Have been chatting with some of my players about ACKS as I gear up to run a campaign, probably starting in a couple of months. The topic of traps came up, and how they are dealt with in OSR gaming.
Our RPG background is varied, but if you’re talking D&D and similar, we’re Pathfinder players. In Pathfinder, it’s pretty simple. You roll on the relevant skill to see if the PC notices a trap in the room. If it’s poorly or well hidden, there may be modifiers, but generally speaking, roll the dice and see what happens.
Now, my understanding is that OSR games are intended to work a bit differently. Players are generally expected to work this stuff out for themselves. Ask questions about the room they are about to enter, toss items onto tiles, poke things with 10’ poles, send in a disliked henchman, etc.
What I’m struggling with is: Essentially, this feels like it would come down to whether I decide whether they’ve looked carefully enough at something, and decide whether their character would spot it, which feels a lot like “DM decides whether you live, or save or die.”. I feel like if I describe anything that could remotely resemble a trap, players will decide “Yep, must be a trap there”, but that if I drop red herrings there will be a feeling of wasted time. And of course if I decide that they haven’t done enough to notice a trap, they’ll feel hard done by. Last of all, it feels like, if they experience enough traps, they’ll just build a list of everything they need to check for, and present it to me for every room they encounter, making it a “standard trap check”, which would kind of take the interest out of it.
My general approach when running games with skills has been to roll on skills, as expected, but to provide bonuses and penalties depending on any details the players care to give on what they’re doing.
How are you actually running traps in your OSR games?