Created By: SNDLMarch 31, 2012 Last Edited By: SNDLApril 8, 2012
Troped

Free Sample Plot Coupon

There's a list of Plot Coupons to be collected. To start the collection, the hero gets one for free.

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Trope
Something bad happens. Or the main character wants to archieve something, or reach somewhere. Either way, there may be an objective to fulfill in the near future. This objective may be the motivation to start an adventure. Not too long afterwards, the character is told about how the objective can be archieved, and it may have to do with the collection of important objects, or the search for characters. This would be the start of a very long and difficult quest, enough to make the quest for the first object or character very difficult on its own.

Fortunately, the first Mac Guffin or Plot Coupon appears as soon as the quest starts.

This first encounter is the Free Sample Plot Coupon. It serves as a good motivation to look forward to the remaining objects or characters, which (or who) are genuinely more difficult to find. Now, how the first Mac Guffin appears may depend on the plot or the place:

  • It may be located right next to the main character. Not too shabby.
  • If it's an object, whoever holds it will appear instantly.
  • If it's a character, he or she may appear instantly.
  • Or, by some fortunate coincidence, the character may already have had it all along. Or is the Mac Guffin.

Naturally, if the item or character takes a lot of effort to find (if not more than the others), then it doesn't fit the trope. Not to be confused with This Is Your Premise On Drugs.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Dragon Ball, for the most part, revolves around looking for the Dragon Balls. Fortunately, Son Goku already has one at the start of the series, and Bulma meets him having two, making the quest much easier already.
  • Downplayed in Inu Yasha. Kagome already has the Shikon pearl inside her at the start of the series, but after some unsavory events it is fragmented into several pieces, scattered through Feudal Japan. Thus the objective is to retrieve them, and the first of them is held by a very powerful opponent, negating the trope entirely.
  • In order to save Athena in Saint Seiya, the main characters must walk through the twelve zodiac houses and confront the Gold Saints whenever it's necessary. Fortunately, Aries won't be a major concern. Mu, the house's guardian, is in the good guys' side, and after jokingly faking a battle with them, he proceeds to repair their (at that point weakened) armors so they can be better prepared. Mu also gives them suggestions about how to confront the remaining Gold Saints.
  • After being revived in Yu Yu Hakusho, Yusuke helps Kuwabara get rid of a bully who was threatening him. It turns out that said bully was possessed by a little demon, so when Yusuke grabs it, Botan tells him about it and its crimes, and takes the opportunity to tell him that Koenma hired him to work as a Detective Spirit, making that little demon the first supernatural criminal he captures. Of course, the subsequent ones are a lot harder to defeat.
  • The manga version of The Legend Of Zelda A Link To The Past has Link getting the first pendant from Sahasrahla.

Film
  • The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad. The Grand Vizier of Marabia gives Sinbad a quest to find the three golden tablets before the evil Koura does. Luckily Sinbad accidentally acquired the first tablet from Koura before meeting the Vizier, and uses it to locate the area where the other two tablets can be found.

Literature
  • The quest for the Horcruxes in Harry Potter is a Double Subversion. The first Horcrux destroyed was Riddle's Diary, four years before Harry even knew it was such. And it took the plot of an entire book (Chamber of Secrets) to destroy it, so it wouldn't fit the trope. However, in Half Blood Prince, when Dumbledore tells Harry about Horcruxes and the importance of destroying them, he tells him that not only the diary is already out of the concerns, so is Marvolo Gaunt's Ring, which he and Snape had already found and gotten rid of prior to the events of Half Blood Prince.
  • In the second book in The Dark Is Rising series, Will Stanton is given the first Sign, the Sign of Iron, before he even learns that he is an Old One and starts his quest for the other five Signs.

Live Action TV
  • The Outer Limits TOS episode ''Demon with a Glass Hand". Trent must find the three missing fingers of his artificial left hand to save humanity from the Kyben invasion. Fortunately Trent's incomplete left hand is a computer that can help him find the three fingers.

Video Games
  • Banjo Kazooie has Jigsaw Pieces as Mac Guffins. They are required to complete magical pictures that open the levels they portray. Who tells the title characters about this? The first Jigsaw Piece, of course.
  • Largely averted in The Legend Of Zelda games, where Link has to traverse through a dungeon and other places before gaining the first of the Plot Coupon items. However, there are a few exceptions:
    • In Ocarina of Time, after Ganondorf takes over Hyrule and Link wakes up from his seven-year slumber, the first Sage tells him that all others have to be awaken so they can together capture and seal Ganondorf. He also gives him the first Sage Medallion, Light.
    • In Twilight Princess, Link and Midna must reunite the four fragments of the Mirror of Twilight in order to enter Zant's whereabouts. The first fragment, luckily, is still in the Mirror when they find it broken, so they only have to look for three more.
    • Also in Twilight Princess, Midna is already wearing the first piece of the four Fused Shadows when the player meets her.
    • In Skyward Sword, the first Ancient Tablet is already given to him by Fi in Skyloft, allowing him to gain access to the first area of the Surface, Faron Woods. The trope is inverted in the Song of the Hero quest, as Levias is the character that tells Link about the song and the parts of it that were taught separately to him and the three Dragons guarding the areas of the Surface, but he won't teach him his part until all others are learned.
  • In Star Fox Adventures, a character tells Krystal that the Krazoa Spirits are the only beings capable of bringing an end to the war that is wounding the population of planet Sauria. He even tells her that the shrine guarding the first Krazoa Spirit is a few steps on her right side.
  • Mass Effect 1, Shepard accidentally finds a Prothean beacon in the end of the tutorial level. It proves to be the first in line of Mac Guffins you have to collect before you can beat the Big Bad, namely, the Prothean Cipher that allows to decode the beacon's message, the Mac Guffin Girl Liara who does the actual decoding, and the coordinates of the Point Of No Return kept by the Rachni Queen.
  • In ''Kings Quest Mask Of Eternity the entire reason why Connor is the hero is because he picked up a piece of the Mask (one of five plot-necessary Mac Guffins) before the spell that turned everyone else to stone could hit. Everyone acts as though he's the destined hero, but if that's true then Destiny must've aimed that mask piece directly at him.
  • In Super Paper Mario, Mario gets the first Pure Heart handed to him before the player even officially has control of him. Hilariously, you can avert But Thou Must by refusing multiple times to accept the first Plot Coupon, eventually leading to the giver just giving up and a Non Standard Game Over before the game even begins.
  • Mario's goal in Super Mario Galaxy is to retrieve the Grand Stars that fuel the Comet Observatory built by Rosalina. Luckily for him, the first of these Stars is the only one that isn't guarded by any of the bosses, in fact its power hasn't been fully used yet. Also a case of Back From The Brink.
  • Okami has a sidequest-based example: In Shinshu field, a pirest asks Amaterasu to hunt down five criminal demons, each marked with a sacred arrow. As soon as the titular wolf exits the priest's house to start the search, night falls and the first criminal demon challenges her to a fight.
  • Cruelly inverted in Jet Force Gemini: When Mizar escapes from his palace after Lupus easily defeats him, he threatens the characters to redirect an asteroid to blow up planet Earth. Aware of this, King Jeff tells the protagonists that there is a huge mothership that will help them intercept the asteroid and find a way to stop it, but it's missing twelve pieces. Eleven of these pieces are scattered through the galaxy, so the three characters have to do a Fetch Quest to retrieve them. The 12th piece, technically the first, is in Jeff's hands, but he won't give it away until all 282 missing tribals in the game are rescued. He doesn't even care if the aforementioned asteroid manages to hit Earth in the meantime.
Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • April 1, 2012
    Arivne
    This may be a Dismantled Mac Guffin as well.

    Film
    • The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad. The Grand Vizier of Marabia gives Sinbad a quest to find the three golden tablets before the evil Koura does. Luckily Sinbad accidentally acquired the first tablet from Koura before meeting the Vizier, and uses it to locate the area where the other two tablets can be found.

    Live Action TV
    • The Outer Limits TOS episode ''Demon with a Glass Hand". Trent must find the three missing fingers of his artificial left hand to save humanity from the Kyben invasion. Fortunately Trent's incomplete left hand is a computer that can help him find the three fingers.
  • April 1, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Also in Twilight Princess, Midna is already wearing the first piece of the four Fused Shadows when the player meets her.
  • April 1, 2012
    DmM
    Is Harry Potter a twist on this, given that the final Horcrux, which is also the last MacGuffin in the series, is Harry's scar, which was introduced on about the fourth page of the first book?
  • April 1, 2012
    arromdee
    I don't like the laconic. The start is always getting the first object. It's certainly never going to be the second object.

    "The character is tasked to find a set of important objects, and the starting object is unusually easy to get."

    Also, I don't think the Harry Potter example counts. The process of getting the object includes the research needed to figure out where it is as well as the physical effort needed to pick it up. So that Horcrux wasn't easy to get.
  • April 1, 2012
    Topazan
    Harry Potter might count because one of the Horcruxes was the diary, which he had already destroyed before he learned about the Horcruxes.
  • April 1, 2012
    DmM
    Here's a potential laconic:

    There's a list of MacGuffins and the hero Gotta Catch Them All. To start the collection, he gets one free.

    Also maybe call the trope 'Free Sample MacGuffin'
  • April 1, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Technically this would be more of Plot Coupon territory (Mac Guffins are more about the irrelevant identify of the thing, Plot Coupon the need to collect 'em all -- assuming we want to keep that distinction, as we're the only wiki who cares about that).

    Perhaps First Plot Coupon Free?
  • April 1, 2012
    Anomalocaris20
    In Super Paper Mario, it subverts the series' tradition of 7 Plot Coupons by making it 8... but then Double Subverts it by having you recieve the first of the 8 before you can even move at all. Hilariously, you can avert But Thou Must by refusing multiple times to accept the first Plot Coupon, eventually leading to the giver just giving up and a Non Standard Game Over before the game even begins.
  • April 1, 2012
    SNDL
    Thanks for the comments.

    @/arromdee: Yeah, I need to clarify it a bit. @/Dm M has a very nice suggestion.

    How about Free Sample Plot Coupon?

    EDIT: I had to shorten the laconic due to space constraints. Hopefully it's still clear enough.
  • April 2, 2012
    DmM
    @ SNDL: glad you like it :)
  • April 2, 2012
    Arivne
    Literature
    • The Dark Is Rising, the second book in The Dark Is Rising series. Will Stanton is given the first Sign, the Sign of Iron, before he even learns that he is an Old One and starts his quest for the other five Signs.
  • April 2, 2012
    Koveras
    In the original Mass Effect 1, Shepard accidentally finds a Prothean beacon in the end of the tutorial level. It proves to be the first in line of MacGuffins you have to collect before you can beat the Big Bad, namely, the Prothean Cipher that allows to decode the beacon's message, the Mac Guffin Girl Liara who does the actual decoding, and the coordinates of the Point Of No Return kept by the Rachni Queen.
  • April 2, 2012
    ayjazz
    The manga version of The Legend of Zelda Link To the Past has Link getting the first pendant from Sahasrahla.
  • April 2, 2012
    SNDL
    Added the suggested examples.
  • April 2, 2012
    NateTheGreat
    In Kings Quest Mask Of Eternity the entire reason why Connor is the hero is because he picked up a piece of the Mask (one of five plot-necessary Mac Guffins) before the spell that turned everyone else to stone could hit. Everyone acts as though he's the destined hero, but if that's true then Destiny must've aimed that mask piece directly at him.
  • April 2, 2012
    SonicLover
    In Super Paper Mario, Mario gets the first Pure Heart handed to him before the player even officially has control of him.
  • April 3, 2012
    Koveras
    @SNDL: You missed Mass Effect.
  • April 3, 2012
    DmM
    maybe call it Free Sample Plot Coupon?
  • April 3, 2012
    SNDL
    @Koveras: Oops, my bad. Adding it now, alongside the other new examples.

    @DmM: The only problem with "Free Sample" is that the specification that it has to be the first Plot Coupon'' is lost. Unless Free Sample does carry over the meaning of First Sample as well, maybe?
  • April 3, 2012
    DmM
    I was thinking like those magazines where you Gotta Catch Them All to complete the Star Wars figurine collection or whatever, and they sell the first one at a massively discounted price. In general, the purpose of a free sample is to get people to opt into buying subsequent related products. Does that work?
  • April 3, 2012
    SNDL
    @DmM: Didn't think about it that way. Thanks. Hopefully the meaning will remain the same.

    By the way, I already know why the ME and Paper Mario hadn't appeared. I did add them at some point, but for some strange reason those examples were deleted after the edit. I noticed this when I saw that the Star Fox Adventures example was incomplete. I probably deleted them accidentally when I was trying to copy that info just in case, I dunno.
  • April 3, 2012
    DmM
    That happened to me the other day with one of my threads... AI Is A Crapshoot

    Glad to help :)
  • April 3, 2012
    DmM
    the entry on Tom Riddle's diary should probably read "four years before Harry..." :)
  • April 3, 2012
    SNDL
    Correction done, thanks!
  • April 4, 2012
    DmM
    :)
  • April 5, 2012
    SNDL
    YKTTW Bump. Again. =(
  • April 5, 2012
    sigh824
    At the beginning of Pokemon, The player gets a starter pokemon to aid him/her on their journey to....well, you know.
  • April 5, 2012
    sigh824
    Also works for pretty much any Shin Megami Tensei game.
  • April 5, 2012
    SNDL
    Added (back, it was accidentally deleted in one of my previous edits) the Pokémon example. The SMT one ... what exactly serves as the free-sample Plot Coupon in those games? I haven't played the games, so it's not as obvious for me.
  • April 5, 2012
    sigh824
    In the games I've played at least:

    In Strange Journey, (a game that has you using demons as allies)the demon(A Fairy) approaches you, explains how the demon catching process works, and offers to become you demon. Subverted, in that you can actually turn her down.

    In the Persona series, the demon is awakened inside you through plot events.
  • April 5, 2012
    SNDL
    Done.
  • April 5, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Pokemon isn't an example -- they're Mons, the actual Plot Coupons are your various key items, HM's, and Gym Badges.
  • April 6, 2012
    SNDL
    I see. I haven't played any Pokemon game anyway, so I didn't know this. Removing.

    Also, YKTTW Bump.
  • April 6, 2012
    sigh824
    If Pokemon doesn't work then the SMT examples probably don't work either :(
  • April 7, 2012
    Stratadrake
    In the SMT games you collect demons/whatever as a gameplay mechanic and this has virtually no impact on the surrounding story/plot progression, something like that? If so, then yes, they're not an example of Plot Coupons.
  • April 7, 2012
    Koveras
    In the Conspiracy Thriller genre, the protagonists often stumble upon the first piece of incriminating evidence accidentally, and unravel the plot from there.
  • April 7, 2012
    Stratadrake
    I'm not sure that's the same.
  • April 7, 2012
    SNDL
    I have deleted the SMT examples, which (again) I haven't played and thus didn't know whether or not the trope matched. Added two examples as a compensation.

    As for the Thriller examples, does the first piece of evidence for the crime resolution constitute the start of the quest? How long does it take since the games' start for this piece to appear?
  • April 7, 2012
    SNDL
    Bump
  • April 8, 2012
    SNDL
    Are there any questions, doubts, suggestions left? If not, then I'll proceed to launch this trope tonight. I have never been able to launch a trope so far, so I need support from the troperbase.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable