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Why do we even HAVE that lever?


Back in the day, my old gaming group used to play a game called “why do we even have that lever?”. It works like this:

1. Person A describes a puzzle or trap - the sort of bizarre adventurer-shredding contraption you might encounter in the course of an old-school dungeon crawl that makes absolutely no sense if the dungeon in question was ever supposed to be a facility that people actually used.

2. Person B proposes an explanation for what the “trap” in question is really for - i.e., why it’s not a trap at all, but a totally practical feature of whatever sort of place the dungeon originally was.

3. Person B then describes their own trap to keep the game going.

The only hard rule is that the explanation offered in step 2 absolutely can’t be “it’s a puzzle” or “it’s a trap”; you have to propose some pragmatic function that actually makes sense in the context of the dungeon being the ruins of someplace where people lived and worked. The way it currently works can be justified as a consequence of it having malfunctioned or partially fallen apart, but there has to be some plausible purpose it could have originally served.

For example, I might ask:

“Why is there a room where the entire ceiling is a giant magnet?”

… and you might respond:

  • “It’s a security checkpoint for the armoury of magical weapons that lies beyond. The presence of the magnet means that weapons can only be safely brought in and out of the armoury using special weighted cases, making it very difficult to steal or substitute items.”
  • “It’s a laboratory formerly used for experiments involving dangerous creatures from the Elemental Plane of Earth. The powerful magnetic field wholly paralyses all but the mightiest earth elementals, allowing them to be studied at one’s leisure.”
  • “It’s the old Queen’s gaming room. During her reign, a game of strategy involving man-sized stone pieces on a multi-level board had become fashionable. Though most such games required large work crews to move the pieces around, the Queen’s magnetic chamber - in conjunction with large metal bars driven into the core of each piece - allows the pieces to be manipulated by a single person. Many of the pieces still lay scattered about the room, in various states of disrepair.”

Then you’d describe your own trap.

I’ll start us off with a simple (and apropos) one:

Why is there a lever that drops a giant stone block on the person who pulled it?

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