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Chapter 1: Gamemastery Basics / Running Exploration / Scenes Within Exploration

Hazards

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 20
The task of looking for and disarming hazards comes up frequently in exploration and is an example of a type of exploration scene. Hazards don’t usually appear out of nowhere. A trap might be on a door’s lock, at a specific bend in a corridor, or so on. You could have a pit trap in the middle of a large room, but a surprise that’s entirely unexpected can be pretty unsatisfying. The same pit trap appearing in the middle of a 10-foot-wide, suspiciously featureless hallway can make the players say, “Okay, we should have seen that coming,” with even that minimal amount of foreshadowing.

When a complex hazard triggers, move to encounter mode. Simple hazards are usually dealt with in exploration mode, but that doesn’t mean they should be glossed over. Give a clear picture of what action by a PC set off the hazard, what happens as the hazard activates, and any aftereffects. PCs have many ways to heal themselves, so keep in mind that a damaging hazard won’t always have a huge effect. They tend to work best if their activation might alert creatures in the area, lock the PCs out of an area, or cause a similar setback beyond just damage.

If a PC detects a hazard and wants to disable it, slow down a bit. Ask the player to describe what the PC is doing and give concrete details about how their efforts pan out to make it feel more real. It’s good if the player sweats a little bit! It’s supposed to be a tense situation, after all. If a hazard requires multiple checks to disable, it’s good to describe what happens with each success to show incremental progress.