I was thinking about this yesterday.

The skill system I’m working on — how does it jive with the rest of the changes I’m making? Traps dealing automatic damage, for example. First of all, you might be wondering about this “automatic trap damage” thing, which I’ll explain.

There are a few things that are inevitable in an RPG — one of those things is falling damage. Another is fatigue, whether sleep ever occurs — and if it doesn’t it’s because your character is exceptional, like a Warforged or something.

I thought that traps should be one of those “inevitable” things. When a trap is sprung, anyone targeted by the trap takes damage no matter what. It’s just that some special characters might be able to avoid or resist trap damage.

Trap damage is otherwise considered a “fact of life.”

Of course this philosophical tact has made me wonder what the point of searching for traps is, and for that I want to briefly touch on the skill system — skills aren’t “named” and “used” anymore, so much as they are a collection of effects.

Break. Speed. Sneak. Charm. Detect. Logic.

Then, there’s the idea that skills are honed and shared by the group, so everyone can benefit from, and contribute to, a skill challenge. And because gear is shared by the party, determines the size of the die for skill checks, and “erodes” with poor rolls — well, that’s a lot to try and process at once, so I’ll break it down.

If your group wants to look for a trap, you’re probably going to be making Detect checks. Let’s say there are five of you, and one trap. A trap by itself is going to be a type of encounter, like a skirmish with some monsters — unless of course the trap is actually included with a monster skirmish.

So the encounter is “find the trap.”

You have a “search” element, and maybe an “avoid” element, and maybe a “disarm” element to this challenge. You can use several skills to achieve the desired effect — you might use Speed, Detect, and Lore to look for the trap.

Once you wear down the search element, there’s avoiding it — which might involve the use of Speed, Sneak, and Escape. Finally, you disarm the trap — possibly through the use of Break, but also with Logic, Lore, and/or Discern.

Each element has “hit points” like a monster, and the whole thing is set up like a fight. Except that unlike how skirmishes are run, a trap encounter generally goes until the trap is disabled or evaded, or the party dies — or flees.

Throughout the trap encounter, PCs are presumably taking damage from the trap — this will generally be untyped damage, reflecting a combination of physical and mental stress, and a few rounds of the trap getting off attacks before the party works out how to find and stop it.

Some traps might still have typed damage, like poison or fire — and some might have multiple types to reflect a combination of multiple traps.

Like monsters, the trap “always goes first.” There’s no way to “surprise” a trap except to already know it’s there. Even then, it isn’t a proper challenge encounter until the damage starts piling up. Unlike a monster encounter, a trap encounter is like playing chicken with an opponent you can’t see.

Now it’s all well and good to say, “this is how a trap encounter will work,” but that’s like describing the combat system without providing any sample monsters. I’ll come back to this again soon, hopefully once I’ve had time to design a few simple traps.