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Wanted: 4e Trap Builder. Must have 4+ years experience with 4e traps.
The biggest flaw I see so far in the GM tools provided in D&D 4e is the utterly excreable section on traps. At first it looks lovely: traps are just like monsters; they operate in a well-defined manner; they have standardised features like levels and XP value; they come in a huge variety and can be made to-order.

The problem is that all of these appearances are just that: appearances lacking substance. There's no mention of, let alone rules or even loose guidelines, for how to create a custom trap. Poring over the example traps does not reveal any logic: Why is this Level 3 trap worth 150 XP (like a Level 1 monster does), while this other one is worth 300 XP? What mysterious logic governs the to-hit bonuses they use? What about damage? Are the Perception and Countermeasure DCs based on the trap's level or on some hidden easy/moderate/hard rating? How the hell do you determine what's a Level 1 trap and what's a Level 4 trap?

These problems aren't obvious at first because you can use the example traps—tweaked here and there—as a starting point for a lot of different traps. As soon as I started trying to make traps that weren't anything like the examples, or I tried modifying a high-level trap for a low-level encounter, the total lack of evident rhyme and reason is obvious. For context, level is exceedingly important in every other area of 4e: it is the wellspring for everything about monsters, characters, magic items, spells. For traps, it doesn't seem to matter at all, except very vaguely in that higher-level traps are more likely to hit and to hit harder. If their XP value isn't even connected to level, what use is it? In making a trap I had already fleshed it out, and I realised that that single number beside "Level" could be tweaked arbitrarily by me to fit the level of encounter I wanted and the XP total I wanted to hand out.

Custom monsters get tables and explicit rules for most of this stuff, and where they don't there are good guidelines for what sort of things you need to use good judgement with. It's almost like Wizards of the Coast elided the necessary section entirely, because the DMG doesn't even mention the missing things that need to be filled in by the GM. It's a weird and unnecessary omission, because it does seem as if the designers were working with some kind of logic when creating the example traps.

(The post title is a programming industry in-joke. When Java was less than a year old, a flood of job listings requiring 4+ years Java experience appeared from clueless companies.)

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Huh. I hadn't even noticed, but I haven't paid much attention to traps yet.

I prefer to solve that problem by not using many traps, but then I've never been a huge fan of them, as they are usually challenges without the potential for interesting tactical stuff. (Some of the 4E examples are less dreary.)

The 4E traps stuff reads like they rushed it, like they ran out of time to proof and playtest everything. My advice: Trust your gut. Eyeball it. When in doubt, compare them to monsters.

Upon further reflection, I'm 99% certain that the doomspore's anomalous XP value is an error. Every other trap has the appropriate XP for a monster of its level.

Not that there aren't still plenty of problems, but this isn't one of them.

That's my conclusion now too. Also, it seems as if the to-hit values are all taken from the Soldier column on page 184, adjusted as necessary per the footnote to that table. This makes the traps make more sense, but is exactly the sort of information that should have appeared in this section.

Specific trap powers are still going to be guesswork. I was thrilled when I learned that eyeballing monsters was no longer de riguer (as in 2e). I do like traps, so this is irritating and disappointing.

Edited at 2008-06-27 07:00 pm (UTC)

I'm always surprised the the experience requirements I see on jobs. For example, most companies won't hire apprentices, but want certified tradespeople with x-years experience. Bizarre.

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