tell them “there’s nothing to find” and let them move on, but lock them into a test if there is.

On page 116 it describes a situation where the players sneak through the woods and climb a cliff. It says that if there isn’t anything risky, just let it happen without a roll or a turn. They sneak through the woods and climb the cliff, it isn’t until they get to the top that they encounter a risk, because it turns out there’s a hidden monster up there! Same for your situation. If they say, ‘we look around’ every time they get somewhere new, great, they probably should. If there isn’t anything to see, it doesn’t cost them anything… or, put another way, it was just a good idea.

My work here is done! I only have them roll when they choose to search and there’s something to find. Makes it all the more delicious when they fail…

also, searching for secret doors or traps makes for excellent instincts–highly recommended if you’re a good scout or want lots of scout tests…

Oooh, lots of good stuff coming out here. The Instinct approach makes total sense. (Instincts are great in Torchbearer!)

I know the end of that path, the players learning to ritualistically call out “I Greyhawk the room” before stepping into any new location. :stuck_out_tongue:

Unfortunately it looks like in Torchbearer that Instincts do NOT save us from that. P108 says “It’s up to you, the player, to invoke your Instinct.” So the GM, unlike in Burning Wheel, is under no obligation to note that the Instinct may be triggered. Maybe there is something in the GM directions that countermands that?

Nope. Instincts are the players’ responsibility, not the GM’s. But you’ll want to play your instinct. Invoking an instinct such that it does something useful for the group is one of the ways you earn rewards in Torchbearer.

Well yeah I’d want to invoke it…if I knew the secret door was there. :wink: It isn’t that Instincts are not very powerful, given how Tests are such a precious and limited commodity. It is just that this version doesn’t help with unknown unknowns (as much? can the player call retro-active on, say, a trap for “I always watch for traps” as the GM begins to describe triggering it?).

I’m curious, in play how much pixelbitching have you seen in play? If none/little, any idea why?

Well, I mean–since there’s no penalty for saying “I’m out in front, searching” as you traverse an area, it doesn’t matter if there’s nothing to find.

This. If you’ve got the instinct, it’s all you’ve got to say. And then if your instinct is to search for traps, I’ll have you roll when there’s a trap.

I haven’t seen any pixel-bitching. If, as a GM, you follow the guidelines in Describe to Live, page 116-117, particularly the Hints of What’s to Come section, you won’t have much of a problem. IMO, “pixelbitching” tends to occur when the GM is not providing enough information.

Having played a decent amount of Burning Wheel, where instincts are encouraged to be double-edged swords, I initially felt reluctant to take a flat beneficial instinct here (although that seems to be both normal and necessary). However, I think this thread just convinced me to take an “Always check for secret doors” or similar instinct. It would fit for the Burglar I’m about to start playing this weekend, and would really streamline the process. Especially because I have an unnecessary tendency to want to be too anal about not hinting at secret doors, but also hate the idea of missing them. This has sometimes lead me to making blind rolls regardless of whether anything is there, which would be a terrible idea in Torchbearer at the cost of a turn for every roll. Thanks for the great idea, Thor.

OK, that’s somewhat different than what the rules are describing, IMO.

“…incorporate your Instinct into your description and tell the group “I’d like to use my Instinct…” Describe why you think it applies.”

I took level of that player explicitness as a requirement.

Trying not to nitpick here but it is historically a problematic area, one that prior versions of Instinct rules had done well to resolve. EDIT: I think I understand the motive for the difference here, for tone of exploration puzzler. Just trying to ferret out the expectation of where the balance lies.

IMO, “pixelbitching” tends to occur when the GM is not providing enough information.

I’m not going to say that’s wrong. In fact my issue with the above is the rules text implying the GM providing less info (after a fashion, or put another way demanding more explicit communication from the player) than what you are suggesting here.

Still, “I Greyhawk the room” seems the ‘right’ thing to [re]learn.

I think the idea is that if, for example, you have an instinct to search for traps, you say “as we explore, I am in front following my instinct to keep an eye out for traps,” and this is assumed to be the case until something changes. It is the player’s responsibility to invoke it the first time, and afterwards the GM should keep it in mind.

On the other hand, I don’t think that hurts this game. You’ll get a chance to test scout against traps, and if there is nothing there, you still get a description, which you want anyway. If there is something there, you wind up spending a turn seeing if you found it or not (unless you have that handy instinct). Sounds like a pretty good balance for a dungeon delver game.

That strikes me as off? Nothing to Test for means no Test. Or another way, nothing to trigger the Instinct means no Test.