Friday, 17 August 2018

34 Good Traps

A good trap should:

  • Announce its presence. 
  • Allow interaction and investigation.
  • Have impactful consequences for the victim. 

  • I've gone on before about the three pillars of running a good game (Information, Choice, Consequences) and you'll notice they match up with these three points.

    In short, your trap should have room for interesting interaction between "oh, a trap!" and "I'm dead". The trap doesn't have to announce itself immediately, it can even "trap" the players before announcing itself as long as there's still room for interaction beyond that.

    You can break the rules if it's connected to the theme of your specific scenario. Like your Tomb of Horrors style deathtrap dungeon might be full of hidden traps that don't announce themselves, but you're breaking that rule as a specific exception for this particular dungeon. If you're going to do this, make sure the payoff is worth breaking the rule for.

    Context is also important. You don't just stick a trap in a corridor and call it a day. Connect the trap to its location, most typically a passageway to somewhere desirable, a piece of treasure, or link it in with a monster. You wouldn't just drop a monster into an empty room, so give trap placement the same level of consideration.

    I blur the line between Puzzles and Traps a lot, but here I'm sticking to things that are placed deliberately to impair intruders, with nasty consequences.

    So here are 34 good, simple traps. Some classics that meet the benchmark, some new stuff I just made up, some lodged in my brain but originally stolen. 

    1. Open pit onto deadly spikes. Both sides of the pit are sloped into it and greased up.
    2. Concealed pit into piranha-filled water.
    3. Metal sword audibly humming, hooked up to electric charge.
    4. Green Devil Face with gaping mouth. Anything going into the mouth is annihilated. 
    5. A fishing rod propped up and cast into a lake. The rod is covered in fast-acting glue and tension on the line triggers a springboard beneath the victim, casting them into the lake.
    6. A column of light. When a being enters they are frozen, and an evil duplicate of them is conjured. The victim is only freed when the duplicate is killed.
    7. Walls dotted with arrow-slots. Any movement in front of them fires the arrow, but each hole only has one arrow.
    8. Upside-down spiked pit on the ceiling. Gravity is reversed under the pit. 
    9. Clusters of bright orange fungus growing on one or more corpses. Any disturbance triggers a deadly spore explosion. 
    10. Glass vials of green slime hung from a ceiling, a guard with a crossbow watching from behind a barricade.
    11. Two panes of glass blocking passage, filled with deadly bugs. 
    12. Shimmering, thick air that slows all movement down to a quarter of normal. Guards with missile weapons waiting around the corner.
    13. Glossy, friction-less floor and spiked walls.
    14. A metal room filled with crushed remains, visible moving parts to floor, and a sealed door leading forward. Two buttons. One opens the door, the other seals all doors and commences the crushing process.
    15. A peephole blocked up with glass fragments. Breaking the fragments releases a toxic gas.
    16. Giant chomping blade that must be passed through to progress. Visible pressure plate on either side. Blades are triggered when a pressure plate is released, unless the other plate is also depressed. Going slow poses no risk. 
    17. Stuck door with a gold snake-head handle. The handle will bite and poison anybody putting their hand near, unless they slip a coin into its mouth, allowing safe passage through the door.
    18. Disguised springboard, launching the victim straight up into the air. There is a hanging bar they can grab to avoid the fall, but weight on the bar triggers the release of giant spiders onto it, and rained down onto anyone below.
    19. Room dusted with a deadly white powder. Any rapid movement disturbs the powder, sending it into the air and then the lungs of anybody breathing nearby. Hidden pressure plate in the center of the room triggers a loud siren, alerting any nearby threats.
    20. Locked door, key visible in a stinky fountain. The liquid is fast-acting acid, the key made from a special resistant ceramic.
    21. Rope bridge primed to split in the middle when the majority of the crossing weight has passed the mid-point. The characters can grab their half of the bridge and climb back up easily enough.
    22. Damp, underwater tunnel with glowing treasure at a visible dead end. A pressure plate halfway through triggers flooding of the tunnel. A normal human could get back to the tunnel exit with breath to spare, but not if they try to grab the treasure first. 
    23. Two doors in sequence. First sprays anybody passing through with highly flammable liquid. Second spits out a flash of flame, harmless on its own but enough to ignite the liquid.
    24. Sloped walkway in a freezing cold room. Pressure plate halfway up releases a flood of water down the slope, freezing near instantly. 
    25. Haunted pots, audible screaming within, placed on wobbly plinths on an uneven floor. Any sort of weight on the floor is sure to release at least one angry wraith.
    26. Pool of lava, a metal idol partially submerged in the center. It's glowing hot, but valuable.
    27. Big metal skull with a gem in its open, toothy mouth. Obviously it bites anything put inside.
    28. Quicksand, just like in cartoons. 
    29. Giant spider lair, huge boulders suspended in the highest webs. Too much disturbance might release a boulder, fire will definitely release them all.
    30. Bear trap.
    31. Sealed door with two identical handles on the adjacent wall. One releases snakes from above, the other opens the door. 
    32. Hidden jet spraying you with disgusting smelling liquid. Not harmful in itself, but might attract scent-based creatures or warn inhabitants that you've been poking around where you shouldn't have.
    33. Pressure plate triggers part of the floor to move down, slowly transporting the victim into the now-visible lair of a horrible monster. 
    34. Giant cauldron filled with treasure. Any weight added to the cauldron causes the lid to slam shut and a fire to spark to life underneath it.

    Thursday, 5 July 2018

    Expose your Prep

    You've probably heard the phrase "attack every part of the character sheet" from Arnold K. Let's flip that and see how the players can capitalise on every bit of your prep.

    I find that the crime of giving too much information is minor in comparison to the heinous crime of giving too little information. I lead with a good chunk of info, give good answers to good questions, and I want to give even more if the players are crafty.

    So what should you do to reward these exceptional player actions?

    Expose the Map
    I like giving the group a blank map anyway. For the most part I don't consider mapping a strong part of the challenge of my games, so I'd rather the players be tested other ways. It cuts down on a lot of time spent describing the spatial relationship between doors or sketching out rough drawings on paper.

    But if the players find somebody that knows their stuff, let them have a partial or full map! If your environments are so lame that having the map negates all challenge then it's time to crank up your adventure location design.

    Expose the NPCs
    If they go to the effort of finding out about an NPC before engaging them, let them see their info. Show them the HP, their moves, their relationships with other NPCs.

    Expose the Future
    Somebody has probably worked out what's most likely to happen if the players do nothing. If they do their research then show them that timeline you've planned out. Of course, it takes a lot of time to get to that point...

    Expose the Tables
    Switched-on locals know the encounter table of their area. Of course there's a 50% chance of a rabid cat attack here, that's just how we live. The blister beast? Oh that thing doesn't come around all that often.

    Expose the Mechanics
    You're going to be making rulings when you run Into the Odd. Be transparent about it, and reward information gathering with full access to the sub-system you've thrown together for conker games or debate contests.

    Friday, 29 June 2018


    • They are made unique, not born. 
    • They attract attention. 
    • There’s always a compelling set of reasons to see them destroyed. 
    • Every abomination started out as something more mundane. 
    • Their origin could have been through design, accident, or their own action. 
    • Wherever they are, their surroundings become more monstrous in turn. 
    • There’s nothing quite like them, and they’re instantly recognisable as monstrous. 
    • They seek places where they can stay solitary but are often drawn to others by a need or curiosity. 
    • Nobody knows exactly what they are. 
    • There’s always somebody that wants it dead. 
    • There’s always somebody fascinated by it. 
    • These are as likely to be people, animal, machine, alien, or mockery. 


    Man-Monster:  STR 10, DEX 10, CHA 5, 5hp. 
    d8 Club.
    • Try to observe normality from a distance. 
    • Decorate its disgusting lair. 
    • Make things worse for everybody. 
    Skulking-Horror: STR 10, DEX 18, CHA 5, 8hp
    Four d6 tendrils.
    • Assume the worst of anyone they meet. 
    • Covet the belongings of others. 
    • Give in to Envy.
    Giant-Creature: STR 18, DEX 5, CHA 5, 15hp. 
    Armour 3, Two d8 Claws and one d10 Bite.
    • Try to scare others away. 
    • Lash out in anger. 
    • Move to a new home once discovered.

    SPARKS (Roll 2d20 and Combine)
    Human (Bastion)
    Human Science
    Human (Country)
    Alien Science
    Mammal (small)
    Machine Science
    Mammal (large)
    Mock Science
    Urban Religion
    Country Religion
    Alien Religion
    Alien Environment
    Underground Warping
    Time Dilation
    Industrial Accident
    Multiple People
    Another Monstrosity
    Alien (humanoid)
    Alien (beastly)
    Chemical Exposure
    Machine (mobile)
    Union Ritual
    Machine (structural)
    An Ancient Oddity
    Mockery (person)
    Failed Medicine/Repair
    Mockery (beast)
    Weird Comet
    Mockery (critter)
    Attempted Destruction

    SPARKS (Roll 2d20 and Combine)
    Organised Cult of Followers
    Dangerous Animals
    Twisted Creatures
    Space Manipulation
    Time Manipulation
    Reality Manipulation
    Collection of Oddities
    Strange Charisma
    Mind Control
    Corrupting Presence
    Destructive Abilities
    Colossal Size
    Manipulate Objects
    Manipulate Flesh
    Weaponises Environment
    Creates Oddities
    Creates Monstrosities
    Mystic Abilities
    Vast Intelligence
    Physical Power

    Thursday, 28 June 2018

    Odd Remedies

    Pills, Oils, and Vapo-Rubs are big business in Bastion.

    While there's a lot of sugar and brick-dust being sold, some of those chemists are actually onto something.

    These are all experimental, so you can get them for free if you're happy to have someone in goggles observe your response to the dosage, and sign a standard waver of course.

    Roll d12
    1: Buff Spray - Applied rectally, feels ice cold.
    - Restores STR
    - 50% chance to lose all of your teeth with each use.

    2: Cadaver Wax - Applied to skin, smells like corpses.
    - Restores DEX
    - 50% chance that the smell never fades.

    3: Gudgeon-Snuff - Taken nasally, leaves a yellow patch around your nose.
    - Restores CHA
    - 50% chance that the nose stain is permanent.

    4: Amoeba Essence - Taken intravenously.
    - Restores all Abilities.
    - 50% chance that you become dependent with each use. While dependent you are Deprived on any given day when you haven't had a hit.

    5: Jazz Butter - Must be dissolved into a hot bath and soaked in for an hour. Smells sweaty.
    - You can sprint as quickly as the fastest humans for the rest of today.
    - 50% chance that your feet are incredibly slippery for the rest of the day, making barefoot walking impossible.

    6: Brittle Green - Spread onto the stump as a goo which hardens. Smells like bad limes.
    - One lost limb will grow back slowly over a week.
    - 50% chance that the limb is a gross lizard limb.

    7: Reality Drops - Tiny black capsule taken orally.
    - Restore a lost sense.
    - 50% chance to lose another sense.

    8: Blood Buddies - Small red blob of flesh, rubbed into chest.
    - Gain d6 temporary HP. Use them before your own hp and once they're gone they're lost forever.
    - 50% chance that your body rejects the buddy and it forms into a small angry fleshling (3hp, d6 bite).

    9: Goodnight Kiss - White powder applied to forehead.
    - Restore the recently dead to life for a few moments.
    - 50% chance that they explode messily on their second death.

    10: Satchdragon Root - Spicy piece of bark to be brewed with hot water.
    - Create a cool, collected demeanor for the next hour.
    - 50% chance that the hour ends with uncontrollable outbursts of swearing and truth-bombs.

    11: Digger's Spritz - Fizzy drink, actually delicious.
    - Instantly cure any sort of stomach illness.
    - 50% chance to immediately vomit explosively.

    12: Mystiquerol - Syrup taken into ear.
    - Instantly cure any sort of nervous condition.
    - 50% chance that you develop a foreign accent.

    Wednesday, 27 June 2018

    Small Tables

    Sometimes you need to put something together for a game tonight and none of the modules on your shelf feel like the right fit. Throwing together a Route Map is relatively fast, but you're also going to want some random tables, most obviously some Encounters.

    I've gone from using d20 to d6 and everything in between. My list of needs for a random encounter table is:
    • Make an area feel alive and non-static.
    • Project the character of an area.
    • Have at least one really dangerous entry to encourage the players to keep moving. 
    • Be better than something I can just make up on the fly.
    I like d20s for things like Spark Tables where you want to generate a number of unique results, but for Encounter tables I'm moving closer to the following model.

    Roll d6
    1-3: Common. Three variations on a single encounter either carrying out different actions or varying slightly in composition.
    4-5: Uncommon. Two variations of a more unusual encounter, again varying in behaviour or composition.
    6: Rare. Something weird and likely dangerous. 

    Now you can really dig down into making six great entries, rather than spending your whole prep time filling up a d20 table with just-okay entries.

    Let's do some examples.

    The Yelling Mountain: A little piece of Hell in coldest Deep Country.

    Roll d6

    1. 4 Coil Men (5hp, Electric Stave d8, long-chinned mask) parading their wealth boastfully (three multi-coloured gems worth £20 each, one smaller one worth £10). One is carrying a device wired up to the gems that can cause them to expode (d10 blast) at the push of a button. He'd rather die in the blast than let you steal his wealth. 
    2. 10 Coil Men (as above) on the trail of somebody wealthier than you, hoping to rob them.
    3. 1 Coil Man (as above, name is Julio) separated from his group and starting to doubt that a life of robbery and boasting is as rewarding as he'd hoped. 
    4. Jaw-Goat (6hp, d6 Butt, Painfully Itchy Pelt, Ice Cold Horns, both effects increase after death) gathering bones for its nest. Not so interested in your bones.
    5. 6 Young Jaw Goats (4hp, then as above) butting each other and trying to establish a social hierarchy. 
    6. Hand of the Mountain (15hp, Armour 2, d10 Smash) Here to reclaim anything mineral for the mountain. Appears out of the Earth and returns back to it if you cross water or a canyon. 

    Tuesday, 10 April 2018

    Cutting Edge Mercenaries of Bastion

    Bastion's hired guns are known for seeking the most unusual equipment of the electric epoch. Sometimes they enjoy their signature weapon a little too much.

    Each of these is available for hire, £5 for a day's work where they'll do the following:
    • Follow you into dangerous places.
    • Generally follow orders.
    • Think that their favourite gadget is the perfect solution to any problem.
    Each Mercenary comes with their own specialist equipment. If this is damaged or lost they always blame their employer, immediately ceasing their service and pursuing financial compensation in Mercenary Court. 

    DEX 15, 10hp, Trench Armour (1), Baton (d6).
    Orbalaster: Bulky, Functions as either a Crossbow (d6) or Rifle (d8) or can fire one of three specific combination rounds. He generally carries one of each.
    Salt Charge: Blasts out a fluorescent salt-like powder. Anybody within the blast that is currently Wounded is overcome with pain and instantly incapacitated.
    Wild Charge: Blasts out a red mist, any animals in the blast become immediately violent towards the nearest other being.
    Null Charge: Blasts out an impenetrable darkness lasting a few minutes. Nothing more complex than a bow can function in the darkness.
    STR 15, 10hp, Quarry Armour (1), Two Hatchets (d6 each).
    Absorption Engine: Bulky. Chest mounted device that activates when she causes Critical Damage to an opponent. The victim is sucked into the jet-like hole and sprayed out as a bloody mess.
    As a secondary function the engine allows very slow, careful flight and can be fed inorganic matter to spit out a d6 Blast of shrapnel.
    10hp, CHA 5, Two Chop-Swords (d6 each).
    Spirit Bombs: Each of these contains the canned essence of some alien spirit. Cans isn't sure which one is which, so roll d6 when he throws one. Once the spirit is released it cannot be returned and does nothing besides lash out.
    1: Abyss Spirit: 10hp, De-Pressurisation Touch (d10 ignore Armour, explode on Critical Damage).
    2: Iceberg Spirit: 12hp, Icy Form (Armour 2), Crush (d10 to all in a line).
    3: Smog Spirit: 6hp, d6 Choke to all within, Immune to physical attacks but disperses if left alone.
    4: Pickling Spirit: 8hp, Acidic Splash (d6 Blast), Anything killed is preserved and delicious.
    5: Heat Spirit: 12hp, Glowing Metal Body (Armour 3), Heat Ray (d8), longs to be cooled down which causes it to become peaceful.
    6: Razorwire Spirit: 10hp, Metal Form (Armour 2), Lash (d6 to all adjacent), Anybody taking Critical Damage is pulled in to be kept safe.

    10hp, STR 18, Spiked Armour (1), Combat Chain (d8).
    Sludge Gun: d6, Fires a glossy black semi-solid material that can be used in unusual ways.
    - Can be sprayed onto a surface to make it bouncy as a trampoline.
    - Can be fired into water to create floating platforms.
    - Can be fired into fire to explode in a d6 blast.
    - Can be bounced around corners for trick shots.
    - Can be fired onto an electrified surface to animate the sludge briefly. It thrashes around for three rounds before collapsing (3hp, d6 thrash).
    - Can be fired onto the chest of a sleeping person to give them horrible nightmares.
    - Can be fired into Acid to neutralise it.
    - Can be fired into Alcoholic liquid to make it burst into flames and develop a new complex taste.

    10hp, Tin Armour (1), Boot Dagger (d6).
    Turbo-Cannon: Bulky, also functions as a Shield (+1 Armour). Can be fired on three different modes.
    Safe: d6 Blast. A spray of small rounds.
    Turbo: 2d6 Blast. Twice the normal fire rate. If the rolls match the weapon jams and is unusable until the next Rest. 
    Ultra: Three 3d8 Blast. Thrice the fire rate with hot-rounds interspersed. If two dice match it jams, if all three match it explodes in a d12 blast. 
    10hp, DEX 5, Brass Armour (1), Dagger (d6).
    Trace-Rifle: d6, Bulky. Instead of normal fire, can shoot a Trace-Marker that marks the target unless they pass a DEX Save. The Trace Rifle causes d10 damage when it attacks Marked targets and annihilates them in a miniature black hole when it causes Critical Damage.  

    Friday, 6 April 2018

    Cageshacke's Valet-Guards

    Cageshacke is an INTENSE borough of Bastion. Of course it's surrounded by an electrified cage, but some houses and boroughs also choose to have cages.

    The main reasons you'd go there are to get in a fight or to hire a Valet-Guard, but before we get to them have a Spark Table for some ideas of what else is going on. 

    SPARK TABLE (roll 2d20 and mash the results together)



    Personal Vendettas
    Jewelled Eggs
    Pain Endurance Tests
    Growth Drugs
    Destroying Furniture
    Excess Drinking
    Being Buried Alive
    Dying Young
    Martial Arts
    Rival Companies
    Eating Raw Things
    Humans vs Horses
    Declaring a Champion
    Philosophy of Cages
    Product Placement
    Familial Betrayal
    Personal Grooming
    Barbed Wire
    Angry Speeches
    Breakfast Cereal
    Corrupt Officials
    Collectible Figurines
    Animal Masks
    Secret Identities
    Loud Music
    Climbing Challenge
    Flag Waving
    Electricity Worship
    Humiliating Punishments
    Cult of Personality
    Being Thrown from Heights
    Fire Worship
    Fast Food
    Celebrity Merchandise
    Fake Black Magic
    Blood Worship
    Provocative Clothes

    Valet Guards

    These personal assistants have three very specific purposes that the fulfill all at once. If asked to do anything else they politely remind you that it isn't in their job description. 
    1. Hype you up to others, even when you aren't around.
    2. Help you get up or get to safety when hurt.
    3. Not fight directly, but get involved in distracting your opponents, throwing things to you, or attacking opposing valet-guards.
    When you try to hire one roll two d6s for your options. In case of a duplicate you've just got one choice, take it or leave it. 

    1: Bercker the Shield 
    50p, 3hp, STR 15, Old Flail (d6), Crude Armour and Shield (Armour 2, both Bulky), Battered Face.
    • Will throw you her shield in the time of need.
    • If forced to fight, hits herself with her flail every time (roll separately for her attacking herself).
    • Boasts of your prowess in historical events you couldn't have possibly been alive for.
    2: Silak Clothwurer
    20p, 6hp, DEX 5, Hooked Staff (d8, Bulky), Grey Robes, Comically Fat. 

  • Prays to the Stars for favour at the worst times. 
  • Offers poetic guidance and put-downs for your opponents. 
  • Occasionally uses his hook to trip an unaware opponent. 

  • 3: Arden Ztyle
    80p, 4hp, CHA 15, Amplified Clarinet, Seemingly Endless Supply of Tiny Smoke Bombs, Animal-Print Clothes. 

  • Creates an entrance theme for you, played whenever you enter a room.
  • Utterly unable to take part in physical combat. 
  • Can throw a smoke bomb down to give you cover just in time. 

  • 4: Ruff Bellows
    20p, 3hp, CHA 3, Ornate Spear (d8), Horned Helmet. 

  • Shouts crude insults at opponents so loudly that she's hard to ignore.
  • Can throw her spear with pinpoint accuracy as long as it's not going to actually hit anybody. 
  • Says something great about you at first, but ruins it if left to talk for long.

  • 5: The Golmot Twins
    £1 for Both, 2hp, DEX 18, One Bladed-Glove Each (d6), Mirrored Clothes. 

  • Fling themselves acrobatically around without actually fighting. 
  • Can climb any surface quicker than most can run. 
  • If one twin dies, the other finally joins the fight with both gloves if they can (2 x d6)

  • 6: Donk Beedle
    50p, 6hp, CHA 14, Giant Drum and Beater (d6), Back Banner bearing your face.

  • Loudly announces your arrival, making exaggerated claims about your achievements. 
  • If your life is in danger, can smash with his drum for d10 damage, destroying it. 
  • The drum doubles as a cauldron for cooking delicious food, but refuses to let anybody but you eat it.