26 May 2012

Secret Doors 2

Have you ever noticed that, in movies and television shows, most secret doors are discovered accidentally? In an episode of The Bionic Woman I watched recently ("Sister Jaime"), Jaime bumps into a wall in a convent's winery and is surprised to find that it recedes, revealing a hidden room. How often has a character in a work of fiction leaned against a wall, pulled a book from a shelf, stepped on a loose brick, or otherwise touched something that revealed the existence of a secret door without intentionally searching for one? It certainly occurs more often than active searches. I think this supports the idea of the search roll as an accidental discovery roll when descriptive searches fail (because the wrong area is being searched) or when active searches are not even undertaken. Secret doors are inherently interesting, and they hopefully lead to interesting things, so why would a referee not want the player characters to discover them? I'm not suggesting that secret doors should always be revealed in all circumstances, but I think accidental discovery rolls ought to be a significant secondary method for finding them. With that in mind, I don't think it would be unreasonable to increase the standard chances. I would recommend a 2 in 1d6 chance for most player characters; elves would have a 3 in 1d6 chance. And for added amusement, I would give a bonus to characters with low intelligence and wisdom [and dexterity] (although there would be no penalty for those with high scores). Anyone with an intelligence or wisdom [or dexterity] of 8 or lower receives a +1 bonus to all accidental discovery rolls (or +2 if both are 8 or lower [or +3 if all three are 8 or lower!]). I call this the bungling bonus. Comedic solutions to common problems...

[See comments for other great ideas.]


  1. I like the idea of Secret Door Discovery Rolls being for accidental discovery -- except, maybe, in the case of Elves, for whom they might be due to keen senses & heightened awareness.

    I also like the idea of giving bonuses for low Intelligence & Wisdom. And I'd add a bonus for low Dexterity, too.

    But I'd also rule that any character who discovers a secret door due to a low Dexterity bonus falls through the door. And any character who discovers a secret door due to both a low Dexterity & 1 other low attribute bonuses falls through the door & shuts it behind them. And any character who discovers a secret door due to all 3 low attribute bonuses falls through the door, shuts it behind them, and either locks or jams it shut, too.

    1. You are absolutely right on all counts. (How could I forget dexterity? Of course low dexterity merits a bungling bonus!)