Monday, December 2, 2013

No-Touch Triggers

I was thinking of weird engines that were powered by things just happening in the vicinity, but it might be more useful to you as a general purpose trigger. 

The idea is to set up a fun, mysterious occurrence that players have to figure out what they're doing to cause it.  That means the effect, be it boon or bane, shouldn't be too extreme, because you expect it to happen multiple times.  Also, the trigger should be something easily discoverable, or frustration will be the only thing triggered.

So, for example, every time someone asks a question in a room a gong sounds and players gain 5 pounds.

This means we need to generate both possible triggers and possible amusing affects.  I think the latter is easier and I'll leave it to you.  The former is trickier because it balances on the border of in-game and out-of-game actions.  I guess the fancy way to put it is that these actions are at least potentially diegetic.  They have to be things it is plausible for characters to do even if it is players doing it without thinking about their characters.  Here are some possible ones I thought of:

  1. ask a question
  2. say a name
  3. say a direction (n,s,e,w or right, left)
  4. use a conditional (if we . . . ?, will you . . .?)
  5. character rests, sits or lies down.
  6. player eats something (this is clearly out-of-game, but might be funny.. a gong goes off every time someone grabs a pretzel)
That's all I got right now.  I'm noticing I want things that are likely to happen in the room.  So discussions about what to do or where to go are very likely to occur in a game of D&D.  Somethings could become more likely based on the context you put in the trigger room.  For example, up/down might be said if there is a ladder/stairway in the room. 

The majority of these are just talking, but most actions would involve touching and are pretty standard dungeon fare, like opening a chest or door triggering something.  They would have the mystery of what is causing this.   Eating, drinking, praying or reading in the room might work, but then you have to hope players might actually do those things.  I suppose it's a fairly niche application.  But it could be fun.  Let me know if you can think of any potential triggers.



  2. Well, the obvious one is some unusual but not incredibly obvious feature of the room that does something whenever someone looks at it. Might be a bit harder to track, though.
    Or there's that old Anansi story with the moss covered rock, and anyone who sees it and says "moss covered rock" falls asleep. You could expand this to describing the thing in any way.
    Or you could flip it on its head and have something happen to anyone who didn't say anything for a certain length of time.
    Or you could make players aware of a more esoteric trigger like bloodletting or praying or whatever, by having monsters or someone use it against the PCs first.

  3. Those are some great comments, thanks!

    @Roger: I've seen videos of that goofy duck dropping down, but I never knew it was about a secret word. Now I'm thinking about the potential to do that for a whole game night, some word to avoid, as if the party has been cursed. It could be fun. I am totally down with exploiting any potential parlour-game aspects of D&D sessions.

    @anon: I'd never heard of that story, that's great. It's like the secret word embodied. Imagine a room with four items on separate pedestals and saying the name of each produces different effects. It might be odd, because as a DM you have to name them to describe them. It might work better if you had a picture of the room to show them.

    I'm interested in the requirement of saying something, too. It might work better if it was fairly specific, like every time you ask a question you have to end it with "Zool bless us," or something. And then see how many times players forget to say the appropriate thing and get zapped. Could get annoying if not limited to a set of rooms. Or heck, maybe it is annoying, that would be a great curse for a character: every time you forget to invoke Zool when you say the name of a cardinal direction you break out in hives. Of course, then the DM has to always pay attention as well.