I often get asked this question a lot, and I have spent a long time searching, asking and trying to figure out a good answer.
"How do you set the difficulty to detect a trap with out telling a person that a trap is actually there?"
As in most cases, in 2D20 Conan. A difficulty number needs to be assigned before a player can roll, as they need to know just how hard its going to be to roll. The problem being, if a GM sets the difficulty high, and the player fails his roll. He may just say.. "well that was a hard check, there must be something there."
Now, the big problem is that the Core rulebook does not really tell you anything about detecting traps, it just says you use the thief skill to do it with. And I am fine with that, and for the longest time. Me, like many others set a hidden Momentum Spend number that a player would need to get on a D(1) roll.
And for a long time, I was OK with that.. Now, personally although I was OK with that method for a long time. I always felt it was the wrong way to do it, but it was the best I thought we could do.
Well, while running our current ongoing Thieves campaign for Conan, one of the players took a talent that I have not seen much, and that talent breaks our current way of checking for traps. That talent is the observation talent "Its a trap." It reads..
"You can spot covered pits, pressure plates, fulcrums, and other constructions designed to keep thieves out of burial chambers and treasure rooms. With a successful Challenging (D2) Observation test, you can detect any nearby traps as a Minor Action....."
Here, it clearly tells us what we need to roll to check for traps. So with this talent now in play I had to re adjust my way of thinking.
I am a person who HATES having to come up with homebrew house rules for games. I hate having to do it, but now seeing this talent in play. I have come up with a solution while in my games. And I think it works, and it does not break any core rules. Its simple, I tell my players that in my game there are 3 fixed difficulties for checking for traps. And seeing the GM gets to set these difficulties anyways, I am not adding anything new to the rules.
So my solution is simple. (I think so anyways)
- First thing is my golden rule. When the difficulty is declared, there is no going back. If a player wants to do a check, when they are ready to hear how difficult it is going to be, they are locked in. If I say its a D3, they can not say.. meh.. not going to roll. When they decide to hear the check, they are locked in.
- Checking for traps will always be a Difficulty 4 if you do not have the "Thief" talent or "Its a Trap" talent.
- Having the "Thief" talent will make any check for traps a D3.
- And then of course if you have the observation talent "Its a Trap" it will be a D2. (As per rules)
By telling the players this information up front will cause a few things to happen.
- The moment a player hears of a high difficulty level, they will not instantly know it is trapped. They will just know that to find out if it is trapped for sure, they will need to beat that number. So they will not instantly avoid it or just instantly flood the doom pit or the momentum pool to get a as many dice as possible. Cause there may be no trap at all, and why burn your momentum or give the GM that loves to use DOOM against the players, the 3 doom only to find out there is nothing there anyways?
- It allows for a better rounded character development, and forces players to buy talents that better suit the way the character is portrayed. If a player always knows that to check for traps will be a set number, he then can decide to buy a talent that helps reduce it. (Thats the way I look at it)
And the good news is.. if there is a trap and a player rolls a complication.. Well they found the trap, they triggered it. And if there was no trap to begin with and they rolled enough complications, heck buy the trap with a doom spend. (Thats how I roll.. lol)
So yeah.. That's my take..
Crom has spoken.