Looking back at Grimtooth’s Traps

Grimtooth’s TrapsStarting in 1981, Flying Buffalo Games published a series of Grimtooth’s Traps books. They featured diagrams of traps that showed heroes on the verge of being folded, spindled, and mutilated. For instance, one sample shows a covered pit trap where the swinging cover severs a rope that drops a stone slab into the pit.

Dungeon Master: “As you advance down the tunnel, a trap door opens at your feet, dropping your rogue, Jasper the 8th, into a pit.”

Player: “Ha! Ring of feather fall!”

DM: “Ha! A two-ton stone slab drops on you, pushing you down the pit and crushing you to jelly! Do you have another character?”

Player: “Sigh. Say hello to Jasper the 9th.”

All the traps were ingenious; all were unusable in play.

Adding an extra mechanism—no matter how clever—to increase the lethality of a trap doesn’t add to the fun. It sends the players looking for a new dungeon master.

Swing across chasmIn another example, a rope seems to offer an easy way to swing across a chasm, but at the end of the swing, the rope unspools several feet, flinging the victim into the wall, which is rigged to fire a volley of crossbow bolts into the victim’s body, before he drops into the underground river below, which I assume is full of sharks—presumably, the flying, exploding air sharks from Arduin.

What paranoid adventurer would dare use a rope suspiciously ready for swinging across a chasm? And all adventurers in the world of Grimtooth will grow paranoid in a hurry. In practice, this trap gets bypassed without a second thought.

In most cases, even players who survive the traps will never notice the inventive mechanisms that make them function and that make them interesting. The traps could work in a sort of Toon/Dungeons & Dragons collision, where Wile-E-Coyote-like characters blunder into in outrageous traps, only to reappear, without explanation, for the next scene.

By the fourth volume, Grimtooth’s Traps Ate, the series authors had abandoned any pretense that these traps might see play. Now the traps include dungeon basketball courts with mechanical arms that slam duck characters, and deadly Christmas-themed rooms that kill adventurers wearing Santa suits. (Why is volume 4 Traps Ate? The numbers 3, 5, 6, and 7 lack homonyms, so they were skipped.)

As long as you do not dare using any of Grimtooth’s traps in play, you can enjoy the collections by chuckling over their wicked engineering. Here the Addams Family meets Rube Goldberg.

2 thoughts on “Looking back at Grimtooth’s Traps

  1. camazotz

    Grimtooth’s Traps worked in a certain style of highly lethal play….Flying Buffalo’s rpg Tunnels & Trolls was sort of the hidden assumed game system for Grimtooth’s hideous traps, since you could generate a T&T character in a matter of five minutes (or less) so high-mortality PC-munching dungeons were often the norm in T&T.

  2. Christopher Mathieu

    > (Why is volume 4 Traps Ate? The numbers 3, 5, 6, and 7 lack homonyms, so they were skipped.)

    The titles were, in order, “Grimtooth’s Traps”, “Grimtooth’s Traps Too”, “Grimtooth’s Traps Fore”, and “Grimtooth’s Traps Ate!”. I imagine they stopped partly because they couldn’t find a funny homonym for ‘sixteen’.


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