Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Building Bhakashal - Armor! 



Image by r-valle on Deviantart: https://www.deviantart.com/r-valle/art/Kahliel-661054309


When I set out to create Bhakashal the goal was to produce something built on a 1e AD&D chassis but to expand, revise and tweak it in various ways. Some things I have left entirely untouched, others I have rebuilt from the ground up. Armor was one of the places where I was unsure. The armor tables in AD&D are pretty good as is. I did some research into credible academic sources and found that many of the stats given for armor were pretty close to their real world equivalents


Armor weight, for example, was in historical ranges in most cases. And the general ranking of armor protection was about right. However, there were two things I wanted for Bhakashal that were lacking in the existing armor rules.


First, there were historically significant types of armor that were left out of the system. The Roman Lorica Hamata for example, was extremely prominent historically, but there is no direct equivalent for this on the 1e AD&D armor table. I have had players ask to have their PC armored like a gladiator, but there are simply no stats for this kind of armor on the table either. And, given that Bhakashal has non-human playable groups like anthropomorphic turtles, frogs, insects and birds, I wanted options for things like “breastplate only” armor.


Second, I like the idea of a Weapon vrs AC system for the game, and to make that work, I needed to organize the table differently. 


So, how to go about this? First things first, I hit the books, looking at well-researched accounts of armor use through the ages. The challenge is that historical armor classifications are often based on incomplete evidence. So the TERMS used to classify armor are fairly loose, not to mention that some forms of armor listed, like “studded leather”, don’t have any direct real world equivalent. 


Also, academic sources often use language differently. “Splint” armor in the academic literature, refers to any armor with a leather base that has metal bolted or tied to it, so it would include both laminar and scale armor, and despite it not having any real world equivalent, studded leather. Even when historical evidence is fairly unanimous, there are exceptions, questions and conditionals. Thus, any “historically accurate” game mechanics are hostage to the fact that history is contested in perpetuity, and evidence is spotty and scattered in most cases


In addition, Bhakashal is set millions of years in the future, when the sun burns red in the sky, so there is no need to have “historically accurate” armor in the game. Having said that, I didn’t want to come up with something SO different than historical armor that it wouldn’t be recognizable. Knights in shining armor are pretty cool after all. So I decided to break armor types down into categories (e.g. leather, plate,etc.), and fill out each category on the table. 


The next question was how to organize those categories. Armor protectiveness comes down to two main factors, the strength of the armor (e.g. leather versus metal) and the coverage it provides (e.g. torso, head, arms, legs). Some armor is very protective of one area (metal breastplate) but provides no protection of others (e.g. legs). Various gladiator armors are like this, some have leather on one arm but not on another, some have a metal shoulder plate and helmet but no breastplate, there are too many variations to give a separate armor class for each one. 


I toyed with combining a location of hit system with an armor system that specified which parts of the body it protected, but it was far too fiddly and would make fighting armored opponents far more complex than fighting monsters and unarmored opponents, so I dropped that early on. Instead I organized armor based on four characteristics, weight, coverage, strength and freedom of movement. 


At the top of the list was padded leather armor, light, partial coverage (it doesn’t cover legs or arms), low strength and excellent freedom of movement, at the bottom of the list was full plate armor, heavy, covers everything but the eye slits, strongest armor available, and restrictive of full movement. Then I just had to fill in the table in between with at least one armor entry for each armor class.


Organizing the table in this way also helped to fit my custom WvrsAC system. The original WvrsAC system in AD&D was quite fiddly, as it assigned a modifier to each AC listed. Sometimes that modifier was 0, but having nine modifiers for use with armored opponents seemed excessive. I simplified this system into three categories, metal, leather and no armor, so I organized the AC table in similar terms. The WvrsAC system is optional as it adds complexity (and will be discussed later), so the table works without using the system, but it is also compatible with it.


Then it was shields! In 1e shields are hardly worth your time, but historically, shields are VERY important. My default way of making something interesting is to give the PCs tactical choices. In 1e shields impact forward facing AC and one flank attackers and is restricted in how many attacks it counts against per round. I built on those ideas for Bhakashal, and added an idea from 2e, shield proficiency. 


Just like weapon proficiency, you can take shield proficiency, and this adds to what it can do. This makes sense to me, in “just anyone’s” hands, a shield has a small impact, but a trained soldier with a proficiency in the shield gets the full benefits. Bhakashal leans in to the class structure of D&D, tying special bennies to class wherever possible. I also adopted Trollsmyth’s Shield sacrifice rule for Bhakashal, and extended it based on shield size. The rule states that you can sacrifice your shield to neutralize any one melee attack against you. It’s an elegant, simple rule. 


In terms of the listed armor characteristics, weight figures into overall encumbrance, cost varies a lot and at the start of the game only certain armor may be possible, and heavier armors get a movement penalty as well. A few words about that. 


I have read enough about heavier armor to know that fast movement is possible in certain kinds of plate mail, and in all heavier armors. It’s not that the PC can’t run or sprint. It’s that heavy armor, OVER TIME, makes you slower. Picture a group of adventurers in plate mail moving through a forest or jungle, in the blazing heat, on uneven ground, etc. Heavier armors take their toll over the whole adventuring day, so the result is a movement penalty.


With respect to freedom of movement, armors vary, so this translates into an initiative penalty. I think this is very important because it was historically important, many soldiers in the past traded protection for speed and freedom of movement. Heavily armored D&D PCs do the craziest stuff, climb mountains for 8 hours in full plate, if that’s going to be a thing, there should be some in-game consequences for it. Both of these make sense and make varieties of armor game mechanically different.


One thing that Bhakashal does very well is to make your choice of weapon or armor MATTER as each configuration is a bit different. Sometimes only in small ways, but small things add up fast, and can matter at the table. 


So bring on the gladiators and the Roman Legions, and strap on your shields, to adventure!


Bhakashal Armor Table

AC

Name - (example) - Material

Weight

Cost*

Move 


Initiative Penalty

10

No armor- none - regular clothing/animals

0

0

0

0

9

Padded Leather (e.g., gambeson) - soft leather 

100

1

0

0

8

Leather (e.g. cuir bouilli) - hardened leather 

150

3

0

0

7

Breastplate (e.g., Samnite armor) - metal plate

200

30

0

0

6


Banded (e.g. Lorica Hamata) - Metal bands on leather

Scale (e.g., Lorica Squamata) - metal scales on leather

200

250

40

50

0

-3”

0

0

5

Breastplate/Greaves (e.g., Hoplite armor) - metal plate

300

75

-3”

0

4

Chain (e.g. byrnie) - metal links over leather

300

100

-3”

1

3

Lamallar (Byzantine armor) - overlapping small  metal plates over leather

350

200

-3” 

1

2

Plate (Conquistador armor) - segmented metal plates over chain

450

300

-3”

1

1

Full Plate** (e.g., panoply)- uniform metal plate over chain

500

500

-6”

2

* Costs are relative, for example, if you set the price of padded leather to 1gp, then a set of heavy plate mail is 500gp.

** Heavy plate is customized, thus any magical heavy plate must be diced for, to see if it fits (1-2 on a d6). 


Sheilds

1. All shields improve AC by 1 point

2.A small shield weighs 30 gp, defends against maximum one attack per round and may be sacrificed after absorbing the full damage of one melee attack

3. A med shield weighs 50 gp, defends against maximum two attacks per round and may be sacrificed after absorbing the full damage of two melee attacks

4. A large shield weighs 100 gp, defends against maximum three attacks per round, gives a 1 point initiative penalty and may be sacrificed after absorbing the full damage of three melee attacks

5.  A weapon proficiency slot in shield improves AC by 2 points, allows defense against one extra attack per round and may be sacrificed after one additional attack per round




Sunday, November 7, 2021

Doing it Wrong - Why I Don't Play D&D, and Probably Never Did



The longer I’m on Twitter the more I’m convinced that about half the people there are there to kill your fun. For some reason the app seems to draw in people who like to TELL YOU WHAT TO DO. And it’s not restricted to “overtly political” topics either, it covers gaming topics as well.


For a while it was the “story gamers” telling the “D&D is a game” crowd that D&D was a shared storytelling experience, so you should, for example, get permission from your players to kill their characters, and that the “beer and pretzels” D&D crowd was a toxic bunch.


For a few weeks recently it was “homebrew is bad”, because homebrew meant that players wouldn’t know what to expect, homebrew was ‘rarely any good’, or that homebrew was too much work. I disagree with all of these positions (not that homebrew can’t be bad, or that players having expectations is wrong) but that’s another blog post.


Today I’m going to look at the latest discussion, “published modules and expansion materials for the game are bad”. 


Because of course they are. 


To be clear, I’m not talking about the “WotC modules are bad because WotC is a bad company that does bad things so you shouldn’t support them” argument, again, that’s another blog post.


Instead, the criticism is coming largely from the BROSR crowd (there may be others that are saying the same thing, but I’ve only seen the BROSR take). The “problem” here is that published modules are claimed to be badly designed, and apparently if you use them it's because you want someone else to “do the work” for you, and you are lazy or unimaginative.


I think this is not only mistaken, but ridiculously so. 


In order to get there, a brief diversion.


In 1984 a friend of mine invited me over to try “a new game” his cousin (who was visiting for the summer) had brought with him, ‘Advanced Dungeons and Dragons’.


I had never heard of it before, and the first TTRPG product I ever saw was the 1e AD&D Players Handbook. 


I was smitten. What a cover! And so many of the “heroes” on the cover looked like regular people, this wasn’t “heroic”, “posed” fantasy art, this was gritty, dangerous looking stuff.


And so we played.


But as it was AD&D, and we were all of 14 years old at the time, we got pretty much everything wrong. We misunderstood movement rates and outdoor versus indoor ranges, initiative was a mess, we missed all the finicky little rules (1 in 6 chance of the unarmored head being hit!), we didn’t “get” so much of that game. 


But it didn’t matter at all. We had MASSIVE amounts of fun. Those early games were magical, I had never played a TTRPG before and it completely sucked me in, playing a role, being a hero. Dying, lots and lots of dying! We played most days that summer (the summer before my first summer job), and I loved wizards. They usually lasted about 1-2 sessions before dying off, so I played a LOT of wizards that summer.


We were learning as we went along. And we played modules, lots of modules. Hommlet, Forbidden City, Isle of Dread, White Plume Mountain, we ran the gamut, we even ran some non TSR stuff in our game, Judges Guild was a popular choice. In pretty much every case we “modified” the modules to fit our fledgling campaign and flawed understanding of the rules.


And it was glorious.


So first things first, anyone claiming that you “aren’t playing real D&D” by playing modules is writing off the experience of literally thousands of D&D players over the years, and the intentions of the original game designers, who ALL published modules to be used with the game.


That’s just nonsense. 


However, these days it might be simpler to just give in to the nonsense, because people are so siloed and so wedded to their “image” online that fighting this might be pointless and just lead to more vitriol and needless discussion.


So I have decided that I won’t try to “claim” D&D here. If running a game with modules as part of your campaign is “not D&D”, or if playing D&D primarily as a game rather than a “shared storytelling experience” is “not D&D” (because I’ve heard that too), then I haven’t been playing D&D for the last 40 years. 


I’m fine with that, the story gamers and the BROSR dudes can have it.


A pox on all their houses.


I play TTRPGs, my favorite is a house ruled version of AD&D first edition. It’s not REALLY D&D, it’s something else.


There. That was easy.


Now that I have given the BROSR brothas and the storygaming sistahs their D&D so they can covet it like a golden ring snatched from Gollum, I can get on to the meat of this post.


Should you use modules or not, to be clear, this isn’t “does REAL D&D use modules or not”, because I’ve already given up on the idea that I play “REAL D&D”. So the question is, whether or not you play “REAL D&D”, are modules a good idea?


I say yes.


How you use modules is a slightly different issue, and one I will dive into now.


Adaptation and Inspiration

One of the first realizations I made when I started to referee a regular campaign was that inspiration was HARD. Most of us have seen enough fantasy themed entertainment to create a few adventures on our own, but running a regular campaign, particularly a SANDBOX STYLE campaign as I prefer to run, quickly burns through your most well recognized tropes and storylines. I ran over 560 hours of D&D last year alone, for 7 different campaigns. That’s not happening unless I seek inspiration in lots of places.


As it happens, I’m in luck as I am a voluminous reader. I have three graduate degrees so reading is pretty much in my DNA, I read faster (and type faster) than most normal human beings. I read fantasy, sci-fi, literature, comics, non-fiction historical sources, you name it, and I draw from ALL of them in my gaming. 


So my first piece of advice is this: take inspiration from ANYWHERE. If you are restricting yourself to “Appendix N” and only doing home brew then you are depriving yourself of incredible sources of inspiration. Not that Appendix N isn’t FREAKING AMAZING, I’ve read the majority of it and drawn on it for inspiration for years. But D&D need not be restricted to that.


So what about published modules? 


My first recommendation is that published modules need significant work to be usable in your campaign. “Drop and run” is not really an option here. One of the reasons I find the idea that “you are wanting someone else to do the work” when you play a module so completely absurd. I have NEVER, and I want to stress, NEVER, run a published module the way it was written. 


I have done a variety of things:


Run it pretty much as is with minor changes to location and setting tone (least common)


Run it like 1 but with changes to the content as well, modifying monsters, encounters, etc.


Run it by changing the genre (e.g. taken a module from a TTRPG like Top Secret and “reskinned” it to fit D&D


Run it by taking the basic premise and main encounter(s) but dropping large sections of the adventure


Decided not to run it, but strip mined it for encounters/monsters


In every one of these cases using a module was helpful, either in a big or a small way, to a great gaming experience at the table. 


Let me be amply clear about this, some modules are terrific, others, not so much. There is wildly varying quality to published materials. I have read amazing modules from many different companies and time periods, modules from 40 years ago, modules from last year, modules from independent creators, modules from D&D and modules from other gaming systems that are VERY different from D&D. The end result from my perspective is: it’s a mixed bag, some of the best modules I’ve read are decades old, or from different systems, or by “non-professional” creators. 


So why bother?


Fun, that’s why.


I think modules require work, but at the end of the day I have had some of the most AMAZING gaming experiences running modules in my campaigns. Forbidden City, Barrier Peaks, Isle of Dread, White Plume Mountain, I’ve gone back to the well on these classics many times and they did not disappoint. EPIC LEVELS OF FUN. I ran Barrier Peaks for my home group 8 years ago, my son is off to university and he and his friends STILL TALK ABOUT IT TODAY. 


If that’s “wrong fun”, I like wrong fun. All I can think is that people are missing out on such enjoyment because they have a “hill to die on”. 


The other thing that strikes me about the idea that you shouldn’t use published modules is the utter arrogance of it. How could anyone else’s ideas be as good as mine, or helpful to me in any way? What chutzpah, what brass. Even flawed modules that I have to adjust to put into my campaign have brilliance in them. Barrier Peaks is a fantastic module, flavorful, subversive of expectations, deadly, utterly unique. It was a BEAR to run for various reasons (how does Speak with Animals work on alien animals, can a fireball destroy a bulkhead, etc.), but goddamn it had so many good ideas in it. 


Isle of Dread could sustain campaign play for months and helped me learn how to run a hexcrawl. Forbidden City taught me the value of factions in the game. White Plume helped me see the fun of a “monster zoo” dungeon. Tharizdun and Tjoscanth introduced me to new monsters and the value of “creepy” modules. Descent into the Depths of the Earth showed me how to bring the flava and how to do “brevity”, so tightly written, so evocative.


I became a far better referee adapting and running these modules than I was when I started. And my players LOVED THEM. Why in the world would you suggest that you shouldn’t use these modules, and why in the world would you think that it was “no work” to use them. YES they were work, but it was totally worth it. I enjoyed them and learned from them, my players had a ton of fun. 


And not to put too fine a point on it, but if you know creative people of any stripe in any field you will know this: they steal mercilessly from any source they can find, full stop. Creative people, really creative people, are constantly taking in new ideas from wherever they can find them. All your favorite authors are like this. Even if they have encyclopedic knowledge of a particular genre or field, they still take in ideas from anywhere they can find them. Creativity is a sponge, not a microscope, it involves opening yourself up to new ideas and inspiration wherever it appears.


If all of this hasn’t convinced you of the value of running modules, not exclusively, or even predominantly, but cannibalizing them or altering them to fit your game, then I would suggest listening to the advice of Gygax on this issue.


Gygax made it clear that the DM must tailor the game to their campaign. He recognized that every gaming group was different, and built in a lot of “empty spaces” to the game that you were expected to fill yourself. AD&D was very much a skeleton for you to build upon. 


And his modules all said this explicitly. That you would have to do substantive work to tailor these adventures to your game. 


Here are the bones of the adventure. You must breathe life into this framework after you flesh it out. (Descent into the Depths of the Earth)


As Dungeon Master you should enliven the module with as much of your own creativity as you wish, and then add your personality to interpret the cold lines of print and make them come alive. The details of how the party was gathered should serve as a reasonable starting point. (Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth)


There  is  considerable  information  contained  herein  which  is descriptive and informative with respect to what the players see and do. Note that  this does not  mean  that you, as Dungeon Master, must surrender your creativity and become a mere script reader.  You  must  supply considerable  amounts  of  additional material. You will have to make up certain details of areas. There will be actions which are not allowed for here, and you will have to judge whether or not you will permit them. Finally, you can amend and alter monsters and treasures as you see fit, hopefully within the parameters of this module, and with an eye towards the whole, but to suit your particular players. (Against the Giants)


You get the idea. The originator of the game, the guy who designed it and made it for you to enjoy, the guy who WROTE APPENDIX N, that guy, he thinks you should use modules, but that you should make them your own.


Good advice, I’ll take it.


Here’s a second piece of advice to consider. You should just ignore the advice you are given on Twitter, or take it with a TON of salt. So many people posture and put on a show for you to generate outrage and clicks. It makes me somewhat sad, as there are a lot of accounts on Twitter that have great ideas and are very creative, but they feel the need to TELL YOU WHAT TO DO all the time, and argue that THEIRS IS THE TRUE WAY TO PLAY D&D.


These people aren’t trying to help you, they aren’t trying to make your game better, they aren’t coming to you in good faith. They are saying these things to create outrage and pushback from some people, and to build a following of like minded people amongst others who will agree with them without question and pile on to anyone who disagrees. 


My suggestion, and do what you will with it, is to mine them for interesting ideas you can use in your game but otherwise just ignore the noise. They aren’t going to show up at your gaming table, and they don’t have any investment in helping you to enjoy the game. 


If they did they wouldn’t be telling you, “you are doing it wrong”, they would be telling you, “I love this game, here is how I play it”. 



Thursday, November 4, 2021

Building Bhakashal - Traps!



Traps have a bit of a bete noir reputation in D&D. On the one hand they are a perfect fit for a fantasy game, the trap filled dungeon is a well worn trope. However, traps are not as popular as you might think. I regularly see people saying either that they want to use traps but haven’t found any they like or that they just don’t use traps at all, as they aren’t fun or aren’t fair.


That’s a shame, as a good trap can bring a lot of tension and excitement to the game, as well as a lot of old school flava. I’ve given this one some thought over the years, and I settled on a system that has playtested quite well. 


Ubiquity

The first thing that needs to be addressed when talking about traps is their ubiquity. Traps should, in all honesty, be fairly rare in D&D. Traps are found in two primary places, first, in the wilderness to trap animals for hunting, and second, in buildings/dungeons/tombs for the purposes of stopping intruders/thieves. 


You shouldn’t find a trap on a city street, traps shouldn’t be in any high traffic area where people regularly move back and forth. So say the party broke into a temple, unless that temple is deserted and old it should not really have traps, as the regular inhabitants would be at risk. A trap in the “treasure room” makes sense, a trap “in the hallway” of an area where NPCs/monsters regularly travel should be much less common. 


Traps should be reserved for remote places you are not supposed to be in, or individual rooms in larger complexes that house something important, not in high-traffic places that are regularly used for mundane purposes. If you put traps all over the place then you FORCE players to either spend all their time checking for traps, or for them to just treat them like general HP attrition and ignore them. Neither option is much fun.


Instead, I would recommend making traps a special encounter, one that doesn’t happen very often, but one that is challenging. Part of the mystique and fun of a dungeon style environment is precisely that they are VERY dangerous and challenging, so putting traps in the right environment can really make the game.


But to be VERY clear, traps are DANGEROUS, so if you choose to use them, then you are choosing to make the game DANGEROUS as well. 


Thieves versus Non-Thieves

Thieves are a bit of a challenge as they have abilities that, in principle, anyone should be able to obtain. “Hiding in shadows” and “moving silently” for example, any child can attempt and pull off these two, but they are hidden behind a class ability wall. That always struck me as odd. 


So in Bhakashal, everyone gets to try these tasks, but thieves get an additional skill based roll if the regular roll fails. 


So for example, a fighter can try to surprise a target by using a regular surprise roll, a thief can do the same, but if the regular surprise roll fails, they get their Move Silently roll to try again. This allows anyone to try the task, but thieves do it better. 


Bhakashal assigns a base 1 in 6 chance to “find traps” and a 1 in 6 chance to remove traps for any class, but for thieves if that roll fails they get their FRT roll to try again. 


Player Versus Character

The other issue associated with traps is player versus character. Old school games focus on challenging the PLAYER, not the character. It is difficult to do this with many things, so for example, a CHARACTER might be able to read a strange monster language, but a PLAYER won’t be able to do that as the language doesn’t actually exist to be learned.


Traps are one of those things that can actually challenge the player, as mechanical devices can be puzzled out and messed with. If the trap is a triggering plate connected to a spring that shoots arrows out of the wall, you could “disarm” that trap by jamming the plate so it couldn’t engage or hammering iron spikes into the arrow holes.


So any system that puts traps in the game should be able to challenge the players, not just the stats on the character sheets.   


Mechanical versus non-Mechanical Engagement 

With the questions of ubiquity, thieves versus non-thieves and player versus character engagement out of the way, the next question is execution.


So let’s say the party is in a dungeon, a place where you would assume there could be traps. And let's assume the party is about to enter a corridor with a classic cantilever trap, e.g. the corridor is like this:



[_____________________________________] < Enter 

l /\                                  [_

V                   /    \

   l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l /___\ 


So once the party gets beyond the fulcrum point it will tip and drop the party to a pit of spikes below and then tip back to seal up the pit. 


How do you adjudicate this?


Approach 1 - Whenever the PCs enter a new area (turn a corner, enter a room) you describe what they see and they tell you what they do.


So “the corridor stretches 100 feet long, ending at a heavy wooden door, there are torches inset into the wall at 20 foot intervals.” 


Say that the thief now says, “I’ll look for traps”. 


You make them roll their FRT percentage, and if they are successful you describe something that will reveal the trap, for example, 


“You have been moving along slowly and looking for tell-tale signs, tapping the ground and walls as you go, and as you approach the halfway point your tapping changes in tone, like something harder was under the floor for a moment, you stop and see that the floor ahead of you, unlike the floor behind you, has scrapes and signs of damage, and the walls behind you have scrapes on them as well. A fulcrum trap! The harder part under the floor must be where the fulcrum touches the floor, and the scrapes are from doomed adventurers trying to stop sliding down, and the floor behind you scraping the walls on the way up! You hold up your hand and get the party to stop before tipping it over”.


Approach 1 has its strengths, it doesn't require the player to know how to check for traps, it relies on the dice roll to establish results, and for the referee to narrate those results to make them fit the game world. So it’s easy and fast.


However, it’s kind of dull, and it also removes the player from the process entirely, it becomes a case of a rote roll without engagement. You may prefer this for your game as you just want a trap to be yet another form of HP attrition for the party, and that’s perfectly fine, but for me it isn’t engaging and fun. 


Approach 2 -  When the party enters a new area and you have described it, the party thief says “I check for traps”. You then ask the player how they are doing that. The player then responds:


“I take out my crowbar and tap the floor as I walk forward, if there is a trapdoor it would be thinner than the stone floor and should sound different”


Or


“I take out my waterskin and dump water on the floor ahead of me, as it spreads out I look to see if the water outlines a trap door or trigger, or if the floor has a slant to it”


Or


“I check the walls for arrow holes or edges that indicate a trap door or opening panel”


That sort of thing. Then, if the PC’s actions might have a chance of detecting the trap, you make the FRT roll. 


The advantage to this approach is that it is engaging for the player and their choices make a difference. If the player was in the cantilever trap hallway and tried the first option, they would have a chance to notice the difference in sound at the fulcrum and then notice the marks on the floor. 


The disadvantage to this approach is that the players, for the most part, don’t know how to “check for traps”, so they often won’t know how to describe checking for traps. I vacillated between these two approaches for years, the former was faster and easier, but made traps so dull that they weren’t worth using. The latter made the process engaging and tense but was more involved and harder to do.


So I decided on a “third way” for dealing with traps.


Bhakashal Traps

  1. Players must state that their PCs are “checking for traps” (there is no “passive trap perception”) 

  2. Checking for traps cannot be done from a stationary position, PCs must explore the space

  3. When this is done movement slows to 3”

  4. The player must describe how they are checking for traps, e.g. tapping the floor, pouring water on the floor, checking the wall for signs of arrow holes, looking for marks on the floor, etc, etc.

  5. As the player may not have any ideas of how to do this, but their character would, in Bhakashal if the player is stuck the referee can suggest methods to look for traps the first few times until the player has a repertoire of methods to use

  6. Player rolls a d6 to check for traps, if that fails they see nothing and either trigger the trap or roll (as appropriate) to see if they trigger the trap

  7. If the player fails the first roll but is a thief, they then roll their FRT percentage

  8. If that fails, they see nothing and either trigger the trap or roll (as appropriate) to see if they trigger the trap

  9. If the trap is found, then the PC has to describe how they are attempting to disarm the trap, e.g. jamming a spike in the mechanism, blocking the arrow holes, etc. 

  10. The PC has a 1 in 6 chance of disarming the trap, if they fail that roll they have triggered the trap. If the PC is a thief and fails the disarming roll they get an additional FRT roll to disarm.


One of the things I love about this approach is that it allows the PC thief to slowly build up a set of techniques to check for traps, and as they build up more of those techniques, they feel more skilled and capable. On the note of point 5, if you want to run the game on, "hard mode" you don't have to make suggestions, but I find that once you "prime the pump" with a suggestion or two, players start to get the hang of it and come up with their own ideas.


This system also creates tension, describing how they are checking for traps and interpreting the feedback that the referee gives them is super-fun. They feel like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft, and it is more than just a rote dice roll to see what happens. Keeping them rare but “solvable” by any PC, with the thief gaining greater odds of success, is just the right balance to make traps worth your time. 


Game on!







Building Bhakashal - Character Creation - PCs Today’s character for the January Character Creation Challenge is one that has a place in my f...