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"It's a trap!"
Admiral Ackbar, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

A character is given a seemingly innocent reason to go to a specific location, but it turns out to be a trick; rather than what they were expecting, they find their enemy lying in wait to capture or kill them. There are many different ways this could be played out: they could be a detective looking for a vital clue or meeting an informant; someone trying to heroically rescue one of their comrades; or even just someone delivering a message or package. But whatever they expected to find there, it was just a ruse; in fact, they've been lured into a trap.

This is usually a technique used by villains, though there are exceptions to this. Frequently, the one who sent the character is The Mole, in which case this will be played for Dramatic Irony (in that the audience can guess it's a trap but the characters won't know any better) or as a clue to The Mole's identity. This can also be the result of a Batman Gambit by the character's enemy.

If the trap is blatantly obvious, this becomes Trap Is the Only Option.

See also Defensive Feint Trap. Nasty Party and the Malicious Trap variant of Prank Date are subtropes.

Spoilers may follow.


Anime and Manga

  • Happens in season 2 of Code Geass, when Kallen is sent by the Black Knights to take Lelouch to a warehouse as part of their betrayal.
  • Attempted several times in Ranma ½ such as when Gosunkugi has tried to trick Ranma.

Comic Books

  • In All Fall Down, AIQ Squared creates this using a hoax massive asteroid and a shrink ray on the moon that runs on Living Batteries.


  • Batman (1989): Boss Grissom sends Jack Napier to retrieve the incriminating information from Axis Chemical so Lieutenant Eckhardt and his team of corrupt cops can kill him.
  • In the Aladdin movie, The Return of Jafar, Iaga betrays Aladdin and the Sultan by leading them into Jafar's trap. Of course, he later feels sorry and saves all of their lives...
  • In the first Return of the Living Dead, a few zombies attack some emergency medical technicians. They then use the radio in the ambulance to call for more, who likewise also fall prey to the trap. Later, several police squad cars arrive at the scene, and are also ambushed by the zombies.


  • In the Jorge Luis Borges short story Death and the Compass, the series of connected deaths were done for the purpose of luring the detective to a specific location, where his enemy can kill him.
  • In Deryni Checkmate, Morgan and Duncan have to pay their respects at Saint Torin's shrine to obtain pilgrim badges and enter the city of Dhassa. Some of Morgan's foes put a drug on a needle on the gate latch, just where anybody would put his hand to open the gate. Morgan is drugged and abducted this way.
  • In Harry Potter, Harry and his friends are lured to the Department of Mysteries under the pretense that Voldemort has Harry's godfather, Sirius. It turns out (surprise, surprise) to be a Death Eater ambush.
  • In the Dragonlance series Kitiara does this to Laurana by convincing the elfmaid that their mutual Love Interest, Tanis Half-Elven, has been mortally wounded and wants to see her before he dies which coincidentally enough will require Laurana to leave the safety of the fortified city where her army is stationed and come in person without guards to a meeting site of Kitiara's choosing.

Live Action TV

  • The Shadow Line has an example of this being pulled on a villain. Gatehouse is sent to kill Jonah Gabriel for his assumed knowledge of Counterpoint, yet Gabriel's just bait and Glickman intends to kill Gatehouse when he goes to find him.
  • In an episode of Burn Notice, a character is offered a meeting in an alleyway. Michael tells him that it's an ambush nad that he'll go instead. H then makes a van bulletproof via phonebooks, before talking a man he wants to keep on his side with him into the alleyway and getting shot up. They get out of the alleyway unhurt.
  • The Doctor has faced this many times over the years.

Tabletop Games

  • Call of Cthulhu campaign Shadows of Yog-Sothoth, adventure "The Worm That Walks". Mr. Edwin sends the player characters out to investigate a haunted house, and they end up getting ambushed by a family of cannibals who knew they were coming (because Mr. Edwin told them).
  • Shadowrun supplement Super Tuesday, adventure "Ghost Story". Fletcher Quinn lures the player characters to an abandoned sporting goods store with a faked message so he can blow them up with the bombs he's planted inside it.
  • Classic Traveller supplement The Traveller Adventure, adventure "Kidnapped on Aramanx". The villains who kidnapped Lisa Fireaux demand that Gvoudzon deliver the ransom so they can kidnap him as well.


  • The "Poor Thing" sequence in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has a variation of this, with Beadle Bamford luring Lucy Barker to a masked ball at Judge Turpin's mansion, telling her that the Judge is remorseful about sending away her husband, Benjamin Barker, for life on a false charge. Turns out he's anything but remorseful, and has used this as a means to get her alone and defenseless.

Video Games

  • A mission in the West Side Rollerz mission chain in Saints Row features you being lured to a pool hall only to be attacked by Rollerz.
  • A good strategy to use in Manhunt (before you get firearms, anyway) is to make noise so that hunters will be drawn to the player's presence. As soon as the hunters are facing away from Cash, he can execute them easily.
  • In Dragon Age Origins, as the Warden and party are travelling, a woman will run up to them and ask for help. Going along with her will lead to a trap sprung by Zevran and his fellow assassins.
  • In Mass Effect 2, picking up Subject Zero from Purgatory turns into a trap laid by Warden Kuril to imprison Shepard and sell him/her to the highest bidder.
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