Are Traps out of Touch?


Helpful NPC Thom says: No, it's the children who are wrong.


One of my friends was recently discussing Elden Ring with me (which I’ve not played), and mentioned that he was surprised by traps as they are “out of style.” This threw me for a loop. My beloved traps? Out of style? I've long loved harrying heroes with torturous traps!


It’s no secret that gaming has changed in the last decade. RPGS have started to lean toward character drama and superheroics rather than boardgames and expeditions. And that’s not a knock. Play the games you want the way you want. But, do these newer style games have rooms for guillotines and pressure plates?


I say yes (of course). But why?


In less-descriptive, board-gamey versions of the game, the purpose of traps is obvious: drain some resources, kill characters to varying levels of unfairness, give the thief something cool to do. But in a theatrical roleplaying game, the purpose seems less clear. I want to kill some monsters and tell my rivals off! Why are we wasting time with a dex save and a few dice of slashing damage?


The drama! That's why!


Dungeons are not just backgrounds. They are settings and antagonists. Watch the first 5 minutes of Indiana Jones and the Crusaders of the Lost Ark if you don’t believe me. Traps can deliver a f*ckton of tension. But you have to describe them! And they have to be deadly!


Imagine your rogue's tension as you describe him attempt to pry open a panel filled with poison gas. His fingers tremble, the panel creaks under the weight of his prybar. Or imagine your wizard swearing in consternation as he tries to figure out why the statue is cursed with divination magic, of all things! And the barbarian, foolish enough to brave the gas, lies in a stupor on the floor, never dreaming the poison might damage his intelligence!


I say, no matter your play style, traps have a place at your table!

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