Wednesday, March 17, 2010

One of these things is not like the other.

Here's some info from Labyrinth Lord.  With the exception of the Thief's Find Traps number, these numbers are good for B/X D&D as well.  I need to put a chart like this on my screen or include fields for this data on the charsheets.

ClassFind Secret DoorListen at DoorFind Trap
Halfling1 in 62 in 61 in 6
Elf2 in 62 in 61 in 6
Dwarf1 in 62 in 62 in 6
Fighter1 in 61 in 61 in 6
Magic-User1 in 61 in 61 in 6
Cleric1 in 61 in 61 in 6
Thief1 in 62+ in 614%+

As usual, the Thief is problematic. According to page B22 everybody has a 1 in 6 chance of finding a trap, except for dwarves who get 2 in 6. Labyrinth Lord has the same language. But starting B/X thieves only have a 10% chance to find traps, with the LL version getting a mighty 14% at first level.  Page 13 of my Labyrinth Lord rulebook specifies that thieves only get one chance to find any given trap.  That would make them actually worse at finding traps than everyone else in the party.

You'd think that goes against the intent of the design, but it wouldn't have been hard to quash the confusion by starting Find Traps at 17% or more.  What do other DMs do in this situation?  I tend to allow two rolls, a d6 roll and a percentile roll, but that strikes me as an inelegant way to handle the issue.


  1. Your method is similar to what I do. The way I describe it, a thief can do extraordinary things. So while a normal person can put their ear to the door and hear voices, the thief (if he/she succeeds) can tell approximately number of opponents, where they are at in the room, perhaps what they are, and other odds and ends.

    If the thief fails, I'll let him/her roll the normal listen, if they desire. (They usually do).

    I suppose I could do that for traps as well, but I like negotiating traps and for thiefs, giving them more of the benefit of the doubt.

  2. I give the thief the better of the find traps rolls, but keep the % roll for the removal of the traps.

    Remember that the original design in Greyhawk didn't have the thief being any better than anyone else on finding traps. The ability was only for removal of traps. The Holmes books was the same way.

    AD&D's PHB is what added the increased ability to find traps, with a higher starting base of 20%. Also, other than the dwarf's special ability, I don't believe the AD&D books listed a base chance for non-thieves to find traps at all.

    The Moldvay book then added "find traps" to the thief's repertoire, but used the lower OD&D starting base and kept OD&D's rule on the base chance for non-thieves to find traps. Thus, mucking everything up.

    The intent through all the editions was clearly that thieves were as good or better than everyone (except dwarves) at finding traps and that thieves were the only ones who had an chance to automatically disarm the trap without triggering it.

    (Slightly unrelated pet peeve: I can't stand DMs who cause a trap to go off on the thief when he fails his remove trap roll. It's a result not supported by any of the rules (in editions prior to 2e) and completely undermines the thief's role. Why do DMs feel the need to punish the lowly thief when he tries to use his abilities?)

  3. When I converted all the checks to d6 I gave the Thief a starting 1 in 6 for finding traps and had it go up at Levels 3,5,7,9.

    If I wanted to keep things more "rules as written" I'd do what Chgowiz already suggested. 10% first, then the normal 1 in 6.

  4. One thing that I used to do is that if you searched for a trap, and there was a trap and you failed your find traps roll miserably (rolled a 6 on the d6) you'd accidentally set off the trap instead of finding it. Thieves never had a chance of accidentally setting off the trap. I don't know where I picked this rule up - this is one of those things that I thought was in the B/X rules back in the day but I've never found a reference to. I'm fairly certain that's not something I invented myself because up until a few years ago I didn't even glom to the fact that the thief has a worse chance of finding traps at low levels than everyone else does. I don't know why I would have come up with a "fix" if I didn't even realize there was a "problem"...

    I will say - in retrospect that rule probably ended up making my players slightly more timid than they would have been otherwise. When you have the same chance of accidentally setting a trap off as finding it you're not too keen on poking around to look for traps.

  5. Buy my Majestic Wilderlands and the issue will be fixed ;)

    On a more serious note, I would jettison the thief's percentile system and recast it as a bonus to whatever mechanics you are currently using to resolve each of the thief abilities. That way you still preserve the idea of what the character can do but the thief is better at certain abilities than anybody else.

  6. eer I meant preserve the idea of what ANY character can do but the Thief is better at certain abilities.

  7. Chris Tichenor said...

    "I give the thief the better of the find traps rolls, but keep the % roll for the removal of the traps."


  8. Yeah, what Chris said. I thought the community had mostly come to consensus on this one years ago.

    (I’m all for the variant of giving the thief both rolls as well.)

  9. We were scratching our heads about this a month ago. Seems we never even cared when we were playing it 25 yrs ago. So I just let me thief player know how we would do this from now on. Its an amalgom of the above:

    You get a 1 in 6 chance of finding the trap at lvl 1, 2 at 3, 3 at 5, 4 at 7 and 5 at 9+ always a 1 in 6 that you won’t find it.

    We will use the % chance to disarm and remove it. If you fail we will roll a d6 on a 6 you set it off while disarming it.(just to keep tension up. Its a dangerous job i.e. Hurt locker)

    Everyone else gets their normal chance. If there is a trap and a non thief searches and rolls a 6 then the trap goes off. A thief can never set off the trap by accident. (finally a bonus to being a thief)

    I like it and it wraps up some of the questions I had in a nice little box for my players.

  10. Anonymous10:21 AM

    For some reason, I always thought the Find Traps ability for Dwarves applied only to traps made of stone. I'll have to go through my books and recheck that language...

  11. I stick with the d6 find traps rolls for everyone and only use the thief still for disarming traps. Even then, I tend to only use it for complicated traps that the player rather than the character can't figure out how to handle. I figure that everyone can bend a poison needle with a dagger or cut a tripwire. :-)

  12. Anonymous11:52 AM

    Hmm doesn't Basic Fantasy rpg give thieves a 20% starting find remove chance?

    At any rate I like the dea of thief skill being a "second chance" for thieves, after a normal check has failed, an idea I read in Fight On! 6..cannot attribute its originator, but a nice idea.

  13. Throw "find trap" rolls out the window. Seriously. They stack the deck against low-level characters and could just as easily be handled by role-playing.

    Use the find traps rule as a disarming test, and the dwarf's ability much in the manner you would an elf's "secret door sense." He gets a tingle, but has to figure out the reason on his own.

    I suppose if you wanted to speed up play or curb paranoia you could mandate rolling. I tend to use it as a "saving throw vs traps" if you will. You notice something just before you fall-in or whatever.

    Only the thief can use his tools to disable a trap without reasoning through how to jam the mechanism or whatever. That's his special power.

  14. For my campaign, the thief skill is the first chance as it represents the possibility of greater information/better results due to the use of a particular skill. The "normal person" chance represents the last best hope.

  15. For some reason, I always thought the Find Traps ability for Dwarves applied only to traps made of stone. I'll have to go through my books and recheck that language

    The stonework traps language is very clear in the 1st Edition PHB (p16). The sentence covering the same is more ambiguous in Moldvay Basic (p9), but the implication there seems to be for stonework as well.

  16. Based on this RPGnet thread, I've been treating the percentage chance as the ability to succeed when we've already established that another character would fail.

  17. Instead of using a percentile die for Thieves' Find Traps etc., you could give them more dice, depending on their level. Start them out with 2d6, and add a d6 every 3rd (?) level. For consistency, I'd do this with Elves and Dwarves as well, so rather than finding a trap on a 1-2, they'd get two dice to roll and find the trap if either of the dice showed a 1. Incredibly cunning traps might require 2 ones showing to be revealed, or even more for truly diabolically sneaky traps.

    I haven't actually tried this; it's just an idea off the top of my head. But I think I might give it a go in my own game and see how it pans out.

  18. For some reason, I always thought the Find Traps ability for Dwarves applied only to traps made of stone.

    Some people take the interpretation that there are two kinds of traps. Type I traps are the big things like pit traps. Type II are the small traps like a poison needle in a lock.

    The 1 in 6 for everyone and 2 in 6 for dwarfs rule—in this interpretation—only applies to Type I traps. The thief F&RT skill does not. (Type I traps cannot be overcome with a remove traps roll.)

    Likewise, the generic rule doesn’t apply to Type II traps; only the thief F&RT skill.

  19. I would take the d6 chance dictated by the person's race, but for a theif, roll two dice and take the best result. I don't know what this does to the odds, but it gives the theif a slightly better chance of finding traps (which he should have)

  20. I do not see this as a problem, as long as the thief ability is not confused with the general procedure for finding traps.