On the Thursday Trick, Signs

Signs (Category: Special)

Trigger: Mechanical: Interaction 
Other: Player Greed
Effects: Varies
Save: VariesDuration: Varies
Resets: AutomaticBypass: None (Avoid)

From the Highly Recommended Oglaf
Description: Sometimes you want to challenge the player. Are they suspiscious? Are they greedy? Are they brave?

Some examples.

A trigger (lever, button, etc.) next to a sign that says "Treasure Vault Release". When pulled it opens a chute that drops coins of selected denominations on top of the players. If coins weigh 10 to the pound, it takes relatively little treasure to crush the players. This sign can be found inside of a pit to increase the lethality. This is an example of the literal sign. The sign is literally true and sounds positive but has negative consequences. Another example is a slide labeled "Safe Exit". It will allow you to exit the dungeon safely, but leaves you thousands of feet in the air.

A sign with text on it surrounding the trigger. The sign says "Push to X" where X is opening a door or some other desired effect. The trigger itself has a negative effect, setting off a trap or the like. The sign itself is what must be depressed in order to trigger the correct effect.

A warning or truth sign. This sign presages a trap, but does so in a way that misleads the characters into triggering the trap. A "Danger" sign with small text that you have to be close to read. This will trigger the proximity trap.

Detection/Disarming: Traps like this contribute to the myth of "DM versus Player" play, because it presents a choice that depends on the player himself to actually think. Given this requirement, an unscrupulous Dungeon Master might engage in Quantum Ogre finagling to get the result he desires to see. This all around results in bad play.

But the idea of a sign is not. In fact, it leads to engaging play. The key is, as mentioned above, that the Dungeon Master remain impartial -- that he look at the situation objectively when the players interact with the trap. This is important because these traps rely on misdirection, puns, and inappropriate assumptions made by the players.

The examples of signs originate from the Wurst of Grimtooth's Traps, which is a trademark of Flying Buffalo Inc. games.


  1. I'm curious, how often do you consider trap naturalism when designing challenges?

  2. One of the things I really like about the use of signs is that it makes the trap a little more realistic. The denizens of the dungeon know how the trap works, and how to bypass it. The sign provides an obvious clue for those who are looking for it (much better than trying to train your goblin slaves to remember a complex combination based on astrological signs). And the sign allows you to put an obvious trigger point on the wall that doesn't necessarily alert the unaware that there are two trigger points (the sign, and the false trigger).

    I kind of like the evil value of "Treasure Vault Release".

  3. Source:

    The Wurst of Grimtooth's Traps, p. 72-73: "The trap is actually quite simple. In the wall of the corridor is set a lever; posted nearby is a sign that clearly reads “Treasure Vault Release.” The trap is set in motion when some fool actually pulls the lever.

    Pulling the lever releases the catch-pins that secure this section of corridor, allowing it to split in two and collapse into the pit below. This forms a sort of funnel, which will neatly channel the 4620 cubic feet of gold coins that were hidden in a hollow above the corridor. Assuming gold weighs about 1000 pounds per cubic foot, we’re talking about 4,620,000 pounds of gold here…"

    The Wurst of Grimtooth's Traps, p. 83: "Near the entrance to this chute, post a sign saying something like “Emergency Exit — this chute is guaranteed to get you out of the dungeon alive.” The chute itself should be very long — thousands of feet, at the very least — so that the delver must spend several minutes sliding through it in total darkness. When at last the chute ends, the victim zips out of a hole on the face of a cliff that’s at least 500 feet high. The character has indeed exited the dungeon alive, and he is in fine shape — assuming he can fly. Otherwise, the exit has indeed caused a real emergency."

    The Wurst of Grimtooth's Traps, p. 117: "The door has no handles or other fixtures by which to open it. On the right hand wall, however,
    the delvers see a small button with the label “Open” on it.


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