Created By: Dark_Awesome on July 19, 2014 Last Edited By: jormis29 on July 28, 2014
Nuked

Physical Steganography

Describes a lost will/deed/key/etc. crucial to the plot that is hidden inside an object of art.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Steganography, as defined by The Other Wiki on this article, is the art of concealing a message, image, or file within another message, image, or file. The "physical" part comes in when said secret message is not so much coded into an image as it is literally stuffed inside.

Although this trope can apply to many situations, there are a few criteria that all must be met in order to be considered an example:

  1. The item hidden must be, in the case of video games, more important than the average loot obtained from breaking objects, like in-game currency.

  2. The item must be hidden inside a work of art. Ordinary objects don't count, however anything that is meant for decoration does, like clay pots for instance.

  3. The item must be hidden inside a work of art, not behind or under, usually (but not always) to the point where it is necessary to break the artwork open.

This is very common in certain video games, especially those that have the player destroying old, valuable artifacts on a daily basis to begin with. The most common form elsewhere is valuable legal papers or maps hidden in a picture's frame, and has even been used in real life, apparently as far back as the 1700s.

Usually involves Rewarding Vandalism, and (in video games) some aspects of Die, Chair! Die!. Always Check Behind the Chair may lead to discovering said object, though is neither necessary to do so nor directly involved with Artfully Hidden.

Examples of Artfully Hidden:

Anime and Manga
  • In one episode of the Trigun anime, the deed to an oasis is hidden in the picture frame of a crayon drawing.

Film
  • The Golden Voyage of Sinbad: After Prince Koura animates the statue of Kali, Haroun destroys it by knocking it off the top of a raised area and shattering it. In its broken remains is the third golden tablet, which both Sinbad and Koura need to complete their missions.
  • In Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights, the key to Maid Marian's chastity belt was found when Robin's locket broke.

Literature
  • Sherlock Holmes: "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" reveals that the treasure is hidden in a bust of Napoleon Bonaparte; but the criminal doesn't know which one.

Live-Action TV
  • The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon needs a USB drive he has hidden in a puzzle box in his room and calls Penny on the phone to get it for him. He tries to explain in detail to her how to open the box. She asks if the box is valuable; when Sheldon says it isn't, she just breaks it.
  • In Breaking Bad, Walt and Jesse's stunt in which they park a giant magnet outside of a police evidence room succeeds in wiping out incriminating evidence. It also knocks over a framed picture, revealing a piece of paper behind the picture, which reveals information on a lot of Gus Fring's hidden money.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In "Who Mourns for Morn?" a painting is broken over Quark's head, and the painting is then shown to have contained a hidden chip which gives access to a security box of Morn's.

Video Games

In fact, every puzzle game where smashing pots is an option will undoubtedly have this, and even some that aren't puzzle games.
Community Feedback Replies: 45
  • July 19, 2014
    Dark_Awesome
    I would like to note that this trope is not just for pots/vases, but any object of art that needs to be destroyed. If you find a secret letter hidden in a frame with another picture, that still counts. Lockets, pictures, vases, pots, statues, it all counts. Pots are just the example I had most frequently run into at the time I made this.
  • July 19, 2014
    Dark_Awesome
    Also, if someone could add a picture of Zelda or something similar, that would be appreciated. I am new to the site and haven't figured out how to add a picture yet.
  • July 19, 2014
    SKJAM
    • Sherlock Holmes: "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" reveals that the treasure is hidden in a bust of Napoleon Bonaparte; but the criminal doesn't know which one.
  • July 19, 2014
    FerrousFaucet
    This one fits perfectly with the idea of something hidden in an artwork:

    • Star Trek Deep Space Nine: In "Who Mourns for Morn?" a painting is broken over Quark's head, and the painting is then shown to have contained a hidden chip which gives access to a security box of Morn's.

    I'm not sure if this next example fits, but here it is anyway:

    • Perhaps an inversion in The Dick Van Dyke Show: Rob accidentally buys a hideous painting in an auction, and is disappointed and embarrassed that he spent so much money on it. He realizes later that another painting is underneath the current one, because the artist re-used the canvas to save money. Rob carefully scrapes away the painting to reveal another painting beneath, and he has the painting appraised; it's worthless. Just then the auctioneer pays Rob a visit to tell him that the painting he bought at the auction was actually more valuable than anyone realized, but both Rob and the auctioneer are horrified that Rob has destroyed it to reveal the worthless painting underneath.
  • July 19, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    Contrast Always Check Behind The Chair, where the items are not crucial to advancement.

    Not a valid contrast: it ignores "Used in a more cruel manner, however, and it tends to dive into Fake Difficulty and/or Guide Dang It, especially when the item is plot-important or has literally no business being there." (emphasis mine)
  • July 19, 2014
    DAN004
    This is still Always Check Behind The Chair BUT WITH ART FORMS!
  • July 20, 2014
    Arivne
    Film
    • The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad. After Prince Koura animates the statue of Kali, Haroun destroys it by knocking it off the top of a raised area and shattering it. In its broken remains is the third golden tablet, which both Sinbad and Koura need to complete their missions.
  • July 20, 2014
    Dark_Awesome
    Thank you, those who have contributed to this page, every bit helps get it finished.

    I would like to once a again point out that this is different from Always Check Behind The Chair in that Always Check Behind The Chair is the process of looking for said hidden objects, is limited to video games, and does not necessarily involve breaking the objects to find what your looking for. This trope is describing the fact that the thing that was hidden was there in the first place, and is not limited to just video games.

    There is a difference. No need for text yelling.
  • July 20, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    No, Always Check Behind The Chair is not limited to video games.

    Web Comics At the beginning of Darths & Droids, Jim and Ben's very first act of going Off the Rails involved searching a room for items rather than waiting for the negotiators to arrive. As punishment, the GM retroactively decided that this action was responsible for the Trade Federation attacking them. In this Gunshow comic, http://gunshowcomic.com/352, you can get a dollar by finding the duck hidden behind a plant in your hotel. Roleplaying Games The Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming notes, in explicit detail, that the munchkin method of searching a dungeon does not only restrict itself to looking behind chairs, but actually breaking apart the chair to search for loot and/or magical items inside. As well as destroying all other furniture, breaking open the floor, walls and ceiling, as well as searching each monster corpse to the point of running their corpse through a sieve. After looting potentially valuable organs, of course.
  • July 20, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    It is true that the page has a dearth of non-gaming examples, but that is not the fault of the definition, which also says "Though primarily a Video Game trope, it can occur in other media, usually invoked by The Klutz or someone Genre Savvy."

    Given that you have twice in this YKTTW claimed something of Always Check Behind The Chair that was false, I do not believe you have read the page.
  • July 20, 2014
    randomsurfer
    • 'The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon needs a USB drive he has hidden in a puzzle box in his room and calls Penny on the phone to get it for him. He tries to explain in detail to her how to open the box. She asks if the box is valuable; when Sheldon says it isn't, she just breaks it.

    • In The Pearl Of Death, a Basil Rathbone-era Sherlock Holmes film based on "The Six Napoleons," to hide the fact that he's only interested in the Napoleons the killer breaks all the china in the house.
  • July 20, 2014
    Dark_Awesome
    Please hold on to comments on the description while I rewrite it. I feel my original description was distracting from the basis of the trope to the point that people were getting confused.

    Contributions to examples are still welcome, and the laconic description is staying for now, so base examples off of that.
  • July 20, 2014
    jamespolk
    Examples need to be sorted by medium.

    Live-Action TV

    • In Breaking Bad, Walt and Jesse's stunt in which they park a giant magnet outside of a police evidence room succeeds in wiping out incriminating evidence. It also knocks over a framed picture, revealing a piece of paper behind the picture, which reveals information on a lot of Gus Fring's hidden money.
  • July 20, 2014
    Dark_Awesome
    Ok, the new description is up, which should help clear a few things up about the nature of the trope.

    As for sorting the examples, I am waiting until a few more examples have collected to do that. Not very much worth it quite yet, but it will be done before the page gets launched, if it does get launched. Not all the examples given were very specific on what medium they were in, so those must be found before sorting as well.
  • July 20, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • Looney Tunes Back In Action has a map to the location of the Blue Monkey diamond hidden beneath the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. The map can be seen with a handheld x-ray viewer, which also reveals that La Joconde has a bra and a skeleton.
  • July 20, 2014
    DAN004
    Have you ever heard of The Same But More Specific? That is, this is Always Check Behind The Chair but with added "the placement is always an art form".
  • July 20, 2014
    jamespolk
    ^I don't see how that's true. As already noted, Always Check Behind The Chair involves the need to look for things, while this trope, as defined, is finding things by chance.
  • July 20, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Just wondering: would the numerous cases of a wall safe hidden behind a hinged painting count? I know there was one of those in Moonraker, and there was one in Lancelot Link Secret Chimp, which the head of CHUMP kept his critical secrets and which secret agent Link could raid with relative ease.
  • July 20, 2014
    DAN004
    I also remembered of some Scooby Doo cartoons where a statue's hand is actually a hidden switch. Wonder if that counts here?
  • July 20, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    ^^^^ Now hold on: The description is still suffering from an issue of Example As A Thesis, but now it's looking more like a sister trope.

    "Plot relevant" doesn't seem part of the trope in either situation: The Law Of Conservation Of Detail will dictate that the hidden item is valuable most of the time. Looking at it this way, the idea opens up an unexplored space: a "worthless" chair (or table, or book, or wall) has something hidden inside. The hidden item was something the characters needed, but weren't looking for. Where does that go?

    Are these three tropes different enough they need different pages?
  • July 20, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Reread the laconic: wall safes don't count. They've behind not within. No wrecking the artwork to get at the "prize" inside, so wall safes are out. Gotcha.

    Live Action TV
    • One episode of Superman from the Fifties, with the late George Reeves in the title role, had ugly clay figures being stolen by a band of thieves. The figures had been made by a reformed catburglar, and cryptic items were housed inside some of his figures. Once the thieves had been captured by Superman, their ordinary contents were amassed, none of which were valuable in itself. Clark Kent, however, deduced that the items formed the clues to a rebus puzzle, one that spelled out a Post Office Box which held a hugely valuable stolen gemstone.
  • July 20, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Played With in Two Broke Girls: Caroline's father wants her to buy an equestrian award she had won years earlier now that his belongings are being put up for auction to pay back the massive amounts of money he stole. She and Max are convinced that he hid something (like money) in the base of it, so they pay $200 for it and rip it apart, finding nothing inside. Turns out he wanted her to have it in order to remind her that if she puts her mind to it she can do anything.
  • July 21, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ then that's way too specific.
  • July 21, 2014
    Omeganian
    True Lies has nukes smuggled inside ancient statues.
  • July 21, 2014
    Dark_Awesome
    Wow, the replies just exploded.

    I have been thinking about changing the name to "Physical Steganography." What do you guys think, better? Worse? Seems to be a bit more clever is you ask me. The artfully hidden name was really just my lame attempt at a pun.

    Wall safes don't count, I believe that has its own trope. Statue switches do not count either. The "Breaking bad," "Looney Toons," and "Superman" are all perfect examples.

    The "Necessary for advancement" thing was just to differentiate this trope from regular loot in the case of video games, but if that part can be left out if it feels excessive.

    If the object broken is worthless, then it already falls under Rewarding Vandalism, and I think the cases of something being hidden inside a plain, wooden chair are pretty rare to the point where it doesn't need it's own trope.

    I could easily get rid of the Example As A Thesis effect, but I would need a good quote or picture, which I lack the source for. If someone knows of a good picture of Link smashing a vase to find a key or the like, that would be great if someone could tell me the link.

    Thank you all for helping.
  • July 21, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    Errr.... note that the page image for Rewarding Vandalism is that of a statue. So... Rewarding Vandalism is not limited to "worthless" objects. Find a new distinction.

    Also, "hiding something within a plain table" (or wall, or book) is called a "Slick".
  • July 21, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ I guess I just happen to have a much larger scope than yours.

    But all of what was said (safe behind a picture, statue switch) are all Always Check Behind The Chair, in the end.
  • July 23, 2014
    Dark_Awesome
    ^^I didn't say that items inside worthless objects is all that Rewarding Vandalism is, I meant that anything like that is already included in Rewarding Vandalism. Rewarding Vandalism is almost a supertrope, if it weren't for the fact that it doesn't have to be vandalism at all.

    This trope could be a picture of family that the hero has been carrying around, only to have it accidentally break, or have someone else break it to be mean to the hero, and there could be a picture in it as well. It doesn't even have to be a person, it be be an earthquake or a gust of wind through an open window, as long as the rest fits.
  • July 23, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Ah, I guess I see what you mean.

    But still, safe behind a picture or statue switch should count here.
  • July 24, 2014
    Dark_Awesome
    ^ A safe behind a picture has a trope solely for that, called Concealing Canvas, while the switch would be Bookcase Passage.
  • July 24, 2014
    Illemar
    In The Grand Budapest Hotel, the codicil to a will is hidden behind the painting that M. Gustav and Zero take away with them. Because they have kept the painting wrapped most of the movie they don't find it until the packaging rips.
  • July 24, 2014
    bejjinks
    Whoa, how rare, pedantic and sesquipedalian of you to use a word like steganography. Most people will assume this trope is about people with stegosaurus like plates on their back.
  • July 24, 2014
    Dark_Awesome
    ^ It should at least differentiate it a bit more from most other tropes in the YKTTW pages, and attract at least the attention of "Wait, what? I must look at that now, and add to the ever expanding list of tabs I have been building.

    I am still in the middle of editing the description, so I know it's not much at the moment.
  • July 24, 2014
    f1shst1x
    Downvote "Steganography."
  • July 24, 2014
    Dark_Awesome
    ^ Wait, what?
  • July 24, 2014
    DAN004
    While Physical Steganography passes the "witty" qualifier, it would take a leap of logic to make sense out of it, so it isn't "clear".

    I really like that title, but it has to change. At least, IMO... (let's make a crowner?)
  • July 25, 2014
    Chabal2
    Judge Dee: a dead magistrate leaves his second wife a painting of a maze and everything else to his wastrel son. The Judge solves the real-life maze by noting a hidden passageway, which leads him to the real will, as well as a murderer's victim storage.
  • July 25, 2014
    bejjinks
    Agreeing with DAN004. Steganography is witty, so witty that it will fly right over the heads of 99% of the population. There is a balance between a person saying "Wait, what?" (being curious enough to look at it) and a person saying "Oh, whatever" (being discouraged because he isn't a genius like you). Always remember the audience and avoid using words that confuse the audience.
  • July 25, 2014
    Dark_Awesome
    ^True, but "Artfully hidden" just seems a bit too... boring? Not very clever? I can't put my finger on the word.

    Anyway, if you guys think it'll go over reader's heads, then do you have any suggestions? Something involving Di vinci, perhaps?
  • July 25, 2014
    bejjinks
  • July 25, 2014
    Dark_Awesome
    Wow, all this work, a week of asking on the lost and found, a week on the YKTTW, and the whole time spent browsing the sight, and I never found a trope like it, until I searched "picture has clue" looking for the trope where a clue is painted into the picture itself (actual seganography), and guess what: it's already on the site.

    It has a page with a bare-bones description, no picture, no quote, and few examples. It's called Framed Clue. The page being worked on here covers a slightly broader range of situations, and the Framed Clue page seems like it didn't get that much work done on it (it's description is literally three sentences long) so why not just fix that one up? It kinda needs it.
  • July 25, 2014
    DAN004
    You can incorporate your description and examples there.
  • July 27, 2014
    jormis29
  • July 27, 2014
    jormis29
    Namespaced and split into folders
  • July 28, 2014
    Dark_Awesome
    This YKTTW is now being shut down in favor of updating Framed Clue. Feel free to help over there, though. The wiki Hive Mind works better with a bigger the hive, and all that.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=vam9yuzc3cawl0eyc0r7756q&trope=DiscardedYKTTW