Open the Door

How players’ characters approach a simple doors in a setting says a lot about a role playing game. A cautious door approach can indicate a game with high character mortality or it may simply, as in the case of D&D and its many subsequent editions, reveal that every door opened is likely to result in a new encounter. At the opposite extreme in high action low lethality games doors may be simply kicked down, blown up or smashed through.

On another level doors can also let us know quite a lot about a game system. Does a door have statistics for how strong it is, how much armour it has or how easy it is to pick the lock. Do doors have a price tag? This usually means that characters can get rich enough to comission buildings or that the game designer who made the equipment lists is either a quantity surveyor or needs medical help. Finally how many dice rolls will a party make to get through a door?

Here are a few (humerous) illustrations, if I’ve missed your favorite game feel free to e-mail me your suggestions. A version of this list first appeared in Valkyrie but over the years a few more games and settings have been added. The odd game which isn’t an RPG has crept in too (it’s my list so neh if you don’t like that!)

D&D (Original 1st Edition)
Thief uses hear noise to listen at door, finds traps, removes trap from door, open lock and walks through the door.
Call of Cthulu
Open the door, see greater being lose 1d100 San.
Tunnels and Trolls
I roll my bucket of dice the door rolls its bucket of dice.
Open the treasure, kill the door, steal the monster.
Thief uses hear noise to listen at door. Barbarian (Unearthed Arcana) smashes door down in frustration
Role Master
Check breaking down doors critical table.
Shadow Run
Street Samurai blow the door away with a GPMG. Decker walks up and politely asks the door to open.
Racoon Shaman walks up to door and asks spirit to open the door. Troll ignores door as inconsequential to its worldview and carries on through it.
Agonise over the door. Explore the political, sensual and aesthetic properties of the door.
How many points is the door built with?
Munchkin Fu
Open the treasure, kill the door, steal the monster.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (Unicorn Games)
If the door doesn’t open with a “woosh-woosh” call the Tellarite Engineer by striking your nipple and talking to the air. When they arrive they will open it using an Engineering Systems (Intellect) Environmental Systems test.
OG The Role Playing Game of Prehistoric Free-Style Role Playing Game System
“You Me Small Rock Bang Tree Thing”.
Short lived character blown out of airlock door during character generation shock.
Legend of the Five Rings
Challenge the door to an Ijitsu duel. Raise. Raise. Raise. Pass. Then kill it with a single well-placed blow.
Kobolds Ate My Baby
Kobold hits door with other kobold until door (or kobold) breaks.
Defeat undefeatable biometric lock with false finger prints lifted from evil corporate executives/renegade CIA/terrorists stupidly expensive bottle of imported, designer, micro-brewery beer stolen by a beautiful, double agent working undercover for the CIA/FBI/DEA/MI5/DSS within the organisation of the evil corporate executives/renegade CIA/terrorists who has a cover job at a bank and a couple of friends who havn’t a clue.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
Kick the door down with gritty British style.
Star Trek
If the door doesn’t open with a “woosh-woosh” either apply a judicious use of a Scottish accent or break out the phaser rifles and blow it away.
AD&D 2nd Edition
Thief (Treasure Seeker Kit) uses hear noise to listen at door. Half Ogre (Book of Humanoids) Fighter (Hairy Barbarian Kit – Fighters Handbook) smashes door down with Axe +5 door smasher while wearing girdle of Storm Giant Strength.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Curse Cardassian’s persuade a Ferengi to get the parts in return for trade right in another quadrant. When they don’t deliver on time because of an incident involving a shape shifter and a plasma conduit get the Klingon to force it open.
Twilight 2000
Not much of an issue because 1) there has been a nuclear war 2) all the doors have all been used to make shelters following the instructions in Protect and Survive.
Two-Fisted Tales
Kick door down, draw pistols, roll through both guns blazing, stand up, get knocked unconious by bad guy hiding behind the door.
D&D 3rd Edition
Thief uses only a d20 to open the door not needing any of those other dice that earlier editions were made so complicated by.
OG The Role Playing Game of Prehistoric Free-Style Role Playing Game System
“You Me Small Rock Bang Tree Thing”.
Begin your new life as Commander Jameson stocks up on Food and Minerals at Lave. Jump to a nearby system. Fight a Krait rendered lovingly in innovative vector graphics. Locate the Coriolis station and approach it. Fly near to the station towards the planet (monitoring altitude carefully). About face so your ship is orientated towards the entrance. Approach at DEAD SLOW SPEED (original manual’s emphasis not mine). Manually control the Cobra’s roll to match the rotation of the Coriolis station. The entry port must be as nearly horizontal as possible. Scrape the sides of the aperture. Lose defensive shields and cargo. Suffer a horrible death as your body is exposed to space. Work har to raise the credits to buy an automatic docking computer so you never have to manually dock again.
GURPS: Doors
Steve Jackson Games could never get that desperate. Could they?
Dark Conspiracy
Drive through the sprawl to the demonground in ’50s cool, retro styled car. Strut from car to door in an outfit straight out of a Meat Loaf / Bonnie Tyler video accessorised with pistol, assault rifle, grappling hook and flash light. Argue with GM when you claim your character has Darkling Empathy. Persuade him you do. Sense nothing on other side of the door. Kick down the door. Find a massive swarm of Michael Jackson style zombies waiting to eat your brains. Make note on the character sheet of the now dead character to back down if the GM catches you cheating with your next character.
Shoot the lock with a six-shooter then swagger in.
Remove one extra large ACE rubber hammer from pocket and apply to door until it falls down.
The fixer obtains a really hot deck, the netrunner takes three hours of play to do the run to get past all the black IC and unlock the door. The cybered up solo fights their way to the door and opens it. The Corporate walks cautiously out of their private rest room and pays everyone.
Trail of Cthulhu
Open door. Wonder why you ever played that other Cthulhu game. See greater being. Lose Mind.
And on the thirtieth day Buzz Saw the god of carpentry and other handicraft invented the door thus putting an end to the reign of terror brought upon the mortals by the goddess of drafts Swanway. Challenge!
Feng Shui
Character use all their chi in a devastating Storm of the Tiger bare handed strike and watch the door disintegrate into splinters.
James Bond 007 RPG
Pick lock. Draw Walther PPK. Open Door. Trip over white cat coming the other way through the door. Get captured by Evil Genius’ henchmen set on world domination. Get taken to Evil Geniu’s secret base. Face certain, slow death in Evil Genius’ secret agent (slow) killing device. Escape when Evil Geniu’s back is turned. Stop Evil Geniu’s not so genius evil plan. Escape from soon to be destroyed base. Get the girl/boy.
Lost Souls
Walk through the door without opening it but only three times a day.
Dr Who
What else is a sonic screw driver for?
Millennium’s End
Set the shaped charge plastic explosive strip round the door. Retire to a safe distance. Detonate it and watch it fall quietly inwards.
Extreme Vengeance
Set Plastic Explosive charges on the door. Retire a short distance. Set off the charges then stride into the room like a manly man.
Hong Kong Action Theatre
Set Plastic Explosive charge on the door. Retire a short run up away. Run at the door, set off the charges and ride the blast wave into the room full of mooks as a grade A stunt.
Kneel before the door and wait patiently for someone to ask you in.
Conspiracy X
Opening the door was the easy part. Covering up what you find on the other side will take all your guile, skill, ingenuity and just a few resource points of used up gear.
The Babylon Project
This joke awaiting approval by JMS.
d20 Modern
Agonise over best door opening method between magic, psionics, lock picking, a lump of C4 or good old brute force. Then do it just the same as in regular d20.
Star Wars
Use the Force. If that fails use a Thermal Detonator.
Babylon 5
Ko’Dath demonstrates airlock accidents are not just a problem for Traveller characters.  The only real question is did G’Kar give her a little push?
7th Sea
Doors are for the boring. Use a crossbow to fire a grapple to the roof and swing in through the stain glass window. Gain one Drama Dice.
Kneel before door and commit seppuku embarrassing the
door into opening.
SLA Industries
The Wraith Sniper covers the door from 1000m while the Ebon uses Sense to feel what is on the other side of the door. The media package Brain Waster films the Frother (aka Barbarian in a skirt on drugs) charge in hyped up on UV and Kick Start who tears into it with a flick scythe. The finance package human tries to balance the profit from the film footage with the charge for the damage to the door including bullet tax and form fees.
What’s my character’s motivation to bother with the door?
What colour is the door handle?
Entropy mage twiddles a stick near a door. The door unlocks itself and swings open.
Stargate SG 1
Combat engineer complains at not being allowed to open door with explosives on a sneaky, sneaky mission. Takes door off hinges using powered screw driver instead.
Marvel Universe
Check you have enough counters to open the door while feeling remarkably reasured that this is a newer, better, different type of game from those other roleplaying games. It says so in the book. Which explains why it vanished when it wasn’t a big hit.
Wander up to door. Smile sweetly. Walk through.
Lord of the Rings
Oh Please we are just so much a better class of fantasy RPG than to lower ourselves to that kind of door opening scene. I mean we might win an Oscar* and we are consistently voted the greatest book ever. Oh alright then – the Fellowship find a blank bit of cliff by a nasty looking pool. Big G waves his hand and a secret door and some secret elf-letters are revealed but it remains closed. Everyone wonders what “speak, friend and enter” means. Big G doesn’t know. Everyone gets dismayed. Wolves howl in the distance. A couple of pages and some howling wolves later Big G solves it. The door opens. Happy now?
Kick the vampires out of the way, walk through the wraiths, treat the changeling with pure disdain snarl at the mage until they get the message break down the door.
All Flesh Must Be Eaten
Whats the point? We know there will be zombies on the other side!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Agonise over teenage troubles and the pressure of responsibility then open the door and kick
some demonic vampire backside while looking cool and without breaking a nail.
World of Warcraft
Millions of paying players, a lock picking skill and an engineering profession but only twenty doors in the whole universe. We’re finding it hard to work out what they are.

* We went on to win 11 of them (more than Star Wars got) not that we were counting.

impworks © Copyright Mark Caldwell 1996 - 2024