Wednesday, October 25, 2017

This is Why We Can't Have Sexy Things

Ok, I may be over-reacting; I haven’t read all of Rappan Athuk. There might actually be some context to this. But as it is…

Anyone entering the room must make a saving throw or succumb to the scent’s intoxicating effect... It generates a feeling of pleasurable lassitude coupled with heightened lust. This prompts those affected to copulate again and again, exhausting themselves. Once they begin, victims sustain 1 point of constitution damage per ten minutes spent in this vigorous pursuit. When their constitution drops to 1 point, they become too weak to continue, though the drive remains; victims typically die of thirst or starvation even while they continue to feel the need to mate.

This looks, well, dull. At first pass, it appears that PCs who fail their save will immediately start with the fornications. With the right group, that could be hilarious as they work out the pairings. It could bring long-simmering issues to the fore. But mostly, this is just slowly losing CON until you die. It’s so slow, I can’t imagine most groups struggling to diffuse it, which makes it even less interesting than a simple pit full of gelatinous cube or green slime dripping down from the ceiling. Considering that Rappan Athuk is described as an adventure that “offers legions of inventive traps, tricks, strange features, and monsters -- many of them never before seen,” I can’t help but assume that the designers were at their wits ends for yet another way to kill PCs slowly. The result is a room that’s going to cause more than a few DMs to snerk and then read the text aloud to their players as an example of design to be mocked, before continuing on as if the room were empty.

Compare this to one of the classic magic items of the first edition: the Girdle of Masculinity/Femininity. Many dismiss this as a blatant example of locker-room hur-de-hurs. But it’s actually a very clever bit of design.

How can I say that? It creates a situation that the players can react to in a broad range of ways. Where the room above is pretty much a death trap for everyone who fails their save (and those who pass just drag their friends out of the room, I assume), the GoM/F leaves it up to the players just how much they want to interact with it. Laugh and move on? Treat it as a horrible curse that must be reversed? As an opportunity for out-of-the-ordinary RP? A last-ditch disguise to escape an encircling enemy?

There might be larger issues in the broader world that are brought to the fore in Rappan Athuk, but there probably aren’t. Getting transformed by the GoM/F will almost certainly cause your PCs to have to deal with the consequences in the world outside the dungeon. Maybe your world is so egalitarian there are none. Fair enough. Maybe the consequences are everywhere, in every little interaction your PC has.

The thing is, it’s entirely up to the folks playing the game. If the DM built that sort of thing into the setting, here’s an opportunity to approach it from a new angle and bring it back to the fore. If it’s something your group really doesn’t want to deal with, just get that Remove Curse cast and move on. Or live with it and move on.

That right there is the brilliance of the GoM/F. It’s as important (or unimportant) as you want it to be. It tosses a new toy onto the table, but you get to decide if it’s just a laugh, a temporary issue, or the centerpiece of the next phase of the campaign. It gives you more options and you get to decide what to do with them.


RipperX said...

I never understood why people buy a lot of gaming products. You always see stuff like this popping up. FANTASTIC AND INVENTIVE TRAPS! Traps shouldn't be fantastic or inventive, they are traps. Why go elaborate when the simple pits will do? They serve a purpose, they can be bypassed or they cost you hit points. Granted, little buggers whose only defense is trapping tend to get inventive about it, but there should be a humiliating or unpleasant effect as well. Things that say something about who lives here, or who once lived here.

The trap you described is seriously scraping the bottom of the barrel. It is poorly designed and honestly serves no purpose. Perhaps if you put some vampires in there it could work, but that isn't a trap, that is an encounter.

Kudos on bringing up magic items that alters how players play their character. Those are, and always have been, the best.

trollsmyth said...

Ripper X: I myself love neat puzzles and traps, but they're terribly hard to find. There were some gems among Raggi's Green Devil Face books, but most collections do not give the PCs something fun to interact with. (I find the Grimtooth collections to be the worst; the rational reaction to living in a world with traps like that is to drive herds of goats ahead of you as you traverse the dungeon; that's not the sort of world I want to game in.)

I totally agree that traps should, at best, be the products of the culture that created them. In that vein, I can kinda see a way to justify the trap in Rappan Athuk. Kinda. But it would probably still feel like a stretch.

DevDigs said...

it appears that PCs who fail they save will immediately start with the fornications.

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