Notice Traps: This is a passive skill; "I'm just traipsing through this dungeon and I spotted that tripwire" kind of a thing, sort of like an Elf passively sensing a secret door in some iterations of D&D. If I were to include this, that would mean rolling dice in secret, because we obviously can't have automatic passive trap detection. Having tried to do that for Elf characters when they pass secret doors, I've found that I tend to forget to roll passive checks for my players half the time. Other refs may also have the problem of players figuring out what they are rolling for and taking the hint to actively look for something. (I roll for wandering monsters regularly, and have been known to roll my dice just to make sure my players don't try to figure out why I'm rolling my dice, so that's not a huge problem for me.) Besides the fact that I hate passive rolls that I have to make because I hate forgetting them, I feel that this will cut down on trap-finding roleplaying; every trap that is passively noticed is one less trap that the players find through roleplaying and one more time that they are rewarded for not roleplaying. Verdict: Out
Find Traps: This is active. "I'm looking for traps, probably poking around with a pole or something, and just found that tripwire." I figure this can be roleplayed without a problem, and I'm willing to allow players to find traps with no chance of failure, provided that the way they describe their character's actions would reasonably reveal a trap. So, a PC that's probing ahead with a 3-meter pole would find a pit trap without a problem, but, if only concentrating on the ground, would miss the scything blade trap from the ceiling that's activated by the stylized magic eye in the wall. Anyway, I'm willing to trade fail-proof trap detection for good roleplaying, even if it means that less traps will actually go off. I've found that, as a ref, I gain as much, if not more, pleasure seeing my players creatively get around a problem as I do in watching their characters die because of creative traps. Verdict: Out
Disable Small/Mechanical Traps: This, the way I understand it, is an attempt to keep thieves from being able to abstractly deal with all traps, but still keep mechanical traps of some sort, like poison needle traps or traps with clockwork or dart-shooting traps, as something that can quickly be dealt with by thieves. I don't like that because I think players are perfectly capable of roleplaying this kind of thing out. I also think this is the kind of thing any class should be able to do, and don't like the idea of having high chances of failure when attempting this- in fact, I'm pretty comfortable with just letting a player succeed in doing what he concretely describes with at least all but the most difficult mechanical traps. Verdict: Out
Disable Traps: I really don't like this one, which you could probably figure out by the way I rejected Disable Small/Mechanical Traps. I'm a big fan of roleplaying trap disabling. The important thing to remember in rejecting this as a skill or ability, though, is that, when placing traps, you have to think through at least one way that the trap can reasonably be avoided or disabled by the PCs. Courtney's got some resources for doing that here and here. I've found the first one helpful and just discovered the second. Verdict: Out
Well… that's… consistent… I really do plan on a verdict other than "Out" for other skill/ability candidates, I promise.
Think I've got something wrong, or just misunderstood something, for one of these? Let me know! Next time: skill/ability candidates loosely related to doors.