Created By: Quatic on September 4, 2014 Last Edited By: MetaFour on September 10, 2017
Troped

Trial Run Crime

A character commits a crime against another simply to test if the crime will work.

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Trope
There are some cold-blooded reasons to rob, assault, or kill somebody, but not many more than doing so to an acquaintance or even an innocent stranger just to test the method the criminal plans to use on their real desired target.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Light does this several times in Death Note:
    • His first victim is a man holding children hostage in a school. As the news cuts off before he can see exactly what happened, he isn't convinced.
    • He next uses the Death Note on a man harassing a woman outside a convenience store. He's also able to test the "cause of death" clause by specifying the man die in an "accident" - he gets hit by a truck.
    • Realizing the Note works, and with L on his trail, he begins testing the Note by having prisoners do things just before dying. He's specifically looking for limits on what they can and cannot do before dying.
    • When L gets the Death Note, he wants to have a death-row convict test the 13 day rule. L dies before he can put this plan into action.

Film
  • In The Jackal, Bruce Willis's assassin character does this, killing the arms dealer who sold him his high-powered gun with that gun, to make sure that it will work when used on his target.
  • The terrorist group Black September from Black Sunday recruit deranged Vietnam vet Lander to develop an anti-personnel weapon, to be used against the President while he attends the Super Bowl. Lander builds a large Claymore mine, and field tests its killing power by convincing a farmer that it's a new television camera. The poor fellow stands still, smiling, when the device goes off, riddling the entire side of his barn with holes. It may be presumed the farmer was liquified where he stood. The terrorists then plan to install these devices on the exterior of the Goodyear blimp, which will likely kill the President and thousands more in attendance.

Literature
  • The first murder in the Hercule Poirot novel Three Act Tragedy turns out to be this, with the killer wishing to test if their scheme for switching glasses during a crowded party would work.
  • Another Sherlock Holmes example: In "Silver Blaze", Holmes asks a person taking care of sheep if there was anything wrong with them lately. Turns out a few went lame. This confirms Holmes' suspicion the supposed murder victim was trying to cripple the eponymous horse after betting against it, and the sheep were used for practice. There was no murder; the horse merely caved the man's skull in during the preparation for the real crime.
  • In Orson Scott Card's The Worthing Saga, inhabitants of the City Planet Capitol (capitol of The Empire), play an elaborate Civilization-style massively-multiplayer historical civilization-building game as a sort of spectator sport. One player, a genius named Herman Nuber, creates a Hegemonic Empire so powerful yet so beneficent and internally stable that he looks certain to Take Over the World of the game and end it in a permanent Pax Nubera. Before he can do so, Abner Doon (who turns out to be Nuber's grandson) buys out Nuber's place and undermines his empire so completely that not only does it fail to conquer the world, it is eradicated completely by universal simultaneous rebellion. Doon reveals that he considers this a trial run; he intends to do the same thing to The Empire in real life. Interestingly, while destroying Nuber's in-game empire is not technically a crime (just a supreme dick move), Doon expresses much more remorse for that than for destroying the actual Empire, saying that he did not realize what a toll it would take on his grandfather's mental health to see his life's work destroyed.
  • Crime and Punishment has a variation. Raskolnikov kills a moneylender who won't be missed, mostly to prove to himself that he's an ‹bermensch and smart enough to get away with the crime. But he doesn't have any concrete plans for a larger crime afterwards, just vague ideas about reshaping the world with his will.

Live-Action Television
  • In the Sherlock episode "The Sign of Three", the first victim is a Buckingham Palace guard found near death from a stab wound with no weapon in sight, in a locked-room mystery. Turns out that the killer had attempted to kill him for no other reason than to test a method intended to be used on another victim. The "test" victim lived (because Watson was there to give him medical treatment). It was a plot point, since It made it clear that Watson would be able to save the second victim (his old friend and wedding guest).
  • The "Love Run Cold" episode of CSI: NY had the detectives discover that a cat whose owner lives near the suspect was poisoned in the same way as the Victim of the Week (using a substance said suspect uses to prepare food she's photographing) and the cat's owner suspected she did it.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Journey's End", Davros tests his 'reality bomb' on a group of unlucky civilians abducted from earth before magnifying it with the intention of using it to rip apart the entire multiverse.
  • One episode of Lois and Clark involved numerous headless bodies being found all over Metropolis. Turns out a millionaire with a disfigured body intended to transplant his head onto Superman's body and the doctors were testing the technique.
  • In the The Blacklist, a SVR assassin named Karakurt runs a test to see if he can kill someone with a virus through touching someone. The FBI is baffled on why a college student was targeted until they find out that he's suppose to target an anti-Russian politician and even if that doesn't work, one of his contacts uses the virus so that the Alliance/Cabal can use Liz as a stooge.
  • In an episode of Hawaii Five-O, would be terrorists want to introduce a weaponized ebola-like illness to the population using bees. They lure a random Island dude to their remote location with the phony promise of a job interview, and then lock him in the room and flood it with infected bees to make sure they can effectively spread the disease (and that the disease will have its intended quick-kill effect).
  • In an episode of Psych, Spencer deduces that the robbery of an ice-cream truck was a test run for the planned robbery of an armored car using the same method.
  • Crime and Punishment has a variation. Raskolnikov kills a moneylender who won't be missed, mostly to prove to himself that he's an ‹bermensch and smart enough to get away with the crime. But he doesn't have any concrete plans for a larger crime afterwards, just vague ideas about reshaping the world with his will.

Webcomic
  • In strip #906 of The Order of the Stick, this is the motive Nale gives for murdering Malack's vampire "children".

Real Life


Community Feedback Replies: 23
  • September 4, 2014
    Chabal2
    Supposedly some samurai would test out a new blade by going out and killing a random commoner with it (as opposed to criminals or dead bodies).
  • September 4, 2014
    Bisected8
    • One episode of CSINY had the detectives discover that a cat whose owner lives near the suspect was poisoned in the same way as the Victim Of The Week (using a substance said suspect uses to prepare food she's photographing) and the cat's owner suspected she did it.

    Also, in the Sherlock example; the "test" victim lived (because Watson was there to give him medical treatment). It was a plot point, since It made it clear that Watson would be able to save the second victim (his old friend and wedding guest).
  • September 4, 2014
    bitemytail
    • Light does this several times in Death Note:
      • His first victim is a man holding children hostage in a school. As the news cuts off before he can see exactly what happened, he isn't convinced.
      • He next uses the Death Note on a man harassing a woman outside a convenience store. He's also able to test the "cause of death" clause by specifying the man die in an "accident" - he gets hit by a truck.
      • Realizing the Note works, and with L on his trail, he begins testing the Note by having prisoners do things just before dying. He's specifically looking for limits on what they can and cannot do before dying.
      • When L gets the Death Note, he wants to have a death-row convict test the 13 day rule. L dies before he can put this plan into action.
  • September 4, 2014
    Chabal2
    • Star Wars: the Death Star is fired at Alderaan as a "just because we can" gesture, and is only prevented from continuing to do so to any rebellious planet by its destruction.
    • In one of Garth Ennis' War Stories, four men find themselves in the same foxhole during the Spanish civil war: an English communist, a German pilot, an Irish nutcase and a Spanish soldier. The Spaniard calls out the German for basically participating in the refining of blitzkrieg tactics for later.

    Meta-example: pretty much anytime a player gets a new ability or weapon, they're going to test it on a random mook before trying it on the boss.
  • September 4, 2014
    foxley
    The first murder in the Hercule Poirot novel Three Act Tragedy turns out to be this, with the killer wishing to test if their scheme for switching glasses during a crowded party would work.
  • September 4, 2014
    Astaroth
    ^^ Actually, Alderaan was the second planet the Death Star destroyed; the first (not featured in the films) was Despayre, a penal colony and shipyard where the final stages of the Death Star's construction had taken place.

    • In the Doctor Who episode "Journey's End", Davros tests his 'reality bomb' on a group of unlucky civilians abducted from earth before magnifying it with the intention of using it to rip apart the entire multiverse.
  • September 4, 2014
    DAN004
    Compare... that ykttw about someone doing atrocities just to prove that he can. (Dammit, forgot the name.)
  • September 4, 2014
    DAN004
    Scratch that, I just bumped that ykttw.
  • September 4, 2014
    Quatic
    ^^^^^ Alderaan doesn't quite count, as the destruction was intended to send a message to the galaxy, and not to see if the killers could get away with it on a random victim before trying it out on a specific intended target.
  • September 5, 2014
    bitemytail
  • September 5, 2014
    jormis29
    • Namespaced
  • September 6, 2014
    Earnest
    Based on the examples, I think the description should mention this a sister trope to Ballistic Discount, and that examples of plain old killing a weapons dealer to avoid paying should go there, whereas hitmen or assassins who happen to test a new weapon for a specific type of murder should go here.
  • May 11, 2015
    Quatic
    I have realized that this was drawn a bit narrowly, and so have expanded it from "Trial Run Murder" to "Trial Run Crime," more generally.
  • May 11, 2015
    Arutema
    • In strip #906 of The Order Of The Stick, this is the motive Nale gives for murdering Malack's vampire "children".
  • May 11, 2015
    Omeganian
    • Another Sherlock Holmes example: In "Silver Blaze", Holmes asks a person taking care of sheep if there was anything wrong with them lately. Turns out a few went lame. This confirms Holmes' suspicion the supposed murder victim was trying to make the titular horse lame after betting against it, and the sheep were used for practice. There was no murder, the horse merely caved the man's skull in during the preparation for the real crime.
  • May 12, 2015
    Arivne

  • May 15, 2015
    Omeganian
    • One episode of Lois And Clark involved numerous headless bodies being found all over Metropolis. Turns out a millionaire with a disfigured body intended to transplant his head onto Superman's body and the doctors were testing the technique.
  • May 15, 2015
    hbi2k
    Literature
    • In Orson Scott Card's The Worthing Saga, inhabitants of the City Planet Capitol (capitol of The Empire), play an elaborate Civilization-style massively-multiplayer historical civilization-building game as a sort of spectator sport. One player, a genius named Herman Nuber, creates a Hegemonic Empire so powerful yet so beneficent and internally stable that he looks certain to Take Over The World of the game and end it in a permanent Pax Nubera. Before he can do so, Abner Doon (who turns out to be Nuber's grandson) buys out Nuber's place and undermines his empire so completely that not only does it fail to conquer the world, it is eradicated completely by universal simultaneous rebellion. Doon reveals that he considers this a trial run; he intends to do the same thing to The Empire in real life. Interestingly, while destroying Nuber's in-game empire is not technically a crime (just a supreme dick move), Doon expresses much more remorse for that than for destroying the actual Empire, saying that he did not realize what a toll it would take on his grandfather's mental health to see his life's work destroyed.
  • May 17, 2015
    Ominae
    In the TheBlacklist, a SVR assassin named Karakurt runs a test to see if he can kill someone with a virus through touching someone. The FBI is baffled on why a college student was targeted until they find out that he's suppose to target an anti-Russian politician and even if that doesn't work, one of his contacts uses the virus so that the Alliance/Cabal can use Liz as a stooge.
  • June 6, 2017
    Quatic
    Bump.
  • September 9, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • The terrorist group Black September from Black Sunday recruit deranged Vietnam vet Lander to develop an anti-personnel weapon, to be used against the President while he attends the Super Bowl. Lander builds a large Claymore mine, and field tests its killing power by convincing a farmer that it's a new television camera. The poor fellow stands still, smiling, when the device goes off, riddling the entire side of his barn with holes. It may be presumed the farmer was liquified where he stood. The terrorists then plan to install these devices on the exterior of the Goodyear blimp, which will likely kill the President and thousands more in attendance.
  • September 10, 2017
    MetaFour
    Literature:
    • Crime And Punishment has a variation. Raskolnikov kills a moneylender who won't be missed, mostly to prove to himself that he's an Ubermensch and smart enough to get away with the crime. But he doesn't have any concrete plans for a larger crime afterwards, just vague ideas about reshaping the world with his will.
  • September 10, 2017
    Omeganian
    In Faith by sbmcneil, Bellatrix rapes (and oversees the rape of) a number of men with the use of drugs, to test out the proper potion dosages as preparation for bearing a child of Harry's to serve as Voldemort's heir.
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