The Problem with Traps
This section is mostly a background to traps in roguelikes, if you just want to read about the changes I’ve made in TGGW you can skip to the next section.
Traps are a common but lately quite controversial feature of most roguelikes. Traps in roguelikes have been standard for a very long time. The reason they have become controversial is that during this time both players and developers have realized the problems with how they are usually implemented.
In games in which you search for traps (e.g., Nethack, Angband) it becomes a chore to search for them (and searching for them almost all the time is optimal). In games where you cannot search for traps (e.g., DCSS, TGGW), it is still optimal to try to retrace your steps as to avoid stepping on a square you didn’t previously step on since it may contain a trap. This is also tedious, not very fun, and doesn’t involve any clever tactics. In fact, trap reforms are being discussed within the communities of major roguelikes such as DCSS and Angband.
In TGGW, traps have also gone through a series of changes to make them more interesting and less random. For example: you have a chance to avoid their effect (avoid traps) and if a trap is exposed you can pick it up and use it against monsters.
However… the main problem remains: traps discourages exploring and the use of autorun. It makes you think about taking the exact path back as you came from and to avoid taking doors you haven’t opened yet.
That said, I still think traps has a place in TGGW. The risk of getting bad inflictions even without fighting is interesting, and caring about an attribute to lower this chance is also interesting. Removing traps altogether is not something I want to do. Instead…
Make Traps Visible
A few months ago I experimented with making traps fully visible just to see how it would play out. At first it felt a bit weird and pointless, but after a while I realized I liked it very much. Some interesting consequences:
- Room traps. Traps in rooms are very easily avoidable when they are fully visible. However, they are both fun and useful now. It is easy to lure a monster to walk into it. Even if the trap won’t trigger, it will instead be exposed and for you to pick up.
- Corridor and door traps. Corridor and door traps block your way forward (unless you are flying or have an alternative door). You can take an informed decision to try to disarm it (with the risk of triggering it) or leave it alone for now. This decision is much more interesting than randomly walking into a trap. The trap may very well block your way to the stairs making it necessary to eventually try to disarm it. In this way traps still keep some of its threat.
- Container traps. Trapped containers are interesting because they provide you with a trade-off. Is it worth for your character to open this particular container at this point given your current attributes, health etc? Sure, you don’t know what the trap is or what the container contains, but it is more interesting than leaving all containers alone just because you are afraid of traps.
Traps in your field of vision are immediately revealed and will stay visible and remembered, but only if you are in exploring mode. If you enter an area in combat mode, the traps stay hidden. This is to simulate that you don’t have the focus on trying to find traps when you fight. This means that walking around in unknown territory while fighting is still a bad idea and may cause you to step in a hidden trap without a chance to disarm it first.
Won’t this make the game much easier? Well, yes. Visible traps certainly decreases the amount of traps you trigger over all, and luring monsters into visible traps certainly helps. This has been compensated for by increasing the number of traps on doors and good containers (mainly chests).
So isn’t it very illogical that all traps are visible? I mean, the idea of a trap is that it should be hidden so that it triggers on unsuspecting victims! Well.. the unnamed hero that fell underground does not seem to be an ordinary goof. He can already fight with a range of weapons, identify magic potions and scrolls just by spending some time and energy on it. Clearly the stupid monsters are not very good at hiding traps, and our hero is a very perceptive fellow. The traps are meant to be hidden, but as long as the character have some time to investigate, he will quickly notice the poorly hidden traps. There.
I have nothing to add, this is a very nice and interesting change.
Traps have always seemed kind of pointless to me, and no fun. But I like this idea. Can’t wait to see how it works in practice.
Seems great. Additional idea: if I get slimmed because of slime, I can dissolve the traps similar to dropped items.
Hmm.. that’s an interesting idea. That would make the slimy status more interesting! Thank you!
hmm, it is just like you had a permanent trap detection. I think it is more interesting if sometimes you see the traps and sometimes, you can’t. i would still keep the trap blindness for some parts of the game. for some levels. or why not just make trap detection more common? Like add it to cloth hood and soft shoes. then the player can choose if it worth it or not. or make it a permanent ability, but some item could make you lose it. like platemail, or full helmet.
or make more starting character 🙂 one with trap detection, but -1 vision.
It is not exactly like permanent trap detection. There are still some situations in which traps aren’t revealed. If you enter unknown territory while in combat mode (admittedly this happens rarely).
Making trap detection more common would still have the same problem with traps, and I think many players would then regard trap detection as a convenience feature and nearly always choose to equip them even though it wouldn’t be strictly optimal.
There’s still room for more experimentation for sure, so in v2.2 it will work like this. I’m eager to see how it is received!
Regarding different starting characters, that’s probably something that will never happen in TGGW since it is a bit against the whole idea improvisation that I want in TGGW.
I love this idea, I think I’m going to use something similar myself.
I was thinking of having a detect traps mode, you could toggle it on and off. You would get some reduction in other areas when doing it, like a reduced speed, AC or increased hunger (to represent the idea that time is passing, even though we don’t have to watch it happening).
When it’s on you automatically detect all traps, but only in adjacent tiles. Further away there is a chance of detection, but it’s not automatic. I’d like to add a “feat” you can buy on level up which allows you to get the benefits of detect traps mode but without the penalties.
My game is a party based game, so it gives the thief character something special to do.
I also want Epic traps that only thieves with the detection feat can detect. These would only be in the lowest levels of a dungeon. They wouldn’t be deadly, but could be something to make you regret not having a thief along at the end.
Thank you very much for posting! Glad that the post inspired some ideas 🙂 I think the system you described would probably work very well in a game!
You also gave me some ideas here! I didn’t think of making trap detection only for adjacent tiles! That actually makes a lot more sense for several reasons. Since you only detect traps in exploring mode it would mean that the effect of combat mode would be more noticeable and traps still dangerous if you’re not careful. Thank you!
Step in a good direction. I dunno how familiar you are with pen and paper RPGs, but the problem is very similar there – at first, long ago, traps were purely descriptive, so players had to improvise methods of searching for, and disarming them. That’s when the whole idea of always having a ten foot pole with you to prod everything from afar came from, as well as letting a herd of animals run freely inside, hoping they set off most of the traps before the de facto adventuring party sets foot in the dungeon. Then, trap checks happenned, first as a shorthand and last resort chance to find them, later ingrained as the main method of finding dangers. It didn’t help that early on, games focused on dungeoneering were LETHAL. Later on, especially when D&D 3.5 came around, HP bloat happenned and character health became a resource that could be whittled down just like food, tools or other suplies. So traps became just another way of slowing players down. What I’m getting at is, two solutions are either to keep traps hidden, but have players actively try and find out what could be trapped by asking questions about their suroundings… Which is not suited for a videogame at all, OR have them painfully obvious, like you’ve done, and have players try to work around them, which is, I think, more exciting and less taxing on both the gamemaster and the players. Anyway, thumbs up, TGGW is one of my favorite roguelikes, I’m a fan of the classless, gear-defined character and elegant, transparent mechanics.
Thank you very much for your comment and for the background around traps. I really like the idea of traps as a concept, but as you say it doesn’t quite translate well as-is into a video game, and especially not a roguelike. I didn’t realize it had become a problem even in D&D. Since I like the idea I don’t want to take out traps entirely, so this is to some extent an experiment and I’m very interested in how it will be received.
I think the good thing of traps as a game element isn’t just that the player have to work around them. It is also great you get random effects that changes your tactics. And it is an interesting thing. Usually it doesn’t worth to sleep instantly, but you try to adapt to the changed character. this is why i really like the mutation mechanic as well.