Hacking Salt Mystic’s Tomb Trappers: Let’s Get Crazy!

If you’ve never played Salt Mystic before, take a quick diversion here and see what the fuss is all about. You can pick up the free basic rules there or take the deep dive with the Sourcebook And Core Rules. Simply said, it’s a terrain-based wargame played on a tabletop with cards, dice, and some basic elements representing terrain. It’s a little more “beer and pizza” than most wargames out there, and is quick to pick up and just start bashing each other for a Friday night’s delight.

One type of card (and a core piece of the lore) is called the “Tomb Trapper”. Take a look at the respective entry from the Sourcebook below.

So in summary, this is a type of character you can have on your tabletop in the game who uses the goodies in that satchel to build amazing traps that lock down your opponent’s characters and give you an edge. That little dial apparatus in the sourcebook entry’s image is a key tool – set the proper code and programmable matter oozes out and builds the desired trap mechanics.

I wish I could pick one of those up somewhere, would love to see it work (and have a few people in mind for it)!

Anyway, one comment we’ve gotten from folks is they want more options in traps and flexibility in using Tomb Trappers on the tabletop. The cards come with default traps designed to be tough without being impossible and easy to set up & execute using only a small number of dice. This is simulating a situation where the trapped character card is locked down in place and struggling to free themselves. With some skill and/or luck, they just might do that!

Here’s Fargo, Tomb Trapper for the Mountains faction:

Once deployed, and once per turn, Fargo can sacrifice movement and lay a trap on the battlefield.

Trap: stack 5 dice in a tower. Any Character coming within a 9 inch radius of trap has no movement or combat actions until they free themselves.

Clearing trap: Remove any die from tower except top die without toppling tower. Two attempts per turn.

And here’s wily Cypress, from the Salt Flats:

Once deployed, and once per turn, Cypress can sacrifice movement and lay a trap on the battlefield.

Trap: Place 4 dice in square with corners touching to form die-sized hole. Any Character coming within a 9 inch radius of trap has no movement or combat
actions until they free themselves.

Clearing trap: Bounce fifth die off table and into hole. Two attempts per turn.

But hey, let’s hack this! Let’s break out of the default traps and deployment mechanic to bring a new level of play to the table.

Pre-staged and hidden traps

The whole point of the Salt Mystic game is to tell an engaging story. There’s always a narrative framing the battle, and the challenges and dynamics of interaction between the terrain and the people IS the engine driving everything. So let’s make the terrain more interesting using the Tomb Trappers.

Imagine a grid on the tabletop running 1 – 12 horizontally and 1 – 12 vertically:

We’ll read rows, then columns when referencing these, and we’re picking 12 so that two 6-sided dice can reference them in a solo game. In this example, a player has chosen three locations for hidden traps during setup, prior to gameplay. The locations are written down and concealed so no one can change their minds later.

The key difference between this deployment mechanic and the default one obviously is that the opposing player can’t know where the traps are and thereby avoid them. Anybody moving is in jeopardy of getting trapped. Just call out the trap when you’ve lured your opponent into the right spot and grin deviously as they struggle to free themselves!


-Agree up front on how many traps are allowed, and whether sacrificing a card from the starting battle deck is necessary for each trap.

-The Wolfpack Mode for solo Salt Mystic game play requires a roll of two 6-sided dice each turn for the phantom player anyway. To simulate the phantom player having pre-staged traps, check for a trap each time that initial roll contains a “1”. Roll against the grid to determine the location and compare it to where your characters are located.


The phantom player’s Wolfpack turn roll was 1 and 5. That roll was required anyway, since that’s how the phantom player’s deployments and moves are determined in the Wolfpack rule set. Since there was a 1 on at least one of the dice however, additional rolls are needed to check for traps. First roll: 4 + 7 = 12, Second roll: 3 + 6 = 9. We reference rows, then columns, so there is a trap at row 12, column 9. Any friendly characters in that grid square are trapped. Trap locations change each turn (how devious!).

Alternate traps

You can really let your imagination run wild on this one! Basically, anything your wicked little mind can conjure here is fair game. Consider the spirit of the traps though:

  • Traps should be difficult, but not impossible
  • Easy to set up & execute using only a small number of dice or other readily available supplies
  • Should require a little luck, a little skill

Design a trap by answering three questions:

  1. What triggers your trap? Example: approach within 9 inches, etc
  2. How should the trap be set up on the tabletop?
  3. How does the opposing player clear the trap?

Feel free to enhance the narrative a bit by outlining a little more detail to the hideous nature of your invention: (programmable matter collapses into quicksand, massive pincers the size of a horse spring from the ground, the ground tilts into a spiked pit, and on it goes…)

Let’s try it. Here’s what happens should the opposing player enter the respective grid cell per hack number one above – and up springs a cloud of geometrically poisonous vapor contained in a thin film that pops if he moves.


-Agree up front on the deployment mechanic as described either in the default card text or in hack number one above

-In the case where you’ve designed multiple custom traps, agree up front on how to select which trap has been sprung

So let us know what you think. Loads of potential here with the Tomb Trappers.

While I was writing this, we talked about maybe hacking the core rules a bit and staging an unbalanced scenario where one character (any card with an Expertise stat) goes up against an opponent at slightly reduced strength (10 less cards in the starting battle deck) – trying to escape a building entirely loaded with traps (at least 6). Objective would be to get to a specific spot on the table without dying. Seems like it would be a hoot if the opposing player is required to deploy all their Vehicles and Vehicle Attachments out in the open so the lone wolf can try and take them.

Here’s the art and flash fiction that inspired that:

A carbine gunslinger on the run. A Dirt Wraith rises, ghost-like through the very walls. Its quantum foam bubbles sizzle as loud as a waterfall. They knew he was here all along. She lied. And that will cost her. They’ll have traps all in the building, every corridor. Watchmen are patrolling the streets below. If there’s a Dirt Wraith, then maybe they’ll have something deadly down there he can seize and turn against them. Time is short, and they are many. He’ll have to be fast and unpredictable.

What would you do?

Till next time, guys. We’re always looking for feedback and ideas. Shoot them our way. And Merry Christmas!

The first ‘generation ship’ science fiction story

A “generation ship” is one of those mind-bending ideas you see in good science fiction, the kind that maybe wear thin when they’ve been around a while but were white-hot paradigm busting inspirations when they first came about. In the hands of a good writer, they can still be amazing. The idea is a starship traveling to an inhabitable planet thousands of years from Earth, so generations live and die throughout the journey. Awesome.

And I get it. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky probably invented the idea. Which isn’t really cool to dwell on because he invented everything (like space elevators and airlocks, multi-stage booster rockets and closed-loop biological systems to feed passengers). So let’s leave that for now. I’m talking about the very first generation ship story in science fiction, where the concept was front and center and entirely the point of the story. Who wrote that? Was it good?

Welcome back to the Pulp Gem series.

Follow this link to download the entire Oct 1940 issue of Amazing Stories for free, the issue where you’ll find this tiny masterpiece. And a mighty thank-you to the folks at Comic Book Plus for providing these public domain works of art at no cost. Go do something nice for those guys and donate or something. At least comment somewhere.

Or just download a pdf of the story we’re talking about here:

It’s called Journey That Lasted 600 Years, written by Don Wilcox. The first generation ship science fiction story. And it’s fantastic.

Let’s keep in mind when this was written, the innocent and wide-eyed optimism of 1940 America…the exploding interest in space and technology, and the down-home focus on heart and warmth in storytelling. These things are timeless to me, and incredibly inspiring. But if they feel old or na├»ve to you, then this one might not be for you.

The idea is a guy named Grimstone has volunteered to go into hibernation for 100 years at a time to shepherd a handful of couples who will repopulate the species on a faraway planet 600 years hence upon their destination. Generations will come and go throughout the journey on the Starship Flashaway, but Grimstone will awake for short bursts to keep the flame of civilization alive. That bit reminded me just a hair of Asimov’s conceit in the Foundation series wherein a group of people sustain the wisdom and culture like smoking kindling while everything else falls to crap in deteriorating barbarism. In this case, he’s just supposed to remind them of what was good about America, what was right and true, and help ensure they stayed on course both literally and figuratively.

And things go wonky. Almost immediately. Like before they even leave Earth.

And if you ever read (or watched) H.G. Wells’ Time Machine, you remember how the time traveler would push his little lever and blast into the future in bursts, step out and take a look around a bit, then blast ahead again. Right? That’s generally the flow of Wilcox’s story, and it keeps things moving and fresh, driving your curiosity to see how things that seem pretty dire are going to clean up or deteriorate when he steps back into the hibernation chamber. It’s a wonderful narrative structure to tell this fast-moving and fun tale. I read it on a plane in less than a half hour, and I mused over its genius looking out over the clouds.

He missed out on true love back on Earth…one reason why he left, in fact. But it’s a heartwarming twist how Wilcox resolves that little problem for Grimstone. Just smile and go with it, man.

As for the generations, they’re a mess. Increasingly, a mess. But the fire of civilization will hopefully live on as one crisis after another befalls the hapless Flashaway. Hopefully, they make it. Surely you’d like to know.

Well go read it then! And let me know what you think.

Till next time.