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Jiia

Randomness with Lock-picking and Traps

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Is there a need for it? Random failures resulting in jammed locks, or failure disarming traps and having the traps blow up in your face just seem like good reasons for saving + reloading. Why not just give the character a concrete ability? I mean if we're being realistic, it's very rare that random luck comes into your success rate, unless you really, really just suck. I suppose it could be explained that the character is just randomly poking around, trying to find the locking mechanism. But how does this randomness improve the game as much as it hurts it? Wouldn't it better to know if you can get through the first try instead of trying ten times to be sure? I'm thinking of avoiding it entirely. Locks would have a specific level associated with them, and if they are above the player's skill, he won't be able to open them unless he has a key or can bash through it. Traps will have two levels. One for noticing them and one for disarming them. Both directly related to the character's trap skill, but the noticing may have a small amount of randomness. Anyway, I'm just looking for opinions. Thanks :)

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I like the concrete ability idea. Making it so the player can have an advantage knowing their specific skill. Having to stop and pick locks and avoid traps would slow down the pace of the game if you're going for an all out action type game. However, if the game is meant to flow at a slower pace, those items could be used. If you decide to use them, maybe just limit the number in each level/area.

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I always thought critical failures existed so DMs could pull out a deus ex machina when they thought it would help the story. I've never liked it in computer games. Even in Fallout, it totally wrecked my immersion to have my gun accidentally shoot me and fall on the ground. How stupid to you have to be to have a chance, however small, of hiting yourself with a thrown javelin?

Locks and traps are a little trickier. In a non-saving game, it might be a reason to not try disarming a trap. If you're going to run the risk of exploding, then maybe whatever's in that box isn't worth it. But gamers tend to feel entitled to things in games, so I'd expect them to try anyway, and then get mad when they blow their stupid fingers off. However, the cheap crap that is save + load will wreck this nuance of play.

I say take out the failures. Just have the character say, "No way, I'm not touching that thing," and neither attempt it nor gain experience from it. Force the player to exercise discretion, because you know that they will not. They know it's just a game, and they know they are functionally invincible, so they'll keep loading and trying and loading and trying until they get that 1% roll to open or disarm it. Don't let them.

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Take a look at the lock picking mechanism of Dungeon Lord...as it gets a little tediuos with too many locks on a place, I think it otherwise a good combination:

you have one ability to understand the lock mechanismen, and a sceond ability which determines the time you have to pick the lock, before the trap fires...

and you have just to click on some given icons, while a bar moves about block of some more icons (which you will see before starting if your ability for understanding is good enough for this lock)...I really think this a great idea, which could work fabulous with a little more finetuning (such like, this lock has been picked before, so I don't need to do it manually again)...

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Let the player decide how much risk and time he wants to take. You could for example display a progress bar, which the player can interrupt for "quicker results". When it happens, or the bar is filled, you make some progress towards picking the lock. If the bar gets completely filled, you can assume that the character was as careful as possible, and gets to learn whether there are traps (unless outmatched) so he can stop right now, if there are no traps, or he already learned about them, then he actually makes progress towards picking the lock. At that point, tell him whether the lock is beyond his abilities or not. Repeat until the lock is picked (how many times depends on the lock and the character's skill) or the character gets interrupted (that's what really matters - you don't want to be caught picking the lock).

If the player interrupts the progress bar, then it means the character is taking risks for a chance at an increased progress rate (you got to balance the increase in task points with the reduction in time spent due to the early interruption). That means you can now introduce a (greater?) chance of catastrophic failure, while also getting a chance at picking a lock he wouldn't be able otherwise.

At the extreme, the player pounding on his keyboard to take 'maximum risks' could represent the character brutally pounding on the lock, triggering traps, attracting guards, ruining the mechanism but, maybe, breaking the lock off.

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Average locks are designed so that it's difficult to pick them by accident. In that respect, it makes sense that there wouldn't be much random chance in picking them. If you don't already know how to pick that kind of lock, then you're going to have to spend a much longer time trying to learn how it works.

Conversely, traps are designed so that it's easy to set them off by accident. There will be a large element of chance in disarming them.

Good locks are designed so that it's difficult to pick them by accident, but easy to trigger a defensive mechanism by accident. For example, in some modern high-security locks, if the lockpicker does something wrong, the lock will 'close up' and become much harder to pick. A lock so triggered needs to be reset before it can be opened with a key; and that would mean that anybody legitimately using the lock would know somebody had tried to pick it.

Of course, that could be used strategically: if you can't get into the locker to steal your enemy's weapons, you can at least trigger the lock so that it takes them longer to get to them if alerted to your presence. Given that that's a bad thing for them, it would probably be same to assuem that locks which people are going to want to open even if there are enemies around wouldn't have this self-defense mechanism; although they might still be hooked up to an alarm.

Fruny's plan seems pretty sane. It seems unlikely that rushing a lock would make it possible to actually pick it faster. So rushing locks would only be an advantage on locks with traps -- you'd attempt to disarm the trap more quickly at the expense of being more likely to set it off. But no matter how fast you rush, you couldn't get around the time required to actually perform the picking -- only training could do that.

Another, more deterministic, option is to give players a 'luck' meter. You can spend luck points to shorten the time it takes to pick the lock. The more points you spend, the faster the rush. There's no increased chance of failure (it's only good luck), but if you don't have enough luck points, you can't rush the lock. Luck points would gradually restore naturally, and might also be effected by truly random events; you might gain some luck points in 'compensation' if you are particularly unlucky in some way.

I don't see it being even vaguely fair to force the player to play the game in a way they might not find enjoyable. It's a game, not a prison sentence.

If you don't want players to get around difficulties by employing save/restore, the correct solution is assuredly to provide a better way of solving the problem.

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I've suggested the same thing with PNP games. If a GM wants a player to pick a door, then he will set a door that can be picked easily. If he doesn't want it to be picked, it will probably be magically or somehow unpickable. The only reason to have a door not be automatically picked by having a skill would be to have a door that you may or may not want them through and let the dice decide. You might as well just allow the player to have a picklock skill that is either nil or trained.

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Deus Ex has a guarenteed system, insert hack tool to difficulty level and viola. Additional training in computer skills reduces the number of tools you need to hack a particular door/panel. Deus Ex 2: Invisible War did pretty much the same thing, but striped the skill up grade (you just need X tools for this device).

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Are you considering open-ended games at all? One reason to have different, even random levels of lock difficulties would be to create variety of encounter in well travelled areas. If, for instance, you have a holy palace that you keep sneaking around, it may be fun to have different levels of doors that you anticipate working up to. However, if it's an environment that you're unlikely to return to, it may be a waste.

Then there's the issue of replayability (if any). Many times when I replay an RPG I'm bummed by how familiar everything is. Varying things like lock levels helps this a bit because it ensures that while you may have been able to get through certain doors last game, there's no guarantee this game.

Failure in the lock itself also can create a money sink, in the form of more and more advanced picks or gadgets which could be damaged or used up. In terms of traps, I find it interesting to reveal the risk and let the player decide how much they want to take on.

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Quote:
Original post by Jiia
...Why not just give the character a concrete ability? I mean if we're being realistic, it's very rare that random luck comes into your success rate, unless you really, really just suck. I suppose it could be explained that the character is just randomly poking around, trying to find the locking mechanism. ...
(emphasis mine)

I just want to point out that when it comes to lockpicking there is a certain amount of luck involved. Take for instance this article. The article highlights a lockpicking championship. In the final round this happens:
Quote:
Hardt works his picks in his cupped hand as if he's applying lipstick to a hand puppet. Arthurmeister scrapes away at the monster in his vise like a dentist on Benzedrine. The tools of the trade look like toothpicks in his oversize mitts.

"Open!" cries Arthurmeister. He smooths his plumage back and sits upright in his throne, triumphant.

The other lock pickers gasp. Someone claps. Arthurmeister has picked the 8362C in only 20 seconds. It was a rake pick on a supertough lock, an opening that uses luck almost as much as skill.

Meanwhile, Julian the Champ can't pick his lock at all. The clock runs out at eight minutes.



If a world class lockpicker wins by luck, perhaps our little adventurer needs some luck too.

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