Friday, June 14, 2013

In Retrospect: Grimtooth's Traps

I actually have fond memories of Grimtooth's Traps, by Flying Buffalo, Inc.

In case you didn't know, Grimtooth's Traps is filled with some of the most vicious traps to ever grace a roleplaying supplement. All of the traps are system-neutral. If you put them all in a dungeon they'd almost make the Tomb of Horrors look bad. Add Grimtooth's dark humor (Grimtooth is a snarky troll serves as your host, drawn by S. S. Crompton) with traps written by a number of now-veteran game designers and authors like Mike Stackpole and you've got a legend among older gamers.

My older brother bought this book when I was a little kid, and let me look at it occasionally when little hands weren't grubby. While my young mind couldn't read all of the words (what's a "delver?"), the pictures showed me all of the ways characters could get hacked and mangled to death.

And you know what? Later I learned that he even had the audacity of including these traps in his adventures.

Within this book we've got corridors that suddenly turn into drop shafts with spikes at the end, doors that when kicked open kick back, traps that shread a character's calf-muscle and Achilles' tendon. There's a room where your character wakes up in a cage, and two giant lobsters are down below. Not all is as it seems. What do you do?

Then, of course, there's the infamous "Rope Serpent."

Much later I inherited this book and also had the audacity to inflict some of these traps on my players. Most of these were the many "trapped" or "cursed" items found farther back in the book.

I do recall one time when a brash Paladin smashed a cursed vase to get the gold inside. It was a stupid thing to do, because he lost 6 intelligence points. This also meant couldn't meet the requirements for the Wyrmslayer "kit" from the Complete Paladin's Handbook. His player didn't like this one bit, got mad, and decided that his character had become too stupid to avoid reading the nearby Book of Vile Darkness. His paladin became a fighter and a night hag the book summoned killed the fighter.

Afterwards I didn't have the heart to tell him that the intelligence loss was only temporary... (also it was pretty damn funny).

I don't recall using many of the "meatgrinder" traps from this book, because I really didn't want my campaign to just end with a TPK. A lot of these traps are the "step and die" variety. In fact, there's subsection in the book titled Step and Die. Many of these traps reek of "no saving throw."

Still, the traps are generic enough to adapt to almost any system. There are no stats, so the referee can decide their game mechanics. For a few of the traps, Grimtooth himself suggests how to make the traps more character friendly... or more lethal.

In short, Grimtooth's Traps is at least a humorous read, but DMs should use some caution.

Creativity: 7 out of 10
Presentation: 8 out of 10
Utility: 7 out of 10

Get this if... You're an old school DM who needs more ideas for make his dungeons more lethal, or you're a player who suspects the DM might have this book. ;)

Don't get this if... You run "adventure path" campaigns with convuluted story arcs. Many of these traps often result in a total party kill or may be interpreted by players as unfair. There are, however, a few cursed/trapped items that might be worth looking at.

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