Earlier today, Dennis Laffey posted about them, citing a few comments from this blog. There he discusses the logic of traps, their general value and how we ought to consider them. My feeling is that he skips over certain factors about traps; factors that we'd rather skip over because, to be frank, they spoil the show.
If we can forget for a moment the irrationality of moving parts still in a state where not only can they function after centuries, but apparently reset themselves, how was this trap even made?
This is screenshot from the movie, just as Indy dives for the floor. Note the slot on the same floor. Here's the same shot a split second later:
This is the second blade cutting across the floor [apparently, it's not enough to kneel before god, it's also important to forward roll immediately thereafter ~ I don't remember that move in church, but to see a whole congregation doing it would have been pretty funny].
|Where is this light coming from?|
It's painfully evident from both shots that the center of the blade is equal with the rock face, which means the fulcrum of the blade would have to skim the edge of the rock ~ the need to provide the folcrum with space would have made a huge slot in the rock that would have been immediately obvious. And where exactly is the mechanism? Buried in solid rock? Plus I must point out the glistening quality of the steel, plus the SIZE of the blades, whom someone brilliantly fashioned on an anvil to be so perfectly flat that it would disappear in a slot so narrow it isn't supposed to be visible.
But ... NONE of that matters, because it isn't supposed to matter. We're supposed to overlook it, because this is fantasy adventure, because the Grail isn't real either, so who really gives a shit? The film insists that we are supposed to just go with it, because it's fun.
But here's the thing. The Last Crusade spends about half an hour of screen time doing everything it can to feed the theory that the Cup, for all it's magical properties, is real. We're fed a steady stream of semi-literate history, we're pounded with the magnificent genius of these two archeologists, his dad's life work, the incredible research it took to get the diary together, the necessity to have this profoundly detailed and researched diary ... all to feed our sense of immersion and believability. And after all that, we're shown these two ridiculous blades and told, "Hey, look, fuck it, it's fun, don't pay too much attention."
Uh uh. Stories don't work that way. You don't get to spend an inordinate amount of time building credibility here so you can piss it all away there, and have me turn a blind eye.
Here's our next trap. I won't go into the use of "Iohovah" being used by Crusader soldiers (which is a diatribe in itself), or that if "J" was the first letter, that small "E" is a long, long way away.
[and I thought Indy read the book; you know, the book that explained everything? Was it written "J" in the book? No, I don't think so]
Oh well, I'll continue on the mechanics presented. So we have the fakeroo, we get to see Indy almost fall ... giving us this shot:
It is plain to see that there is no supporting pillar for the "I" that he has to step on to get past ... so how was this floor laid? If with scaffolding, how was the wood removed, and why aren't we getting into the tomb that way? And how is Indy hanging on, if the whole floor is unsupported? Shouldn't the whole floor simply give way?
I presume this is a continuation of the earlier passageway behind the gears ... but again, where the hell is all this light coming from? And why is this room lit from above?
Yeah, yeah, adventure, fun, suppress logic, blah blah blah.
How was this floor painted? To get the right perspective would have been a clever trick, given that the only access is the bridge itself. Scaffolding again? Okay, so where is all the wood. Plus, we have that downward light, which looks like sunlight. Couldn't we just rapel into this cave at this point? Would have saved us a lot of trouble, what with the grail crossing the seal and all that.
But yes, the plot had to show that Indy was worthy. So the traps had to be about worthiness ... those good ol' American values like being able to perform gymnastics, spell and
The trip around the barn is to emphasize that where it comes to traps, we don't care if it makes sense. Any of us who have been around at least five years have seen our share of nonsensical traps, and puzzles, and combinations of the two, ignoring the engineering marvel that would be necessary to put in traps that, apparently, a group of high school level students can solve and get around. This is not a practical way to block or at least stymie access.
Yet that hypocrite Gygax writes this for the DM on page 20, when it's YOU making the trap: "Whenever a thief or assassin character desires to set a trap, require him or her to furnish you a simple drawing to illustrate how the trap will function."
When those drawings of traps began to appear in the Dragon Magazine, then in various modules and splatbooks, it was plain to any thinking person that these Rube Goldbergs were farcical in concept and for their intended purpose.
Proper trap making is not about big, complicated death traps with multiple moving parts. If we really want to lay down traps to keep people out, it's all about the numbers, baby. Lots of traps, designed to wear soldiers down and wear on their resolve. And no, I'm not talking about "contact poison," which was a huge and constant rage all through the 1980s before quietly going away. Poison takes very little time to dry and become inert. But dozens, scores, of simple, spiky, stabby little traps, with bamboo and hawthorne coated in feces, will make a hall unpleasant even after you know what's there.
But we don't want to make traps like that, because it's not "fun." It's not silly. It's not a challenge. It's not "adventure."
Key point here. When people start using the word "adventure" as an argument, we might as well paint unicorns on the road signs.