Stop, stay out of the light

I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark again yesterday and as usual it inspired the evil game master lurking inside of me; all these years later the traps in the opening scenes are still fresh and cool. The one that always bothered me was the first one, Indy says “stop, stay out of the light”.

After Indy moves around a diffused beam of light shining into a passageway; he then springs the spear trap built into the wall, by waving his hand in the light.

Only to find a dead researcher pierced by the trap mechanism, now long dead.

What a classic! But how does it work? I can explain it as a game master of fantasy role playing games with one word, magic. All the other traps seemed reasonable, pressure plates activating darts, large stone rolling balls and pit traps. It is that one light activated trap that befuddles me the most; wave your hand in the light and spears spring out, come on…

Yeah, I used the light activated trap from Raiders of the Lost Ark in my home game, I used all the traps from the Indiana Jones movies at one time or another they are classics and fun for the games I run. I just think that one trap is silly, kinda like breaking the rules in Pathfinder or 3.5e; like putting a horizontal prismatic wall in a pit trap; the rules say it is vertical, so to place it horizontal breaks the physics of the spell. Putting a light activated trap in some old jungle ruins discovered in the 1930s breaks the rules unless you believe in magic.

Ah heck, I’m gonna put a horizontal prismatic wall in a pit; the party will probably find it and disable it. Darn thieves…

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About shent_lodge

Shent_lodge, AKA Jon, started this website, in 2000, initially as a player's guide to his home game. He has run through, and run for, hundreds of players of the Dungeons and Dragons game since 1980. These days he plays, or runs games using the WORST RPG rules set.


  1. I always seem to forget there is magic (oh; and aliens) in the Indie films until I watch them again.

    You could come up with some clever mechanics about blocking the light and triggering actions… but wouldn’t the trap set itself off every night? It really has to be magic – and it’s likely the light itself that’s magical.

  2. greentiger says:

    I thought there was always a more mystical aspect to the Indie movies. I think what made them great was the fact they didn’t overhwelm you with the mystical or magic or acts of god. Well, I guess the endings of a couple took the acts of god part pretty far, like the melting Nazi’s or the guy who aged 1000 years in mere seconds when he picked the wrong grail.

    Anyway, I look at the stay out of the light scene as setting the stage for the rest of the movie that there is more out there than meets the eye. As in D&D, there is more than meets the eye so I say, use it as a trap! It’s just a magical one.

    BTW, who knew Indiana’s helper in the ruins in that scene starred as Doctor Octopus in Spiderman 2?

  3. @greentiger Hah! I remember seeing him in Spiderman and thinking “throw me the idol and I’ll throw you the whip” too funny.

    @Andrew the sun rise sun set would mess up the trap but has me thinking of a cool dungeon level. Magic doors that open only if there in no light present or close if the lights go out.