Caltrops are tetrahedral items used for making ground hard to cover. They always land with a pointy bit sticking up. Handy for preventing pursuers from catching you, whether they are on foot, horseback or, in more modern cases, in a vehicle. See also Spikes of Doom and Spiked Wheels.
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Anime & Manga
- The Iga ninja dogs use poisonous seeds shaped like caltrops as a trap in Ginga Nagareboshi Gin.
- In one of the Mobile Suit Gundam OVAs, the one where the Gundams are samurai, and then they are suddenly doing a Wacky Races parody, the Ninja robots use these.
- In Strawberry Marshmallow, while demonstrating "real" ninja techniques, Miu dumps a snack food on the floor, calling them caltrops. She is told to clean them up.
- Usopp from One Piece sometimes uses these, and in one of the Video Games, he throws them on the ground as an attack.
- Early in Naruto, Kakashi uses some of these to prevent Zabuza from running over to attack him while he was open.
- In Gintama, Gintoki and Kagura end up becoming ninjas in order to help rescue Elizabeth in a particular story arc, and are provided with these to shake off some pursuers. However, they have no clue as to how to use them properly and start throwing them directly at their pursuers, which does slow them down still, but not much.
Films — Live-Action
- James Bond's Cool Car from Tomorrow Never Dies has the ability to drop a whole bunch of these to pop enemy tires and mess up pursuit. See Tropes Examined By The Myth Busters for a report on how well that would really work. Bond gets double points for driving over his own caltrops, and fixing and reinflating the tires with just the press of a button!
- The Batmobile in the The Dark Knight Trilogy can deploy these.
- It's fairly common for scattered jacks to play this role in kid's films for Amusing Injuries among the parents.
- Parodied in The Beatles' Help!!. The Kaili cult's disguised Harrods van has a front headlight which issues forth a stream of thumbtacks.
- Anti-horse caltrops are mentioned in one of the Brother Cadfael novels, which are set in the mid-12th century.
- Sharpe uses these in the book version of "Sharpe's Rifles", as a defence against Colonel de l'Eclin's cavalry.
- Conina in Discworld/Sourcery uses these, though they're not explicitly referred to as such.
- Caltrops are among the ninja-esque equipment included in trainee Assassin Teppic's comically-extended Lock and Load Montage at the beginning of Pyramids. In his final examination, he also has to avoid caltrops he suspects are poisoned.
- Chinese farmers in Lords of the Bow scatter caltrops over their fields to slow the advancing Mongols.
- In The Saga of Yngvar the Traveller, the Vikings use them when fighting King Jolf.
- MythBusters: tested and busted that road spikes could stop or slow down a pursuing car. A later followup with hollow caltrops, however, confirmed the myth.
- Super Sentai:
- Kamen Rider Fourze has secondary Rider Ryusei Sakuta using caltrops for laughs on a very clingy and amourous girl that has fallen for our primary hero Gentaro Kisaragi. And that's just was the beginning.
- In an episode of The Flash (1990), the second Nightshade uses them to stop the Flash from pursuing him.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Caltrops were in the rules as far back as 1st Edition. Some are even Clockwork Creature.
- GURPS: High-Tech mentions that a cheap way to make them more dangerous was to cover them in dung.
- The standard pyramid-shaped four-sided die is sometimes jokingly referred to as such, especially if you've just trodden on one barefoot. Another popular name for them is the "Sonofabitch". Most modern d4s at least have flattened corners. Not so with the early boxed sets of Basic Dungeons & Dragons (the one that came out before what we now call "1st Edition"). The d4 that came with that set was easily sharp enough to put an eye out.
- The best line of defense in Deathtrack.
- The moves Spikes and Toxic Spikes do this in Pokémon. They affect Pokemon when opposing trainer tries to switch Mons, unless they're of the Flying type, have the Levitate or Magic Guard abilities, or (in the case of Toxic Spikes), immune to poisoning. Spikes was even called caltrops in the Japanese version.
- It's possible to think of Stealth Rock as a floating version of the caltrops, seeing as they can hurt Flying-types compared to other traps.
- Caltrops are a hold item in Kongregate's online game Kongai where they do 14 damage if you or your oppponent switched out if a character holding that item is in play (it used to be 10 damage).
- Part of the Scout's arsenal in Team Fortress Classic. Apart from doing a little damage, they also slow down the victim greatly.
- Allegiance has caltrop mines. These look nothing like traditional caltrops, but are three-dimensional mine fields IN SPACE that are deployed at choke points, and cause more damage the faster an enemy ship travels through them, forcing it to slow down and become an easy target.
- In City of Heroes, caltrops are available to certain powersets and do minor damage and massively debuff speed. Among enemies, certain Tsoo and all Knives of Artemis use them. The KoA in particular are annoying because they can quickly stack caltrops, at which point your character may as well not be able to move at all.
- Their use is inverted in Thievery, a Game Mod for Unreal Tournament. The tough and armored guard team can set caltrops in order to damage and slow down members of the evasive thief team. Guards are immune to their own caltrops.
- Shadow Warrior features these as an useable item. "Who put these here? Ow!"
- One of the weapons available in Mini Ninjas.
- Used by Burglars in The Lord of the Rings Online.
- Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja: Izuna can scatter caltrops to damage whatever steps on the square next (possibly herself, if the player's not careful).
- In Drakensang 2: The River of Time, you can build these with a very low Forge lore. Of course, they can be placed as traps on the ground.
- A mainstay of the Tenchu series, caltrops do a small amount of damage and stun anyone (including the player) who steps on them for a short time.
- Shinobido features makibishi as part of your Ninja equipment along with shuriken, grappling hooks, five-colored rice and various explosive stuff. Those caltrops though can actually kill enemies, but it takes some time...
- Assassin's Creed: Revelations: caltrop bombs
- Batman: Arkham City: one of tools Catwoman can use.
- Caltrops are one of the trap types you can craft and deploy in Dragon Age: Origins.
- If your ninja in Shogun: Total War and Total War: Shogun 2 are detected, they will scatter a handful of caltrops behind them in an attempt to slow down the pursuers. It is often highly effective. Fun to watch, too.
- The Chill Spike from Mega Man 10 works like a spike strip (see Real Life below), damaging enemies that move onto it. Not surprisingly, it is effective against the robot/motorbike transformer Nitro Man, in the sense that it hurts his tires.
- In Guild Wars 2, the thief profession has two caltrop abilities: a utility skill to drop caltrops around the thief which cause bleeding damage and reduced movement for enemies, and a unlockable trait that causes this to happen automatically when the thief dodges. In neither case is the thief or allies affected.
- An absolutely essential tool in the arsenal of "Grey morality" Avatars in Ultima VII. Placed properly, you could use them to knock out mages for ease of stealing the potions they somehow managed to produce from nothing. Also a good way to knock out dragons for one-hit KO experience grinding. In the sequel, it was a way to get easy victories(and thus quicker/better training) in the arena of Monitor.
- The La-Mulana remake adds caltrops as a subweapon.
- Some of the black-clad ninja in Bad Dudes toss makibishi. If you don't have a weapon, you can low-kick them out of the way. (If you've got the nunchucks, you can possibly fire upwards at them from a lower level. If you've got the knife, you suck.)
- One of the standard wall defenses in Kingdoms of Camelot on Facebook. Best against mounted troops.
- Caltrops are one of the many traps that are scattered around the grounds in Dungeons of Dredmor. The ones that do higher damage tend to be made of magical elements, such as Aetheral energy or Dragonsbreath.
- In Mortal Kombat X, one of Erron Black's variation lets him drop caltrops on the floor, adding extra damage whenever his opponent falls on them.
- Fire Emblem Fates has caltrops appear as a type of terrain hazard, slowing down units trying to walk through them and dealing damage to everyone who stands on them at the beginning of turn.
- In Batman: The Animated Series, Catwoman has them... in the shape of cats, naturally. She uses them in "The Cat and the Claw" to stop Red Claw's men from pursuing her through a ventilation duct.
- Batman uses bat-shaped ones in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
- Phineas and Ferb: Doofenshmirtz tries to use this trick during a race. It backfires because the caltrops come from the front of his car.
- Giant versions of these called "Czech hedgehogs" were used as anti-tank defences in World War II. These giant versions were usually made of steel girders welded together to resemble giant jacks. They're still used today.
- In Julius Caesar's circumvallation of Alesia, he planted a "garden" of these on both sides of his encircling walls: to keep the Gaulish chieftains in, and the relieving army out. Basically included hidden caltrops, made of iron, followed by spiked pits, and then upward-pointing branching stakes, designed to take a horse in the chest. Followed by two trenches, one filled with water and one not, and a stockade built from the top of the far back of the second trench, which was pointed at the bottom, making it much more difficult to cross. While under fire. Oh, and ballistae and scorpions were aimed into the trench as well. Have fun and stay safe, boys.
- The Romans also used them to definitely murder chariot warfare, twice:
- The first time happened when the Romans faced the Celtic chariot used by the Gauls, a small vehicle from which a warrior could lob javelins at the enemy while staying mobile or close in to jump on them. While the Romans could deal with the javelins by simply placing their trademark tower shields overhead, a charge of chariots was still a problem until they started to throw caltrops big enough to wound horses hooves but small enough that the standard-issue caligae (the heavy-soled boot-sandals of the Roman legionaries) could protect them, wait for the Gaulish charge to break down, and then calmly walk to the toppled vehicles and downed enemies to slaughter them and their horses. It was so effective that by Caesar's time the only Celts who still used them were the Bretons, who had never met the Romans (and when Caesar brought with him the caltrops in his second expedition only Vercingetorix' sudden rebellion in the Gauls saved them from conquest);
- The second time happened when they met the more traditional scythed chariots in their wars against the Hellenistic kingdoms. While already declining on its own due the creation of effective cavalry and effective infantry formations to resist their charges, the scythed chariots could occasionally pose a danger to an unprepared force (in fact a Roman army was nearly routed by a sudden charge that caught them with their pants down. That very army had inflicted the worse humiliation to scythed chariots in the history of warfare just a few weeks before, and they would still win after regrouping and inventing another solution) until the Romans brought back their caltrops. Once they did, the chariot charge would always stop abruptly and the Romans would calmly walk to the enemy to slaughter both horses and charioteers.
- The Romans also used them to definitely murder chariot warfare, twice:
- Ninja, who swore by just about everything sneaky, were fond of dropping these. They were called tetsubishi and makibishi in Japan.
- Cops use a variant of these known as "spike strips" to disable the tires of those they're pursuing. Preferred since it is also desirable to remove the spikes as quickly as possible, otherwise the cop cars in pursuit would get their tires popped as well.
- During The Korean War, American Air Force bombers would drop these over North Korean and Chinese supply routes at night, returning at daybreak to attack supply convoys that had become immobilized in the night by the obstacles.
- In the modern day, caltrops are banned from the Infantry barracks at Fort Benning, Georgia.
- Any Tabletop Games player who has stepped on a d4 understands acutely how these things are supposed to work: See below.
- As has any kid, or parent whose kids didn't put away their toys, who's stepped on a Lego piece.
- Goatheads are the plants which give Caltrops their name, and are a pain in the ass for bikers everywhere, since they love to stick in tires and cause them to completely go flat. The fact that they grow fast, grow almost everywhere in the world and prefer dry climates where bikers not only flock to but people are also likely to go barefoot does not help matters.
- In the U.S. labor movement, they're typically called "jackrocks". During some particularly bitter strikes, picketers or their sympathizers would spread them along roads, intending to destroy the tires of management or replacement workers (but obviously causing danger to innocent travelers as well). Several states have banned possession of such devices.