Here's a weird idea.
(It's final-exams grading/marking season for Professors ... which makes chatting about a weird gaming idea much more appealing than trying to cram in yet another student paper right now). :-)
Last year, I posted an idea about secret doors in dungeons that seemed to go over well: what if (almost) all secret doors could be detected automatically, but risking the necessary time/encounter checks to figure out how to open them offered the real challenge for dealing with such concealed portals?
Anyway. As one does, I recently read another blog post about managing TRAPS (and for the life of me, I'm sorry to say, I can't even remember which blog it was, let alone whether this was a recent post or an old one. Finals-exam season brain, I'll conveniently blame you again). That post talked about making traps obvious, automatically detectable, so that figuring out how to deal with the trap (without just rolling to disarm it) was the challenge. [Of course, this is an idea that many people, including Chris M, have written about too].
[EDIT: I think it was a now year-old Ben Milton/Questing Beast video, titled "Stop Hiding Traps!"]
Tonight's idea: what if you combined both of these, like so...
COMPREHENSIVELY TRAPPED SECRET DOORS
1) With their keen eyes and instinct for [getting themselves in] trouble, adventurers usually have no trouble picking up on the subtle clues that point to concealed doors or hatches. If the party spends a full turn exploring a room, they automatically detect any secret or concealed doors therein.
2) Pesky dungeon-builders know how inconvenient adventurers can be, and they plan accordingly. All secret doors have a 50% chance of being TRAPPED. [Or, enter your own weird edgy version here. I'm particularly thinking about: what if ALL secret doors were trapped, without exception? And what if hardly anything else were trapped? "The trapped door" luring players on to hidden treasure would become its own dungeon-locale motif. Huh. ].
3) Make the existence of a secret door and a trap on said door obvious to PCs, and then let them act as they see fit. Traps must be navigated, defused, mitigated, dismantled, or endured through fictional manipulation, not nerfed through dice rolls.
4) Remind players that secret doors usually hide juicy things, like treasure or new dungeon levels. Cackle as they die in terror.
YEAH, BUT, WELL, WHY?
Actually, I think this could do some interesting things. It offers a non-mechanical, non-gamist (if you will) way to address the problems I mentioned in my post last year about secret doors (minor details like prepping cool hidden content that likely won't get discovered ... or running modules with no detail on these important hidden doors, etc.).
Now, running things this way also ADDS work. You need some coherent traps, with clear mechanical function, and ways to signal those aspects to inquisitive players.
But you'd gain ... oh, I don't know, I'm sort of spitballing here. But you'd gain a recognizable signature aspect to dungeons - the players will learn to love the lure of more-exotic treasures in hidden halls, and they will learn to dread the sting of mis-handled traps, and they will have a clear incentive/risk-reward balance to think through, letting them decide whether to bother with trapped doors or not.
IMPORTANT LEGAL CAVEATS
I'm not a lawyer, and I didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night. I'm not saying this is a good idea, mind you, but it strikes me as offering some intriguing possibilities.
That is all. A few ungraded papers still beckon, mockingly...