Tag Archives: player skill

Challenging Your Players’ Skill Without Risking Frustration

The Zork II computer game from 1981 includes a locked door that you can open by solving a clever puzzle. The door has the old-fashioned sort of lock that lets you look through the keyhole and see the other side. … Continue reading

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The Pros and Cons of D&D’s Ability Checks

In the early years of Dungeons & Dragons, players searched by telling the dungeon master where they wanted to look, and then the dungeon master told them if something was there. The game resolved most actions using back and forth … Continue reading

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How to Say Yes Without Turning Your D&D Game Into a Joke

In my last post, I explained how challenging myself to say yes to players made me a better dungeon master, even though I sometimes said no. Sometime in the 90s, I returned gaming conventions after more than a decade away. … Continue reading

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Is it noticed? How to run alertness

Introducing the spot check In this post, I cite “spot checks” to refer to third edition’s Spot checks, Next’s Wisdom (Perception) checks, and tests of awareness made with 4E and Pathfinder’s Perception skill. The Spot skill and its descendents rate … Continue reading

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When should a game master call for a check?

In the early years of Dungeons & Dragons, players searched by telling the dungeon master where they wanted to look, and then the dungeon master told them if something was there. The game resolved most actions using back and forth … Continue reading

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5 reasons someone might build a dungeon filled with clues and tests

In “Puzzle traps,” I explained how the most fun traps come with clues that alert players to the danger. I listed a few reasons why clues might accompany traps even though their builders want them to be unnoticed. In addition … Continue reading

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Puzzle traps

In my previous post, I introduced gotcha traps, the first of my two categories of traps. This post reveals my second category. puzzle traps While characters must search for gotcha traps, puzzle traps always come with clues that signal their … Continue reading

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Fourth edition gives traps a new design

When the fourth edition designers rethought D&D, they saw traps as posing two core problems: Traps can frustrate players Traps can slow play to tedium Problem: Traps that challenge player ingenuity can lead to player frustration. This problem arises when … Continue reading

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A history of traps in Dungeons & Dragons

In original Dungeons & Dragons, the three brown books only include one rule for traps. “Traps are usually sprung by a roll of a 1 or a 2 when any character passes over or by them.” That’s it. The rules … Continue reading

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Little-known D&D classics: Escape from Astigar’s Lair

In 1980, Judges Guild published Escape from Astigar’s Lair, a slim module that sold for just $2. The adventure so charmed me that after I ran it, I created a similar challenge of my own to unleash on players. Astigar’s … Continue reading

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