One of my (several) problems with Warhammer 3 is that it doesn’t contain rules for some basic aspects of adventuring that we all take for granted, including (rather annoyingly) traps. I don’t often use traps in adventures, since I’m not a great fan of dungeon adventures, and I understand that dungeoneering isn’t a big part of the warhammer milieu, so I can see why they don’t want to include the rules in a basic book, but traps are a very handy GMs tool, and it’s nice to have the designer’s ideas on how to handle them. WFRP3 doesn’t have a clearly described saving throw system of any sort, so in order to set up a trap I have to come up with some kind of scheme. Since the most recent adventure I’ve been running depended on traps, I need to design some method, and these are thoughts towards that method.
The Basic WFRP3 Saving Throw Mechanic
I’m not a fan of separating saving throws from the other mechanics of the game, so I’m happy to use a system like WFRP3 where the saving throw is not a special set of rules. However – and probably as a throwback to my days of using saving throws – I like any accidental event that the PC has to resist (like natural events or traps) to be resolved by a dice roll that the player does, rather than me. So if a trap is set off, the targeted PCs should all make some kind of ability check to avoid it. This is easily handled in WFRP3 as, for example, an attribute or skill check vs. a fixed difficulty determined by the trap. However, there is a small unorthodoxy built into this approach. Typically in WFRP3, action checks are constructed in such a way that the results are determined by the number of successes and boons rolled up. But in the case of a saving throw rolled by a PC, the results should be determined by the number of failures and banes.
There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but it seems to be a variance from the standard system.
Traps as Attacks
We can get around this by making the trap an attack, that the GM rolls against a PC’s skill or ability score, and then resolves damage etc. accordingly. This is entirely consistent with all the other rules of the game, but vaguely unsatisfying. Especially for save-or-die type traps, players should always be able to make the roll that determines their fate. Even though it’s exactly the same if the GM does it, it feels too … narrative … if it’s handled by the GM. The same applies to skill checks in which one PC or monster uses a social combat mechanic to control the actions of another PC – resolution of this should always be performed openly by the affected PC.
There also needs to be a mechanic for disabling traps, which pits a specific skill against the trap itself. The act of disarming the trap then has results depending on the number of successes gained, and also a standard result for banes. I’m thinking the standard results are:
- 1 Success: the trap is disarmed
- 3 Successes: The trap is disarmed and can be rearmed by the same PC later
- 2 banes: the trap is triggered
- 2 boons: the PC learns how to make this trap if their intelligence score is greater than the trap’s difficulty
This allows for the possibility that PCs might be interested in developing trap-making abilities of their own, and requires the inclusion of special trap-making rules.
We can put all of this together through the construction of Trap Cards.
Of course traps don’t have to be represented by cards, and neither do items (or actions, or anything else) but it’s consistent with the way the game is laid out and it’s a convenient way of setting out rules. I don’t have the ability to make cards beyond those in the Strange Aeons software package, so I am going to recommend a card design based on cannibalizing the basic Action Card format. The Trap Card will have two faces, one (the red face) representing the trap’s effects, and one (the green face) representing the disarming process. The red face doesn’t have a recharge number, but gives the skill the PC needs to use to defeat the trap. The green face has a recharge number, which in this case is the number of rounds it takes to disarm the trap. The body of the card then shows the success and failure lines and their outcomes. Each card is for a type of trap, so will refer to a trap difficulty. This difficulty determines how hard the trap is to evade and how hard it is to disarm. Note that traps basically come with three difficulty types – search, disable and resist. These are not specified on the card, but the card will specify the results and skill checks in terms of these ratings. Note that there could be a fourth value, which would be the strength of the trap and would affect damage.
My next post will contain an example of such a trap card.