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 Schmuck Bait. If it's so obvious the character recognizes it for what it is, but then elects to walk into it anyway, it's Trap Is the Only Option. If the person springing the trap isn't even trying to hide his intentions, he may tell the target to Come Alone.
Spoilers may follow.
- 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.
- Used twice in Girls und Panzer.
- The first time is in episode 5 when Miho lures some of Saunder's tanks into a trap by using fake radio commands.
- The second time is in episode 8, when Pravda uses this against Oorai by having them chase down a lone tank into a town, where the other Pravda tanks then surround them.
- Used in Science Ninja Team Gatchaman on Ken. He wants to find his father, who's been presumed dead for years, so Galactor sends an old friend saying he's seen him.
- In Ojamajo Doremi, Oyajide uses his magic to lure the Ojamajos into his grasp so he may kidnap Hana. The girls return the favor later on, but aren't as successful.
- 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.
- In Knights of the Dinner Table, Nitro takes his revenge on Bob by sending him a fake invitation to a Hackmaster LARP at Hawg Wallers. In this case, there's no specific trap or enemy waiting there; Nitro (correctly) assumes that Bob will shoot off his mouth and get his ass kicked by the bar's rough-and-tumble clientele.
- Shakara: The Hierarchy use one of the dead Shakara race's lost artifacts to lay a trap for Shakara when he comes to inspect it, sending in a strike force of Teknosaurs, Thornax, and Buggerians.
- Robin Tim is able to trick Dodge's group into walking straight into an ambush by the Teen Titans by making the criminals believe a fellow walking through the park at night is himself out of costume, when it's really Zachary Zatara.
- In Equestria: A History Revealed, the main characters talk about how re-taking Canterlot might have been a little too easy. It turns out they were all lured into a Defensive Feint Trap to tire them out, with the enemy returning with forces three times in number.
- In one story of the Facing the Future Series, the Fentons are called in to clear out a haunting, only to find out too later it was all set up by Vlad.
- Big time, in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. The four are sent by the Circle to meet with a hermit in the wilderness because he has some significant information. The timing of the discovery of this hermit is very suspicious, and everyone suspects that the Guardians have set a trap for the four. However, the Circle reassure the four that their best scryers could find nothing to indicate that this was a Guardians' trap. So the four agree to go, figuring they can overpower anyone who tries to ambush them. As it turns out, it is a trap, one carefully calculated to take out the four as fast as possible, and only luck and some secret help from unknown friends lets the four escape. Anyway, the Circle was right; it wasn't a Guardians trap (though the Guardians got wind of it and ambushed the ambushers); it was a Circle trap, since they had decided that the Actual Pacifism of the four made them a threat and attempted to separate and neutralize them.
- In Age Of Dragons Hawke is lured into a clearly obvious trap by someone pointing out that the trap is probably more interesting than what he's doing at the moment.
- In Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, Jafar threatens the reformed Iago to lure Aladdin and the Sultan by leading them into Jafar's trap. Iago is not happy about it and feels remorse and he later saves all of their lives...
- Basically the plot of the first Ice Age movie. Diego pretends to help Manny and Sid to bring the human baby back to its father, but actually he's leading them straight into an ambush to his pack. In the nick of time he has a change of heart, though.
- 20 Years After: Sara's group gets ambushed when going into another city by some survivors that want her baby.
- The One Nation Earth agents in the Apocalypse film series movie Tribulation are misdirected to what they think is the Haters' hideout, and start shooting up the place, only to find out that it was rigged with explosives. Cue the Oh, Crap!.
- Batman (1989): Boss Grissom sends Jack Napier to retrieve the incriminating information from the Axis Chemical plant (which in reality he has already made sure they were removed) so Lieutenant Eckhardt and the team of corrupt cops on Grissom's payroll can kill him.
- In Hounddog, Wooden's Boy has Lewellen's best friend Buddy trick her into going into the shed where she gets raped with the promise of Elvis tickets, though it seems that Buddy didn't know what was going to happen to her when he helped.
- Marvel in The Hunger Games traps Rue in an Inescapable Net in order to attract and shoot Katniss. It doesn't work out for him.
- In the first The 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.
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi: Not only is the shield still up, and not only is the Imperial Fleet on the scene to pin the Rebel Fleet down, but it turns out that the half-completed Death Star is quite operational when they arrive. Thanks to the efforts of the heroes, the Rebels win anyway.
- 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 and the Order of the Phoenix, 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, and Sirius ironically dies at the end when he tries to save them.
- 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.
- A Brother's Price has a scene where a great number of soldiers of the Queens' Justice, led by Princess Ren, go after a mill where they know some of the enemy are hiding. Aware that it could be a trap, Eldest and Corelle Whistler go out ahead of them. The enemy turned out to have cannons, and with the soldiers filling the street...
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, the King in the North loses the War of Five Kings despite winning every battle when he is lured into a trap orchestrated by the Lannisters, the Freys, and the Boltons. The resultant massacre has since been known as the "Red Wedding".
- Not to be outdone by their film counterparts, Star Wars Legends is rife with traps, usually declared with Ackbar's immortal line (sometimes lampshaded). Take, for instance, the Yuuzhan Vong attack on Borleias, which (for complex reasons) included the following line:
Piggy: I sense a trap closing around us, Goddess!
- In the Doctor Who novel "Engines of War", the Doctor does this to Dalek ships, enabling battle TARDISes to destroy them. Then it turns out to be a Dalek trap and the battle TARDISes are destroyed by Dalek Stealth Ships. The concept of traps and ambushes comes back into the narrative often.
- The main character in Eden Green is infected with an alien needle symbiote after the villain exploits her curiosity in order to lure her into a secluded trap.
- In an episode of Burn Notice, a character is offered a meeting in an alleyway. Michael tells him that it's an ambush and that he'll go instead. He then makes a van bulletproof via phonebooks, before taking 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.
- Doctor Who: The Doctor has faced this many times over the years, though it never really works out well for the one(s) laying the trap.
The Doctor: Oh, big, big mistake, really huge. Didn't anyone ever tell you there's one thing you never put in a trap, if you're smart, if you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow, there's one thing you never, ever put in a trap.
Angel Bob: And what would that be, sir?
The Doctor: Me.
- Downton Abbey: Thomas falls for former friend O'Brien's manipulations, and believing his feelings for the new footman to be mutual, goes to the latter's bedroom for a kiss. Suffice to say, it's all a set up which nearly gets Thomas fired with no reference.
- Game of Thrones:
- In the third season, Robb and most of his supporters are wiped out when Walder Frey turns their renewed marriage alliance into a massacre that has since been known as the "Red Wedding".
- In the seventh season, Tyrion has Daenerys' Unsullied army take the Lannister seat Casterly Rock, in an effort to embarrass Cersei. The Unsullied infiltrate and easily take the castle, but find it guarded by a minimal garrison and stripped of supplies. During the siege the Iron Fleet arrives and destroy Daenerys' ships, stranding her army there.
- 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.
- Happens frequently in the Stargate-verse. The protagonists always acknowledge that it's a trap and then go anyway.
- In the third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Romulan Tal Shiar and the Cardassian Obsidian Order team up to destroy the Dominion in one fell swoop, by consolidating their fleets and staging a surprise attack on the Founders' homeworld. They arrive but find the planet deserted, and are ambushed and annihilated by a hidden Dominion fleet. It turned out the Dominion knew about the plot and helped push it forward so they could bring the Tal Shiar and Obsidian Order into the Gamma Quadrant and obliterate them in one fell swoop.
- In The Wire drug dealers Fruit and Lex from rival gangs are both after the same girl, until Lex eventually ambushes and kills Fruit. Marlo debates what to do to avenge Fruit, and decides that the simple solution is to kill Lex as a basic form of retaliation. He has Randy and L'il Kevin pass on word to Lex that the girl wants to meet him. He goes to an out of the way spot expecting to meet her... and comes face to face with Chris Partlow and Snoop, Marlo's two lethal enforcers, who kill him and throw his body into a boarded up row house.
- Kane would repeatedly kidnap The Great Khali's brother Rajin Singh in order to lure Khali into traps. The latter never caught on.
- On the last TNA Impact before Genesis 2011, Eric Bischoff called a truce between Immortal, Douglas Williams, The Motor City Machine Guns and Jay Lethal: all the (non knockout) champions not in Immortal. Naturally they fell for it and as a result all ended up losing to members of Fortune.
- 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 Judge Turpin's mansion, telling her that the Judge is remorseful about sending away her husband, Benjamin Barker, for life on a false charge. When Lucy arrives, there's a wild masked ball well underway at the mansion, with no one she knows there; and when Lucy finally does find the Judge, it turns out that he is anything but remorseful, and has used this ball as a means to get her alone and defenseless.
- At Universal Studios:
- The title character of Doctor Doom's Fearfall lures guests to his "Tower of Doom" under the pretense that they're going to be riding a fun carnival ride, when in actuality Doom intends to use the fear generated from them while riding to power his ultimate superweapon.
- Ooblar in Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast purposely leads Jimmy, Carl, and the riders into Planet Yolkus just so he and King Goobot can trap them and have Poultra kill them.
- In Men In Black: Alien Attack, one alien pretends to be an innocent alien, only to reveal to the riders that they just walked right into an ambush.
- Lord Darkenon in Poseidon's Fury tricks the guests, along with the attraction's guide, into walking into a secret chamber that he soon shuts all possible exits to.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Investigating the derelict Collector Cruiser or the dead Reaper. Or activating the Reaper IFF. Or the franchise's grand-daddy of all such traps, establishing the center of galactic civilization on the Citadel.
- When the three mercenary organizations of Omega team up to bring down the Archangel team, they open their attack by luring team leader Garrus into a trap with their mole, Sidonis. However, its purpose is unconventional — there are Eclipse troopers at the trap site, but the real purpose was to split up the Archangel team; without their leader and master sniper, the other vigilantes are overrun by the main thrust of the mercenary assault. Garrus realizes it's a trap when he reaches the rendezvous and Sidonis isn't there (having quite sensibly taken his blood money and run for it), but he isn't fast enough to return before the team is killed.
- In MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries, one of the early mission chains is a raid on a regular supply convoy. The first time, the convoy fields only a few tanks in its defense; the second, they up the ante to include enemy mechs but are still no match for Spectre's forces. The third time, Spectre's mechs enter the area, pick up tanks and mechs ahead of them, mechs behind them, and their Mission Control is jammed. Spectre thinks to scan for unarmed vehicles, finds none of them, and decides to bug out (although you can stick around if you like; if you manage to take out the enemy's heavy, you can keep it). Or, as your HUD helpfully puts it:
Mission Failed: It's a trap! There is no Lyran convoy.
- In the Green Sabre mission from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Sweet and the Grove Street crew are preparing to take the fight to their enemies, the Ballas. But when C.J. is called away by Cesar, he learns that Smoke and Ryder have sold them out and have joined Tenpenny and the Ballas, and that Sweet and the others are being led into a trap. It ends badly, for C.J., Sweet and Grove Street in general.
- The original Diablo had Archbishop Lazarus leading a group of people from Tristram into the Cathedral to rescue Prince Albrecht, the little boy who he himself made a vessel for the title archdemon. He lured them into the second level, where he left them to die at the hands of the demonic Butcher. Griswold and Farnham were the only survivors of the attack, which left Griswold with a crippled leg and Farnham with a shattered mind and a broken spirit.
- This happens to Dante in the first, third, and fourth Devil May Cry games. In the first, it's because the Big Bad has a serious grudge against Dante's father Sparda. In the third and fourth, it's because Dante's blood connection to Sparda makes him a vital component in unsealing whatever power the villains hope to unleash.
- One of the earlier missions of Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising has Sami follow intel that Flak, the resident Dumb Muscle of the villains side, is at a location "resting his troops". Instead she encounters the Mad Scientist Lash, who planted said intel, with a hardened force, access to a factory, and with reinforcements en-route in a mere 7 days. It's the first mission in the game that's very easy to lose, as nothing less than pitch perfect play will let you win (and even then you're likely to finish on day 6 or 7), and effectively is the point where the enemy COs stop messing around and get serious.
- At the end of Episode 4 of Life Is Strange, Max and Chloe are lured to the junkyard by Jefferson, who then shoots Chloe and kidnaps Max.
- In the Obama Adventure series, George Bush lures Barack Obama into a trap using his two henchmen so that he can steal his identity.
- In The Gamer's Alliance, the Alliance often ends up lured into traps such as when Shyralis and Izael lure Ax's team to a library where they betray the team, locking them inside the room and leaving them to face the Shadow.
- In CD-I Super Guns Fight, the Evil Team kills the Good Team during a major battle by luring them into a canyon filled with mines.
- Resident Evil Abridged: The members of S.T.A.R.S. Alpha are lured to the Spencer Mansion on what they were lead to believe was a search and rescue mission for Bravo Team. Except it's a ruse by their captain, Wesker, so he can kill them off to cover up his involvement with Umbrella.
- Batman: The Animated Series:
- In "The Clock King", Batman tracks the title villain to a Bank Robbery only to find that he has been Locked in a Bank Vault that is really a Gas Chamber, while the villain enacts the real Evil Plan.
- In "Mad Love", Harley pretends to betray the Joker in order to capture Batman so she can kill him so he'll stop distracting Mistah J's attention away from her.
- There is a Code Lyoko episode where Odd receives an anonymous text message from a girl asking him to meet her in the woods alone; he complies only it's XANA who proceeds to knock him out, replace him with a clone and leave him in a well that is rapidly filling with water to drown. The rest of the heroes barely figure it out in time, with Yumi arriving to rescue Odd with only seconds to spare.
- Kim Possible: In "Stop Team Go", Electronique sends each of the Go siblings a phony invitation to lure them into position to blast them with her "Reverse Polarizer".
- Star Wars Rebels:
- "Rise of the Old Masters": The Ghost crew hears a broadcast by Senator-in-exile Gall Trayvis with information that Jedi Master Luminara Unduli is still alive and being held at the Spire, an Imperial prison on Stygeon Prime. It turns out she was Dead All Along, and it was a trap used multiple times by the Inquisitor to capture surviving Jedi. The crew manages to escape, planning to spread the truth so the Empire can't use it again.
- "Vision of Hope": The Ghost crew learns that Senator Trayvis is coming to Lothal to meet them. It turns out that he's an Imperial spy, who's been pretending to be a Voice of the Resistance to lure rebel cells into traps, and as such the events of "Rise of the Old Masters" were not a coincidence. Just like last time, they escape, blowing Trayvis' cover in the process.
- "The Honorable Ones": The Ghost crew is dispatched by Rebel intelligence to investigate some suspicious Imperial activity at the planet Geonosis. Upon arriving, they land on an abandoned Imperial construction module in orbit, one of several — and it turns out to be a trap sprung by recurring adversary Agent Kallus, who winds up stranded with Zeb on the icy moon Bahryn with a broken leg for his trouble.
- "The Antilles Extraction": Sabine has gone undercover at Skystrike Academy, an Imperial pilot school, to locate and extract defecting cadets. After finding the cadets and identifying herself to them, they need a way to get out. However, the academy's locked down on Governor Pryce's orders because the Imperial Security Bureau has also discovered that there are would-be defectors at the academy. So when a spaceflight exercise is announced, Sabine and the cadets take the opportunity to escape. Of course, it's a trap — the wings of the cadets' TIE fighters are rigged to detach, which happens when Sabine and the defectors try to make a break for it during the exercise. One of them is shot down as an example. However, Sabine and the remaining two defectors, Wedge and Hobbie, do manage to escape later thanks to some unexpected help.