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Old 06-09-2021, 10:38 AM   #11
Turhan's Bey Company
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

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Originally Posted by Michael Thayne View Post
Were the granite blocks and collapsing ceilings actually meant to be triggered by thieves, or were they meant to be triggered by work crews after they'd finished building the tombs as a way of sealing them up?
These were all, 100%, without exception, construction aids. Traps aimed at thieves and other infiltrators are basically all the product of modern adventure fiction, with the tiny exception of booby traps used in wartime over the past century or so, all of which have been made possible by modern technology.
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Old 06-09-2021, 10:55 AM   #12
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

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These were all, 100%, without exception, construction aids. Traps aimed at thieves and other infiltrators are basically all the product of modern adventure fiction, with the tiny exception of booby traps used in wartime over the past century or so, all of which have been made possible by modern technology.
The tomb of the first Qin emperor was described by a contemporary as having automated crossbow traps to deter theives, but it's not clear that they ever worked

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Old 06-09-2021, 11:11 AM   #13
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

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Originally Posted by Turhan's Bey Company View Post
These were all, 100%, without exception, construction aids. Traps aimed at thieves and other infiltrators are basically all the product of modern adventure fiction, with the tiny exception of booby traps used in wartime over the past century or so, all of which have been made possible by modern technology.
That's more or less my understanding. Though many fantasy RPGs like to have alchemical hand grenades, poisons better than anything actually available in the middle ages, and so on, which could substitute for modern technologies in certain 20th century booby trap designs.
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Old 06-09-2021, 11:28 AM   #14
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

As for concealed pit traps with sharp stakes, these are described as early as the De Bello Gallico (as part of fortifications), and Middle age examples in refuge tunnels are know.

Elaborate traps, yes, those are recent or legendary.

I will try to locate the study about the collapsed ceiling, but I doubt it will be easy - I read it while looking for something else at the time.
And as i said, iirc, they couldn't decide the true purpose one way or another.
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Old 06-09-2021, 11:51 AM   #15
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

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Originally Posted by Dalillama View Post
The tomb of the first Qin emperor was described by a contemporary as having automated crossbow traps to deter theives, but it's not clear that they ever worked
And it may just have been propaganda to deter looting the tomb.
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Old 06-09-2021, 01:42 PM   #16
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

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And it may just have been propaganda to deter looting the tomb.
That's also a strong possibility. Same with the Egyptian pyramids IIRC, there were all manner of stories put about that the tombs were full of traps and curses, it's just that there's been enough tomb robbing there that we know it's not true. Nobody has extensively explored the Qin tomb because traps or no there's definitely unhealthy amounts of mercury down there.
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Old 06-09-2021, 02:17 PM   #17
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

One remarkably common occurrence is traps designed to guard treasure that were clearly far more expensive to create than the value of the treasure being guarded. (Bonus points if the raw materials should logically be valuable enough to make the traps themselves attract thieves/dungeon delvers- I think of the enchanted workings and oceans of quicksilver in Grimtooth, but the phenomenon is not unknown in less self-aware works.)
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Old 06-09-2021, 02:50 PM   #18
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

Traps were already silly when I started playing D&D and T&T in 1979, so it's sometime before that, and thus we can't blame Grimtooth's Traps. My vote is for this:

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Originally Posted by Turhan's Bey Company View Post

Elaborate traps go back to adventure serials of the 30s and adventure fiction before that.
Remember the crazy, very dungeon fantasy-esque traps in the Indiana Jones franchise? Spielberg, Kasdan, Lucas, Kaufman, et al. didn't come up with the idea. They got it from the kinds of pulps to which they were paying homage. I'd put "peak pulp trap silliness" in the 1932-1934 range, well before we had RPGs as we know them.

As for the logic of the traps themselves, put me in the "Who cares?" camp. My thoughts run immediately along the lines of "A self-resetting crossbow is silly, but a two-headed immortal from another dimension, capable of slinging around objects with telekinesis, is not?" and "Contact poison that remains present and viable indefinitely is silly, but a potion that instantly closes wounds is not?"

In the genres where traps like this appear, the laws of nature (including things like the laws of thermodynamics and theory of evolution) and familiar principles of economics and social development are already out the window and in pieces on the street thanks to magic, interventionist gods, miracle materials, etc. . . . so I don't find positing larger-than-life gadgeteers a problem. For all we know, in worlds like that, conservation of energy is just a suggestion, and societies are so draconian and indifferent to the worker's lot that the security vs. ease-of-use axis is a nubby point permanently welded to "security."
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Old 06-09-2021, 02:55 PM   #19
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

Silly traps in settings that aren't steeped in gods, magic, mithril, Norse-inspired dwarf craftsmen, and the occasional psionics, crashed UFO, and Thing From Outside Time And Space are harder to stomach. But such traps are mostly a feature of dungeons, dungeons are mostly a feature of hack 'n' slash fantasy, and hack 'n' slash is a kitchen-sink genre that sees no shame in ripping anything from anywhere in the name of the Rule of Cool. It's sillier to try to impose "realism" on kitchen-sink fantasy than it is to have impossible traps, I feel . . . Sure, no realistic low-tech culture wasted time on elaborate traps for a variety of reasons linked to physics, economics, and just plain necessity, but efforts to make hack 'n' slash revert to the real world except when the impossible is present seem perverse. It's actually a better story when everybody gets to be impossible: wizards, priests, people who can kill you with their mind, mysterious foreigners who can defeat swords with fists, lizard-folk, people who craft traps, the lot.
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Old 06-09-2021, 03:20 PM   #20
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Default Re: When did traps get silly?

The Emperor Nero employed death traps in order to kill his mother. They didn't work.
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