Monday, August 30, 2021

OED Traps Digest

Yesterday on Wandering DMs we pretty much had a blast trying (not quite succeeding) at designing an entire dungeon adventure live in a single hour. This was not just wildly productive, it was so much fun!

Among the things you'd see if you watched that is that when push comes to shove, Paul & I use a mishmash of whatever resources are at hand to get the job done. Some OD&D, B/X, and AD&D books get involved. We use Matt Finch's Tome of Adventure Design to get some initial ideas flowing. Plus a couple of custom resources via OED Games, of course. 

One such resource is the OED Monster Determination charts, which gets used as drop-in for OD&D monster tables. That's something that compiles monsters from later D&D products (i.e., original D&D Supplement I: Greyhawk by Gygax and Supplement II: Blackmoor by Arneson), and also gives me a lot more confidence in the relative danger levels, because they've been assessed by a few billion computer-simulated melees (see more detail in that linked page). 

Note that we only got our dungeon about half-stocked in the hour, with our special DM-designed tentpole areas, and one or two random monsters to boot. (Arguably the delay was me being my usual chatty self.) As we talked about finishing the rest in a future episode, likely with some tricks and traps, the question was posed how we flesh out those pieces. 

Here's the answer: I have another custom batch of tables called the OED Traps Digest that I've used behind-the-scenes for about 8 years now. One of the things that frustrated me a bit with classic D&D is that there's plenty of mentions in the books, tables even, for what kind of traps could be included -- but with just a few exceptions, no mechanical stats for those traps!

So the Traps Digest gives me a set of tables -- again, in a format that drops into the same OD&D system for determining monster levels -- from which I can either tastefully select or randomly roll, depending on the situation. And there are short "stat blocks" that I can copy-paste into adventure and not distract myself from writing the high-level content I'm rolling out for a dungeon area. Is it perfect? Probably not, but it's definitely saved me time and focus. 

Since viewers kindly asked about it, here it is. What do you think -- and what edits would you suggest? Tune in and see what comes from this the next time we do a Dungeon Design Dash episode. :-)

OED Traps Digest

23 comments:

  1. Been holding out on us :)
    Only edit I can see right now is maybe taking a page from later tables and using roman numerals to mark "mosnter/dungeon/Trap" level to help differentiate it from the other uses of level/numbers?

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    1. Interesting -- in this case I'm trying to intentionally tie it into the OD&D level of monster matrix system...

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  2. There are a few table entries that don't seem quite clear. I presume "Ball Trap" is the Raiders of the Lost Ark-style massive ball rolling after the party, but what is "Royal Statue"?

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  3. Okay, I should read the whole PDF... argh.

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    1. I might have secreted/trapped that on you, apologies! :-)

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  4. Hello Dan. Thanks for this nice collection. I'm using Inspiration Pad Pro to randomly generate rooms using OED rules for monsters, and now I can add traps! Would be nice to know your take on monster/trap/special distribution, and how do you stock and roll for magic items (since you already proved that OD&D treasure tables are stingy).

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    1. Thanks! I really have to get back to a conclusion for my "subterrane surveys" work from the start of last year for a proper theory of treasure/magic.

      Looking at Gygaxian modules, I've noted they tend to follow a pattern every 6 rooms like: 1-2 monster guards, 3 monster boss, 4 treasure, 5 trick/trap, 6 empty -- so I try to use that these days. The Moldvay B/X system is close enough that I'm comfortable with that, too (like we used in the WDMs speed design episode).

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  5. Love this. Definitely going to try it out when I get a game going here soon.

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  6. Nobody gonna survive Lvl 6 so the mega-dungeons can stop there :)

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    1. Keep in mind following something like the OD&D level determination matrix, level 6 traps (or monsters) aren't in the majority until dungeon levels 10+.

      Standard multi-purposing of "level" trouble. Baquies above had a good fair there. :-)

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  7. Love it, Delta! This is a really great mix of basic traps. The scaling is great and I like the extra layer of randomization from the level-of-encounter matrix.

    I think if I were dreaming up extra features...
    1) Split into natural hazards/mechanical traps/magical effects
    2) More 'trap includes monster' traps, or 'trap releases monster' encounters. I like demons held in magical wards, poisonous snakes and bugs held in suspended animation, and awakened undead
    3) A few alarms that trigger checks for wandering encounters (perhaps even a row of escalating alarms, varied by chance/number of encounter checks)
    4) A few traps that target the party's resources, such as spoiling food and water (maybe just reversed Purify Food and Water spell effect) or putting out light sources (gusts of wind, splashing water, great dumps of water, etc.)

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    1. Maybe a row like this, combining 2&3 (a very rough draft):

      1) Mechanical Alarm - a bell or gong is rung; triggers an extra random encounter check at normal rate as monsters come to investigate the noise.
      2) Insect Urn - a clay urn drops or is smashed open, releasing a swarm of venomous stinging insects that fill a 10' cube for 1d6 rounds before dissipating. Anyone caught in the area must save vs. Poison or lose 1d6 points of Strength for 1 hour.
      3) Scent Trap - a disgusting scent is sprayed over a 10'x10' area. Any party with at least one person covered in the scent has double the normal chances of a random encounter for 6 hours or until the scent is thoroughly washed off with alcohol.
      4) Torpid Undead - a hostile undead creature appropriate to the dungeon level is released from torpor when the trap is triggered.
      5) Alarm Spell - a magical spell alerts monsters throughout the dungeon that will come to investigate. Roll a random encounter check every round for the next turn.
      6) Demonic Circle - triggering the trap breaks a magic circle containing a Balrog, which will act aggressively.

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    2. A few of the entries could probably stand to have a note about how they combine with encountering a monster and/or treasure in the same location. For instance, "Door, Poison Needle" could instead indicate that the needle is on a treasure container or hidden among the valuables within.

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    3. I've always been inspired by the list of "damps" from early-industrial ere coalmining accidents (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_mining#Dangers_to_miners) as a set of natural and insidious gas hazards, especially since they are appropriate in areas that don't have deliberately constructed magical or mechanical traps.

      Suffocating and exploding/incendiary gasses are an interesting challenge.

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    4. Oh wow, those are *VERY* good ideas! I got in two "alarm" related traps (ball trap, net) and one "resource depletion" (corroding gas), but I agree it might flesh out the theme to have some more (maybe 3 apiece?). Invaluable link, too, fascinating. Definitely yoinking all these ideas for a future update. Thank you!

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  8. I'm not a big fan of random effect lists for traps (I prefer to think of effects that would be sensible in the context of a given dungeon and then work backwards to come up with triggers and implementation accordingly) nor of scaling trap threat by a level metric (I prefer being driven by an undefinable mix of context and how obvious it is that the trap is a trap), so this isn't the best resource for me. That said, more options to roll on if I'm hitting a mental block never hurts. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

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    1. Sure, I don't disagree! I think a table like this is best to pick from intentionally, generate a seed of an idea, and roll on randomly only as a last resort.

      Which admittedly I'm often in that "last resort" situation myself. I'm sure you and others can do better. :-)

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    2. Nothing wrong with rolling, particularly if you're pinched for time. As much as I like having flavor to traps that matches with narrative/meta-narrative elements (e.g. having different types of traps in a bandit lair vs a wizard tower vs a lost tomb imprisoning an ancient demon) and purpose that goes beyond just existing because people expect D&D to have traps (e.g. the hidden portcullis in T1's lower layer is fantastic since it has different tactical impacts depending on the locations of the PCs and nearby NPCs when it drops), I think a lot of that is DM lonely fun πŸ˜…

      Sure, it feels good when players pay attention to that stuff and turn it to their advantage, but ultimately, as long as the reaction to a trap is more along the lines of "cool!" or "oh no!" rather than "oh, ok 🀷‍♂️", it's a good trap πŸ™‚

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  9. Thanks! Good collection of classic traps.

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