The BigBad is sending our hero (and his RagtagBunchOfMisfits companions) through the wringer. He clearly has the power to wipe them out any time he feels like it. But he's content (for now) with sending out wave after wave of [[SortingAlgorithmOfEvil progressively stronger]] {{mooks}}, {{Elite Mook}}s, and the occasional QuirkyMinibossSquad to test our hero. Maybe he's even fought them personally, but let them live, maybe even [[ILetYouWin let them think they beat him.]] Maybe he even leaves them alone to train for their inevitable confrontation. So why don't they [[WhyDontYaJustShootHim finish the protagonist off and be done with it]]?

Because it's [[EvilPlan All Part of His Evil Plan]]. Maybe he needs the heroes strong enough to get to the top of Mount Tropey and [[MacGuffinDeliveryService retrieve the Crown of Trope-Tan]]. Maybe he needs TheChosenOne as strong as possible before he [[GrandTheftMe takes his power or body]] as his own. So he keeps sending out one stronger opponent after another to test Our Hero (or lets him seek them out on his own). After all, if he can't handle that, he's no good for the Master Plan. Or the BigBad just may be a BloodKnight who wants to beat him at his strongest.

The pitfalls of such a plan, however, are painfully obvious. If the schemer needs his pawn to secure the Crown of Trope-Tan due to restrictions on his own presence, he needs to make certain the pawn will deliver it to him straight away, lest the pawn put it in safekeeping, [[NoManShouldHaveThisPower destroy it]] or, worse, [[HoistByHisOwnPetard use it against him]]. There are many ways to go about ensuring it, however - a [[HostageForMacGuffin hostage exchange]] is one such way.

If the schemer is seeking the hero's body or power, there is a fine threshold between "strong enough to work" and "too strong to handle" that the schemer needs to keep in mind at all times - the instant the threshold is crossed, things [[DidntSeeThatComing get complicated]]. A BloodKnight is less inclined to care, especially if [[DeathSeeker defeat is the desired result]]. They may also [[VillainForgotToLevelGrind forget to keep up with the heroes]], themselves.

Both of these also share the same pitfall as all {{Evil Plan}}s--the plan is only good as long as the pawns never figure it out. The instant they do, they may [[OffTheRails try to incorporate a power incompatible with the schemer]] or [[HoistByTheirOwnPetard seek to invoke a backfire]]. Long story short, if they catch on, it's only a matter of time [[OutGambitted before the schemer and his plan go to hell]].

This is a subtrope of EvilPlan and JustToyingWithThem. See also: ILetYouWin, NotWorthKilling, BringHimToMe. Often a part of a MacGuffinDeliveryService if the hero is an UnwittingPawn. Compare StealthMentor. Contrast YouWillBeSpared.



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* Cell and Vegeta on ''Anime/DragonBallZ'' took turns with the BloodKnight variant of this trope. Vegeta could've easily destroyed Imperfect Cell (or let [[KidFromTheFuture Future Trunks]] do it). But Cell appealed to his Saiyan blood, allowing him the opportunity to absorb Android 18 and achieve full power. Likewise, Perfect Cell could've wiped the Z-Warriors out after this. But ''his'' Saiyan blood (since he was created using the DNA of the most powerful warriors, including Goku and Vegeta) caused him to give Goku and company time to train and get stronger, so he could crush them at their best, with the whole world watching. Cell then falls into this trap a third time by intentionally provoking Gohan into Super Saiyan 2 during the Cell Games, who proves to be his downfall.
* In ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'', Itachi decides not to kill Sasuke along with the rest of the Uchiha clan. The reason why he does this changes several times, always somehow related to this. [[spoiler:Then it's revealed that he was GoodAllAlong and wanted Sasuke to kill him for his actions.]]
* ''[[Manga/{{Saiyuki}} Saiyuki: Journey to West]]'': The Sanzo party travels over land at the request of the Merciful Goddess, in order to be more of a team.
* In ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'', Aizen allows Ichigo to go through one last bout of TrainingFromHell because he wants him to be stronger when Aizen finally "eats" him. Given how DrunkWithPower Aizen is during their later fight, it becomes clear that Aizen just wanted a WorthyOpponent to crush with his new powers. It backfires on him because Ichigo took too many levels of Badass and was actually ''much'' stronger than Aizen anticipated.
* In ''Anime/LostUniverse'', the main villain Yami doesn't kill Kain Blueriver when they first meet, wanting him to be stronger. [[spoiler:Making him stronger worked ''too'' well.]]
* In ''Manga/FullMetalAlchemist'', this is why Edward Elric and Roy Mustang survive long enough to win, in the manga. Well, Roy at least; Ed is already 'strong enough;' it's just that it's not yet time for the sacrifice.
** Alarmingly, if Roy had caught a bullet during the coup, it would probably have ruined the BigBad's plans more thoroughly than any of the heroes' actual endeavors.
*** On the other hand, given the way Roy ended up being coerced it looks like they didn't need nearly as high a level in their sacrifices as they tried to obtain--they could have pulled that trick on every alchemist in Central starting with Armstrong, if necessary, until they hit one who survived the Gate.
*** On the ''other'' hand, the eclipse window was kind of small, and the method used to force sacrifices like this damages the homonculi involved.
* In ''Manga/HunterXHunter'', [[MonsterClown Hisoka]] is the BloodKnight variant. He just wants to have fun and fight strong opponents, and Gon and Killua look like they could grow up ''really'' fun to fight, so he lets them live and encourages their development.
** This is the guy who cut off his own arm to make a casual fight more interesting. And who had a years-long {{plan}} that involved betraying some of the most dangerous people on earth just to fight their leader. You should have ''seen'' his face when a side-effect of relying on Kurapika's vendetta turned out to be that Chrollo Lucifer would die if he used his powers again. Chrollo thought it was pretty funny, himself.
* In ''Manga/OnePiece'', Mihawk spares Zoro's life in their first encounter even though he's a massively inferior fighter. This is because he sees Zoro as having the potential to give him a truly challenging fight once he's traveled the Grand Line. He even goes so far as to [[spoiler:''personally train Zoro'' during the timeskip]].
* In ''Manga/ShamanKing'', Yoh tells Hao that he's not afraid of him, because Hao will only kill him once he's reached his full potential.
* In ''Manga/{{MAR}}'', Phantom sees the potential in Ginta and actively encourages him to get stronger. Even preventing his army from killing him during their invasion of Dorothy's hometown. Course this came to bite him in the ass during the final round of the War Game between Ginta and him as Ginta begins overwhelming him, to which he even lampshades before pulling out his trump card [[spoiler:which likewise fails]].
* In ''Anime/{{Revolutionary Girl Utena}}'' the dueling game is designed with the purpose of strengthening the champion's Soul Sword to be stronger and to encourage them to exhibit princely virtues. [[spoiler:It is strongly implied that Utena's many miraculous wins were actually due to Anthy and Akio's intervention as they planned for Utena to reach the final duel, at which point Akio could take her sword from her and use it to try to regain Dios's power, as he has done multiple times before with previous champions.]]
* In ''Anime/KillLaKill'', Satsuki makes Ryuko duel the club leaders, the Elite Four, and Satsuki herself to strengthen Ryuko so that [[spoiler:she can help fight Satsuki's mother, Kiryuin Ragyou, when Satsuki makes her planned HeelFaceTurn.]]
* In ''LightNovel/ACertainMagicalIndex'', Creator/AleisterCrowley manipulates things behind the scenes so that Touma Kamijou constantly runs into bad guys and problems to fight and solve, wanting him to gain experience and get stronger for some [[HiddenAgendaVillain undisclosed goal]]. Later, [[spoiler:the True GREMLIN organization reveals that Touma's entire adventure with Othinus was an "experiment" of their design to manipulate Touma's growth.]]
* In ''Anime/YuGiOh5Ds'', the Yliaster trio sends trials and opponents the heroes' way like the Ghost Robots and the Fake Jack Atlas. This is to force them to improve and grow stronger, so that they release more energy when they duel, which helps their plans.
* Freya from ''LightNovel/IsItWrongToTryToPickUpGirlsInADungeon'' is a weird case in that making Bell stronger ''is'' the endgame. She [[InLoveWithYourCarnage really]] [[TheImmodestOrgasm enjoys]] watching him fight.
* In ''LightNovel/{{Campione}}'', Athena wants Godou Kusanagi to master his powers and become stronger, so that it will be more epic and satisfying when they finally have a rematch.
* In "The Lord of Calamity" from ''VideoGame/TalesOfZestiria The X'', the Lord of Calamity, Heidalf, states that he shall let Sorey grow in his powers as a Shepherd until he becomes a shining light to the people of the world, only to then rip it from them.

* ''ComicBook/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicIDW'': [[spoiler:The trials Chrysalis puts the Mane Six through are meant to strengthen their friendship so their emotions will ''peak'' and Twilight will be at her strongest when she [[ManaDrain drains her magic]].]]
** [[spoiler:[[HoistByHisOwnPetard This winds up backfiring]] as Twilight's magic turns out to be much stronger then she realizes. Added with the magic comet amplifying her power and Twilight manages to defeat Chrysalis in a one on one duel.]]

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In ''Fanfic/HarryPotterAndTheNatural20'', Voldemort continuously sends minions and dangers Milo's way. Milo levels up with each fight and adventure and will eventually gain the power to revive the dead, a skill of course useful to the Dark Lord's plans.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* In StarWars, the Emperor wanted to make Luke Skywalker stronger, eventually [[WeCanRuleTogether making him his]] right-hand man.
* Pai Mei invokes this trope in ''Film/KillBill Vol. 2'' while training The Bride; "Since your arm now belongs to me, I want it strong."

* We see a form of this in ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFire'' where "Mad-Eye Moody" nudges and helps Harry along in his Tri-Wizard Tournament challenges, for the sole purpose of [[spoiler:[[BatmanGambit luring him into a death trap]].]]
* In Literature/ThePendragonAdventure, [[spoiler:This trope is the reason Saint Dane doesn't simply kill all the Travelers. In fact, it's also the reason he even lets Bobby find him in any territory at all. When Saint Dane says he his done with his work in a territory, he means it.]]
* In ''Literature/ArtemisFowl: The Opal Deception'', Opal waits a year before having herself revived from her self-induced coma. This is partly because she wanted to throw off suspicion. It's also, though, because she wanted to wait until Artemis, Butler, Holly, Commander Root and Foaly were all back at the top of their game before unleashing her new plan so that victory would be that much sweeter.
* In ''[[Literature/KnightLifeSeries Knight Life]]'', after Morgan Le Fey's (Morgana's) latest plan to destroy the mayoral ambitions of Arthur Penn (Pendragon) fails, she decides that if he thinks things are going great now, then it couldn't help to build up his hopes even further. She'll make it seem like things are going well with the election, only to crush his dreams at the last minute.
-->'''Morgan''': All right, fine. You want to build up your hopes, Arthur? Fine. I'll build them up even higher, then, and that way they'll make an even louder crash when they fall! And nothing will distract me from my purpose! Nothing!
-->'''Lance''': Morgan? Will you spank me?
-->'''Morgan''': [[HypocriticalHumor Well, five minutes of fun wouldn't hurt...]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In the updated ''Series/{{Battlestar Galactica|2003}}'', it's never exactly clear why the Cylons didn't simply ZergRush the fleet, destroying Galactica and picking off the rest of the fleet at leisure. After all, they'd wiped out 99% of humanity already. Why tiptoe around killing the rest? It's been suggested (but never spelled out on-screen) that this was Cavil/One's doing: He wanted to prove to the Final Five that HumansAreBastards and not worth saving ([[spoiler:[[HiddenAgendaVillain thus justifying his own hatred of the Five and humans]]]]) by hounding what was left of the Colonies until they turned on each other (which sort of was the case). [[ShutUpHannibal The hypocrisy of this did not go unremarked upon.]]
* In ''Series/KaizokuSentaiGokaiger'' episode 28, the MonsterOfTheWeek is an alien bounty hunter and thrill-seeker who does it twice. In the past, he nearly killed Captain Marvelous but stopped short and even ''injured himself'' to create a weak point and taunted Marvelous to come back strong enough to challenge him. Then in the present, he handily defeats Marvelous a second time (mostly due to his being paralyzed by fear) and leaves mid-fight despite being paid to kill the Gokaigers.
* In the ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' episode [[Recap/SupernaturalS02E21AllHellBreaksLoosePartOne "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21)]], the Yellow-Eyed Demon reveals that he has been working to make Sam stronger as part of his EvilPlan.
* ''Series/TheFlash2014'':
** Reverse-Flash wants Flash to master his speed powers, [[spoiler:so that he can force Flash to travel through time and return him to his home in the future.]]
** Likewise with Zoom, who spends the first part of the second season sending out supervillains for the Flash to practice on, though in his case he wants to kill Barry and ''take'' his speed.

* The reason [[Music/JohnnyCash a father would name his boy Sue]].

* In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIV'', Golbez can't get into the Sealed Cave himself. Cecil can, but isn't strong enough to get through the deathtraps on his own. Cue the SortingAlgorithmOfEvil.
* And in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII'', this is indicated to have been in effect for the first portion of the game. Someone rather high up wants the Pulse l'Cie to get stronger. [[spoiler:Turns out it's Primarch Dysley, a.k.a. the fal'Cie Barthandelus, as part of his ThanatosGambit.]]
* Happens again in ''Videogame/FinalFantasyXV''. The main villain [[spoiler:Chancellor Ardyn Izunia]] arranges the supposed political marriage between Noctis and Lunafreya which conveniently sends him on a roadtrip away from the false peace treaty (which the villain ''also'' arranged) between Niflheim and Lucis. So while Lucis falls, Noctis is safe. The villain later briefly joins the heroes on their trip without revealing himself to help get them started on the quest to unlock Noctis' full power. In the end, [[spoiler:as Noctis is absorbed by the Crystal, Ardyn reveals his motives. Turns out he's an immortal member of Noctis' bloodline who wants revenge on the Astrals and their "chosen" for being rejected after he had tainted himself absorbing countless daemons in his quest to heal people of the Starscourge. While he could have killed Noctis at any time, doing so would have brought him no satisfaction. Ardyn wants Noctis to become the "King of Light" because that will make killing him even sweeter.]]
* In ''VideoGame/GoldenSun'' (both games), Alex does jack squat to help his allies defeat you, as part of a plan to unleash Alchemy on the world. [[spoiler:30 years later, he's STILL at it.]]
* This is the [[BigBad Lich King]]'s plan for the ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' expansion that bears his name. Allow the player characters to grow stronger and better geared, lure them into [[EvilTowerOfOminousness Icecrown Citadel]], then slaughter them all and turn them into the elite vanguard of his undead armies. [[spoiler:It almost worked, except for the fact that after the slaughter part he took a little too long to gloat...]]
* Also sometimes presented as the justification for opening the Dark Portal and allowing the Horde to invade, beginning the events of the original ''Warcraft'': [[spoiler:Without years of battle-hardening every race on Azeroth, they never would have been prepared to resist the Burning Legion.]]
* In ''VideoGame/SuperPaperMario'' [[spoiler:Dimentio]] interferes with the protagonists for this purpose, allowing them to [[spoiler:defeat Count Bleck, thus freeing the Chaos Heart for him to use.]]
* In the first ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsOriginalGeneration'', ''every'' villainous organization is like this. In the cases of both the Divine Crusaders and [[spoiler:Ingram Prisken]], it's obvious that they're [[StealthMentor Stealth Mentors]]. The Aerogaters, on the other hand, want the heroes to be as strong as possible for when they're BrainwashedAndCrazy.
* Played twice in ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsBirthBySleep''. Master Xehanort encourages Terra to train and strengthen his powers in preparation for [[spoiler:stealing his body to cheat death]], while Vanitas encourages Ven to become stronger because [[spoiler:their powers need to be equal to complete the χ-blade]].
* ''Videogame/{{Diablo}} I''. Whether it was Diablo's plan or not, ''it works''. FailureIsTheOnlyOption, and that's why he's 10 times stronger in Diablo II.
* ''VideoGame/BlueDragon''. Those {{Living Shadow}}s you use to fight? [[spoiler:They're fragments of [[BigBad Nene]]'s one. He didn't feel like doing his own LevelGrinding, so he let you do it for him. He promptly takes the Shadows back when you confront him at the end of Disc 2, revitalising himself and leaving you powerless.]]
* Akuma from ''Franchise/StreetFighter'' seems to imply that he views Ryu in this light. He could easily destroy Ryu but instead lets him live and train, believing that with proper nudging, he will develop the same dark fighting spirit that Akuma embraces. In the UDON Comics series of ''Street Fighter'' comics, this is outright stated after Akuma [[CurbstompBattle wipes the floor]] with Ryu and lets him live, leaving him with the trope as his parting words. In the end, this is subverted as Ryu chooses to reject the Dark Hadou and walk a more pure path as a warrior.
** Akuma is fond of this in general, as he [[BloodKnight lives for fighting.]] If he wins a fight but thinks the opponent was holding back or wasn't at their full potential, he decides they're NotWorthKilling and tells them to become stronger.
* ''VideoGame/{{inFAMOUS}}''. Kessler could easily have killed Cole any time he liked, if he wanted Cole dead. He doesn't do this, however [[spoiler:because he's actually a much older version of Cole from a BadFuture, who's traveled back in time to ensure that Cole gets strong and ruthless enough to beat the opponent Kessler couldn't, and so prevent it from becoming a BadFuture.]] Kessler shows no such qualms about killing Cole's loved ones, however.
* The God King from ''VideoGame/InfinityBlade'' subverts this. He never hesitates to impale defeated warriors and absorb their strength with the Infinity Blade. However, he never tries to nip things in the bud by hunting down the warrior's son when he's still a child [[spoiler:because he wants a worthy champion to help him fight the other Deathless.]]
* ''Franchise/{{Castlevania}}''
** ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaCurseOfDarkness'' starts out with Isaac luring Hector to his castle, enticing him to gain back his lost powers by getting his lover Rosaly killed and waiting for revenge. Isaac could easily wipe the floor with Hector right there in front of the castle, but he would rather see Hector corrupt himself again with devil powers and become a WorthyOpponent so that killing him in the end will be more delightful.
** ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaLordsOfShadow'' has the main BigBad bide his time and watch Gabriel slaughter his brother and sister, because he has one hell of a plan: [[spoiler:Zobek needed Gabriel to become strong enough to kill two Lords of Shadow and survive until reaching the heart of his realm, but the initial problem was that Gabriel might have kicked his ass afterward. After mind-controling Gabriel (again) into killing his friends and taking an Artifact of Doom with a self-destruct mechanism that only Zobek could activate, he let Gabriel reach his full potential and just activated the artifact to off him]]. And then he got upstaged when it turned out that neither one was strong enough to overcome [[spoiler:Satan]].
* If one looks at the plot fragments of ''VideoGame/BlazBlue'' in detail, it becomes clear that [[spoiler:Relius' plans for Makoto]] essentially boil down to this trope. [[spoiler:The Nox Nyctores Houyoku: Rettenjou incorporates the anti-seithr module known as Kushinada's Device to [[AntiMagic interfere with the operation of ars magus]] - that includes not only armagus weapons and other Nox Nyctores, but also the ars magus technology on which the world now runs on. While Rettenjou was left fully powered after the Dark War due to Nine not getting around to sealing it (blame Terumi), Relius finds its current soul to be inadequate, and rather than smelt an entire NOL branch like Terumi did to temper Noel into [[PersonOfMassDestruction Mu-12]], he would rather fortify a soul to its breaking point before throwing it into Rettenjou and [[TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt invoking the Day of Destruction]]. Given how hardy and powerful it is, the soul of Makoto Nanaya is his chosen warhead.]] The risk and reward are equally immense here - [[spoiler:even if she can't become powerful enough to topple Relius, a quote by Terumi about Relius' interest in Makoto ''to Makoto herself'' is a good place to start investigating this plan, and if she pieces it all together, Terumi won't be the only one whose schemes she sends belly-up.]]
* ''VideoGame/XCOMEnemyUnknown'': [[spoiler:The alien invasion is essentially a TrainingFromHell, intended to develop humans into a force strong enough to fight some unspecified foe on behalf of the Ethereals.]]
* ''VideoGame/DotHackGU'': It comes to light in the second volume that [[spoiler:Ovan]] is in control of AIDA, and has been sending trials at Haseo all this time to make him stronger. [[spoiler:The reason? He is host to the murderous AIDA known as Tri-Edge. His powers as Corbenik the Rebirth would allow him to "reset" everything and wipe out AIDA if he dies, but [[ICannotSelfTerminate He Cannot Self Terminate]]. Thus, he acts the part of the villain so that Haseo will kill him.]]
-->''Become stronger, Haseo. Strong enough to kill me.''
* This is [[spoiler:Erim's]] plan in ''VideoGame/LufiaTheLegendReturns'': train a group of heroes strong enough to defeat the Sinistrals, [[spoiler:including herself, in order to end the cycle of their resurrection]].

* In ''Webcomic/TheWotch'', it's clear that Xaos has enough power to take out Anne or Miranda (possibly both of them at once), as does [[TheDragon Kohaine]]. He's explicitly testing Anne, wanting her to grow as strong as possible before stepping in and stealing her powers. Why he can't just take them now and be done with it...? *shrugs*
** Revealed during the HuntingTheMostDangerousGame arc: Anne has RealityWarper powers [[spoiler:capable of ripping apart dimensional boarders. However, it's incomplete.]]
* In ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'', Xykon invokes this trope to Roy, offering to let him go so he could gain a few levels because "good heroes make good villains." Roy decides to fight him anyway. [[spoiler:(Xykon then subverts the trope by going ahead and killing Roy. Don't worry: He gets brought back.)]]
** Later, General Tarquin does it too, letting Elan go even after he's tried to kill him. so he can gain some more levels, finish the current questline, and THEN come back to try again. His reasons are cleverer than most, however - he basically says that, should he lose in a climactic duel against a powerful hero, he'll go down in history as a legendary villain. And if he wins? Then he wins. [[spoiler:Of course, the fact that [[LukeIAmYourFather he's Elan's father]] may also play a role in his decision.]]
* In ''Webcomic/OurLittleAdventure'', [[ItMakesSenseInContext the Palm Tree Ghost]] tells Julie that the city of Everwood should be her next destination, but she'd probably want to spend some time gaming a level or three before proceeding there. Made explicit later, when they discover that the second [[MacGuffin Magicant piece]] was far closer to their original starting point than the first They're told that although that piece was closer, the monsters in that area were far stronger, and they would have been slaughtered had they tried for the closer one first.
* A variant on this shows up in ''Webcomic/EightBitTheater'', when [[spoiler:Sarda]] reveals that the true purpose of the Light Warriors' questing was [[spoiler:to make them as strong as possible, just so they would know that [[BestServedCold not even that much strength could stop him from killing them.]]]]