Lead Mine & Manufactory

There is a lead mine bored into a spur of Ankeny Hill. Redsnout Clan kobolds, wise in the ways of the earth, found a seam of galena ore and have been following it deeper into the hill. As the mine expanded, they excavated vertical ventilation shafts and built a smelter to drive the lead out of the galena. Since then, they’ve been digging ore, isolating lead, and using proxies to send ingots and sling bullets to market.

Traps. Fuckin' traps.
Kobold lead mine and manufactory. Player (clean) copy. Click for full size.

Sometimes you just want a kobold adventure. Tight quarters, traps, and infinitely infuriating guerrilla tactics. Did I mention traps?

Traps kill dungeons. That is, unattended traps kill dungeons. Any GM knows that once the party has run into a trap or two, that party is going to be moving much more slowly through the remaining areas of the dungeon. Absent an outside force hustling the party along, the progress will slow to a crawl.

This is unpleasant to game through and an unrealistic use of traps. Fun and unrealistic is fine for gaming; boring but realistic does appeal to a certain subset of gamers; boring and unrealistic has no place in a game.

Soldiers since time immemorial have known that unobserved obstacles are useless. Without observation, you have no way of knowing if the enemy is breaching, and if you don’t know the enemy is breaching, you’ve given the enemy all the time they need to reduce that obstacle. Obstacles’ purpose is to impede and canalize someone–to control the space they have access to–so that you can direct force upon them while they’re constrained.

To bring it back around, kobolds observe their traps. Either visually, or with a noisemaker, or some other indication that it has been sprung. The traps aren’t really there to kill intruders directly. The traps are there to slow, divide, and distract intruders so that the kobolds can kill them. If an arrow trap pins some wicked little gnome to the wall on the way in, that’s just a bonus.

To put it more bluntly, when the party slows down poking and prodding for traps, that’s when the kobolds come around the back to tear them apart.

Not again.
Mine and manufactory gridded and keyed. 5′ squares. Click for full size.

It should be remembered that the mine was excavated by kobolds for kobold purposes. Don’t think 10’x10′ finished stone hallways; think meandering pickwork drifts and 4′ ceilings. Don’t think this; think this.

5 thoughts on “Lead Mine & Manufactory

  1. Hi Hellahexi,

    Those are some excellent points about traps. I have long abandoned using hidden traps, as they have such a detrimental effect on the game. However, I had not thought about how they really should be used, until I read this.

    Many thanks for posting it


    1. As you may have guessed, I agree with largely abandoning standalone save-or-suffer traps. Cleverly designed1, they can be interesting in an Indiana Jones kind of way, but they inevitably slow a party, and if there’s no in-game response to that slowing, it just bogs the game.

      However, I think a proper trap can be useful if that natural reaction of “slow down! be careful!” is used realistically by the trap-setters. That is, against the party. Trap goes off –> trap-setters learn of the invaders (erm, “adventurers”) –> invaders are slowed –> trap-setters have time to prepare defenses and counterattack invaders. If any link in that chain fails, the purpose of the trap has been obviated.

      From a metagaming perspective, this approach also dispenses with the GM’s problem of traps slowing the progress of the game session; the party is slowed, but the game is not, because a counterattacking force is going to appear and the party now has an in-game motivation to hustle along.

      1 I don’t particularly care for puzzle traps or the idea that traps are an encounter in-and-of themselves. Traps are just an instrument to bring PC and NPCs into conflict, with an advantage to the NPCs. There’s precious little storytelling to be done in an encounter with an inanimate mechanism.


      1. Hi Hellahexi,

        I rarely use traps, but then the Heroes are rarely in a conventional dungeon either.

        However, if I were to include a trap, it would most likely be a stand-alone trap encounter. My initial thought is how this would offer a different challenge to the Players: a combination of a puzzle to diffuse or evade, and a chance to use different abilities.

        Now I am questioning this assumption. Traps are so rare in my game, there could be a novelty aspect. Next time I use a trap, I need to watch carefully how the Players react. Is the trap just wasting their time?

        Thanks for the debate


      2. Nothing wrong with a little novelty. And a standalone trap can be interesting, so long as it’s interactive, giving the PCs a chance to use their smarts and/or character abilities.

        And remember, traps aren’t just for dungeons! Every trail can hold a tiger pit, or a log deadfall, or just a noisemaker to alert the local denizens….


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