Chris Crawford quote on the trap-laden dungeon
Well, actually it’s about user interfaces, which are really the same thing when you think about it.
…one of the stupidest and most avoidable blunders in classic user interface design: darkness paralysis. Imagine it’s four in the morning and the dog is whining in the garage. You stumble out of bed and creep through the house, groping your way toward the door. You’re too sleepy to remember to turn on the light. The path you must take is direct and unobstructed, yet you move slowly and carefully, imagining at every moment a toe-stubbing chair or nose-crunching wall to be just in front of you. The absence of light dramatically changes a simple and obvious task into one that is difficult, confusing, and intimidating. Always keep this feeling in your mind, for although users operate the same program that designers create, the designers see the program in the light of complete knowledge, and the users navigate in total darkness. The designer cannot understand the user’s confusion; having laid out the room, examined it from a thousand different angles, gone over every square inch with a magnifying glass, the designer can walk across it with his eyes closed. He simply cannoy understand the user’s confusion.
Originally from Crawford’s The Art of User Interface Design. Via muffinlabs.
I don’t like 10′ poles – they’re unwieldy, ridiculous, combat-inappropriate and unheroic. But if pressure pads and spiked pits are the order of the game then they’re indispensable (only use a pike, please). So it’s really truer to say I don’t like a style of DMing that leads to 10′ poles – I just don’t want to play that darkness-paralyzed game – at least not every time.
The thing is, once you’ve fallen into that pit, there’s really no way to get the players to come back out of it, to pay attention to what the NPC is saying if they suspect she’s really just an illusory doppelganger lichwight trying to get them to enter the room so she can blast them, or to touch the engravings on the ceiling or drink from the fountain. Here’s the thing: it’s cool when Indy uses the tree branch to spring the poison dart because he’s in a small environment where you know there are special dangers. He doesn’t have to check for poison darts in the forest, Cairo or the sub pen. Because those places have different kinds of dangers. He knows it, we know it. But the megadungeon… isn’t it just exhausting, and kinda boring, to be waiting for the next scything head-chopper?
I’m wondering what to do about that. I’m hoping Talysman will talk about it. In the past I’ve gone and played other games, because for me D&D always was contaminated with pole-pushing thinking – CoC has its known dangers (you’re not going in the basement, right?), but the environment itself won’t always be creeping up on you – if it does, that’s because you’re making progress.
I’m thinking about the heist campaign, and how it runs on foreknowledge. Maybe I should give the players the journal of a previous party, that tells them about a set of traps but not where those are, so they know to watch out for particular bits of background. Or even some looted trap designs, so they recognise some features when they come up. Most of all, I’m leaning toward non-lethal “capture” traps – once a trap has been sprung the environment becomes a problem to be solved. Before it’s sprung, the nature of the problem is undeclared, so it’s impossible to face it as a challenge.
Finally, I just found this post Babbling Bane wrote back in March in response to something else I’d written. Sorry, WordPress doesn’t necessarily pingback Blogger citations (and probably vice-versa?). makes me wonder if I should tell people when I’m linking to them…