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The Traps skill governs the player's ability to find and remove of traps. The skill also has an impact on the player's ability to handle timed explosives properly. This excludes grenades, as they are handled under the Throwing skill.
Using the Traps Skill
In all three of the Fallout games in which the Traps skill appears, it is handled identically in gameplay.
As a Passive Skill
In part, the Traps skill is passive, and determines the ability of the player to spot a trap before setting it off. If the player attempts to interact with a trapped object, such as a booby-trapped safe, the game checks the player's Traps skill against the difficulty of the trap. If the check succeeds, the interaction is aborted and the player is warned that the object may be trapped. If the check fails, the interaction proceeds and the trap is triggered.
The other passive application of the traps skill involves the various types of floor traps found in Fallout 2. In this case, Perception conditions are used to modify the check of Traps skill against difficulty. If the check succeeds, the player is able to spot the trap prior to setting it off, typically with the warning "You see a raised tile," or the warning of a land mine. The trap then becomes visible in the play area. If the check fails, the player is able to walk over the trapped tile, potentially setting off the trap.
As an Active Skill
Players can also actively use the Traps skill from the skills menu. The active use of the Traps skill has two functions. Primarily, it is used to disarm and remove a trap that has already been spotted. However, careful players can check objects for traps prior to interacting with them by using the Traps skill. Landmines and floor traps can typically only be spotted passively.
Once a trap has been spotted, the player should activate the Traps skill and attempt to use it on the trap. The game then runs a check of the player's Traps skill against the trap's difficulty. Success results in the trap being disarmed. If there is a removable component, such as a bundle of dynamite or a grenade, this is added to the inventory by a script. Failure typically means that the player was unable to disarm the trap, but causes no ill effect. However, a critical failure detonates the trap or mine, usually injuring the player.
As a Demolitions Skill
The Traps skill also affects the player's ability to properly arm timed explosives such as dynamite or plastic explosives. A higher Traps skill yields more accurate results with timer settings. Players with a low Traps skill should avoid setting explosives timers for 30 seconds or less due to the very real risk of premature detonation.
The Demolition Expert perk removes the risk of premature detonation when handling timed explosives, eliminating that aspect of risk when dealing with a low Traps skill. Players with the Explosives Expert perk also enjoy improved damage from explosives.
Meanwhile, the Light Step perk helps prevent players from setting off floor-based traps such as land mines and pressure plates by halving the trap difficulty for the purposes of the skill check. Players should note, however, that unlike in Fallout 3, the Light Step perk in Fallout, Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics does not prevent the triggering of floor traps, but rather only makes that event less likely.