Latches, switches and levers are thresholds of change.
Less a trick or trigger, more a way to represent a choice in how to proceed. There is no distance between events and actions within the game. They all occupy the journey, not organized chronologically, just thematically. (i.e. "We approach the ridge, oh, I had Tod the elf pick up rope back in town (writes down rope and scratches off 15 gp on their sheet) and I use that rope to climb the ridge.")
All possible events during a game are occupying the same shared space, without boundary. It is the latch, switch, and lever that allow players to navigate and organize this space. The entire game structure involves the referee waiting for players to interact with the "contents" (monsters, traps, treasure, tricks, or 'nothing') or navigating to a new location.
Guidelines include not obscuring they nature of the switch. The player should make the choice to trigger the switch or not. If they don't understand that it is a switch (or worse, trigger a switch/open a door/pull a lever without understanding it is one), then to the player there is no structure to the events. There was the fictional reality and if the switch is obfuscated, no concrete way for the player to interact with the world. If they trigger the switch by accident, their experience is one of chaotic instability. To them, it would appear as if the world changed without cause. The crux of the game is deciding on actions weighed against risk, not on trying to comprehend how to take action.
This is also the reason you have the effect of the switch happen within the range of the player's ability to notice. If the choice produces no visible/audible effect, they will not realize the connection if they ever discover it.
Ways to notice the effect of the switch
- A noise or light coming from the direction of the effect (Grinding gears, monster voices, dogs howling, water running, et. al.)
- A change in wind pressure, new breezes or smells
- Opening a door, portal, gate, or other passage
- Scenery changes due to teleporter
Switches can be hidden. The switch is usually a false object, detectable due to discoloration or structure. Sometimes real objects are used (such as a real book in a bookcase) but constant use eventually causes damage. The false object is often hid among several actual real items to increase the illusion.
Because the objects don’t usually move (except to trigger the switch). They may be covered in dust, or show differing signs of wear compared to other similar objects. If the object is freestanding, it often must be attached to a surface with a hinge or nails. The latch is often triggered by cables or ropes hidden within the walls. Tilting the device, pulls a rope, triggering some event.
If the object moves against another surface, such as a torch sconce that rotates against the walls, it will leave marks from the use. Cheap latches will have visible hinges, making it very obvious. More complicated triggers should be considered tricks and designed with those guidelines in mind.
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