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Elements of a Good Game Part 1

Written by Krystal - Published on March 24, 2010

In my article “DMing Muse” I mentioned a few elements that are good to put into a DnD game, and then decided that “Wait a minute, this would be great to talk about also!” So here I am again!  Some of the elements I mentioned in that article are traps, monsters, friendly npcs, non friendly npcs, illusions, places, puzzles, mazes, eye candy, items, plot, story, combat.  I’ll be going into more detail about these things and perhaps adding a few.  So, let’s get started! (Also, if you already understand something such as “Combat” feel free to skip that section and read what best suits you, or read the whole thing to perhaps get a differing opinion, )

Traps, where they go, when, and how?

Traps are sometimes one of the most overlooked aspects of the game. You roll a die, see a trap, roll another die, disable it, continue on. But what about the beautiful dynamics of a well created trap? You’re genius’s, not it’s time to put that creative ability to work. Your players are too smart, and just rolling a die no longer suffices! There must be more to it! Well, there can be. First off, create a well designed trap. I read a book awhile ago I believe it was an ADnD book that I honestly can’t remember the name of had a various selection of traps and defined them, how they worked etc. I’m sure there are more modern ones that may help, I also stumbled upon a website trying to find this book and found it had some rather useful tips and extras that can be found here ( http://www.acc.umu.se/~stradh/dnd/mirror/Ezra/books/olear/ADnD/NetBooks.html ) Though be warned they are in a “ADnD” format I -believe-. But I read through some of it and it can be easily put into many situations. It’s a rather B-Rate website but doesn’t make the content any less.

So, when creating a trap perhaps instead of just the same old rolling technique when they roll to disable the higher the roll the more “information” you give them about the device, from there on they must take the steps on their own to disable it. If they are stuck, help give them tips such as “You being a rogue know that pressure plates only activate when they are pushed down.” so then they can decide to disable it for extra experience with whatever mechanisms it is attached too, or they wedge it so if someone steps on it the pressure plate will not push down (this will give substantially less experience) or they can do nothing and simply avoid it (which still should allow a small amount of experience.) and perhaps they use it later on to their own advantage. (A monster is chasing them, so they use the pressure plate and set the trap off on the monster. Experience points!) You can make traps as much a part of your game as combat or roleplay.

In the 4E handbook on page 85 it discusses Traps and Hazards. It describes the difference between a trap and a hazard being “..Traps are constructed with the intent of 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 goblin-constructed false floor is a trap, while a deep cahsm between two sections of troglodyte cave constitutes a hazard.”

It’s a good idea to read through this for more tips, most of these things you can always find other tips for in the DM’s guide or players handbook. It even gives a various list of different potential traps and hazards, winging it tips, and more. Remember traps can be magical in nature OR natural. Traps aren’t always pressure plates, sometimes they are magical silent alarms or many other various things. Switch it up and enjoy!

Also remember: Too much detail can slow a game down, perhaps you like keeping traps simple. That’s also fine.

Extra resources: For 3rd edition, page 119 in the DM’s guide has a chart for traps according to CR (Challenge Rating) page 114 explains some mechanical traps, building them, and gives you a list of ideas. Page 115 on the right begins to explain magical traps. (3.0 DM’s guide; sorry I don’t have 3.5)

Monsters, friendly NPCs and non-friendly NPC’s.

Monsters obviously are a big part, but keeping the monsters different help keep the game in flow. Such as instead of goblins create some other small creature that is unique or at least different so that people don’t feel “bored” with your selection. There are many, many books with various monsters or you can come up with your own. To do this either come up with your own stats or use stats of a similar monster in the book. These are just simple steps to help spice up your monsters. Or give your Goblins personality, by giving them tribe symbols, war cries, tactics, or just different scenarios to make it more interesting.

On that note, NPC’s can be monsters as well and visa versus, if you capture a goblin with the means to get information out of him he then becomes an NPC and needs more of a personality and response basis, NPC’s can be friendly and non friendly so always decide what type of out look they have on the party. Perhaps you have a human party with one elf, and the NPC will not speak to you with the elf present, or will only speak to the elf. Maybe he doesn’t like someone because he’s heard about them, or the way the dress. NPC’s can be bias for many different reasons, and sometimes they can be caring all around. Remember to give them personality and that if the players attack a PC then it becomes a “Monster”, and if they capture a “Monster” he then has the capability of being an NPC. Good luck and remember, be creative!

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Written by Krystal

At a young age, my mother opened up her own gaming store. We had two game rooms, an office, and the front area which had a ton of miniatures and books. I helped manage that store for several years, my mother teaching me the ropes and treating me like an adult so I could learn. Even beyond that she played games at stores like Haster Hobbies and several other places. In fact, my parents met gaming! DnD kind of runs in my blood, as well as any other gaming you can think of. I’m simply a gamer at heart, an artist, and a jack of all trades. I love to write and that’s why I’m here at Dungeon Mastering! I’m going to be going to school for Video Game Design, and my bf is going to school so he can publish Core Rule Sets. In the short few years I’ve been with him I’ve learned all about how to create my own rule system and create a game from the ground up! But my expertise is not limited to DnD alone. I’ve ventured far into Call of Cthullu, and beyond to games like Shadowrun and some White Wolf games..though I’m not a big fan of dice pools. :)

Anyways! Gaming is my passion and my life. I game constantly, go to conventions, and so much more! Maybe I’ll see you there! Happy Gaming!

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13 Responses to “Elements of a Good Game Part 1”
  1. Tourq says:

    I love this about traps! I, also, all too often neglect them. They’re definitely something that can enhance a session.

    -Tourq

  2. Elderon Analas says:

    Yay a trap article. one of my favorite traps. Haven’t had a chance to use it but i will put the details up here. It is trally several traps in one. but it is very unique.

    Here goes:
    1. springloaded trapdoor covering a 60ft, 10ft X 10ft pit.
    If they can reach the trapdoor it takes a DC15 STR check to hold it open while they climb out
    2. weight sensitive floor (whole floor is pressure plate)
    this plate sets off a timmer.
    3. time triggered release
    the timmer starts and all the PS hears is a ticking noise. after 4 rounds Dragon Bile begins to fill in the room
    4. dragon bile
    dragon bile (stomach acid) does 2d6 fire damage and 2d8 acid damage. it fills the room to a level of 15ft in 5 rounds. (thats 3 ft a round) it takes a Swim DC of 12 to swim in it. if they fail they are submerged and take 4d6 fire and 4d8 acid.

    needless to say if you fall in. you die. the PC’s only hope is someone above holding the door open while someone else lowers a rope. (not going into the skills needed for that as the DC checks from this point on are up to the DM (as well as the ones i put here. (and the damages are variable too)))

    Hope someone will use this. Tweak it how you want. mabey put spikes in the bottom too, it’s all up to the DM. but that is my basic design. hope your PC’s survive. (should extend time delay on Bile release mecanism for newer players as well as the speed at which the pit fills up. (it’s all up to you))

    Your Friendly (and devious) Brass Dragon,
    Elderon Analas

  3. Elderon Analas says:

    Sorry about all the spelling errors. hard for my claws to push these tiny keys.

  4. Elderon Analas says:

    been hard at work on the blog. made some new pages, got some new authors (thanks Krystal), working on new articles. This is the most active i’ve been on my blog in a long time.

    Here’s the link: http://elderonthedragon.blogspot.com

    Please have a look around, comment, tell me what you think. I have a constant need for conversation, companionship, and (gold) well to be doing something at this point in my life.

    Your Friendly Brass Dragon,
    Elderon Analas

  5. David Frees says:

    Thanks for the article on traps, enjoyed it greatly. I believe the challenge today is that many DMs have substitute skill checks for role playing when it comes to traps. It used to be that when a party came upon a trap they would first have to explain how they were going to disable it to the DM then roll to see if they accomplished the action they described. This approach takes more work on the part of the DM and players but enhances the game tremendously.

  6. Elderon Analas says:

    Anyone thought of useing my trap yet. or at least, what do you guys think? is it ok, bad, pretty good, I really have no idea, waiting for someone to say something.

  7. TheWhite says:

    @Elderon

    I must admit I’m not a huge fan of the, you failed one roll, you are dead trap, only way I ever use one shot kill traps is if it requires an actual player mistake to fall for it. The player that rolls a 2 and gets his character shot through the eye is an unhappy player. The fighter in full plate who decides to sprint over a 2 foot wide invisible bridge spanning a 200 foot drop needs to learn how to think. In the case of your trap I would need to put in some method not involving rolling that the player could use to work out that it is there and/or communicate with the rest of the party to get them out of there. That being said, with those few personal hangups it I like the variant on the standard pit trap.

  8. Elderon Analas says:

    @The White
    Glad you liked it. again you can change how fast the room fills up. how deep the pit is. one time i even thought of hanging a rope from the door so they could try to climb up. it is totaly up to you how you do it.and if they were smart pull the door open with the rope. then fasten it to the drain in the floor (dragon biles gotta go somewhere), or fasten it to the wall by jamming a dagger in between the bricks and tying the rope to it. and the trap door may not be hidden very well. mabey it’s a wodden square on a stone floor (odd but i did that, and someone fell for it)

  9. Toph says:

    @David: I’m totally with you, this is how all traps should work! …and how I still DM. I’ll give them a good description with clues about the trap (or secret door, puzzle, etc.) but they’ve got to experiment to make any progress, with the results (and further clues) based on what they try. And if they were clever but failed a roll, they’ll still get a clue about what’s there, and most players will keep at it once they know something’s up.

    Die rolls are great to add suspense to the role-playing, but shouldn’t substitute for it!

  10. Katie Thomas says:

    I am totally disappointed. When i searched on ask.com i searched for: ‘what are the elements of a good game?’ This was the first thing that came up, so i clicked on it. It had nothing i needed to know. I am extremely disappointed. It game me the wrong results and it wasted a lot of time. Try not to lead people on for the wrong reasons, dungeon mastering!

  11. Toph says:

    Hey katie: it’s not our fault you waste your time, then spend more time whining about it in the comments board of a page you didn’t want to read in the first place.

    That amount of stupid is all on you.

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