In our fourth edition game, our party's rogue has gained the habit of checking for traps whenever he moves anywhere.

I find this annoying, not only because it stops traps from ever coming into effect, but also he does it whilst he's talking with other characters. While talking with the evil wizard right before the boss fight, which really ruins the atmosphere.

Other players are also annoyed by this as the character is already optimized and so is the best in combat by a long shot. He doesn't need this moment to shine.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: How should GM deal with 'standing orders'? - one of the issues was a standing order to constantly search for traps, secret doors, and so on. Not directly applicable here though, considering how your player's behaving. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Oct 23 '14 at 6:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Was he or the party burned really bad by traps at some point via a DM gotcha moment that led to this or is this just recreating memes heard about D&D? \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Oct 23 '14 at 6:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ "It stops traps from ever coming into effect" ... could you give an example of this? Maybe link to the DDI instances of the traps in question? \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 23 '14 at 7:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ "While talking with the evil wizard right before the boss fight, which really ruins the atmosphere." Wow, this is extraordinarily rude - the evil wizard has probably prepared a special speech outlining his evil plans just for the PCs. But really what's the point if the thief isn't even paying attention? \$\endgroup\$ – RobertF Oct 23 '14 at 15:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BrianBallsun-Stanton No DDI subscription, but the ones I used were mostly homebrew based off the ones in the DMG (p87) \$\endgroup\$ – Kolotos Oct 23 '14 at 16:57

Checking for traps in combat does cost action economy

PERCEIVE SOMETHING Make a Perception check to perceive something, such as a hidden door, a concealed object, a group of creatures talking, or a monster’s tracks.

Action: Minor action. No action is required when the DM is using a creature’s passive Perception. Carefully searching an area (the creature’s space and squares adjacent to it) requires 1 minute or more.

DC: The DM chooses a DC from the Listen table, the Spot table, or the Find Tracks table.

Success: The creature perceives something. If the creature is carefully searching an area, it finds something, assuming there’s something to find.

This is important to keep in mind as there are quite a few minor action attacks that strikers get access to as they level and looking for traps is also costing him possible damage.

Out of Combat I would rule that searching precludes any other activities

The PC cant be actively searching for traps while carrying on conversations, etc. Passive Perception handles the normal awareness level of a PC while they move and do other things.

Talk to the player OOC

Express the issues you and the rest of the table are having. I can easily guess the having to adjudicate his search roles all the time just brings the game to a very slow grind. Maybe even make a social agreement about telegraphing whether or not traps might be in a certain area as a way to preclude the player searching all the time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You should probably mention that thing about how he might've been burned by traps at some point, because the expectation difference could be relevant here. (GM isn't trapping much, player doesn't want to get caught ever.) Of course, if the GM is throwing in a lot of super dangerous traps, then the player's behaviour seems somewhat logical... \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Oct 23 '14 at 6:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ It may be worth emphasising the role of passive perception more, as it's nominally designed for situations like this? \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 23 '14 at 6:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm unfamiliar with D&D-4E mechanics, but, doesn't the quoted text portion about "Carefully searching an area [...] requires 1 minute or more." apply for traps as well? That will make searching for traps a "waste" of a whole minute, not just a minor action. (Intuitively, that's closer to what I'd expect it to take, but game mechanics have higher priorities than being perfect simulations or intuitive...) \$\endgroup\$ – G0BLiN Oct 23 '14 at 13:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @G0BLiN: I'm familiar with the D&D-4E mechanics and you're right that it appears self-contradictory. The only way I can think to resolve it is that there are three "perception action". Passive perception (walking down a hallway) is free, a quick check (listing things on a table) is a minor action, and a careful search (finding a ring in soft dirt) takes a full minute. But the rules don't say that, they only vaguely imply it. \$\endgroup\$ – Mooing Duck Oct 23 '14 at 19:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MooingDuck - you confirm what I thought. Checking that there are no traps in an area should take a minute then, meaning that that rogue lose 10 combat rounds just to be sure there are no traps on his grid square and the 8 surrounding it - his comrades will kick him out of the party for slacking off while they do all the fighting, and if he refuses to move to an unchecked square, the first time they need to escape something tough, he is toast... \$\endgroup\$ – G0BLiN Oct 23 '14 at 20:18

Setting aside the utility of relegating most passive searching to passive perception and allowing active searching to find a trap that you already have evidence for, most traps and hazards in 4e really don't care about being detected. (This answer is inspired by a now defunct blog post about applying super meat boy to D&D traps (look at the second article on the archive.org page).)

Consider super meat boy: enter image description here

giant, rotating, saws. It's not about "detecting" the saws, It's about dealing with the saws. Traps in 4e, treated not as "gotchas" (since they can't really, with their nominal and constrained attack and damage values) are much better designed as set dressing that a prepared enemy can use as part of the combat. (And it becomes all the sweeter using the traps and hazards against the self-same enemy).

Instead of trying to trap your (likely suffering from abused gamer syndrome) rogue, play up how awesome these mechanical traps and hazards are. Use them to have awesome set piece battles where the terrain really matters. Play up how huge and scary they are. The challenge is to deal with the traps as part of the tactical environment, not to play a boring game of gotchas. Everyone will have more fun trying to maneuver their opposition into the giant rotating saw blades.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Super Meatboy made me laugh, great point about how traps should function like a 3rd, ambivalent party in combat that can hurt both groups and be used by both groups to their advantage. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Oct 23 '14 at 12:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow, that abused player syndrome matches up 1 to 1... Also a very nice article on super meat boy. I think I will definitely try that. \$\endgroup\$ – Kolotos Oct 23 '14 at 16:45

First and foremost, you should have a talk with this player. Mention to him that his constant checking for traps is becoming a major time drag on the campaign, and ask him to do it a bit less often, or only when prompted, so that the game won't be bogged down by constant trap-checking.

If need be, suggest that he only needs to check for traps if you mention that he should check for traps. This assumes a separation of player/character knowledge, but if he's willing to go along with it, you can let him continue to serve as a trap-checker when traps are actually present, without bogging the campaign down with constant trap-checking of empty rooms.

Now if he's still insisting on doing constant trap-checking everywhere he goes, here's a few things you can do to keep things moving along.

Broaden the scope of his checks

You say he checks for traps 'everywhere he goes'. Does this mean every time he enters a room? Every time the party enters a new town? Every time they go to bed? All of these things can get tiring, so try to provide him with a broad trap-checking roll before getting into an area where you will have a lot of action take place. If the party's travelling, have him check for traps once for the entire trip and apply it to however many traps he does (or does not) come across. If they're entering a town, have him roll to check for traps in all the samll buildings they enter once. If they're entering a large building or dungeon, have him check for traps on each floor once.

You will have to run this option by him, and decide if you are okay with it. The result is that he gets one chance to determine how alert he is while looking for traps in an area. If he gets a good roll, he'll find traps in that area very easily. If he doesn't, tough luck. Explain that it will help keep the game moving forward, and allow him to get to the combat sections he does so well in much quicker (preferably mention that bit when the other players aren't around).

Use fewer traps

If he's constantly checking for traps, he may be paranoid of previous traps he's had to encounter. Use fewer, and he'll likely stop checking around quite as often...this assumes you have actually used traps in the past, and that he's not just being paranoid for no reason.

Penalize him for taking too much time

Checking for traps that throughly takes time. If he's checking each room he enters for traps, monsters or enemies that are moving around the area should have a chance to converge on the party while he's doing so. He should definitely not be able to check very throughly in the midst of or immediately prior to battle, lest he use up precious combat actions. Make sure you make it clear that taking up time is the reason this is happening.

Let the party go on without him

There's no reason, if the party members feel that the rogue is being paranoid and taking too much time, that they have to stay with him while he's checking every nook and cranny for traps. If the group decides he's taking up too much time, let them try to go on without him. Make sure they do this in-character though, and don't treat it like they're abandoning the player.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like the idea of the party attracting more wandering monsters as more time is spent searching for traps. The rogue will have to take into account the benefits and costs of constant searching once time becomes an issue. \$\endgroup\$ – RobertF Oct 23 '14 at 16:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RobertF Of course, if he considers this perfectly fine (And he might if he's also the party's best fighter), it won't work as well, which is why I've offered several alternatives. \$\endgroup\$ – Zibbobz Oct 23 '14 at 16:57

If you have a player who obsessively and thoroughly checks every square they pass for traps or secret doors, the character is going to be spending an incredible amount of game time searching. The party will take an entire day just to travel a single kilometer.

If you are ignoring the passing of time, there is no downside to this behavior (from the player's perspective). If all the players have to carry around a week's worth of rations for even the tiniest of dungeons (not even accounting for travel to or from), and face constraints on days passing so quickly in the outside world for very little ground covered, they might not tolerate having to bring along wagons of food and water with them everywhere they go because of one player's obsessiveness.

I know some do not care for keeping track of mundane things like the passage of time or the need for food and water, but they do place some restrictions on players taking weeks to search every nook and cranny of a house.


Checking for traps takes time.

Generally, most DMs set up scenarios where time taken doesn't matter, and just say the end of the day is reached after 4 encounters. Don't do this.

What are the enemies doing in the hours that this rogue spends looking for traps? Setting an ambush, learning the parties weaknesses and preparing accordingly, summoning reinforcements, or simply taking their treasure and fleeing.

In combat, I would say stabbing someone will usually be more effective than looking for traps.


If he is a rogue, he must and should check for traps (unless for some reason someone else built to find traps). If you are having a problem with the frequency that he does it, perhaps talk with the GM about the problem. One big thing that I normally do when I run a game is that I only do "one" perception check per room. That can be overridden (circumstances only allow for unusual situations), but that might help.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You aren't addressing the edition in question. 4e very rarely has any traps at all and rogues are not built merely to find traps. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Oct 23 '14 at 6:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ One search per room is still a decent suggestion, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian S Oct 23 '14 at 14:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer :) This is why the player came to play. Easy solution is automatically do so for the rogue (standard operating procedure - like standard marching order), so it doesn't have to interrupt the game. I've had groups with tons of SOP I had to remember, and I preferred it; it let the game progress more quickly \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Oct 24 '14 at 2:49

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