Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Thoughts on Traps in DnD Next

I’ve been reworking Ch 2 of Reclaiming Blingdenstone, and since there are kobolds involved, there are obviously a lot of traps.

Actually (as my 3-year-old would say) there aren’t a lot of traps.  There are basically just nets that drop from the ceiling.  Over and over and over and C’MON PEOPLE.  TRY A BIT HARDER.  There is also a pit trap and some kobolds leaping out of holes in the walls!  Oh they are soooooo crafty.

But something is confusing me a bit with the checks involved in traps.  I also noticed this with the secret doors in Chapter 3. 

Let’s quote:
Falling Net Traps: Characters can attempt a DC 15 Wisdom check to spot either the net stretched above the passage or one of the tripwires near the floor. A character actively searching needs to make a DC 13 Intelligence check instead. If a character finds anything, the adventurers can search to find the three tripwires with three successful DC 13 Intelligence checks and avoid the trap entirely.

I’m sorta OK with the DC 15 Wisdom check.  It means that a rogue with find/remove traps will find it automatically (take 10 and +6 bonus from +3 default and +3 trained skill).  Is that good?  Less rolling means more streamlined play…  But that means that all these traps are basically no threat to a party that includes the pre-gens…  Which it’s assumed they will…  Sure a lot of text here for something that seems unlikely to ever threaten the party.  But anyways, forging on.

What I don’t get is "3 successful DC 13 Intelligence checks".  Why are we switching back and forth from Wis (useful for spotting things) to Int (useful for making you pretentious to talk to at parties)?    And why 3?  And why DC 13? 

If the party has a rogue, these are found automatically (Take 10 and +3 check default).  If they don’t have a rogue, they have to roll 3 times?  Why not just 1 roll with a DC of 15 to accommodate the fact that they have to find 3 tripwires?  More waste of rolling, and why would the mage (generally speaking) be theoretically better at finding tripwires than the rogue, who presumably does this in order to keep on living?  Makes no sense to me.

The whole thing is even worse in Chapter 3 with the secret doors and pit traps:
A successful DC 15 Intelligence is required to find this secret door. A successful DC 13 Intelligence check  made while searching the wall at the end of the long alcove to the north reveals a pressure plate. Pressing the plate causes the door to slide open. Otherwise, the door can be forced open with a DC 17 Strength check, which breaks its mechanism.

WHY INT?  Now the rogue doesn’t find it automatically at least, but Int?  I can see maybe the Int check to figure out how the door opens.  I like the idea of the wizard glancing over, then saying offhand “l expect that the pressure plate down at the end of the hall there opens the secret door.  That or the elvish word for ‘friend’”, then going back to doing whatever he was doing.   But spotting it using Int makes no sense to me. 

The pit traps are even WORSE:
Anyone searching for traps can find it with a DC 13 Intelligence check, and it can be jammed closed with two DC 15 Dexterity checks. Otherwise, the trap triggers when a character reaches the center of the hallway, dropping everyone in the hall into the pit. Those who are near the outer edge can attempt a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw to leap to safety.

More INT checks.  Was this written by a different person?  Are they paying attention to their own rules?  Who can say?  It’s like they don’t even know about the find/remove traps skill.  And now we have moved to Dex checks to jam it?  2 of them?  Adding to the fun, on the map their appears to be a 10-foot walkway on either side of the pit that isn’t included in the description…  If you’re going to recycle maps, at least try to pay attention to them.

It doesn’t do any good to bitch about this stuff if you don’t try to fix it, so here are my alternative takes on traps and secret doors:

Pit Traps: This hall contains a covered pit trap. The pit will be noticed with a DC 17 Wisdom (or find/remote traps check).  Anyone specifically searching for traps can find it with a DC 13 Wisdom (or Find/Remove Traps) check, and it can be jammed closed with a DC 15 Dexterity (or Find/Remove traps) check. Otherwise, the trap triggers if 2 or more characters are standing  on trapped squares, dropping everyone in the hall into the pit. Those who are near the outer edge and are wearing light or medium armor can attempt a Dexterity saving throw (Light armor DC 12, Medium DC 15) to leap to safety.

Secret Doors: A successful DC 17 Wisdom check is required to notice this secret door.  Anyone specifically searching the hallway will find it with a DC 13 Wisdom check.  A successful DC 13 Wisdom or Int check identifies a pressure plate at the end of the hallway that opens the door. Pressing the plate causes the door to slide open. Otherwise, the door can be forced open with a DC 17 Strength check, which breaks its mechanism.

Net Traps: Characters notice either the net stretched above the passage or one of the tripwires near the floor with a DC 17 Wisdom (or Find/remove traps) check.  A character actively searching needs to make a DC 13 check instead.  If the trap is noticed, a DC 15 Wisdom (or Find/remove traps) disarms the trap.
If a net falls, characters in the twenty-foot diameter area of the net must make edge can attempt a Dexterity saving throw (Light armor DC 8, Medium DC 10, Heavy DC 15) to avoid being restrained beneath the net.  A restrained character can cut the net with a slashing weapon (2 rounds) or escape with a DC 13 Strength or Dexterity check (1 round).


  1. The difference between Wis and Int (as gleaned from previous editions) is this:

    Wis is your passive score. You are walking down the hall, minding your own business. Part of the trap might be viewable in your peripheral vision or something. The wisdom test is for your brain to subconsciously correlate random happenstance and partially-noticed clues into some sort of warning flag. To a large extent, it is a matter of instincts.

    Int is for active searching. You think something might be there, so you have turned your attention to it. Instead of passively noticing things, you are actively trying to formulate where and how something might be hidden. It is a matter of logic and deduction.

    It sort of makes sense. Still some weird corner cases, though.

  2. It kinda sorta makes sense. But that leads to the the inevitable issue of the rogue being better at spotting traps when he's just whistling along minding his own business than when he's ACTIVELY LOOKING FOR THEM. Which isn't something I want to encourage (or explain to skeptical players, frankly).

    I'm OK with using Int to disarm traps or figure out stuff once it's been found, but I'm going to stick with Wis checks for most aspects of actually finding them. Stuff like this is specifically hidden - finding it is a combination of training, subtle clues and "feel".

    And as a DM, I get to make the call, by god(s).

  3. I feel like these recent games have really messed up trap procedures. If there are nets stretched over the top of a passageway, and a player states that their character looks up, they should just find it. Why roll for that? The classic trade-off for trap searching is time spent. So in the case above, if the player does not specify that they look up, they can roll to find the trap using whatever mechanic the game uses (wisdom check, thief % skill, whatever). Then the referee rolls a random encounter check to represent the time spent. If the check is successful, then the ref tells the player about the nets above. It's so much more elegant and dynamic, and give a reason for players to not just say "I search for traps" (how boring) every time the character enters a room or examines a door.

    Regarding wisdom versus intelligence, neither is really a good choice for finding traps because of how they are used by wizards and clerics, respectively. In either case, another class is going to be naturally better at the thief's "thing" which seems wrong. See here for more discussion on that:


    That said, I like the idea of wisdom giving a passive bonus (from intuition, common sense) and intelligence giving an active bonus (from analysis, rationality). That seems to make diegetic sense, and also allows interesting synergies for different kinds of characters.

  4. Well, your assumption is that you have to follow the presented rules for finding the traps. That's a trap in and of itself, and one that people keep getting into. You're totally free to override any rules requiring people to make checks if their actual actions would result in you finding the trap or secret.

    Also, we're really only looking at the rules for 1st level. A 1st level cleric might be as good as a thief at seeing traps, but a thief will also have find/remove traps skills that will improve a lot faster than straight stat bonuses. Generally, as long as the thief has appropriate skills, they will be better at specific tasks.

    Still, I agree with you that doing stats as the primary can be problematic. Thing to remember I think is that specific skills override stat rolls, and good playing can override both.