D&D security nerd rant

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Reality Czech
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D&D security nerd rant

Postby Reality Czech » Fri Nov 30, 2007 3:52 pm UTC

Ok, so a member of my gaming group was happily describing a couple of "puzzle traps" he had designed for a dungeon he was designing, and I couldn't help thinking "Why would ANYone make a security system that only admits SMART strangers?"

I work in security and I have for years, When I hear about traps in dungeons designed to restrict access or kill/harm/remove unwanted intruders, I always have to think of how it would help the layout in terms of making the dungeon a useable space for the intended occupants.

So- if you have a door that requires you to enter a code for entry, the door should not provide any information helping you break the code, right? I mean, if it's some repository of information for a banned/hunted/secretive cult, I can see making it in an out of the way spot and making entry accomplishable via a coded puzzle that favors the members, but in general, keeping folks out usually means NOT providing information on how to get in.

If I'm a mighty wizard in the back of my dungeon, happily plotting to Destroy All That Is Good And Pure and making horrid, twisted abberations of nature, I'd want to do it in peace, without Jehovah's witnesses, teenagers selling magazine subscriptions, or adventurers making it into my lab. If I were going to let any of the above in, I'd want to deny entry to the smart, resourceful, motivated ones and admit the stupid, lazy, and unmotivated, since they'd be less of a threat. Why set things up to only admit those who are good at solving problems? To them I'm probably a problem and I'm not keen on them "solving" me and taking all my religious pamphlets and magazines.

When my friend started talking about a door with "a grid of 36 square, brass buttons with a dwarven rune etched on each one"... the first thing I thought of was "Every button causes the room to fill with poisonous gas, always, irrespective of sequence, etc. The REAL door is concealed in the corner and is simply secured with a good, sturdy lock."
If the door with the buttons looks "important" enough, most folks will assume there's a solution and get themselves killed without examining the room for a simple answer. Hence, the "smart" intruders are actually MORE likely to die, since a dummy may just give up and leave, where the self-congratulating meta-gamer says "Oh, I've read about lots of these puzzles. I'm sure I can figure out which button(s) opens the door."

So is this OCD, mean-spirited, or what? Discuss.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby ZeroSum » Fri Nov 30, 2007 4:02 pm UTC

Depends on the DM style. If the players understand that the DM uses dirty tricks like this they won't mind. The problem is that there's an unspoken understanding that a trap is there to be solved just as monsters are there to be killed and magical items are there to be used. Mixing it up sometimes is fun, as in an encounter with a beast beyond your means that you must flee from and quest for the magical sword to kill it, or the cursed amulet that's slowly poisoning you and you must quest to find the cleric capable of freeing you from its curse. Traps, however, also have to be more interesting than "you die, try again." A good lose-lose trap would be one that just dumps you into another section of the dungeon, perhaps a section not found on the map given to you, or a section that lacks some resource the players thought would be plentiful.

"You lose" is a thing to be avoided. "You have been given a great challenge" is what D&D is about.

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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby pieaholicx » Fri Nov 30, 2007 4:16 pm UTC

As well, one could say that the whole purpose of the trap was to test the person's intelligence. Perhaps the treasure at the end of the dungeon was meant only to be used by those smart enough to understand its great power, and thus it makes sense to prevent those who aren't smart enough to understand it to get through. While it wouldn't be smart to lock up your place with an easy to solve lock, perhaps the great wizard or whatever that built it was willing to hand over some unique item to those who could solve it.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Reality Czech » Fri Nov 30, 2007 4:23 pm UTC

I know what you're saying, I also disapprove of "You lose" tactics. Really what I'm commenting on is the lack of realism. Challenges should be surmountable, but IMO there should be a valid reason the challenge exists. In my mind, if you want to keep people from going through a certain door, don't make the security measure something that will select for high-threat intruders succeeding.

In the real world, security measures are emplaced with 2 basic considerations (apart from effectiveness, obviously):
1) How much does it cost, and
2)how disruptive is it to authorized business.

In this model, there is no place for a "answer these questions three" sort of access control. If I'm going to implement a control of this nature, it's going to be dictated on who I DO want to get in, not by my desire to provide an interesting challenge for the players. My personal standard is to make challenges appear natural while still being interesting. (This is admittedly much harder than slapping a clever puzzle in the middle of a_random_dungeon_01.)

I'd rather provide challenges that are beatable while still being plausible. Flavor is good, but I think a puzzle should exist for a reasonable, pertinent reason or not at all. (Unless the puzzle is an elaborate ruse as I described above, but handled inproperly this will rapidly frustrate players and remove the fun.)
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby ZeroSum » Fri Nov 30, 2007 4:33 pm UTC

Honestly speaking, then you're not thinking like a good DM. Yes, realism matters to an extent, but in D&D there's a suspension of disbelief for the players in order to make the game more interesting. There are two main reasons a D&D game sours:

1. The DM is telling the story instead of the players. When the DM controls everything it's easy to impose his will on the shape and structure of the story instead of simply giving the players a setting to thrive in.

2. The DM is playing against the players instead of with the players. When the DM controls everything it's easy to defeat the players, but there is no justification for the players losing except through their own foolishness. And even then, if it's consistent foolishness then the DM should change the focus to ensure that that foolishness is still fun.

So forget verisimilitude (unless your players bring up the question) and just let them be happy defeating traps that obviously would be rather inconvenient to the dungeon inhabitant. That said, there is a sort of elegance to having a dungeon full of traps that only something intelligent would fall victim to and then filling said dungeon with stupid, stupid creatures, like zombies, with the hope that eventually the players would think, "Wait, how do all these zombies survive if we keep getting hit by traps?"

Also, there are things that are less breaking that still evoke this verisimilitude, like double-locked boxes, where opening the box while "unlocked" opens a mundane drawer but opening the box while "locked" opens the secret compartment.

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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby canuckotter » Fri Nov 30, 2007 6:40 pm UTC

Reality Czech wrote:So is this OCD, mean-spirited, or what? Discuss.

I'd call it "missing the point", personally. :lol:

Puzzle traps are there because they're fun for the player, not because it makes sense for the game world. If your players don't like puzzle traps, don't use them. If your players are, like you, annoyed by the unrealistic nature of puzzle traps, then reward their skepticism by using exactly the tactics you suggested. On the other hand, if your players do like solving puzzles... then use 'em and let everyone have fun with the game. :)
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Benitosimies » Fri Nov 30, 2007 7:03 pm UTC

Re: OP

All of what was said above plus:

That's awesome! And cruel! But awesome!

But you figure that a character who is skilled at finding traps would have heard of something like this, but the player wouldn't be thinking about that (maybe). I mean if you spent a lot of time studying gas traps and how trapmakers hide them.

Since it's related to study, they should get an intelligence based skill that helps them know this, e.g. Search.

What I propose is that if they roll, say a 15 on their search then they've found the arrays of runes, but if they roll a 30 then they know that each one of them is connected to a secret killingyou trap.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Girl™ » Fri Nov 30, 2007 8:31 pm UTC

ZeroSum wrote:Honestly speaking, then you're not thinking like a good DM. Yes, realism matters to an extent, but in D&D there's a suspension of disbelief for the players in order to make the game more interesting.


I have to disagree a bit. I loved that idea. But then, I also loved the hell out of Saw and Saw II.

Of course there's necessarily a suspension of disbelief involved. But if I wanted to play a game where I had to solve completely arbitrary and inexplicable puzzles in order to reach a predefined goal, I'd just play Myst. It's the same problem I have with boring dungeon crawls in tabletop sessions. If I wanted that, I'd be playing a video game. I've grown up on RPG and adventure video games, and while I love them, I want something different from a tabletop experience. I want to interact with a person who will give me interesting, dynamic, multi-faceted challenges that require lateral thinking and common sense, instead of bland puzzles and encounters with set solutions.

Maybe I'm just a bad player, though. :\ I haven't been into tabletop for very long.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby ZeroSum » Fri Nov 30, 2007 9:49 pm UTC

To be honest, very few "good puzzles that require lateral thinking" when in the context of D&D are that at all. The lateral thinking in D&D, in my experience, have always been with the NPC interaction and plot development rather than the dungeon solutions. Again, this is because, in my experience, "clever" DMs don't realize that they're not giving the players any clues and players expect the solution to be relatively straightforward when presented with a puzzle.

I've had a DM try to place a puzzle where it required interesting thinking and it felt like a riddle out of a riddle book, not an adventure. The best adventure where I could make use of lateral thinking was when I was reincarnated into a hawk and got to use three dimensions to my advantage.

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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby goedjn4 » Fri Nov 30, 2007 10:46 pm UTC

Well, I'll admit that I once put in a dungeon a large glass wall,
on the player's side of which was a set of levers that did 1d4 points
of damage every time you moved them, and which incidentally
caused a hidden bells to ring in a random pattern.
There was no other point to the room at all.
.
That said, there are some other motivations besides the
standard "keep people out unless they're authorised".

It could be a case of a psychotic inhabitant trying to prove
how clever he is. (Or depending on your pop-psych secretly
pleading to be stopped). It could be a deliberate filter to
screen out irritating idiots, a-la the wizard in Xanth.
Or it could be religious thing, where you expect to be dead
by the time anyone uses this secret passage into the hidden
tomb of the napping god, in which case, since you can't be
quite sure who's going to come, and what they'll know. In that
case, you'd probably hide clues somewhere where co-religionists
would recognize them and normal people wouldn't.

Or you could be stalling for time, with apparent progress on the
puzzle giving the intruders reason to stick around while your
security force sneaks up on them. (too bad the security force
got offed 15 years ago, and you forgot to fix the back door....)

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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby semicolon » Sat Dec 01, 2007 11:29 pm UTC

Hey, that poem doesn't rhyme!

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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby zenten » Sun Dec 02, 2007 4:13 am UTC

It could also be based on how magic works. In real life computer codes for instance are based around interesting but hard to solve mathematical puzzles. In a fantasy world magical security systems could be based around interesting but hard to solve literary or philosophical puzzles.

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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Katastrophy » Sun Dec 02, 2007 6:48 am UTC

One trap I constantly wanted to try works something along those lines. The players walk into a room, and the doors slam shut. There's vents in the ceiling and on the wall, there is a single button and a timer, counting down from 30 (Or maybe it was 10?). About this time, you put a 30 second egg timer on the table. Searching the room results in nothing, there's no traps, locks, or any way to move the door. If they push the button, you reset the timer to 30 second and give it the the person who pushed the button. Odds are, they will keep pushing the button to reset the timer as they try and figure out how to get out of the room.

The only way to get out of the room is to let the timer run out. The doors will open on their own at that time.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Maseiken » Sun Dec 02, 2007 7:52 am UTC

That is such a good idea.
Because one person will suggest letting the Timner run down, and then everyone else will say they're an idiot.
"GRRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOWR!!!!"
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Torvaun » Sun Dec 02, 2007 5:29 pm UTC

I generally use puzzle traps and other traps that select for high intelligence when the villain is a Mind Flayer. They want the large, delectable brains to make it through.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby trickster721 » Sun Dec 02, 2007 5:42 pm UTC

Security has as much to do with dungeon design as tennis has to do with Pong.

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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Maseiken » Sun Dec 02, 2007 11:41 pm UTC

Our DM has gone Meta with ironic traps.
He put a chest in the middle of the room, Searching it for traps revealed a trap mehanism, although we didn't know it's purpose since we don't have a Rogue (Well done, morons!) We weren't sure what to do, so we go into the next room, TIME FOR A MASSIVE BOULDER FOLLOWED BY A PIT TRAP YAY!

Turns out opening the chest deactivated the other traps. Also, it contained the quest's objective.
"GRRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOWR!!!!"
(Translation: "Objection!")

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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby jwwells » Mon Dec 03, 2007 2:23 am UTC

The button trap actually makes perfect sense if you hook it up to a stunning spell of some kind, and have the villain capture the party as a forced-defeat plot point. Naturally, this is necessary to move the plot along.

Normally, forcing a failure is horrible railroading, but if the failure is a direct result of 'success' on at least one pseudo-trap, then anger should presumably be directed away from the DM and towards the villain, especially if XP is awarded for solving the trap successfully.

Other possibilities include the Mind Flayer selection process and the cocky villain who wants a worthy opponent. Still more possibilities:

1) A trap that's meant to be deactivated with a key, but can be outwitted with cleverness. For example, a force field controlled by a runestone that can be bypassed by burrowing through the floor or ceiling, or by hiding and waiting for a minion to come by with the key.

2) A trap that actually does backfire and harm the villain's minions at a key point.

3) A trap that releases a gas that is poisonous to humans, but not to the villain's species - and, elsewhere, an artifact that gives the players the ability to polymorph.

The possibilities for traps that maintain verisimilitude, challenge the player, and avoid the standard "BIG BOOK OF MENSA VILLAIN LOGIC PUZZLES" tropes are endless. Given that magic is available in the campaign setting, I imagine that even the most 'mundane' magical lock could be made as interesting to the players as a retinal scanner would be to a high fantasy wizard.

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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby BoomFrog » Mon Dec 03, 2007 3:55 am UTC

To the OP:

It depends on the context to the trap. Your thinking is sound but only for a business. If the location is one where everyone who needs to bypass the security was there to be briefed when it's installed, it should be locked doors, pressure plate traps, and regular stuff like that.

But if it's an ancient tomb, or a dungeon specifically built to house a magic item, or any situation in which the traps are a test, not security, then the puzzle trap is appropriate.

But most important is for your players to know what level your setting the realism dial to.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Maseiken » Mon Dec 03, 2007 4:21 am UTC

Take Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

To get past those traps, you would have to have researched the matter extensively, meaning (In the mind of the makers) that you would be a very religious and dedicated person, and thus, perhaps worthy of the grail.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Reality Czech » Mon Dec 03, 2007 2:27 pm UTC

To all who replied-

I can see the point behind making puzzles whose purpose is only to solve them, but personally I prefer less suspension of disbelief in my games. In some (or even many) the reasons that events occur may not be clear to the players or characters, but I like establishing a setting where they assume that there is a logical explanation for things.

I know the presence of monsters, magic, etc. is not "realistic", but it's an accepted reality for the D&D world; suspension of disbelief is effectively a prerequisite to play. Outside of the unreality of D&D's reality, I like the players to know that things happen for a reason, because it reinforces the intuitive understanding that what they do impacts the world around them and vice versa.

My feelings on suspension of disbelief are that one should minimize the need for it when telling a story. When you watch Jurassic Park and its sequels, it's assumed that the presence of dinosaurs in present day is part of the reality of the story. Everyone's ok with it because it's a fundamental part of the plot. If the heroes are trapped in an office building by hungry raptors, it's not a "realistic" crisis (as far as I know so far, but I'm still keeping an eye out) but the audience accepts that it's the way things are. Once that's accepted, you can come up with "realistic" ways to survive the raptor attack.

My issue with unexplained puzzles in D&D is that it'd be like the characters in Jurrassic Park discovering that the raptors were spawning out of a hole in the ground or being beamed into the building from outer space. It breaks the reality of the setting. I know as the DM I can toss whatever challenges I feel like with entertainment value and challenge as my only guiding principles, but I prefer to create a world where a challenge was created for something, rather than for the sake of overcoming it.

I don't mind a challenge that's there as a test, proof of faith or worthiness, or whatever, but if it's there, I like a reason at least as good as the "Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade" puzzles. They were there to keep out the unfaithful, and I liked that. But those same puzzles guarding an artifact not affiliated with biblical times wouldn't have felt right to me.

I understand I'm not required to provide absolute realism at all times, but I personally find it makes for more natural play, because all the players have to do is decide how there characters would react in any given situation (roleplay) rather than try to deduce what the GM wants from them. If things seem to appear naturally and intuitively, i.e. more like real life forces shaping the world, the players can focus more on playing as their characters in that world, not wondering if there ought to be some cue they're taking from metaknowledge that they're not picking up.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Belial » Mon Dec 03, 2007 2:54 pm UTC

Mark of a good storyteller, I say.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Lord Bob » Mon Dec 03, 2007 7:29 pm UTC

You know what else I hate!!!!1 Game bosses!!1 They always show their weak spot so that I can kill them! I want to die and replay the same, impossible battle into infinity.!!!~ What's up with that???/.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Belial » Mon Dec 03, 2007 7:35 pm UTC

D&D is not a video game.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Lord Bob » Mon Dec 03, 2007 10:47 pm UTC

And?
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Torvaun » Mon Dec 03, 2007 10:58 pm UTC

And in D&D, the boss is more like Shadow of the Colossus. It isn't exposing its weak spot, you're finding its weak spot. Big difference.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Belial » Tue Dec 04, 2007 1:41 am UTC

Lord Bob wrote:And?


So you shouldn't need the villains to do unrealistic and suicidal things in order to beat them
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby zenten » Tue Dec 04, 2007 2:04 pm UTC

Belial wrote:D&D is not a video game.


Yet game bosses are common in them.

Same as action movies.

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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby ZeroSum » Tue Dec 04, 2007 2:31 pm UTC

zenten wrote:
Belial wrote:D&D is not a video game.


Yet game bosses are common in them.

Same as action movies.

And books. Your point?

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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Reality Czech » Thu Dec 06, 2007 5:59 pm UTC

Lord Bob wrote:You know what else I hate!!!!1 Game bosses!!1 They always show their weak spot so that I can kill them! I want to die and replay the same, impossible battle into infinity.!!!~ What's up with that???/.
[/sarcasm]


Wow. You could insert this post into almost any thread without it losing value.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Dan Frank » Thu Dec 06, 2007 10:31 pm UTC

I totally agree with the OP. Also, I love the 'every button = death' trap. Awesome!

Hhere's one thought though.

In the real world, failure to bypass security systems doesn't routinely result in death. If you forget your code to enter an office building, maybe you're late for work. Or, you call the head office. Or something. Punching in the wrong code doesn't unleash a cloud of toxic gas.

If it did, I think there's a fair chance we'd see a lot more instances of people posting little hints or reminders around the keypad. Secret questions, etc. Because they don't want a poor memory to be the cause of their death.

Likewise, I think in similar instances it is plausible that a someone who needs access to a trapped area might take precautions against forgetting exactly how to bypass the trap.

This only accounts for some situations, but it's still worth mentioning.

Overall, however, as I said, I totally agree with your take on D&D traps.

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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Maseiken » Fri Dec 07, 2007 12:16 am UTC

In that case, the clues shoud be written in orcish or Kobold (Which is actually a VERY good idea, some people take orcish, but people barely ever take Kobold.)
"GRRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOWR!!!!"
(Translation: "Objection!")

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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Belial » Fri Dec 07, 2007 12:27 am UTC

Dan Frank wrote:I totally agree with the OP. Also, I love the 'every button = death' trap. Awesome!


I like the idea of actually treating traps and puzzles in the context of *why* they were created. I don't, however, like the idea of instantaneously killing your PCs for messing up a single puzzle/trap/check. It's meanspirited and it ruins everyone's fun.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Jessica » Fri Dec 07, 2007 12:57 am UTC

Maseiken wrote:but people barely ever take Kobold.)

Kobold is draconic now, and I'm pretty sure people take draconic.
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Maseiken » Fri Dec 07, 2007 1:03 am UTC

Fudge.
"GRRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOWR!!!!"
(Translation: "Objection!")

Maseiken had the ball at the top of the key...

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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Dec 07, 2007 3:44 am UTC

Belial wrote:
Dan Frank wrote:I totally agree with the OP. Also, I love the 'every button = death' trap. Awesome!


I like the idea of actually treating traps and puzzles in the context of *why* they were created. I don't, however, like the idea of instantaneously killing your PCs for messing up a single puzzle/trap/check. It's meanspirited and it ruins everyone's fun.


Aaannndddd there's the problem with traps. If you're trapping something, you're going to want to be sure that whoever sets it off doesn't survive to set off #2 (Barring them being inordinately healthy or agile or whatever)

Trapping to capture is.. outside of the altruistic labyrinth builder who wishes to harm none or someone using the traps as a food supply, no one's going to trap to capture. And if they do, they'll be sure that they capture the person in such a way as to render them completely secure.


So... yeah, trapping tombs makes sense, as you don't want anyone coming in there after the traps are set. Trapping your home? Not so much.


(Let's not even get into the discussion on the best traps, from the trapsetters point of view, are those that attack the constitution, the mind, or simply the physical body of the person setting them off... and the person most likely to set them off [the Rogue] is dexterous, intelligent, and ... the second weakest physically, with little to brag about in their fortitude or will saves.... simply put, should the Rogue screw up.. totally boned.)
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heuristically_alone wrote:I have been informed that this is called writing a book.

ZeroSum
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby ZeroSum » Fri Dec 07, 2007 4:06 am UTC

Non-lethal traps generally require fewer resources to construct than lethal traps, hence their appeal. Also, why not build the trap with the purpose of incapacitation so that your pet dungeon-dweller can have a snack, rather than trying to poison the intruder to death, spoiling the meal?

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BoomFrog
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby BoomFrog » Fri Dec 07, 2007 4:56 am UTC

Maseiken wrote:
Gharbad wrote:
Maseiken wrote:but people barely ever take Kobold.)

Kobold is draconic now, and I'm pretty sure people take draconic.


Fudge.


I'd just like to point out that Maseiken has the exact opposite of the right attitude for a DM. The trap should have a clue written in Kobald and the DM should be happy that one of the players took draconic and can read it. Now the trap was realistically secure but the PC's can bypass it in a realistic manner. The DM should make the challenges realistic but should keep in mind that the players should be able to win. They are supposed to win, or given enough information that they know they should run away. (or lose but not totally lose)

Btw to the OP: The word you want is verisimilitude. Believablity and consistency within the stories setting.
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Maseiken
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby Maseiken » Fri Dec 07, 2007 6:26 am UTC

Actually, I was thinking that Plot and Realism could go hand in hand, and that the PC's would track down a Kobold, and Convince it Diplomatically, Violently, or by lying through their teeth to translate said clue. With requisite Sense motive checks. Perhaps even using this as an introduction for a new PC or GMPC, as long as there's no objection to playing as a Kobold.
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AbNo
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Re: D&D security nerd rant

Postby AbNo » Fri Dec 07, 2007 10:54 pm UTC

I will say this...

I can't remember the last time I played in a game where most of the party didn't take Draconic as a language.

You want something really obscure? Try Aquan.
Darwin was right, but nanny-staters keep trying to undermine him


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