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TV Tropes Monday: Booby Trap


Tweet of the Day: The Other Magna Carta Monument


Depending on the setting, a Booby Trap can either be a sign of how low a dastardly villain will go or one of many survival techniques used by the combat pragmatist (anti)hero. This is a broad category of devices and setups that include such things as mines, rigged firearms, improvised traps (such as pits filled with spikes) and the like. Anything designed to do at least one of two things fall into this trope:

  • Deny the use of an item or location to your enemies
  • Slow down, maim or kill enemies that enter a location or come in contact with a specific item

In military parlance, booby traps are called area denial weapons, which are meant to, well deny an area to an enemy. These weapons rarely stop an enemy cold, but do to the danger they pose they tend to slow down its progress while at the same time upping the cost of operating in said area. It takes time to create clear safety lanes through minefields, check every lock door or fallen body for explosives.

The most effective kinds of traps are those that incapacitate or wound rather than kill or destroy. There is a inverse relation between how casualties are perceived on the battlefield versus the home front. Deaths tend to have a more immediate effect on the home front, with its sense of loss keenly felt by friends and relatives. While the impact of death on soldiers on the field should not be dismissed, it is the wailing, crying, bloody messes of those clinging to life that have the most direct impact on morale. Every wounded soldier requires at least to others to protect/transport them not to mention a large team of specialist to keep them alive. Over time the situation reverses. Soldiers mourn their lost comrades decades after their war is over while the wounded become a constant reminded to civilians of war that would only end when the last veteran dies. And said wounded vets, cut down in their prime often depend on a system of care that includes family members and the government for decades to come.

In story, the presence of booby traps, specially when used by the protagonist is a clear sign of the narrative taking a turn down a dark alley.


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