The Trap That Wasn't a Trap

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Situation:  First room of a high level dungeon.  The PCs enter chamber I designed as a way of eliminating some of those pesky, super powerful magic items the characters were hauling around using to zap all of my powerful bad guys.  The chamber contains a portal to another plane and was built by the Githyanki, who are also the bad guys in this scenario.  The portal is powered by magic items.  The more magic items it drains the longer the portal stays open.  Suspicious, the characters stand outside the room and detect for traps using a variety of spells and devices. I rule there are none.  The characters enter the room and the portal starts draining their magic items.  The characters lose a significant number of their precious magic items.  

Once the PCs figure out what happened they begin to howl in protest.  They claim this was clearly a trap and that their trap detection devices and spells should have been given a chance to work.  I reply that this room was a portal, not a trap, and not designed by the Githyanki to be a trap.  They reply that the Githyanki are highly intelligent and evil and would be very well aware of the potential traplike effects of this room and probably designed it to be multi-purpose (a trap and a portal).  They further argue that the positioning of this chamber, the first room in the dungeon,clearly indicates it was intended as a kind of trap, even if it was also a portal back to their world. 

What do people think, should I have allowed the PCs a chance to detect a trap? Or is this fair game?
As the DM you have clearly set it up as a trap no matter how much you say it isn't.

That being said; were the magical items destroyed or have they been weakened by the portal, their powers drained?

I can undertsand if all the PC's best gear was suddenly destroyed they would be pissed off, if it breaks their toy's it's a trap in my book. If however it has only weakened their magical items they can't be too mad. If they realised what was happened and left both problems should be solved.

a. As the DM you have weakened their magical items so that they don't instant kill all your monster.
b. The Players keep their magic items but have learned a lesson and maybe even a new adventure hook...

Does the portal go somewhere fun, building a new adventure. If the portal is unuseable what was the point. It was a trap.
Just in case I failed to mention; I am playing D&D 3.5e.
What do people think

I agree with your players. Indeed, losing a significant number of precious magic items would seem unfair even if they hadn't spent efforts detecting for such a thing.

What do people think, should I have allowed the PCs a chance to detect a trap? Or is this fair game?

No, but an Arcana or Knowledge (Arcana) or Intelligence or Wisdom check might have been appropriate. And no, I wouldn't call this fair game. There are plenty of other fair ways to deal with powerful characters without taking away items in a "gotcha" manner.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy


What do people think, should I have allowed the PCs a chance to detect a trap? Or is this fair game?



You:  "My players spent a lot of time and effort determining that there was no trap.  After doing so, I told them that there HAD been a trap, and that they had actually had no chance to possibly detect it even using their infallible trap-detection magic, and took away all their cool stuff.  As punishment.  For not detecting a trap I had decided was undetectable despite them having infallible trap detection magic.  Am I doing it wrong?"

Me:  Yes.
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Situation:  First room of a high level dungeon.  The PCs enter chamber I designed as a way of eliminating some of those pesky, super powerful magic items the characters were hauling around using to zap all of my powerful bad guys.  The chamber contains a portal to another plane and was built by the Githyanki, who are also the bad guys in this scenario.  The portal is powered by magic items.  The more magic items it drains the longer the portal stays open.  Suspicious, the characters stand outside the room and detect for traps using a variety of spells and devices. I rule there are none.  The characters enter the room and the portal starts draining their magic items.  The characters lose a significant number of their precious magic items.  

Once the PCs figure out what happened they begin to howl in protest.  They claim this was clearly a trap and that their trap detection devices and spells should have been given a chance to work.  I reply that this room was a portal, not a trap, and not designed by the Githyanki to be a trap.  They reply that the Githyanki are highly intelligent and evil and would be very well aware of the potential traplike effects of this room and probably designed it to be multi-purpose (a trap and a portal).  They further argue that the positioning of this chamber, the first room in the dungeon,clearly indicates it was intended as a kind of trap, even if it was also a portal back to their world. 

What do people think, should I have allowed the PCs a chance to detect a trap? Or is this fair game?




I agree with you 100%
unless the players Detected magic within the room and made arcana checks on the portal, then I gree with the PCs.  Here's what I mean.

The PCs did not detect any traps in the room, as you said there where none.  No conventional traps, the like the PCs would have been looking for.  If the portal uses magical energy as it's power source, then the PCs should have been smart enough to get out while they still had their magic items.

If the PCs searched for magic and used arcana checks on the portal and where not told about it's siphoning magic as a power source, then you misled them by telling them that there was nothing in the room.  That is unless they failed their checks, then they wouldn't know either way.

It really just seems to me that your players are butt hurt from losing their magic gear.  This happens, and as DM, you have final say.  You can keep with your ruling if it's fair, or if you or the PCs think it was unjust, then you can rule it in the PC's favor.  However, if the PCs never checked for magic or used arcana on the portal, then it's entirely on their fault that they lost their magic items.  Maybe next time they'll be more carfull about walking into situations they arent prepared for or don't use their character's abilities correctly.
First,

It's a trap!


Second, there are plenty of better ways than rail-roady gotcha traps to deal with these kind of problems.  For example, communication works surprisingly often.  If you're having a hard time challenging your players because of their gear, talk to them about it.  Assuming your players are vested in having challenging encounters and making sure that everyone has one (which includes you), they'll listen.  And from there, some sort of solution or compromise can be reached.
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Situation:  First room of a high level dungeon.  The PCs enter chamber I designed as a way of eliminating some of those pesky, super powerful magic items the characters were hauling around using to zap all of my powerful bad guys.  The chamber contains a portal to another plane and was built by the Githyanki, who are also the bad guys in this scenario.  The portal is powered by magic items.  The more magic items it drains the longer the portal stays open.  Suspicious, the characters stand outside the room and detect for traps using a variety of spells and devices. I rule there are none.  The characters enter the room and the portal starts draining their magic items.  The characters lose a significant number of their precious magic items.  

Once the PCs figure out what happened they begin to howl in protest.  They claim this was clearly a trap and that their trap detection devices and spells should have been given a chance to work.  I reply that this room was a portal, not a trap, and not designed by the Githyanki to be a trap.  They reply that the Githyanki are highly intelligent and evil and would be very well aware of the potential traplike effects of this room and probably designed it to be multi-purpose (a trap and a portal).  They further argue that the positioning of this chamber, the first room in the dungeon,clearly indicates it was intended as a kind of trap, even if it was also a portal back to their world. 

What do people think, should I have allowed the PCs a chance to detect a trap? Or is this fair game?

For me this really depends on whether or not the portal serves any purpose other than siphoning off the magical items your party had accumulated and how you wrote the Githyanki as powering this item.

1*. If the sole purpose of this portal is that your player's items lose magical powers then it is clearly a trap. However, if they could travel through the portal and engage in some story on the other side then this is fair game if and only if,

2. The Githyanki must have a means of powering this portal other than devaluing their own magic items. If the Githyanki carry around arcana infused stones, rings, medallions, or other such items in order to power their portal home then this is a fair use of the portal. However, if you either didn't write an activation mechanism into the game or relied on the magic items pillaged by the Githyanki to power their return transport then, again, this is a trap.

*My reading of your description is such that the portal is not the intended direction of travel for your party, but rather something that ought to be bypassed quickly. If this is not the case and the portal was indeed the only other way out of the room then you are more justified in destroying their items, but only so far as to move your actions into an ambiguous grey area.
Your definition of a trap is : This device does not try and kill you.

The player definition of a trap is : This device will eff with us in some way.


You clearly created a device whose sole purpose was to directly destroy the effectiveness of your player characters regardless of how well your player characters tried to avoid it. 

If this were a 2nd edition game I would say "Bravo, well done, sir!"

If this is 4th, that's just rude, man...

To put this into some kind of real world analogy, it's like the repo guys from that tv show with all the fat repo people showed up at your house and started taking your stuff, with no actual (read: you didn't pay your bills) reason.  Then proceeded to berate you for having so much stuff.  Also, one of them is dating your mother.  I'm not sure how that part of the analogy fits, but it does.
Ok, as a follow up question:

The PCs are walking along an ancient dungeon corridor.  No one has walked this corridor in a 1,000 years.  It so happens that during the past 1,000 years several of the ceiling blocks have become unstable -- not by anyone's design but rather just through the passage of time.  The characters use a find traps spell but the DM rules that since the loosened ceiling block are not a trap nothing is detected. The reverberations from the character's footfalls are enough to cause these massive ceiling blocks to come crashing down and land on several of the adventurers, causing much damage and potentially death.  Fair?  Or should the spell have detected this hazard even if it wasn't technically a trap?
Karathax, take a step back and try to look at this situation and what it says about your game from the other DM's points of view.

you're clearly struggling and striving against your players to "outwit" them and get around their spells and abilities.  Instead of constantly trying to devise situations where their abilities just don't work (which, from a players point of view is frustrating...were i one of your players, i'd just hand you my sheet and say 'congrats, you win'), why not work with the PCs to make the game more fun for all involved?

Talk with your PCs and see what kind of game you'd both like to play.  You need to establish a level of trust with them.  If you don't want them using certain items or abilities, you need to be up front with them and say that those situations won't come up (ie. traps) or will come up sparingly or trivially.  In other words, you need to guarantee that those items/abilities won't be necessary, or just make them not worth it (if they can weather all the piddly little traps with other abilities, they don't need trap detection)

right now it's you vs. the PCs....funny thing about that, is that the PCs will never ever win.  If you're giving them items, why are you taking them away in a manner that tells the PCs "screw you?"  Do you think that's fun for them?  and if those items are ruining your fun, why not talk to the players and tell them that and try to work something out together?     
Point well-taken.  And as much as I am interested in your DM-ing judgement, I am also interested in your rules interpretation:

Are natural hazards considered to be considered traps for the purpose of trap detection?

Quicksand?

An arctic ice crevice?

An avalanche?

A rockslide?

All of these are hazards but are they detectable using magical trap detection?

Even if the DM is trying to put one over on the players, these are legitimate concerns. 

Just asking.... 

Are natural hazards considered to be considered traps for the purpose of trap detection?
Quicksand?


Yes the are traps but are detected by other skills.  

- Arctic ice crevice
-Avalanche?
- Rockslide

A Nature Skill Check would be required, rockslide could use Dungeoneering in a cave.

- Hallway that is about to collapse.

Dungeoneering Skill check  
  

I've been in an Exalted game where we fought a stone lion golem that I was informed that it was just "golem" enough that my powers against inatimate objects enough yet "less golem" enough so that a fellow players charms didn't work either.   In the ended we accepted the Gamemaster's call and allowed him his combat which too three hours.


Was the portal designed to be a trap? No. 
Was it a trap my game and DM design? Yes.

As has been stated by other on this thread, if you are having a problem with players magical gear you can talk to them about it.  In 4E items are designed to either make a character even better at what they do or fill the holes that the character has in other areas like saving throws.


If you are looking to challange your players find their weak holes such as saving throws, terrain that makes movement more difficult, or use traps and monster in tandem to make the combats more challanging.

As for the detecting it issues its simple.  As others have stated it would have been an Arcana check.  If they never decided to make the check its not thier fault.  If any player of mine asks if there are traps I laugh and say "Give me a skill you would like to find this trap with." 


What level are was talking about here anyway?      

      
Are natural hazards considered to be considered traps for the purpose of trap detection?

Can you specify which trap detection abilities you are refering to?

DMG p.85: "Trap or Hazard?
What’s the difference between a trap and a hazard? Traps are constructed with the intent to damage, harry, or impede intruders. Hazards are natural or supernatural in origin, but typically lack the malicious intent of a trap. Though both feature similar risks, a pit covered with a goblin-constructed false floor is a trap, while a deep chasm between two sections of a troglodyte cave constitutes a hazard.
     Traps tend to be hidden, and their danger is apparent only when they are discovered with keen senses or a misplaced step. The danger of a hazard is usually out in the open, and its challenge determined by the senses (sometimes far too late) or deduced by those knowledgeable of the hazard’s environs."

Assuming a DM doesn't allow a trap detecting ability to work on a hazard, he should probablty tell the players this (as their PC's would know this). And even then, the hazard should be detectable via other skills. Making a magic-item removing trap undetectable is not kosher, and one should expect players to complain.
If you look in the DM Guide for 4th it lists traps and hazards.  From chapter 5 of the DMG: (The following paragraph after the above post.)

"Trap or Hazard?


The common link between traps and hazards revolves around peril—both to adventurers and monsters.  Because of this similarity, traps and hazards feature similar rules, conventions, and presentations."



You say unstable walls of the ceiling are not a trap, or a magical portal that is powered by draining magic items is not a trap.  Well, you are right.  But it is a hazard.  And therefore is just as detectable by players as a trap would be.

It's easy enough as a DM to overlook some rules.  There are a ton of them, and some of them contradict.  But take the time to read through the PHB and DMG.  And cost shouldn't be an issue, because there's torrents out there...

Or so I've heard...

Because this is a debate that would have been solved right in the core rule-set.
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Situation:  First room of a high level dungeon.  The PCs enter chamber I designed as a way of eliminating some of those pesky, super powerful magic items the characters were hauling around using to zap all of my powerful bad guys.  The chamber contains a portal to another plane and was built by the Githyanki, who are also the bad guys in this scenario.  The portal is powered by magic items.  The more magic items it drains the longer the portal stays open.  Suspicious, the characters stand outside the room and detect for traps using a variety of spells and devices. I rule there are none.  The characters enter the room and the portal starts draining their magic items.  The characters lose a significant number of their precious magic items.  

Once the PCs figure out what happened they begin to howl in protest.  They claim this was clearly a trap and that their trap detection devices and spells should have been given a chance to work.  I reply that this room was a portal, not a trap, and not designed by the Githyanki to be a trap.  They reply that the Githyanki are highly intelligent and evil and would be very well aware of the potential traplike effects of this room and probably designed it to be multi-purpose (a trap and a portal).  They further argue that the positioning of this chamber, the first room in the dungeon,clearly indicates it was intended as a kind of trap, even if it was also a portal back to their world. 

What do people think, should I have allowed the PCs a chance to detect a trap? Or is this fair game?



Ok, as a follow up question:

The PCs are walking along an ancient dungeon corridor.  No one has walked this corridor in a 1,000 years.  It so happens that during the past 1,000 years several of the ceiling blocks have become unstable -- not by anyone's design but rather just through the passage of time.  The characters use a find traps spell but the DM rules that since the loosened ceiling block are not a trap nothing is detected. The reverberations from the character's footfalls are enough to cause these massive ceiling blocks to come crashing down and land on several of the adventurers, causing much damage and potentially death.  Fair?  Or should the spell have detected this hazard even if it wasn't technically a trap?



Trap: creatures involved designed device or tactic to "catch" intruder/enemy/error/substance.
Hazard: situation (active/passive) that poses a threat to life and causes an emergency situation while active.

First example: no matter what the justification the DM did, he is still a creature involved in designing a device that captures the players' magical items.  Then used it as a plot device that has very strange in-game implications, namely: if the portal drains items that are magical in nature, shouldn't it kill the Gith, who are magical in nature, by draining them of all their energies?

An arcana check should have given the players a simple "this portal seems to pull your magical essences towards it, and according to your arcane sensing, is an absolute void to magic.  It may be unwise to bring anything magical through the portal."

A dungeoneering check should have given the players a description like "the portal seems to be made of a magical rock designed to disrupt the workings of magical items.  Anything magical going through here would probably be destroyed or weakened."

A trap finding check should have given the players a description like "you don't find any conventional traps.  However, it is unusual that such an elaborate portal is here unprotected, and the Gith aren't exactly brutes either.  Maybe someone with magical affinities might be able to ascertain the safety of such passage?" (+2 or +5 to ally's Arcana check?)

Give players options.  None of that "you poke your hole into the mouth, roll a new character" or equivalent.

Instead of an item-removing not-trap trap, why not just say the following?


You find yourself walking along a field, empty save for a trail of clothes.  Your clothes.

Looking down, you realize that you are in your birthday suit.

*wait for player reply, then adjust the following accordingly* As you pick up your clothes and start wearing them, suddenly it feels like your clothes are getting tighter and tighter... especially that magic ring you picked up a few months ago.  Whispers of "kill *insert player name*!" echo in your mind, as you are attacked by your own magically enchanted equipment, which now are glowing a bright golden hue.

Then, all of a sudden, silence and darkness, as your equipment go back to normal.

You turn around to see a humanoid with a crimson veil, with back facing you, trailing off into the distance, with golden sparkles following.

Then you wake up.

As you check your gear in light of what had happened in your dream, you notice that a dent here, a tear there, a crack somewhere at a button, and other subtle things tell even the most magic-ignorant of the party, that something is wrong with your magical items.

*At first nothing really happens, but as time goes on, do one of the following: have a spell misfires or is altered horribly, a move action end with the PC falling prone, a weapon slipping through a PC's hands, a hit turning into a miss, a crit turning into a hit, a miss turning into a hit, a 1 turning into a 20, a glass of water suddenly becoming poisonous or disease-ridden, etc.  Each time that happens, make it more and more obvious that the magic items are becoming weaker and more unreliable (have them glow, or crack, or fade, or rust, etc.).  When they realize what is happening, 3 things might happen: they might go ragequit and hate you for it, they might drop all existing magic items and get new ones, or -- particularly if they are attached to particular magic items -- find a way to fix them.  If the second thing happens,  then you have nothing to worry about.  If the third thing happens, then we can continue.*

Streetwise, history, or arcana reveals word of a certain eldritch lady with a crimson cowl, that walks around with golden sparkles trailing behind her, skilled in the art of identifying problems with magic items and fixing them, especially when it comes to corner cases where normal methodologies of repairing such items fail to work.  She might be able to help the PCs, but cannot assure that the items will be returned to their former glory, and they have to leave them with her for a week.  She can offer alternative magic items in the meantime [lower bonuses, less effects, just scale encounters accordingly], should there be an emergency and the PCs need magical items ASAP.

The items returned would be the "errata'd" versions of the original items, maybe removing some abilities, maybe restricting certain abilities to X/day, or maybe even risking destroying the item when they overuse the item (like pre-4E wands).  Maybe you could add abilities as well to compensate for the loss.

Could she be accused of breaking their items?  Certainly, but of course the party would have only the dream(s) as proof.  Regardless, how *did* the weakening or twisting of magic items happen?  That is something that you could explore further



It's effectively an item switcheroo, perhaps.  But at least it's not an outright "GOTCHA!" moment, as the items MOSTLY work normally (have the mishaps happen only once per adventure first, then if they still don't get it, increase it to once per adventuring day, then once per encounter, then every time they use the magical item(s), and if they still are adamant about pushing on without fixing their items, then they break, but they still have the option of having it fixed by either the NPC or the PC... except perhaps the restored item in either case would not be as effective as before *provide the errata'd version*).

Second example: Find Traps spell shouldn't work, but a passive insight or dungeoneering or Wisdom check should make the PC realize that something's not right; maybe each step they make there's lots of dust and some unstable shaking, or cracks in the wall denote the instability of the area.

Traps are generally unpopular unless they're the objective of the scenario.  But it's not the "trap! you're harmed!" that's the problem; it's "trap! roll a new character!" that becomes the problem.  Not that it's outright bad -- some people really are masochistic enough to find "being screwed" fun -- but it's that you're effectively throwing down your "GOTCHA!" card with them having virtually no say on the matter.

EDIT: Obviously we're not talking about Save-or-Die traps in this thread, but for purposes of discussion let us assume that the traps are save-or-lose (your item/life).

If the problem in either scenario is the fact that the players gained something that the DM wasn't able to reign in or cope with, and the DM can't talk it out with his players, using the "GOTCHA!" card is never an appropriate solution.  You remove one problem, true... but you could create an even bigger problem, namely the erosion or breaking of player-DM trust.
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Hello everybody. I'm the one who designed the adventure (1st/2nd edition) that the OPer is referring to. Even after 25 years they can't get over the fact that they were outsmarted and got burned while relying on their favorite crutch, i.e. "Detect Traps".  The 2 gentlemen in question seem to think that spell can be used to detect the intentions of the DM. Anyway, here's what the party saw:


A smallish (no bigger than 20x20) room that was absolutely empty. It's walls, etc., are covered with runes and strange symbols. The room radiates strong magic.


The room was early in the dungeon but there were other options the party could have persued at that time.  The dungeon is the property of a high-level, evil foe. So I ask you - what does your party do??  Do you:

A. Realize this is obviously some special-purpose room, its use is completely unkown at this time, and is potentially dangerous. As a result you choose to go elsewhere and leave the room for later.


B. Stroll right in and wait for something to happen. 


The party took option "B" and they're still whining about it a quarter-century later.


The room was a portal that relies on a "dose" of external magic to operate. There were instructions for it's safe, benign use elsewhere in the dungeon. Interrogating virtually any of the sentient residents of the dungeon would also have told the party what it is and how it's used. Again, they chose the quick and foolish way. There was a simple way to use the portal (and I expected the party to do so.....some of the adventure was predicated on it) where nobody would have lost any magic items. The room had absolutely no ill effect on the characters whatsoever. It would cause magic items to make a saving throw if they were in the room too long w/o activating the portal.  A failed save drains the item. 


Did I design this room knowing that it might drain some of the party's magic items??  Absolutely. But the fact of the matter is that it was a device with a legitimate use.....a device that if used improperly could have negative effects (that sounds like half the magic items in D&D!). It's no different than a party member finding a device that, unbeknownst to them, shoots fireballs. In their quest to discover a use for the item they discharge it in the middle of the party and it results in the usual negative effects. Is that a trap?? Hardly. That's a complete lack of wisdom and dungeon IQ by the player. Again......"Detect Traps" doesn't detect the DM's intention. And believe me....this party loooooooved to use the DT spell. Yes, it was my intention to snuff out some magic items if they acted in a foolhardy way (trust me....they did stuff like that too when they were DMing) They were overconfident and got burned. They paid the price (And a small one at that. Virtually all of the party's magic items made their saves). They're still crying about it 25+ years later. Oh well.           

Hello everybody. I'm the one who designed the adventure (1st/2nd edition) that the OPer is referring to. Even after 25 years they can't get over the fact that they were outsmarted

And you just today signed up for forums*? Anyway, that stuff was fine in 1st/2nd edition (indeed, very Gygaxian). However, the writers designed 4e entirely differently. We were assuming the OP was running a 4e game (where such a thing is a violation of Wheaton's law). If the OP was running a 1e/2e game, then that changes everything.


* fwiw: since the OP stated "The PCs enter chamber I designed as a way of eliminating some of those pesky, super powerful magic items" one might speculate that you are another ID recently created by the OP.
I'm the one who designed the adventure (1st/2nd edition) that the OPer is referring to. Even after 25 years they can't get over the fact that they were outsmarted

And you just today signed up for forums? Anyway, that stuff was fine in 1st/2nd edition (indeed, very Gygaxian). However, the writers designed 4e entirely differently. We were assuming the OP was running a 4e game (where such a thing is a violation of Wheaton's law). If the OP was running a 1e/2e game, then that changes everything.





The only reason I'm here is to defend my position. As I suspected, when I first heard this was being discussed on this forum I was sure that the entire situation was being misrepresented in a self-serving way. I was right. The other 2 players are trying to blame their foolishness on me, the DM for that particular module.


The OPer is speaking hypothetically. This has been an argument that rears its ugly head every once in a while (for 25 yrs). I am the one who designed the room/dungeon. 
The OPer is speaking hypothetically.

Can you ask him what version of D&D he was playing?

Click: Ahh... the OP was one of your players, posting as if he were you? Well, that means he violated Wheaton's law too. Assuming you were playing 4e, you guys are even. Carry on (now with the knowledge that 4e wasn't designed to be Gygaxian). However, if you were actually playing 1e/2e, then your player should've expected such old-school tricks... point to you.
Hello everybody. I'm the one who designed the adventure (1st/2nd edition) that the OPer is referring to. Even after 25 years they can't get over the fact that they were outsmarted

And you just today signed up for forums*? Anyway, that stuff was fine in 1st/2nd edition (indeed, very Gygaxian). However, the writers designed 4e entirely differently. We were assuming the OP was running a 4e game (where such a thing is a violation of Wheaton's law). If the OP was running a 1e/2e game, then that changes everything.


* fwiw: since the OP stated "The PCs enter chamber I designed as a way of eliminating some of those pesky, super powerful magic items" one might speculate that you are another ID recently created by the OP.




Also:  The fact that such things were "expected" in Ancient Obsolete Bad D&D doesn't mean they were good there, and "Gygaxian" is not now and has never been a positive adjective.
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Detect Traps should only work if the Githyanki intended for it to be a means of draining potential invaders magical items. It is in fact a portal that is sustained by absorbing magic by design as described by the OP, this is not a trap and should only be detectable through a detect magic spell or by an arcane check.

Each piece of equipment should be able to make a save vs the portal, and an amount of time alotted that the magical power that is draining will sustain the portal allowing the PC's time to realize what is going on and either go through the portal or get away from it.  
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Hello everybody. I'm the one who designed the adventure (1st/2nd edition) that the OPer is referring to. Even after 25 years they can't get over the fact that they were outsmarted and got burned while relying on their favorite crutch, i.e. "Detect Traps".  The 2 gentlemen in question seem to think that spell can be used to detect the intentions of the DM. Anyway, here's what the party saw:


A smallish (no bigger than 20x20) room that was absolutely empty. It's walls, etc., are covered with runes and strange symbols. The room radiates strong magic.


The room was early in the dungeon but there were other options the party could have persued at that time.  The dungeon is the property of a high-level, evil foe. So I ask you - what does your party do??  Do you:

A. Realize this is obviously some special-purpose room, its use is completely unkown at this time, and is potentially dangerous. As a result you choose to go elsewhere and leave the room for later.


B. Stroll right in and wait for something to happen. 


The party took option "B" and they're still whining about it a quarter-century later.


The room was a portal that relies on a "dose" of external magic to operate. There were instructions for it's safe, benign use elsewhere in the dungeon. Interrogating virtually any of the sentient residents of the dungeon would also have told the party what it is and how it's used. Again, they chose the quick and foolish way. There was a simple way to use the portal (and I expected the party to do so.....some of the adventure was predicated on it) where nobody would have lost any magic items. The room had absolutely no ill effect on the characters whatsoever. It would cause magic items to make a saving throw if they were in the room too long w/o activating the portal.  A failed save drains the item. 


Did I design this room knowing that it might drain some of the party's magic items??  Absolutely. But the fact of the matter is that it was a device with a legitimate use.....a device that if used improperly could have negative effects (that sounds like half the magic items in D&D!). It's no different than a party member finding a device that, unbeknownst to them, shoots fireballs. In their quest to discover a use for the item they discharge it in the middle of the party and it results in the usual negative effects. Is that a trap?? Hardly. That's a complete lack of wisdom and dungeon IQ by the player. Again......"Detect Traps" doesn't detect the DM's intention. And believe me....this party loooooooved to use the DT spell. Yes, it was my intention to snuff out some magic items if they acted in a foolhardy way (trust me....they did stuff like that too when they were DMing) They were overconfident and got burned. They paid the price (And a small one at that. Virtually all of the party's magic items made their saves). They're still crying about it 25+ years later. Oh well.           





I just would like to know though: who were the ones who did have fun with that SO-not-a-trap door?  Because if only one person had fun, then no wonder the party would be miffed and the two "gentlemen" would still be sore about it.  DM godhood or not.

Actually I'd go for C: The room has a special purpose, is potentially dangerous, but there's a reason for it to be potentially dangerous.  I carefully go in, poking everything with an 11-foot pole and *maybe* a Light-enchanted stone.

In any case, you're right, it's not a trap, but at the same time you've merged player knowledge with character knowledge and player carelessness with character recklessness.  If all of your players were being in character that wouldn't have been a problem, but if the characters weren't supposed to be reckless yet the players were reckless, they should have at least been warned by something other than what can be surmised as a "DM knows something you don't know, isn't that sorta fishy?" look.  Seriously, not even an "are you sure?" sort of warning?

EDIT: Unforeseen does make a good point.  Why should the portal be insta-drain?  Can't there even be a temporary loss on the item power on a failure, making it only permanent when they continue on recklessly? 
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The OPer is speaking hypothetically.

Can you ask him what version of D&D he was playing?

Click: Ah... the OP was one of your players, posting as if he were you? Well, that means he violated Wheaton's rule too. Assuming you were playing 4e, you guys are even. Carry on (now with the knowledge that 4e wasn't designed to be Gygaxian). However, if you were actually playing 1e/2e, then your player should've expected such old-school tricks... point to you.



As I pointed out earlier, it was 1st/2nd edition. This was done back in the 80s.
Detect Traps should only work if the Githyanki intended for it to be a means of draining potential invaders magical items. It is in fact a portal that is sustained by absorbing magic by design as described by the OP, this is not a trap and should only be detectable through a detect magic spell or by an arcane check. 



That's what I've been saying for all these years. The DT spell is abused when players expect it to "Detect Danger" or "Detect Possible Negative Effects", etc., etc.  That's preposterous yet some players still expect it, like the players who were going through the dungeon.


The in-world creators of the room obviously didn't intend it as a trap, otherwise it would have been better placed like in the dungeon's entry or in a large, central (and more "important") room. Also, if it were designed as a trap it would have looked innocuous and not so obviously like a "special" room of sorts.  The players were experienced with years of D&D under their belt but they were spurred on by overconfidence and ego rather than common sense and dungeon IQ.  There were plenty of red flags (runes, strong aura of magic, evil dungeon, room is completely empty, etc.) associated with this room, not the least of which was that we had all been gaming together for years and knew each other's tendencies - both as players and DMs - quite well.
As I pointed out earlier, it was 1st/2nd edition. This was done back in the 80s.

Right... that was when it was written. But you said it cropped up again 25 years later. What version were you playing when it cropped up again?

The fact that such things were "expected" in Ancient Obsolete Bad D&D doesn't mean they were good there, and "Gygaxian" is not now and has never been a positive adjective.

Certainly, but (like many things in this particular forum) good & bad is subjective; some people actually like that sort of stuff. Indeed, I actually prefer much of it to 4e*, and even WotC is turning back to some of the old ways for 5e.

Regardless: "Expected" is sometimes as close as you get to 'Right' and 'Wrong' in such a subjective forum


* I also enjoyed Paranoia and Call of Cthulhu.
As I pointed out earlier, it was 1st/2nd edition. This was done back in the 80s.

Right... that was when it was written. But you said it cropped up again 25 years later. What version were you playing when it cropped up again?




The argument cropped up again, not the room. This current discussion isn't the result of recent game play, it's just sour grapes rearing its ugly head again after all these years. The 2 players who can't get over it have come to this forum looking for some sort of justification.  Heck......what're lifelong friends for! Tongue Out
This thread is about to run off the rails.

The issue was already addressed in regards to the OP's inquiry.  And if this is going to end up in a discussion of 2nd ed rules then it should just end up in the old dnd edition forum.
Even after 25 years they can't get over the fact that they were outsmarted and got burned while relying on their favorite crutch, i.e. "Detect Traps".



That is awesome. Detecting traps is super boring anyway.