Alternate Traphandling System That's a Lot of Fun!


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

Sczarni

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In my game we have changed the way traps are handled in order to not make trapfinding and disabling primarily just the rogue's trick. It's been well received and has made the idea of trap encounters fun and something to look forward to for the party.

We removed Disable Device as a skill. On class skill lists that have Disable Device, Knowledge (Engineering) replaces that skill instead.

Perception remains the primary way to spot traps, or at least perceive if something is amiss. Traps now have a Solution DC that falls under Finesse, Force, and/or Logic. Some traps may have multiple Solutions to bypass.

For mechanical traps, Knowledge (Engineering), Craft (Trapmaking), or Profession (Trapsmith) can identify the mechanism of the trap and determine whether Finesse, Force, or Logic is needed to bypass it. For magical traps, depending on the esoteric focus of the trap, Knowledge (Arcana), Knowledge (Religion), or Knowledge (Planes) can determine the Solution possibilities to bypass or disable the trap. Magical effects on traps can always be dispelled or countered with the same spell or the spell 'Dispel Magic.'

Finesse will require, usually, Dexterity based skills like Acrobatics or Sleight of Hand, or even a well placed arrow or skipstone.

Force will mean some kind of martial action can essentially break the trap, whether it's destroying a component by dealing enough damage to it, jamming something into a vital mechanism, or some sort of Strength skill or check.

Logic will indicate that bypassing the mechanism can merely require the solving of a riddle, puzzle, or possibly the possession of some obscure knowledge. This will require a Wisdom or Intelligence based skill check to show your party's warrior that nerds are cool.

Lockpicking is now handled merely with Sleight of Hand, Craft (Locks), and Profession (Locksmith).

The advantage to this method has been that the party has been able to work together to deal with traps, make trap encounters more cinematic, and decrease the reliance on a rogue in a party that wants to delve into ancient crypts or raid bandit hideouts. Also, and most importantly, it's been a heck of a lot of fun to play! Now my group looks forward to using their class abilities to outsmart the trapmaker!

What are your thoughts or opinions? Could something like this be implemented to enhance Pathfinder 2E?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Funny. My problem with the trap system isn't disabling. It's detecting.

The issue I have is that traps are auto-detected by any party involving experienced players who know maxing out Perception is a mandatory. Traps almost never happen at my table because parties develop Standard Operating Procedure. Before opening a door, drop a detect magic and take 10 on a Perception. That gets virtually all traps, so... boring.

I don't know what I'd do to "fix" that, or even if I should.

Maybe remove Perception to find traps entirely. Sorry, but these are the traps you don't find... the ones you did find, you dealt with. But that probably makes things too deadly, and doesn't reward smart characters.

Maybe make detecting traps a flat percentage unrelated to Perception. Give trapfinding classes a bonus to their percentage. This might be my favorite answer.

Maybe remove detection and build in a timer, so traps are triggered, but they don't (usually) happen immediately. Instead, roll initiative and give a trap a roll, and it goes some time in the turn. If someone disables it before it goes, great. Otherwise... less great. I like this but it takes away the idea of someone good enough to see the tripwire before it's too late.

Disabling traps... I'm comfortable with that just being a simple roll... though I do like some of your ideas.


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Anguish wrote:

The issue I have is that traps are auto-detected by any party involving experienced players who know maxing out Perception is a mandatory. Traps almost never happen at my table because parties develop Standard Operating Procedure. Before opening a door, drop a detect magic and take 10 on a Perception. That gets virtually all traps, so... boring.

I don't know what I'd do to "fix" that, or even if I should.

Option: Harder Perception DCs. If they need to roll an 11 to find the average trap, they won't take 10.

Option: Make Search a separate skill from Perception. Perception to spot living creatures, Search to spot concealed pressure plates.

Option: Don't put traps in the places they're likely to search. If they check every door, put the trap in the corridor. If they slow down to check everywhere as they explore, put traps in rooms where they're taking missile fire so if they stop to look for traps they can't fight back. If they use Detect Magic, put more magic around; magic lighting, magic items, traps that look like magic items, magic door-opening mechanisms that disable the door if 'disarmed'...


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Matthew Downie wrote:
Option: Harder Perception DCs. If they need to roll an 11 to find the average trap, they won't take 10.

I hear you, but that opens up its own can of worms. DCs are... inconsistent, so just adding 5 or 10 or even 15 isn't guaranteed to net pleasant results.

But worse... the worst kind of trap is one that is found and disabled. Why? Because it's this huge wordcount in the book that doesn't DO anything. Sure, as a DM I can describe its purpose. But it's not dissimilar to describing what a BBEG could have done if he'd shown up for the fight.

I'm thinking that interesting traps should usually get to "show off". Random spiked pits or cut rope bridges... not so much. But again, I'm of (at least) two minds on the whole topic.

Quote:
Option: Make Search a separate skill from Perception. Perception to spot living creatures, Search to spot concealed pressure plates.

Yeah, that's back to 3.5e, which isn't a bad thing. But it'll just be another skill that gets maxed.

Quote:
Option: Don't put traps in the places they're likely to search. If they check every door, put the trap in the corridor. If they slow down to check everywhere as they explore, put traps in rooms where they're taking missile fire so if they stop to look for traps they can't fight back. If they use Detect Magic, put more magic around; magic lighting, magic items, traps that look like magic items, magic door-opening mechanisms that disable the door if 'disarmed'...

Again, I hear you, and appreciate the time you've spent. You're not wrong. But we run published material. Sure, we alter the odd thing, inserting monsters here or there, or making more personal touches, but nobody here has the time to renovate dungeons to have traps positioned where players expect them to be.


Anguish wrote:
But worse... the worst kind of trap is one that is found and disabled. Why? Because it's this huge wordcount in the book that doesn't DO anything.

That's not such a bad thing. The player gets to feel good that their caution and investment in trap-finding paid off. "You find a magical alarm; if you hadn't spotted it, the whole fortress would have been alerted."

A trap that isn't found often isn't much better. You try to open the door. You take some damage. You use some healing. You carry on.

Anguish wrote:
we run published material

Moving a trap to be in a less predictable position, or adding a distraction so the players might not look for it, is one of the easier modifications you could make.


I actually think the worst kind of trap is the one where you're better off not finding it.

This has come up twice in PFS. The first time the "trap" was a magic mouth effect that gives the party some useful information. If you spotted it and disarmed it, oops.

The second time the trap summoned some critters that we had to kill, so it's possible that we'd have been better off not doing that. Except, none of us had the capacity to disarm magical traps except my character, and she could only do it by spending a scroll of Aram Zey's Focus. So if we'd spotted the trap, I'd have spent 150gp later on a new scroll. But since we didn't, we had a pretty easy fight and incurred less expense.

With regards to the OP: I can think of three useful approaches to traps. One is to turn them into an interesting thing to interact with, their own minigame, which is basically what the OP has here. The second is to turn them into hazards as part of set-piece encounters. EG there's a big spikey log in the boss room and it's obvious that if you stand in the wrong place the kobolds will let it swing, but you're not surprised by that - it's part of the terrain for this fight. Third: just don't bother with them. Having them be a couple of skill checks to resolve and hence a skill rank tax for one player is basically... boring. Though of course, a common approach in many systems.


I've had 2 problems with traps in my games: 1, they don't get everyone in the party involved and 2, they're pass/fail.

I like the OP's suggestions of using the 3 tiers (Finesse, Logic, Force) to deal with disabling the traps. This helps to solve #1 and gives everyone the chance to do something if they detect a trap. The pass/fail thing though, that one's always bugged me.

For awhile I tried running traps like an encounter. First, there was a Perception check to notice the device in the party's midst, but only if they were actively searching or a character with Trapfinding wandered within 10' of the thing.

Trap combat houserule:
If the trap wasn't detected, it did its thing. If the Perception check succeeded, we'd move into "combat" rounds. Everyone would roll initiative and on their initiative I'd ask the player what they were doing. I encouraged and incentivized characters to use the Aid Another mechanic to help each other and had a house rule that skills other than Disable Device could be used in the Aid Another action on traps.

For example there was a door in an abandoned dwarf mine that was trapped, but the trap was built by a group of kobolds who'd moved in after the place was vacated. The ranger of the party noticed the trap and had Disable Device so his actions were to try and bypass the crossbow mechanism in the upper corner. The half-elf wizard asked if she could use Knowledge: Local to Aid Another. When she rolled well I granted the +2 since she was able to identify that the trap was likely kobold-make and they sometimes add dummy triggers to mechanical traps to trip up nosy intruders.

So finally the roll to Disable would be thrown, with all applicable bonuses. At this point a detected trap is either beaten or it's not in a standard game. In my foolishness I tried to add an element of danger to these encounters and would work out the HP and Hardness on trap triggers for many of my homebrewed adventures.

The Disable Device skill says that it takes 1d4 rounds to beat a trap on a successful roll. I subbed "Disable Damage" having the character's final Disable roll deal an amount of damage that had to get through the Hardness based on the final D20 roll, -10. So in the above example, the ranger got a total of 23 on his check, meaning he did 23 damage to the crossbow trap. Since the device is primarily wood I gave it 10 HP and a 5 Hardness. The first round he dealt 8 damage.

I would give the trap an action then. The trap had to make a Perception check, with the modifier of the check starting at +5 for CR 1 and going up from there, to detect it was being tampered with; magical traps got a +2 to this roll. The DC was the player's final Disable Device check. If the trap succeeded in its Perception check, it went off; otherwise it continued to sit passively.

This is a convoluted way of saying the PCs had skill combat with the trap. These encounters worked a little at low levels but at higher levels the PCs' bonuses were just too crazy for traps to keep up without every trap being a punitive deathtrap. Also after the novelty of the mechanic wore off my players didn't enjoy the extra maths and such we'd have to work out. Not to mention I'd have to add HP, Hardness and Perception to all my traps!

Once the PCs got bored with it they just began finding ways around the traps. Pit trap? Levitation scroll and a good push, problem solved. Lightning Bolt statue? Unseen Servant dragging a tower shield. Or else the fighter would just eat the damage and get healed/cured after the fact.

Now I'm back to the default mechanics from the game. I try to use traps organically. Trap-making monsters have an understanding that more powerful prey such as adventurers are capable of surviving their diabolical devices. For this reason they usually have some backup guardian keeping sentry on many of their trap points. Monsters can't be everywhere and even the most intelligent, organized and disciplined LE creatures still slack on guard duty from time to time, but in general I'm usually rolling a Perception check for monsters near a trap to notice it's being disabled.

If my current game's investigator is hard at work for 3 rounds on a Scorching Ray trapped wall carving, the rest of the party better have their heads on swivels for the bugbears hired to watch the door from down the hall...


Matthew Downie wrote:
Anguish wrote:

The issue I have is that traps are auto-detected by any party involving experienced players who know maxing out Perception is a mandatory. Traps almost never happen at my table because parties develop Standard Operating Procedure. Before opening a door, drop a detect magic and take 10 on a Perception. That gets virtually all traps, so... boring.

I don't know what I'd do to "fix" that, or even if I should.

Option: Harder Perception DCs. If they need to roll an 11 to find the average trap, they won't take 10.

Option: Make Search a separate skill from Perception. Perception to spot living creatures, Search to spot concealed pressure plates.

Option: Don't put traps in the places they're likely to search. If they check every door, put the trap in the corridor. If they slow down to check everywhere as they explore, put traps in rooms where they're taking missile fire so if they stop to look for traps they can't fight back. If they use Detect Magic, put more magic around; magic lighting, magic items, traps that look like magic items, magic door-opening mechanisms that disable the door if 'disarmed'...

+1 to all, but especially splitting Perception and Search; a rare occasion where 3.5 handled something better than PF1...

However, I don’t have the GMing chutzpah to impose or pull it off in my campaign amongst my group...

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