Death Traps, Hazards, and Puzzles – Chapter 7 – HYOOTRD RPG Players’ Guide

Host Your Own Old Time Radio Drama Role Playing Game

Host Your Own Old Time Radio Drama Role Playing Game

Chapter 7 – Death-traps, hazards, and puzzles.

The story so far (Captured)

Episode 5

Jake awakes to find his face lying in a puddle of lapping water.  He spits slightly as he sits up.  The water tastes of salt; the sea, perhaps. Malefice and Dr Herbivore lie nearby.  He props them up to keep them from drowning and takes in his surroundings.  They are in a cage sitting in approximately an inch of water.  Suddenly the cage sinks an inch further with a jerk.  A light switches on and a voice, electronically disguised, begins addressing them through a loud speaker.  The light, wetness, and noise are enough to bring Jake’s companions around as well.

“I see you are all awake” the electronically masked voice begins.  “Don’t bother looking for a way out.  You are currently locked in a cage that is slowly being lowered down a well into an underground grotto of sea water.  Little by little you are going to drown and there is nothing you can do about it.”

Even through the disguised speech the malevolent delight at their predicament is obvious.

“You aren’t the first to die inside this chamber, you know.  It might interest you to discover that my business partner, the famous mobster, Franco Gionelli, predeceased you by only a few days.  I am now in sole control of his criminal empire.”

The laugh which follows sounds insane, full of crazed delight.

“Sadly, Gionelli proved unexpectedly squeamish.  He was not in favour of my plan to release a plague on the city and use the resulting depopulation to blackmail the country.  Naturally, I can’t risk allowing you to stop me either.  Once the country sees the sheer scale of the death I can bring down upon its head, no city will dare refuse my demands. “

This time the laugh sounds even more unhinged.

“I, you see, am The Necromancer, master of life and death and soon to be overlord of the world.  You, are mere bugs to be squashed beneath my feet.”

The cage drops another inch and the light suddenly goes out.  Unless they figure something out fast, Jake, Malefice, and Dr Herbivore will die from drowning, lowered slowly, inch by inch, into the water until at last they are submerged.

Death Traps

Death traps, like cliff-hangers and chases, are a staple of adventure story telling.  Capture by the villain is rarely as terrible as it might seem (and often proves quite advantageous).  When a villain has you, supposedly, in his power, he is far more likely to spill the beans regarding his final plan.  Being captured is a great way to gather information.  But of course, once the villain captures a hero, that hero is likely to be consigned to a death trap in fairly short order.

At first glance this may seem like a terrible thing, but villains are surprisingly bad at employing their overly elaborate mechanisms of death against heroes.  There is almost always a simple means of escape if the hero can but find it.

Don’t let the presence of a death trap phase you too much.  In a well-designed game there is always a way out.  Use your skills and don’t forget to be whacky and inventive.  You never know what idea is going to save the day.

Example

Jake, Malefice, and Dr Herbivore are in a cage being lowered down a well into an underground grotto of salt water.

Dr Herbivore examines the structure of the cage.  Rolling a success in the use of his perception skill he discovers that the bottom of the cage is hinged and that the salt water has been corroding the hinges.

Malefice successfully creates a light source for the group with her magic revealing the crumbling stonework in the walls of the well.

Jake attempts to pull one of the stones out of the side of the well.  He is successful and begins smashing at the hinges.  Another successful roll and they give way allowing the trio to swim down into the grotto where an underwater passage leads, via a short swim, into the sea.

Puzzles

Unlike obstacles that require skill rolls to overcome, sometimes a game may present players with real world puzzles (riddles, word games, math problems etc.).  In such cases the players will need to actually solve the puzzle to succeed.

Example

Jake, Malefice and  Dr Herbivore approach a large (and apparently immovable) stone door.  The door contains a three by three panel.  Each segment of the panel contains a series of 9 holes. Some contain pegs some do not.  On the floor, littered about are a bunch of pegs.

 

XXX
XXX
XX0
X00
000
000
000
000
000
000
000
000
XXX
XX0
000
XXX
XXX
X00
XXX
X00
000
000
000
000
XX0
000
000

Jake realises that this is a puzzle lock.  The puzzle is a magic square where the pegs in each section  represent numbers.  To solve the puzzle the players must place pegs in the three empty sections so that the numbers vertically, horizontally, and diagonally, can be added up to equal 15.

The solution would appear as follows

XXX
XXX
XX0
X00
000
000
XXX
XXX
000
XXX
000
000
XXX
XX0
000
XXX
XXX
X00
XXX
X00
000
XXX
XXX
XXX
XX0
000
000

or

8 1 6
3 5 7
4 9 2

When they add the right number of pegs to each space the door opens.

Hazards

Another mainstay of adventure is the hazard.  The rotting rope bridge across the chasm, the stepping stones across the pool of boiling lava, and the rockslide or avalanche are all examples of hazards that you might encounter.  Sometimes (as in the case of trying to outrun an avalanche, the lava flow of an erupting volcano, or the wall of water created by a collapsing dam wall)  these might be resolved as a non-sentient chase (where the pursuing force of nature progresses at a single increment at a time).  Others, such as navigating the rotting rope bridge, might require the application of one or a series of skill checks.

In the case where a chase mechanic is used to resolve the hazard, the result is typically serious injury (if not death) in place of capture.  Likewise failure to navigate a hazard using skill checks will likely result in serious injury (or death).

Note also that hero deaths are never trivial (see next chapter).  If a character is going to be overwhelmed by the lava, then part of the GM’s job is to ensure that the death occurs achieving something important.  Heroes never merely trip and fall to their deaths; they sacrifice themselves protecting others, fight their way to the switch that turns off the lava flow before succumbing etc.

Example

Dr Herbivore is the last to attempt to cross the rope bridge and is currently cursing his timidity.  Each person who crossed before him has weakened the bridge slightly.  It may hold, or it may not.

He rolls the dice to attempt to maintain his balance as he crosses, trusting to his luck.  He rolls a 13 +1 (balance) = success and gets half way over.

Another roll is called for to travel the remainder of the way.

A roll of 6 +1 (balance) is not a success.  The bridge has been so weakened by the passage of the group that it snaps under Dr Herbivore’s weight.

Dr Herbivore grabs the rope of the bridge as it falls away beneath him, hoping to be able to swing on it across to the chasm wall.

He rolls a 15 +1(swing) to succeed but takes a point of clubbing damage when he strikes the rock wall.  Now he must successfully climb up to his companions.

He rolls a 10 +2 (climb) in order to succeed.

Safe and sound, he stands once more among his companions.  It was a close call though.

NEXT TIME: Chapter 8 – Death and Victory.

This chapter of the Host Your Own Old Time Radio Drama RPG and all associated content (except where acknowledged) is © copyright <a href=”http://www.weirdworldstudios.com”>weirdworldstudios.com</a> and Philip Craig Robotham 1997 and may not be reproduced or distributed without the written permission of the author.


HYOOTRD Roleplaying Game – Players’ Guide

Posted in Blog, RPG Tagged with: , , ,