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Old 06-10-2021, 07:17 PM   #31
Michael Thayne
 
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

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Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
Sure, but I think it's essential to accept that in settings with gods, magic, and wonder materials, "silly" traps are exactly what you're talking about: They're a small facet of a broader effort to say that, for consistency's sake, all those spells, miracles, and extraordinary substances must change the face of economics (e.g., a cash economy at nominal TL3, and even the poor trading in minted silver and gold) and technology (which ends up pushing TL(3+1)^ or TL(3+2)^). They can't just result in fireballs, healing spells, and mithril armor for adventurers.

The traps are part of "changing technology." They're internally consistent with healing potions and elven carriages, no doubt. It's just that it's a ton of work to map out exactly how one leads to the other, and what the precise made-up pseudoscience and wild technology underlying them is. I firmly believe that GMs with limited time budgets and authors with limited pages can be excused for hand-waving this mapping as part of the +1)^ or +2)^ that I mentioned. Standing in the real world and trying to define exactly how divergent and superscience tech works is a bit like standing in the present and trying to predict the future: If you could really do it, you'd have that tech in the real world! But you can't.
This is all fair, but it runs into trouble when trap technology can do things non-trap technology can't. Fair enough to have unreasonably effective poison traps if assassins are smearing the same poisons on their knives, but why (in some settings) is the perpetual motion technology that seems to power certain traps never used elsewhere? And this does nothing to address the other half of this problem—the fact that some dungeon layouts seem to imply inhabitants who can teleport so long as no player character is within 500 feet.
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Old 06-11-2021, 03:39 AM   #32
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

As to "when" if you happen to lay hands on some of the very early Dragon ... or even The Dragon magazines, they occasionally feature some traps varying from the outlandish to the silly - and those are from the late 70s and 80s. Likewise, many of their contemporary gaming mags have write in slots with reader designed traps as silly as anything in Grimtooth.
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Old 06-11-2021, 08:23 AM   #33
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

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Originally Posted by Michael Thayne View Post

This is all fair, but it runs into trouble when trap technology can do things non-trap technology can't. Fair enough to have unreasonably effective poison traps if assassins are smearing the same poisons on their knives, but why (in some settings) is the perpetual motion technology that seems to power certain traps never used elsewhere?
I can't honestly say that I've seen this happen – in GURPS, anyway.

I've often explained extraordinary traps as having parts enchanted with such Making and Breaking spells as Fasten, Knot, and (especially) Animate Object, or such Movement spells as Glue, Grease, Pull, Repel, and (especially) Dancing Object – often alongside Link tied to suitable Information spells.

These spells exist in the game world in general, and have all their non-trap uses. On traps, they show up in places built or operated by individuals with wealth or great magical resources (like most dungeons!). Elsewhere, they show up on the homes, businesses, and vehicles of . . . well, individuals with wealth or great magical resources. What makes one application more or less common than the other is found in the answer to the question, "Where are there more people with wealth or great magical resources?" If there's an evil god who goes around granting evil temples excellent security, whereas mortal wizards need to put in massive work to place the same enchantments, you might just find more of this stuff on traps.

As for the question "What keeps PCs from stealing this magical stuff and getting rich selling it?", the answer is "That depends." In most cases, I simply invoke the rules: The power of a magic item endures until the physical item breaks, at which point the magic dissolves permanently. Traps are built into things and the magical parts are affixed to the nonmagical parts in such a way that prying the enchanted items out breaks them and removes the magic – so sad, too bad. But in a few cases, the trap is the treasure, which has plenty of pulp precedent!

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And this does nothing to address the other half of this problem—the fact that some dungeon layouts seem to imply inhabitants who can teleport so long as no player character is within 500 feet.
"Moves at the speed of plot" is in fact a tried-and-true dramatic device of pulp genres, fantasy, horror, and more. The idea of a set piece where everything is defined before the fact and can be deciphered, gamed, and analyzed by the players of the game isn't wrong, but it's a special kind of gaming that prioritizes simulation over plot.

But also, lots of people have proposed ways in which dungeon inhabitants can avoid being harmed or even seriously inconvenienced by traps. There are keys that deactivate traps temporarily, traps that simply require knowing where not to step or when to duck, secret passages around traps, and more. With my magical traps, there's that Link spell and its Information spells, which can include Sense Foes, or just Sense Life in a crypt full of undead. Honestly, I find it fairly easy to justify traps with magic, but real-life security systems use keys, and some have other workarounds, all of which work in fantasy, too.
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Old 06-11-2021, 11:52 AM   #34
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

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As to "when" if you happen to lay hands on some of the very early Dragon ... or even The Dragon magazines, they occasionally feature some traps varying from the outlandish to the silly - and those are from the late 70s and 80s. Likewise, many of their contemporary gaming mags have write in slots with reader designed traps as silly as anything in Grimtooth.
What the first post means by "silly" isn't something like the Grimtooth trap that's a lock whose trap fires a sharpened, poisoned telephone pole from the opposite wall (the poison's for those who claim their character can survive being hit by a sharpened telephone pole), it's the existence of functioning mechanical traps and deadly poisons in structures that haven't seen any maintenance for over a century. (That's why I use such things as indicators that the structure currently has sapient occupants, even if they're not the originals - orcs may not be adept at inventing, say, delicately-counterbalanced levers between a floor tile and a loaded spring-launcher for spears, but they can reload and maintain the launcher and the balancing mechanism.)
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Old 06-11-2021, 11:53 AM   #35
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

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I can't honestly say that I've seen this happen – in GURPS, anyway.

I've often explained extraordinary traps as having parts enchanted with such Making and Breaking spells as Fasten, Knot, and (especially) Animate Object, or such Movement spells as Glue, Grease, Pull, Repel, and (especially) Dancing Object – often alongside Link tied to suitable Information spells.
Has this approach been explicitly used in published GURPS products? IME published adventures for That Other Game System tend to want traps to be non-magical whenever possible—perhaps so they can't be dealt with via dispel magic so that thieves have "something to do". Indeed a lot of what I suspect is annoying me here is when I read adventures that seem written around the principle "we need to make sure the Rogue's points in Disable Device don't go to waste" (to use the 3.X terminology).
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Old 06-12-2021, 04:20 PM   #36
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

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The idea of a set piece where everything is defined before the fact and can be deciphered, gamed, and analyzed by the players of the game isn't wrong, but it's a special kind of gaming that prioritizes simulation over plot.
It also gives the character-players agency and diminishes the arbitrary power of the GM.
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Old 06-12-2021, 08:09 PM   #37
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It also gives the character-players agency and diminishes the arbitrary power of the GM.
That appeals to me, but then I've always liked the monkey's way better than the kitten's way. But I think there is an approach to gaming based on the expectation that "We're the heroes, so the author [GM] is on our side!" And I think many people like that.
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Old 06-12-2021, 08:32 PM   #38
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

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That appeals to me, but then I've always liked the monkey's way better than the kitten's way. But I think there is an approach to gaming based on the expectation that "We're the heroes, so the author [GM] is on our side!" And I think many people like that.
It's possible to like both approaches, depending on who you game with. But as a GM, if you game mostly with fans of just one of the ways of looking at this, you come to focus your skills in that area.

For instance, I've always been a highly extroverted, non-traditional, liberal-minded improviser – the sort who likes do-it-yourself punk music, makes career choices based on feelings, just kisses the girl, cooks without a recipe, invents cocktails, and is now deeply invested in a fully improvised dance with no standard patterns. I've always attracted likeminded people who preferred to ad-lib quite literally everything. That includes those I game with: We're gaming for the laughs and socialization, and there's no "power imbalance" in the first place because I just let players alter "how things are" as takes their fancy . . . which makes having a laid-out, mapped, planned version of how things are seriously uncool.

The irony of this being that I need Rule Zero, not because it lets me be the boss, but because I'm going to have to say, "Damn what the rules say, where we're going is more fun!" anyway, so I prefer to have that eventuality spelled out ahead of time.
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Old 06-12-2021, 09:02 PM   #39
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

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For instance, I've always been a highly extroverted, non-traditional, liberal-minded improviser – the sort who likes do-it-yourself punk music, makes career choices based on feelings, just kisses the girl, cooks without a recipe, invents cocktails, and is now deeply invested in a fully improvised dance with no standard patterns.
The only one of those that applies to me is "cooks without a recipe," and only some of the time. In fact, one of my principles of roleplaying is that rather than having my characters carefully analyze what they're going to do, from a position back inside their heads watching what's going on, they tend to charge in and do what their impulses tell them—which is often what my impulses suggest they might do. But that's precisely because I do live in my own head a lot, and so I'm taking the opportunity to play someone very different from me.

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I've always attracted likeminded people who preferred to ad-lib quite literally everything. That includes those I game with: We're gaming for the laughs and socialization, and there's no "power imbalance" in the first place because I just let players alter "how things are" as takes their fancy . . . which makes having a laid-out, mapped, planned version of how things are seriously uncool.
I wouldn't say that I never do that. For example, I once ran a session of Hellcats and Hockeysticks, an RPG based on St. Trinians, for five women friends, where pretty much everything was sheer improv—and we all had a great time. But my dominant style is at the other pole. I used to say that when the first session of actual play started, the best part of the campaign was over!
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Old 06-13-2021, 08:35 AM   #40
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Essentially, I'm not somebody who gets a lot out of breaking codes, solving mysteries, doing puzzles, cracking conundrums, beating games, etc. in my downtime. When not at work, I seek entertainment rather than accomplishment, and the idea that there is at least one (perhaps several) critical paths through a situation, awaiting my discovery through analysis, is the opposite of entertaining for me. On personal time, I prefer to have few limits save for those of decency, and to function creatively in directions orthogonal to "the expected." This probably explains why I left the sciences to work on RPGs and make things up! (Indeed, I got into the sciences thinking I could float and test blue-sky theories, and was thoroughly disheartened when I realized the majority approach was to view the universe as mysteries to solve in closed form.)

In those old "Real Men, Real Roleplayers, Loonies and Munchkins" memes that used to float around the Internet, I was 50% "Real Roleplayer" and 50% "Loony." I always saw solving problems as being for "Real Men" ("We'll defeat them through major force and good tactics, hrr hrr.") or "Munchkins" ("We'll figure out the optimal use of resources and plusses."). I preferred to do what my alter-ego would do or just what seemed amusing – in both cases, damn the consequences.

Anyway, all this informs how I see traps: They serve to help tell dramatic tales of heroic exploration. They're like Chandler's man with a gun, bursting in to maintain the pace; they aren't like some gadget in a Tom Clancy technothriller, described in minute detail so the heroes can show off their technical expertise. So to me, traps get "silly" when prescribed in excessive detail. I mean, they're basically McGuffins, so how they work isn't important next to what effect they have on the story. If that effect is solid, then the trap isn't "silly" because it has served its purpose admirably!
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