Doors, Double-Hinged for Your Pleasure


Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 05 April 2010

You have memorized every detail of the map. You know that the floor is made of blue-green stone with the slightest grade towards the drain in the center, the intricacies of the stained glass windows above and all the corners with dim light where your lurkers can hide. Heck, you can even describe, in vivid detail, the tapestry of the gnome and dwarf getting it on and, behind it, the bugbear [im]patiently waiting to kill the PCs. Now all you need is for the players to open the door.

Your most detail-oriented player turns to you and points to the door. You anticipate a question about the door's description so you queue up that information in your brain. Then he asks, "So, Mr. DM, which way does the door open?"

Success, he asked about the door. You start describing the door, its time-worn wood, well-oiled iron fittings and even how one of the knots resembles Gandalf on a bad hair day.

He persists, "That's great but which way does it open?"

It takes a moment but you realize you don't have an answer. It's not in your game notes or on the map. Panic sets in. You're flustered and you can no longer think clearly. It takes a few moments, but you decide that the door opens towards the PCs. The player who asked looks a little sad, he was really hoping to kick in the door. Losing confidence, you race through the rest of the description, worried about the next question the players ask.

If this happens to you, take a breather and think about a few things.

Does it matter to you?

Is it important to your monsters that the door open a certain way? Do they have a bucket of acid perched carefully above the door? Is an enemy waiting behind the door, hoping to use it to stay hidden? Have the monsters gathered themselves into the basement, scared of the blood-thirsty PCs and waiting for the shadow of the door as it swings in? If having the door open a certain way will make running your monsters more fun, have it open that way.

Does it matter to your players?

If your monsters could care less about which way the door swings, find out if it matters to your players. Maybe they really want to kick in the door or, perhaps, they want to seal it shut. If their story idea is cool enough, go with it. They may just be telling this story for years to come.

Roll some dice or make up a rule

Rolling some dice buys you time to think. You can even use the result to decide the answer for you. It may also help increase the tension a bit. Another solution is to come up with a rule beforehand about how to handle which way doors open. Maybe they are all swinging doors or all doors in hallways open inwards. Whatever you decide, make sure it's something you can remember the next time the pressure is on.

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That's why in our games all the doors slide in from the side like in star trek.

I loved it when you guys opened the door, entered, saw all the kenkus, and then tried to get out and close the door behind you. Great fun!

Ha!

I have this very issue in my current campaign. One of the newer players started asking about every single door. The older players now rib him about it every time they come upon a closed door.

I have a player in my current campaign who always asks this question. I found myself scrambling until I ruled that most doors open into the room--as most modern doors do--unless the room description says otherwise.

Doors intended for defense nearly always open inward, this is to keep the hinges on the inside where intruders cannot bypass the lock by removing the hinges.

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