%% This list of examples has been alphabetized. Please add your example in the proper place. Thanks!
->''"Thatís literally all they do. Maya and Joey are observers in Maradonia while Sagitta and a couple other magical beings do all the fighting and bail them out when they get themselves into shitty situations. And, of course, in the process Joey starts a couple forest fires. Thatís it. The entire effect of The Encouragers in Maradonia was to slightly damage the environment. These are our heroes."''
-->-- Impishidea ''[[Literature/MaradoniaSaga Maradonia]]'' Sporkings, [[http://impishidea.com/spork/maradonia-sporkings-part-thirty-one part 31]].

The protagonist has spent a significant portion of the story bouncing around the tale (figuratively) like a {{pinball}}. He provides no plot impetus in and of himself, and has essentially spent the entire story thus far in a reactive state.

Whatever is going on in the world, be it war or intrigue, it just drags him along in its wake.

This is not a DesignatedHero. Designated Heroes actually do things. The things they do may not be considered heroic, but they still do things and thus have an impact on the world around them. Eventually they pick up the Plot Ball and move it around. Even the LittleHeroBigWar still has the hero do something important to affect the larger mess around him. The Pinball Protagonist spends a decent amount of time failing to actually have ''any'' effect at all. They aren't even lucky enough to ''be'' the Plot Ball.

If the writing and tone of the tale all imply that the character is the protagonist, and yet they can be lifted right out of the story and have little to no impact on anything that has or will happen: then they're just a little silver ball in the cosmic pinball game of life.

Why in the hell is this character the protagonist, the reader might be wondering? Perhaps the protagonist is like a vehicle or a touchstone for the reader, a way of exploring some strange new world or meeting interesting characters.

Many characters will have pinball episodes where they are simply overloaded with too many problems in far too short of a time frame to be able to do anything effective.

Compare TheWatson and FirstPersonPeripheralNarrator. Also compare the TheIngenue archetypal character, defined by the ability to bear up under hardship (an undervalued heroic quality often {{Flanderized}} into a passive characterization). This can be seen as VillainsActHeroesReact taken to an extreme. Not to be confused with UselessProtagonist, where the main characters make ''no'' attempt to make themselves seem important, although these tropes may overlap over time. Contrast with a YoungConqueror HeroProtagonist, who actually drives the plot and makes the villains react to them.

For a detailed overview on the use of passive heroes who get tossed about between situations with little control over their external destiny, try ''Literature/TheSevenBasicPlots'', especially the ''RagsToRiches'' plot and ''Voyage and Return''; the passive hero is ''supposed'' to be undergoing CharacterDevelopment, of course.

Not to be confused with BouncingBattler or BeTheBall, where the protagonist fights by acting like a pinball.


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Anime/EighteenIf'': For the most part, Haruto averts this but episode 7 plays it straight with the GirlOfTheWeek solving her personal problem all by herself, with almost no input from Haruto, who spends the duration of the episode as a passive observant.
* Ichigo from ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'' is like this in a way. He does have an impact on the story but only due to reacting to his newfound duty as shinigami or rescuing his friends from the BigBad. Since he is not under the ''direct'' influence of [[BigGood Yamamoto]] or [[BigBad Aizen]], he never really confronts the BigBad directly until said BigBad threatens to [[DoomedHometown annihilate his hometown]].
* Renton of ''Anime/EurekaSeven'' actually spends a great deal of the series completely in the dark and out of control of the events that transpires around him. He doesn't even come face to face with the BigBad of the series despite being the protagonist.
* Brandon Heat all throughout ''VideoGame/{{Gungrave}}'' is a quiet and obedient henchman. He initiates nothing, suspects nothing, and says almost nothing. Even his undead rampage is less [[RoaringRampageOfRevenge roaring]] than [[TranquilFury sedate]].
* Kyon of ''LightNovel/HaruhiSuzumiya'' spends a lot of time mostly just watching things happen and doing whatever people tell him. [[DeadpanSnarker That isn't to say that he's boring or without personality, however,]] and his apathy is a source of frustration to other characters, which is amusing.
** He becomes a much more active protagonist after the fourth book.
* Shiro from ''Anime/{{K}}'' seems to be this initially, but is eventually subverted later as he starts actively searching for the answers to the mystery surrounding his situation, and then even more when it's [[TheReveal revealed]] that [[spoiler:he's actually the Silver King, and thus, essentially the person single-handedly responsible for setting ''the entire series'' in motion.]]
* Natsuru in ''LightNovel/{{Kampfer}}'' gets dragged around by other people and he just goes along with them in the end anyway. Much worse in the anime than in the manga and light novels, although it's still pretty bad in the latter two. The main difference is, in the latter, s/he at least ''tries'' to make a token effort to undermine the Kampfer War and learn the truth behind it, whereas in the anime, s/he just sorta stands there with a confused expression.
* The protagonists of ''LightNovel/KonoSubarashiiSekaiNiShukufukuO'' have no interest in fighting the Demon King's forces. They only do so because circumstances force them to.
* Until the climax of {{Creator/OsamuTezuka}}'s ''{{Anime/Metropolis}}'', Kenichi and Tima spend most of their time wandering from one SceneryPorn locale to the next, occasionally getting shot at. Tima may also qualify as a walking MacGuffin.
* Shu from ''Anime/NowAndThenHereAndThere'' attempts a lot of heroic stuff, but his actions have little to no effect on the series' plot or resolution. Remove him and the same things would have happened.
* The titular ''Anime/SteamBoy'' spent the majority of the movie doing whatever grandpa, Scarlet, father or Mr. Stephenson wanted. [[CharacterDevelopment To his credit]], when circumstances finally did leave him alone for a moment, he quickly [[IndyPloy came up with a plan of his own]], rejected the BastardUnderstudy's advice and became the hero of the day.
* ''Anime/StrangeDawn'': Eri and Yuko don't really do much throughout the story, except for just communicating with the other characters. This is one of the main criticisms the anime received from reviewers.
* Ichise of ''Anime/{{Texhnolyze}}''. There doesn't appear to be much consideration of his actions, reacting like a rabid animal when he's not simply following orders.
* ''Manga/ToLoveRu'': If Rito had his way, he'd just have a normal, boring life, pining away after the girl he likes. Of course, we wouldn't have the harem comedy we have right now, so the girls keep pulling him into his antics, whether he likes it or not.

* In the ''Series/DoctorWho'' audio "The Holy Terror", the movers in the plot are the TARDIS itself, various characters in the DeadlyDecadentCourt, and the rules of the intensely ritualistic society that the story is set within. Frobisher is the viewpoint character and creates plot development by total accident, the Doctor is absent from large chunks of the plot and the one-shot companion Eugene is explicitly unable to intervene in events, being as he is a scribe whose job is to write down everything that happens. Frobisher briefly becomes king but is powerless to do anything, especially once the GooGooGodlike character shows up and starts killing people. The Doctor's only helpful option is telling Eugene what he has to do to the child at the end. This is all very intentional, as the characters are trapped in a TheoryOfNarrativeCausality-based simulation (intended as an IronicHell for one of the characters) and their lack of influence on the plot just emphasises how strong the story is.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Comicbook/{{Batman}} in ''ComicBook/TheLongHalloween''. He spends most of the story chasing around after whatever supervillain is around for each chapter. He doesn't save any of the victims from the Holiday killer, he doesn't save Harvey Dent from becoming Two-Face and he only catches the killer by [[spoiler: getting Sal Maroni killed by him]].
* There's a comic book where SherlockHolmes meets ThePhantomOfTheOpera; it follows the original Leroux book, with Holmes tacked on to watch the show.
* Spider-Man himself tends to turn into this in any multipart story in his own series that has lots of guest stars. He's always been a guy who works best alone, and quickly takes a back seat as part of a team. The biggest example was the ''ComicBook/MaximumCarnage'' storyline; the cover of one issue even lampshaded the trope by having Spidey shout, "Hey! Whose mag is this, anyway?!" Fortunately, he was indeed the star at the climax, both defeating Carnage himself and preventing Venom from killing him to show he'd still hold onto his principles, despite all that had happened.
* ComicBook/{{Thanos}} in his backstory comic ''ComicBook/ThanosRising'' spends much of each issue acting on suggestions from Death who is constantly nagging to commit murders. Even when he becomes a space pirate captain it's because he accidentally won a duel with the old captain. He swings a sword with his eyes shut and kills him without meaning to, and so gains authority by sheer accident.
* In several issues of ComicBook/{{Venom}}'s first limited series, ComicBook/SpiderMan actually got more screen time. The subsequent ones fixed this problem.

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* Because of {{Disneyfication}}, Mowgli in Disney's ''Disney/TheJungleBook'' spends all his time reacting to the other characters and doesn't instigate any plot events; he ''does'' resolve the plot in the end, but he needs Baloo's help to do so. This is totally ironic if you know the character from Creator/RudyardKipling's original stories.
* The titular unicorn from ''WesternAnimation/TheLastUnicorn'' leaves her forest to find the rest of her kind...and does practically nothing else for the rest of the story. She falls asleep on the side of the road and is captured by a WickedWitch who knows where the rest are, she is freed by one of the witch's magician assistants -- who knows how to get there. He also ends up accidentally changing her into a human so she can reach King Haggard. Though she finally does ''something'' in the climax.
* Aurora of ''Disney/SleepingBeauty'', despite being the titular character. The only thing she does of her own volition is run into Phillip; everything else she does is at someone else's order or suggestion. She has a total of eighteen lines of dialogue in the entire movie. Phillip doesn't do a whole lot, either, as even in the final battle, the fairies are clearly doing most of the work.
* The heroine of ''Disney/SnowWhiteAndTheSevenDwarfs'' is also an example of this trope. The dwarfs, the wicked queen, the huntsman and the prince are the characters who actively drive the plot, while Snow White's role is to inspire their actions and have things happen to her as a result of how the others feel about her. In [[Literature/SnowWhiteAndTheSevenDwarfs the original Grimms' fairy-tale]], the queen is essentially the VillainProtagonist, who takes the most action and gets the most attention out of all the characters in the text; while Snow White gets more emphasis in the Disney version, she's still mainly important for what happens to her, not for anything she does herself.
* Wart spends most of ''Disney/TheSwordInTheStone'' being turned into various animals and being dragged around by Merlin. He only comes across the titular sword by chance, and draws it in complete ignorance of the implications of doing so.
* Tack the Cobbler from ''WesternAnimation/TheThiefAndTheCobbler'' is a CuteMute who spends the first two-thirds of the movie largely being dragged around by other characters. He undergoes no notable character development or HiddenDepths, which makes his burst of heroism in the movie's final act come across as an unexpected AssPull.
* ''{{WesternAnimation/Thumbelina|1994}}'''s titular protagonist. She's found by a fairy prince, who takes her on a ride during which she's spotted by a toad who then steals her. The toads then just leave her on a lily pad, and she spends the rest of the movie bumping into various antagonists. The only proactive thing she does is to get Jacquimo to fly her to the Vale of the Fairies for the climax.
* The narrator of ''Animation/WaltzWithBashir'' is a decidedly tragic example. When his [[FieldPromotion commanding officer is killed]] he doesn't rise to the occasion and completely fails to get any of his squad mates out alive; afterward he bitterly realizes that there was a lot more he could have done but was just a [[SurvivorsGuilt confused kid who got in over his head]].

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* In ''Film/SeventyOne'', Pvt. Gary Hook spends most of the movie fleeing from people trying to kill him, or relying on locals willing to help him. He begins to use some initiative when he decides to leave Eamon and Brigid's flat to escape on his own.
* The title character of ''Film/{{Barbarella}}'' fits this perfectly. The entire movie consists of her repeatedly getting into trouble through her own stupidity, being rescued by some guy, and then having RescueSex with her savior. The only reason she managed to find the man she was looking for at all was because Duran Duran accidentally stepped on the device she had been given to track him down (which she had not once even thought of turning on since receiving).
* In ''Film/BarryLyndon'', Barry goes through his life simply having things ''happen'' to him, such as being robbed, or being press-ganged, or having his child die. Even his initial action, shooting an officer in a duel, turns out to [[spoiler: have been a fake duel, planned all along by his friends]]. Despite his attempts to gain agency over his life, at the end of the movie, he's just as much a victim of fate as he was in the beginning.
* ''Film/BatmanVSupermanDawnOfJustice'': Franchise/{{Superman}} rarely does anything active in the movie unless he is manipulated by ComicBook/LexLuthor and[=/=]or provoked by Franchise/{{Batman}}, to the point they actually have more dialogue than him.
* ''Film/TheBigLebowski'': The Dude just wants to bowl and smoke weed when his life is interrupted by a case of mistaken identity, resulting in the ruining of his rug. His attempt to obtain a new rug leads him down a [[GambitPileup twisted path of mystery and intrigue]] that he ultimately has no control over. The soundtrack likens him to a "tumbling tumbleweed," passively blown around by exterior forces.
* Movies based on ''Literature/CharlieAndTheChocolateFactory'':
** Charlie Bucket from ''Film/WillyWonkaAndTheChocolateFactory''. Once he gets to the factory, the only notable things he does is to steal a Fizzy Lifting Drink (which disqualifies him from the promised lifetime supply of chocolate) and [[spoiler: return the Everlasting Gobstopper to Mr. Wonka rather than give it to a rival competitor]] (negating the disqualification and becoming the owner of the factory in the process), and so he wins. This is still an ''improvement'' on the original book, in which Charlie does almost ''nothing'' upon arriving at the factory. His only act of any significance is at the end, when he informs Mr. Wonka that he is the only child left. Mr. Wonka then immediately announces that Charlie has won ''by default''. However, given that Charlie is exceptionally well-mannered, this makes sense given the fates of the other children -- he gets it for just being ''nice''.
** In [[Film/CharlieAndTheChocolateFactory the second film version]] Charlie regularly questions Mr. Wonka, triggering most of his flashbacks, and then [[spoiler: outright defies him at the end, forcing him to seek out his estranged father]].
** [[Theatre/CharlieAndTheChocolateFactory The 2013 stage version]] puts its own, smaller twist on the whole business by giving Charlie a [[MrImagination highly imaginative, creative streak]] in addition to his kind nature, which affects the plot in that [[spoiler: a ''certain someone'', upon realizing his potential, makes sure that he gets a Golden Ticket -- and a chance to prove himself a kindred spirit. Charlie and the audience are kept in the dark about this until the end]].
* ''Film/CirqueDuSoleilWorldsAway'': While Mia and the Aerialist are seeking each other, they spend most of the film getting caught up in and reacting to the events taking place around them. They rarely affect said events and are offscreen for significant stretches of time.
* In ''Film/TheDamned1947'', a film about a group of Nazis and Nazi collaborators fleeing to South America aboard a U-boat at the end of the war, the protagonist is a French doctor who is kidnapped and forced aboard the sub. He does nothing through the course of the movie and has no influence on events.
* Jen of ''Film/TheDarkCrystal'' spends much of the film's first and second acts [[LampshadeHanging commenting on]] how he has no idea where he is going or what he is looking for as various characters comment on prophecy and destiny and the like. In an example of this trope being done well, it serves to show the audience the wonderfully imaginative world of the movie, and the fantastic special effects of Creator/JimHensonsCreatureShop.
* ''Film/ForrestGump'' just does whatever he feels like doing at the time. At one point, he becomes sort of a running guru and unintentionally leads a group of literal cross-country runners for months. At one point he stops running ("Listen, he's about to say something!") and he just says "I'm kinda tired. I'm going to go home now," and just walks home (to Alabama, from the Nevada desert!)
--> '''Runner:''' "What are we going to do now?"
* ''Film/GodzillaKingOfTheMonsters1956'' falls into this, due to the way its protagonist had to be inserted, after the fact, into [[Film/{{Gojira}} a pre-existing movie]]. Raymond Burr's "Steve Martin" spends almost the entire film bouncing from one scene to the next, acting all the while as a GreekChorus, simply because he cannot interact with the stock footage; the best he can do is, through dubbed dialogue, persuade other characters to take action.
* When you examine too closely the plots of ''Film/{{Goldfinger}}'', you see Film/JamesBond is this. Ignoring the ColdOpen, he causes the death of two sisters on the way to know the villain's plan -- which only occurs after he's captured by the villain, and his attempts to both escape and warn his allies of the scheme fail. The only things Bond do that help foil Operation Grand Slam are [[SexFaceTurn seducing Pussy Galore]] and killing TheDragon. Even when the villain returns, he's killed by accident.
* Music/TheBeatles for much of ''Film/{{Help}}'' This is even plot relevant: Ringo Starr is told he can remove his ClingyMacGuffin if he commits one courageous act--and when he does, ''much'' later, it's the end of the film.
* Test pilot Lance Schroeder in the original ''Film/HouseOnHauntedHill1959'' doesn't do anything particularly heroic throughout the movie. He's attacked in the dark at one point and thinks he hit his head. (The ''Podcast/RiffTrax'' crew constantly joke about him being trapped in closets and bumping his head.)
* Theseus from ''Film/{{Immortals}}'' fails at doing anything even remotely successful throughout the film. He fails to protect his hometown or his mother and he is the reason the [[MacGuffin Epirus Bow]] [[NiceJobBreakingItHero falls into the hands]] of the BigBad. The one successful thing he does is kill King Hyperion, but this is ''after'' [[TheBadGuyWins the guy has accomplished everything he set out to do]] (like releasing The Titans). Yet Athena tells her father Zeus to [[BrokenAesop have faith in Theseus]].
* In the movie ''Film/{{Inferno}}'', the main protagonist Mark does absolutely nothing to defeat the villain. He's not even aware of most of the events going on in the film. The villain was defeated by her own actions and not by anything Mark had done. His only victory is surviving by the end of the film.
* Jupiter Jones from ''Film/JupiterAscending''. The directors [[WordOfGod have stated]] that they wanted to have a female protagonist who didn't conform to RealWomenNeverWearDresses. Unfortunately, Jupiter is merely swept up into a plot she has no idea of and nothing to do with. Other people help her and rescue her, and she's just along for the ride. She displays no special skills or knowledge to contribute anything. The first thing she does for herself is to [[spoiler:agree to marry Titus in exchange for pardoning Caine and Stinger]] -- which is over an hour into the film.
* It doesn't much matter what the human protagonists do in ''any'' of the ''Franchise/JurassicPark'' movies, because no matter what they do, the dinosaurs are the true stars here.
* In ''Film/KickAss'', the titular protagonist seems to have made the overall situation ''worse'' by being there. Sure, he ultimately saved the day, but Big Daddy and Hit Girl would likely have beaten the bad guys without him, just a lot sooner and with less blood spilt. (And none of ''his own'' spilt.)
* Slevin Kelevra from ''Film/LuckyNumberSlevin'' is apparently this during the beginning of the film, [[spoiler: before the Kansas City Shuffle and Slevin's true intentions are revealed]].
* ''Film/NoCountryForOldMen'': [[spoiler:Sheriff Tom Bell]] spends the entire movie on the sidelines, being the one who observes the events of the movie play out, unable to do anything about it. [[spoiler:The events prove too much for him to handle, causing him to retire.]]
* Once ''Film/ThePagemaster'' [[RogerRabbitEffect becomes animated]], it's a bunch of encounters between Richard, his book companions, and various literary characters on the way to the exit. Richard and the books at times change the things happening, but at most it's just them meeting people -- not that different from Alice, Dorothy and Wendy, listed below.
* Szpilman from ''Film/ThePianist'', who manages to survive the Holocaust only through the goodness of strangers and sheer dumb luck. Of course, this is totally justified considering it's based on a true story, and the real Szpilman's real experiences.
* Jack Sparrow falls into this in ''Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanOnStrangerTides'' and ''Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanDeadMenTellNoTales''. Whereas in the previous three movies he had been a proactive character whose agenda helped drive the plot, here he's unwillingly dragged along on adventures that mostly center around other people, with there being nothing for him to gain in the end.
* It has been noted that in ''Film/RaidersOfTheLostArk'' the hero Indiana Jones spends the entire film going head-to-head against the Nazi's to find and recover the [[MacGuffin Ark of the Covenant]]. The film features the possession of the Ark changing hands repeatedly, to the point Indy was about [[NoMacguffinNoWinner to destroy it just so they don't have it]], but relents because it is not in his nature. The actual climax of the film he is a passive figure as the Ark is opened and all the bad guys are immolated by the wrath of god. Viewing the events of the movie knowing that was going to happen, all of the hero's efforts seem to merely complicate a situation that was going to dispose of the bad guys eventually anyway[[note]]Assuming they would have found Marion (they followed Indy to her) they would have tortured her for the Ra headpiece and who knows what shape she would be in. Barring that, they could have spent more time just excavating the city and find the Ark eventually, which again leads to the wrath of god DeusExMachina[[/note]].
* Brad and Janet in ''Film/TheRockyHorrorPictureShow''. Though Janet does get up to do something halfway through the plot -- that 'something' being Rocky.
* Kate Macer in ''Film/{{Sicario}}''. She's [[LockedOutOfTheLoop told practically nothing about her mission]] and Matt and Alejandro do pretty much everything of actual importance to the plot. This turns out to be because [[spoiler: the CIA is not allowed to operate on American soil except when working with a domestic agency, so literally her only purpose on the team is to be present and allow them to use the loophole]].
* The protagonist from the 1966 B-movie ''Film/TheWildWorldOfBatwoman'' is a perfect example of this. The protagonist is like Charlie from ''Series/CharliesAngels''. She does show up from time to time, but she has her batgirls do all the work. An [[Website/TheAgonyBooth Agony Booth]] recap can be read [[http://www.agonybooth.com/recaps/The_Wild_World_of_Batwoman_1966.aspx here.]]
* In ''TheForeigner2017'', Quan (played by Creator/JackieChan) turns out to be a very proactive version of this trope. After his daughter is killed by a bomb set off by terrorists claiming to be affiliated with [[WesternTerrorists the IRA]], he sets his sights on Irish politician and former IRA member Liam Hennessy simply because of this connection. He subjects Hennessy to a campaign of psychological warfare, setting off nonlethal bombs around his properties and beating up his bodyguards in order to get the names of the bombers out of it. The thing is, Hennessy is already cooperating with the police in order to find the bombers, whose targeting of civilians horrifies him. By the time he knows the names and gives them to Quan, the police have already been informed as well. Quan finds the bombers and kills almost all of them, nearly causing even more deaths because the police (who had already gotten a raid ready to go when Quan showed up) needed to get the location of a final bomb out of the last surviving terrorist before it blew.
* Casey Brodsky in ''Film/IrreconcilableDifferences'', up until the end of the last flashback when she finally decides to file for emancipation from her parents. [[JustifiedTrope Justified]], as she is a child who has no say in how she's raised.

* ''Literature/ElevenTwentyTwoSixtyThree'' has this to an extent due to the TimeTravel aspect of the story. Jake Epping, a man from 2011 living incognito in the late 50s and early 60s on a mission to prevent the Kennedy assassination, has to study Lee Harvey Oswald's actions to make sure that he is in fact acting alone, but he must also be extremely careful not to alert Oswald to his presence. In other words, Oswald's actions drive the plot of the book for the most part, and Jake just has to follow him around and actively avoid doing anything important until he's positive that killing Oswald will in fact save Kennedy.
* In ''Literature/AliBabaAndTheFortyThieves'', Ali Baba is [[ProtagonistTitle the protagonist at first]], but he stops being such after he recovers Kasim's body from the lair of the Forty Thieves; at that point, the role is taken over by Morgiana, with Ali Baba now a supporting character.
* This accusation is often thrown against those three classic young heroines of literature: [[Literature/AliceInWonderland Alice]], [[Literature/PeterPan Wendy]] and [[Literature/TheWonderfulWizardOfOz Dorothy]]. [[Literature/{{Discworld}} Susan Sto Helit]] is described as an aversion of this... [[{{Chickification}} and then came]] ''Discworld/ThiefOfTime''. Dorothy gradually averts this trope in later Oz books, and all three strongly avert it when featured in the webcomic Webcomic/CheshireCrossing. A SpearCounterpart is Charlie Bucket from ''Literature/CharlieAndTheChocolateFactory''; see above under Film for how adaptations handle this issue.
%%* ''Literature/{{Candide}}'' is a nice example.
* The entirety of ''Literature/TheCryingOfLot49'' is like this, although that is because it is about a person just exploring a secret organisation, being told to go to another part of the organisation, and then going there -- she only begins to take initiative right at the end, with the eponymous auction of the title.
%%* Literature/DavidCopperfield is a prime example from classical literature.
* The ''Literature/DocSavage'' novels pulled in involved bystanders to their plots to act as first person narrator protagonists assisted by the titular [[HeroicArchetype Man of Bronze]].
* The ''Franchise/{{Doctor Who|ExpandedUniverse}}'' Literature/PastDoctorAdventures novel ''Independence Day'' is noted for having the Doctor spend the whole novel wandering about with a bunch of minor characters, then just as it seems he's about to do something he swallows a toxic worm and spends the climax comatose in a mass grave while a rebellion started by someone else defeats the EvilOverlord.
* In ''Literature/{{Excession}}'', most of the plot is driven by starship [=AIs=] and other superpowerful Minds while the protagonist, diplomat Byr Genar-Hofoen is sent by his mysterious bosses on a journey to the GSV ''Sleeper Service'' to find the one person who may have knowledge of [[NegativeSpaceWedgie the Excession]], but it becomes apparent that [[spoiler:she isn't even there, and his whole trip occurred because the Eccentric ship wanted him to reconcile with his ex-girlfriend, which has no impact on the story. And then [[BigDumbObject the Excession]] leaves with no real explanation.]]
* Tyrone Slothrop of ''Literature/GravitysRainbow'', who never solves the mystery he's after, spends his time on various sidequests instead, avoids death only by accident and eventually simply goes mad, gives up and disappears from the story.
* Nick Carraway does absolutely nothing in ''Literature/TheGreatGatsby''. [[TropesAreNotBad He is, however]], an outside view of rich people screwing up the lives of themselves and everyone around them. He ''does'' organise that meeting between Daisy and Gatsby, but that's about it.
* {{Lampshaded}} in Creator/TerryPratchett's ''Discworld/GuardsGuards''. Although Sam Vimes and company play little part in the successful resolution of the novel [[spoiler: as the dragon is defeated by Errol the Swamp Dragon]], the Patrician specifically states that people need to see there are heroes and so rewards Sam Vimes and the Night Watch accordingly. It is also implied that the Night Watch are heroic, merely because they actually did something to stand up to the dragon, even if unsuccessfully. [[spoiler: Vimes did also stop Wonse from killing the best Patrician the city had ever had and looked after the dragon that eventually saved the day.]]
** Vimes ends up thinking this ''about himself'' in ''Discworld/NightWatch''. As the revolution enters into full swing, all ''he'' wants to do is keep some well-meaning but foolish comrades from dying unpleasantly; he's staunchly uninterested in any of the so-called changes the rebels think they want. ([[TimeyWimeyBall He knows better.]]) He is however bitterly aware that everyone else in the narrative thinks he's the hero, and realizes that he assumed Keel -- whose [[InSpiteOfANail role in events]] he is now occupying -- was a genuine rebel, and now he wonders if Keel just wanted the same thing he did.
* In ''Franchise/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy'' [[UnfazedEveryman Arthur Dent]] started out as this. It's made explicitly clear that he's the main character early on, yet it takes awhile for him to take an active role and not just react to events around him.
%%* Bilbo Baggins, in JRR Tolkien's ''Literature/TheHobbit'', initially.
* This sums up Zoey Redbird from ''Literature/TheHouseOfNight''. If something isn't directly affecting her right then and there, she'll forget about it. In some cases, [[IdiotBall she forgets about it right after it happens]].
%%* In some of Creator/HPLovecraft's stories like "Dagon" or "The Nameless City" the main characters do little, only being observers of the events.
* Nora from ''Literature/HushHush''. She spends most of the book going about her daily life, reacting when something or someone tries to kill her, then promptly forgets about it in favor of going back to her daily routines.
* ''Literature/{{Inkheart}}'' by Cornelia Funke (Meggie spends a lot of her time just reacting to things the adults do. On the rare occasions she tries to affect things her plans are thwarted, stalled, or rendered useless.)
* In ''Literature/TheIslandOfDoctorMoreau'', Richard Prendick does nothing but get thrown overboard, land on an island and watch more interesting people do experiments.
%%* Jurgis in ''Literature/TheJungle.'' [[DeusAngstMachina To the point where nobody cared]] except about the meat stuff.
* Kino from ''LightNovel/KinosJourney'' tries to be this type of character; being a Traveller, one is not supposed to pass judgment or meddle in the affairs of the places they visit and is only there to observe objectively. However, various circumstances typically get Kino wrapped up in the affairs of the places she comes to and forces her to act, whether she wants to or not.
* OlderThanSteam: The 1554 Spanish picaresque novel, kicked off by ''Lazarillo de Tormes'', is the TropeMaker: the protagonist is almost always a circumstance- and happenstance-dependent drifter through life, with very little proactive situations. In the 1700s, English picaresque fiction (such as ''Tom Jones'' or ''Peregrine Pickle'') inherited the trope.
* The ''Tabletopgame/MagicTheGathering'' novel ''[[Literature/MasqueradeCycle Prophecy]]'' is largely told through the perspective of an enslaved soldier who has next to no impact on the plot of the book.
* Fanny from the Creator/JaneAusten novel ''Literature/MansfieldPark'', due to the emotional abuse she's suffered for eight years living with her rich aunts and uncle, basically feels she has no right to her own opinion or happiness and thus lets her aunts and cousins push her around for most of the novel. Naturally, this makes the two times she stands up for herself all the more impressive and the other characters all the more shocked.
* Both the book ''Literature/TheManuscriptFoundInSaragossa'' and [[Film/TheSaragossaManuscript the movie adaptation]]: Alphonse van Worden has various bewildering or scary things happen around him and to him, and is told lots of stories. [[spoiler:Most of it turns out to be a show staged for van Worden in an attempt to convince or convert him.]]
* In the Creator/MatthewReilly books, Shane Schofield spends the first few chapters of every book he's in in this state, usually because he's reacting to whatever group is trying to kill him this time and finding out what they want. ''Then'' he starts hitting back.
* The main character/narrator in ''Literature/MidnightInTheGardenOfGoodAndEvil'' is essentially there just as an observer, (similar to Nick Carraway in ''Literature/TheGreatGatsby''), who goes to the town to write an article for a house and garden magazine, and then decides to stick around when a murder happens and the main suspect is on trial. He doesn't influence the trial in any way, or have anything to do with the murder -- he could just as easily have been left out, and the story written in third person, and while the feel of the story would be different, the plot wouldn't change at all.
* Terisa Morgan of Stephen R. Donaldson's ''Mordant's Need'' novels (Literature/TheMirrorOfHerDreams, A Man Rides Through) acts this way through most of both books. (This is deliberate. She has a cripplingly low level of self-confidence thanks to an oppressive father and passive mother; the narration makes an analogy to a princess imprisoned by a curse.)
* Cosette in ''Literature/LesMiserables''. She mostly exists as a catalyst to inspire other characters to do other things. Her existence is what drives her mother into prostitution to pay her evil foster parents to keep her -- and her mother's death spurs Valjean into finding her and rescuing her. When she's all grown up, she then attracts Marius's attention. She doesn't actually do anything herself and she's mostly along for the ride when Valjean flees from the police. [[spoiler: And she's one of the few characters to survive the book, presumably because she did so very little]]. Most commentators agree that she serves more as a symbol of hope, love and goodness than as an actual character.
* Case in ''Literature/{{Neuromancer}}'' by Creator/WilliamGibson, it's difficult to name one decision made in the book that's solely his as [[spoiler: the real chess game is played by two AIs, mostly offscreen]]. The adventure video game based on the novel inverts this and concentrates on hacking and finding equipment and software, very much abandoning the tone of the book.
* [[TheEveryman Richard]] from ''Literature/{{Neverwhere}}''. It takes him over half the book before he ''really'' does anything terribly useful, and it wasn't exactly proactive on his part, either. He finally does start to take more initiative down the road, but for most of the story he is merely a vessel for viewing [[FantasyKitchenSink London Below]] and the events unfolding around his companions.
* ''Literature/OliverTwist'': Oliver is a helpless orphan boy who is pushed from one set of circumstances to another without any real power. In fact, his inaction is his greatest triumph, as he never gets corrupted by his ill fortunes.
%%* Otto in ''Otto of the Silver Hand'' by Creator/HowardPyle.
* Discussed in ''Literature/ThePinballs'', where Carlie's speech about the three protagonists being pinballs evokes a very dark interpretation of this trope. Justified since she's an abused child, also [[spoiler: she ultimately renounces her claim]].
* Since he serves as the FirstPersonPeripheralNarrator, in ''Literature/APrayerForOwenMeany'', Johnny Wheelwright is this. Owen is the driving force of the plot. Johnny is there for the ride.
%%* Augusten Burroughs in ''Literature/RunningWithScissors''. Particularly the movie version. It's an autobiography, but still...
%%* In many ways, Richard Papen from Donna Tartt's novel ''Literature/TheSecretHistory'' qualifies as this.
* The main character of ''Literature/TheSharingKnife''. In terms of plot, almost everything that happens is because of her primary love interest, with her dragged along for the ride. When fighting starts, said love interest is impressive even for a member of the resident SuperiorSpecies, whereas she's physically unsuited to combat and tries to stay out of the way. However, as the series progresses she learns more self-confidence. To the point that when her husband is threatened, she defies an entire camp of sorcerers to ride out and rescue him.
* Bernadette Manuelito is this in the murder mystery ''[[Creator/TonyHillerman The Sinister Pig.]]'' She asks interesting questions as a Border Patrol officer and talks to a variety of people, but the murder mystery is solved by other officers Chee and Leaphorn; the whole plot is resolved when Bernadette walks straight into a trap, and a different character (who's been developed in other parts of the book) solves everything.
* Out of all the point of view characters in ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'', Sansa Stark stands out as being the most reactive and passive, spending much of her early page time being pushed around by other characters. This is justified -- she's a naive preteen girl, and unlike the others, she's in no position to be proactive. Part of her storyline is shedding this trope and gaining her own agency, which ironically starts happening once she's under the guardianship of the biggest manipulator in the series.
* The protagonist and narrator of Iain Bank's ''A Song of Stone'' is an aristocrat called Abel living during in a civil war. He starts the novel trying to escape from the country with his [[BrotherSisterIncest wife/sister Morgan]] but gets caught up with a group of soldiers and has very little control over the plot from that point onwards.
* ''Literature/TheStand'' may or may not have this trope, depending on what you see the main plot of the book as being. In terms of rebuilding society in the wake of an apocalyptic event, the MainCharacters actually do quite a bit. In terms of fighting Randall Flagg, the BigBad of the story, though, they accomplish virtually nothing; at best their role is to serve as witnesses to [[spoiler:his defeat by [[DeusExMachina the Hand of God]]]] (with a little help from the [[SpannerInTheWorks Trashcan Man]]).
* Carnelian is like this for incredibly long stretches of ''Literature/TheStoneDanceOfTheChameleon''. In the first book, the only instance of him taking matters into his own hands ends in disaster. Only at the very end of the trilogy does he finally step up.
* Beverly King in L.M. Montgomery's ''Literature/TheStoryGirl'' is there purely to observe the more interesting characters around him. Then again, they ''are'' very interesting characters.
* ''Stuck in Neutral'' by Terry Trueman has a justified example that's probably impossible to top. The main character can't control his muscle movements enough to communicate in any fashion, and it's commonly assumed by those around him that he doesn't even have a mind. The "plot," such as it is, is his commenting on how his life is and how people react to him, with him unable to change anything [[spoiler:even to save his own life.]]
* In [[http://www.complete-review.com/reviews/brazil/soaresj2.htm this review]] of Brazilian novel ''Twelve Fingers'', it's even stated that the [[BeenThereShapedHistory Forrest Gump-like protagonist]] "bounces around like a ball in a pinball machine, occasionally disappearing from view entirely for longer periods of time."
* Both Bella in ''Literature/{{Twilight}}'' and Wanderer in ''Literature/TheHost'' tend to fall into this during periods of action (which admittedly are in the minority in the slow, conversation-heavy books.) They're both {{Extreme Doormat}}s, so it makes sense from an in-story standpoint, but it's one of the reasons Stephenie Meyer's works are so polarizing.
%%* The whole human race and indeed nearly the entire biosphere in every adaptation of ''Literature/TheWarOfTheWorlds''.
* Geralt, in ''Literature/TheWitcher'' saga. Mostly because the setting is populated with dozens of wizards, nearly all of them {{plan}}ners of various degrees. His person isn't even important to the plot.
* In ''Literature/AnnoDracula'', Charles Beauregard is assigned by the Diogenes Club to investigate the Jack the Ripper killings; however, by his own admission, he makes little progress in his investigation and his presence does nothing to deter the killer from his crimes. It turns out [[spoiler: the Club are just setting him up to be the hero of the case so that he will be invited to meet the Royal family, for the sake of his ''real'' mission: mercy-killing the Queen to dissolve Dracula's claim to the throne.]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* This trope is discussed in an episode of ''Series/TheBigBangTheory'', in which Amy points this out in regards to ''Film/RaidersOfTheLostArk'', one of Sheldon's favorite movies. She argues that Indiana Jones is completely irrelevant to the plot: with or without him, the Nazis would have eventually found the Ark, opened it, and been destroyed. Sheldon can't find any flaw in this logic, which causes a temporary HeroicBSOD; he spends the rest of the episode watching ''Series/LittleHouseOnThePrairie'', Amy's favorite TV show, in an attempt to find flaws in it (mostly historical inaccuracies) and get revenge on her. The guys later watch the movie again to see if there is any way around it, and the best they could determine is at least Indy was present to actually recover the Ark (but again point out that it was taken from him to a SecretGovernmentWarehouse, so he couldn't even get it to a museum like he hoped).
* On the ''Series/CriminalMinds'' episode "North Mammon", the team is called in on a case. After chasing various [[RedHerring red herrings]], the perp, independent from the actions of the team, lets go of some of the victims. Since the victims at this point can simply identify the man who captured them, any policeman could have made the arrest.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'': While he is generally a major player in most stories, this has been known to happen with The Doctor on occasion. The companions sometimes get this too, even in ADayInTheLimelight:
** ''[[Recap/DoctorWhoS3E5TheMassacre The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve]]'' has the Doctor go missing early on, leaving his companion Steven stranded in sixteenth-century Paris. Steven spends the story as main protagonist, but he completely fails to change events in the slightest, and has no real idea what is going on. He only just finds the Doctor in time to escape Paris and avoid the impending atrocity.
** ''[[Recap/DoctorWhoS3E7TheCelestialToymaker The Celestial Toymaker]]'' involves the crew being trapped in a parallel dimension run by a godlike immortal who just wants to play {{Deadly Game}}s with them, and demonstrates his power by phasing the Doctor out of existence and forcing him to play "[[TowersOfHanoi the Trilogic Game]]". This means that the Doctor spends the whole plot able to do little other than argue with the Toymaker in {{ADR}}ed lines, and even Steven and Dodo have no real agency except to win the games the Toymaker set out for them until the Toymaker just gives them the TARDIS back.
** ''[[Recap/DoctorWhoS4E2TheTenthPlanet The Tenth Planet]]'' plays with this trope in an interesting way. The Doctor has only very few lines in the story because William Hartnell's health was failing, and even spends a whole middle episode asleep (apparently for no reason); and his plan for dealing with the evil planet draining the Earth's energy is incredibly passive -- simply to wait for it to die, which he says it will do in a couple of hours. Unfortunately, his expansive apparent knowledge followed by his sudden absence ramps up the paranoia among the humans to fever pitch to the point where everyone turns against him and the General even accuses him of killing his son. Even after his prediction turns out to be right and the planet dies, it's a hollow victory, as the Doctor's unconsciousness is revealed to be a ChekhovsGun foreshadowing a [[TheNthDoctor majorly controversial plot decision]].
** In "The Space Pirates", the Doctor is barely in the first and last episodes. His only action that really affects the plot is increasing the power of the electromagnetism on the satellite segment, with most of the other victories being the payoffs of other cast members with ChronicBackstabbingDisorder.
** The Doctor spends most of "The Horns of Nimon" fighting the NegativeSpaceWedgie while stuck in the TARDIS while Romana does the stuff the Doctor would normally do. He does help create a device for affecting the gravity problems but it's clearly shown Romana could have done it just as easily on her own and would have done it without his help. He is present while the Anethians get out of the labyrinth but K-9 is the one who actually does all of the work, and the Doctor even argues with K-9's solution and is proven wrong. Even getting Romana and K-9 there in the first place can't be attributed to him, since they all got pulled down there by the gravity device. The only things he does that affect the plot are getting K-9 back from Soldeed and discovering the Nimons' ship. This was likely an intentional attempt to control Tom Baker's level of involvement, as he'd been getting [[WagTheDirector very controlling]] and [[CreatorBreakdown unstable]] at the time.
** "Logopolis". The Doctor only does three things in the story that affect events at all, two of which are just landing the TARDIS in the first place (one to fall for the Police Box trap, and the other to go to Logopolis). The third is sending the Charged Vaccuum Emboitment into Cassiopeia.
** The Doctor spends almost half of "Kinda" in a jail cell, and subsequently is mostly just there to explain what's going on to Todd while the Kinda solve their own problems. Tegan spends most of the story possessed and Nyssa is completely missing in action. The most proactive character from Team TARDIS is Adric; sure, everything he tries fails, but at least he's ''doing something''.
** Infamously in the case of ''[[Recap/DoctorWhoS22E6RevelationOfTheDaleks Revelation of the Daleks]]'', where it takes over half the story for the Doctor to even ''meet'' anyone involved in the main plot and, believe it or not, ''the Daleks'' save the day by swooping in and carrying Davros off as a prisoner. Orcini completes the job by blowing up Davros' new Dalek army, something he could have done without the Doctor's assistance, and the Doctor's sole contribution is to prevent collateral damage by helping evacuate the area first.
** [=Sylvester McCoy's=] Doctor was, with some justification, accused of "wandering through a series of encounters in which he plays no essential part"[[note]] specifically, on the BBC's ''Points of View'' show[[/note]]. The writers appeared to take this the heart, turning him into the ChessMaster in his later stories.
** One criticism levelled at ''[[Recap/DoctorWhoS30E3PlanetOfTheOod Planet of the Ood]]'' is the fact that it ends with the Ood thanking the Doctor and Donna for saving them when they've spent most of the episode wandering around doing nothing after blundering into two plans set in motion before their arrival (Ood Sigma dosing Halpen's hair tonic to turn him into an Ood and Ryder powering down the restraining field around the Ood brain in order to restore their free will). The Doctor ''does'' deactivate the explosives Halpen had set up to destroy the Ood brain but he's a very minor player in events.
** ''[[Recap/DoctorWhoS33E1AsylumOfTheDaleks Asylum of the Daleks]]'' mostly has Oswin moving the plot along, while the Daleks set up events and the Doctor concludes them. Rory is used as the viewpoint character for much of the episode and doesn't influence events at all beyond being a prop through which Oswin can interact with the plot. Amy, meanwhile, is only there for some rather contrived CanNotSpitItOut romantic drama, and has even less to do with anything that happens.
** In ''[[Recap/DoctorWhoS34E10InTheForestOfTheNight In The Forest Of The Night]]'', the Doctor, Clara, Danny and the children have little effect on the overall course of events except for broadcasting a plea (which is ignored) not to defoliate the trees.
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'':
** Arya Stark starts Season 2 with the goal of reuniting with her family, but is dragged all over the war-torn Riverlands by one group after another until a series of devastating disappointments lead her to abandon Westeros altogether.
** As a valuable piece in the game of thrones, Sansa Stark is deliberately kept powerless, which forces her to always react to events rather than take action herself, until Season Six.
* There was a long period when virtually everyone on ''Series/{{Lost}}'' was like this. They'd have little fits of trying to do something, only to be completely stymied, and then they'd go "Oh... no..." and sink back into frustrating helplessness. Early on, the show was mostly about introducing the various... erm... pinballs and the Island and there were many pinballs in play. Later on, the show began to conform to this trope less and less.
* This happens quite frequently to Arthur on ''Series/{{Merlin}}'', particularly in the later seasons. In one notable example ''The Eye of the Phoenix'', Arthur has a vision that instructs him to seek out the Trident in the lands of the FisherKing. He wanders all the way to the Perilous Lands where he's promptly knocked unconscious by a spirit-destroying bracelet given to him by Morgana. Merlin follows in his wake, meets the FisherKing, retrieves the true McGuffin (the trident is useless) and is told that the entire journey was for ''his'' benefit. Arthur was just the catalyst for getting him there, and one can't help but wonder why the vision wasn't just sent to Merlin in the first place.
* In the ''Series/{{Torchwood}}'' episode "[[Recap/TorchwoodS1E5SmallWorlds Small Worlds]]", the [[TheFairFolk antagonists]] have supernatural powers which Torchwood have no ability to counter. As a result, throughout the episode Torchwood can do little more than rush to the site of the latest manifestation and helplessly watch events unfold.

* Fans of the NFL, when discussing which quarterback is better than another, tend to fall into two distinct categories. One school believes that a quarterback's statistical achievement determines his greatness. The second cares less about the stats and more about his leadership--the best quarterbacks are the ones who win games and bring home championships, even if their stats don't always impress. When the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001, it was due almost entirely to a defense of almost legendary repute. Their quarterback that year was Trent Dilfer, who bounced around from team to team his entire career and was never any better than strictly average throughout. He 'won' the Super Bowl that year and was unceremoniously dumped by the team soon after. Because of this, Dilfer embodies this trope among NFL fans, and if the topic is ever brought up for any reason, Dilfer's name inevitably follows as an example. ''Series/SaturdayNightLive'' even drew attention to this, apologizing to TV viewers on the NFL's behalf for the MVP award not going to linebacker Ray Lewis and flat-out stating: "Trent Dilfer sucks."
** A variant of this "rings"[[labelnote: Explanation for non NFL fans]]Each member of a championship winning team (including front office and coaches) traditionally gets a ring commemorating the championship, they are usually rather flashy and exaggerated, which is kind of the point[[/labelnote]] vs. "stats" is also at the heart of the debates whether Creator/PeytonManning or Creator/TomBrady was/is the better Quarterback. Manning has the better stats in almost any regard, but he has won "only" two Super Bowls (and lost another two) whereas Brady has won five and taken his team to another three (two of them lost to Peyton's little brother Eli Manning and the Giants). While Peyton's teams did have traits of EveryYearTheyFizzleOut, it is hardly the fault of the quarterback when he leaves the field with a lead and the defense fails to make a stop and it's also rather hard to blame dropped passes on the throw, rather than the catch.
* Gene Chizik coached Auburn to the 2010 college football national championship...officially. But the most important factors that led to the championship (a powerful offensive scheme, great recruiting, and signing Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton) happened because of his offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn. Two years later Malzahn left to become the head coach at Arkansas State, and Auburn promptly stumbled to a 3-9 record. The school bought out Chizik's contract and replaced him with...Gus Malzahn.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* In "Crucible of God" for ''TabletopGame/VampireTheMasquerade'', the module is up front about this: "The [[PlayerCharacter Player Characters]] become destiny's bitches." The active players are Antediluvians of such power that the [=PCs=] cannot affect them, and the player characters alternate between being minions of a more powerful vampire or simply surviving while the Ancients kill each other and ruin the world. [[spoiler: The end game involves a blatant DeusExMachina -- the players have to ask God to personally destroy Tzimisce, and convince Him that their unlives had any value. If they don't make a leap of faith on Saulot's word, then the game explicitly states that ''nothing they do matters''.]]

* ''Theatre/{{Oliver}}'': Oliver's an orphan, gets passed from orphanage, to a funeral home, then gets kicked out and gets picked up by the thieves guild, then is taken in by a rich old man. It's a musical, and the characters mostly sing around him as well.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* The nephalem of ''VideoGame/DiabloIII'' don't really affect the story all that much, despite being the point-of-view characters for the plot. While they act as TheChampion and TheHeavy of the good guys, they don't really have much agency and mostly do whatever Tyreal or Deckard Cain tell them to. The bad guys do at least acknowledge that the nephalem have to be stopped, but beyond that, the actual plot is set in motion by the forces of Heaven and Hell and their desire to keep the Eternal Conflict in their favor.
* The ''Franchise/AceAttorney'' series by its nature falls into this as the games all star criminal defense lawyers and prosecuting attorneys and follows them through their work on individual murder cases. In other words, they have nothing of relevance in the plot until someone drops dead and they get pulled in to defend them/prosecute them and they must rely on other people a good amount of the time to get all the information they need to win their case. That said, while the protagonists often have a reactive nature to the cases themselves, they still have their own individual character plots that play out during the game to ensure they remain a central part of the story. They're not so much irrelevant to the story (no, not even Apollo, who gets played like a puppet in his self-titled entry) as they are required to wait for something to happen so the player will have something to do.
* Jack from ''Videogame/{{BioShock|1}}'' is an excellent example -- not only does he rarely speak, he also plays a nearly negligible role in the story for most of the game. It turns out to be a deconstruction, however. [[spoiler: Jack is literally mind-controlled. And he ends up killing not only Andrew Ryan, but Fontaine as well. And saves the little sisters, or damns them! Pretty good, and the last one is up to the players which.]]
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeII'': Hawke is the main character, but for most of the story is just reacting to the events that occur around him/her, while party members Varric, Isabella, and Anders are the main driving forces in the plot. Even though a major plot point of the game was exploring the [[{{Conflict}} Man vs. Fate conflict]], many players weren't sold on it and viewed it as a step back from the [[VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins first game]], where they could make world-changing choices. The [[VideoGame/DragonAgeInquisition third game]] returned to the old formula as a result.
* In ''VideoGame/EternalEden'', Noah is a mostly [[ExtremeDoormat passive character]] who was forced into the conflict by his best friend's actions. [[spoiler: Ultimately subverted since the best friend in question is really a manifestation of himself, created by his subconscious to cover up his own misdeeds.]]
* Allegretto from ''VideoGame/EternalSonata'' is a JerkWithAHeartOfGold with little connection to the main plot, yet acts as the player's avatar for most of the game.
* ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'':
** The conceit of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII'' -- that the protagonist ''himself'' would decide the villain needed to be killed, and be the active aggressor while the villain acted in self-defence -- was an attempt to avoid this, because VillainsActHeroesReact is so omnipresent in EasternRPGs that the staff felt the traditional JRPG hero was a passive doormat who only sought to do what the King told him, and wanted to do something completely opposite. This is so adhered to so strongly that the plot sometimes [[IdiotPlot contorts itself]] just to ensure that Cloud is the one with the agency. Of course, since the twist is that Cloud is under MoreThanMindControl this ends up being less 'the good King told him to do it' and more 'the villain compelled him to do it by taking advantage of his ignored personality problems', which may or may not be an improvement.
** Tidus in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'' starts off the game as a FishOutOfWater and while he can fight (and play blitzball better than anyone else), his ignorance of some of the most fundamental tenets of life on Spira grind rather heavily on his companions (such as his carefree talk of what they'll do after Sin is defeated, as he doesn't learn until a long while that [[spoiler:Yuna is going to willingly sacrifice herself, as all Summoners do to keep Sin away]]).
** For roughly three quarters of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII'', all the party does is try to survive in a world where virtually everybody wants to kill them for being L'Cie, something that was done to them without their consent for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Most of the remaining quarter is their coming to terms with the fact that as L'Cie, they are little more than pawns in a centuries-spanning scheme that they have virtually no hope of stopping -- even dying to spite TheChessmaster will just delay his plans until he can find a new batch of pawns to run through the same situation. The first thing they do that diverges from the BigBad's plot takes place in the penultimate cutscene.
** The characters in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXV'' get bounced around very efficiently by the villains, and (due to their social position) they can only really continue to collect all of the PlotCoupons required to become the King, on a pilgrimage already laid out for them. Even the eventual victory is part of a ChosenOne prophecy and involves the payoffs of plans set in motion by side characters.
* In ''VideoGame/GemsOfWar'', the plot is linear, and the protagonist only speaks in the form of short sentences which fit on what is effectively a "continue" button. As such, the player character comes across as very laid back and obliging to whichever character is serving as QuestGiver. ("Can I join you?" "Okay." "Will you help me?" "Sure, why not." "We must attack immediately!" "All right.") There are occasions where the player character attempts to point out the silliness of certain decisions, but he/she almost always gets carried along anyway.
* ''Franchise/{{Halo}}'':
** The mainline games usually avoid this, as the Master Chief (and the Arbiter) almost always end up saving the galaxy (or at least a planet) in some way or another. However, ''VideoGame/Halo5Guardians'' falls pretty hard into this; if Blue Team and Fireteam Osiris had stayed home, [[spoiler:the titular Guardians would still have been dispersed through the galaxy, hundreds of [=AIs=] would have still defected to Cortana, and the ''Infinity'' would still be on the run]]. That said, Osiris are able to make a difference in the war between the Covenant and the Swords of the Sanghelios by [[spoiler:killing Jul 'Mdama and saving the Arbiter]].
** The Rookie of ''VideoGame/Halo3ODST'' spends most of his sections just searching for clues on what happened to the rest of his squad. It's only towards the very end that he steps into the main plot and helps the squad accomplish their mission.
** Since the titular world of ''VideoGame/HaloReach'' is DoomedByCanon, Noble Six borders on this for awhile, but towards the end s/he becomes the reason why the ''Pillar of Autumn'' (and thus Master Chief and Cortana) are able to make it to the first Halo.
* The main character of ''VideoGame/HotlineMiami'' goes through the whole game simply following orders from his answering machine (until his RoaringRampageOfRevenge in Part 4,) and consequently both he and the player never learn anything about what's going on behind the scenes. Richard even tells him in Part 4 that nothing he does from that point on will mean anything. [[HeroOfAnotherStory The Biker]], on the other hand, is much more proactive, with his storyline revolving around figuring out who's pulling the strings.
* ''Videogame/IndianaJonesAndTheFateOfAtlantis''. The player has a few different paths to choose from but the Nazis are almost always one step ahead and they reach Atlantis and its god-making machine regardless of Indy's actions. The machine doesn't actually work so the antagonists would have presumably killed themselves with it or given up even if Indy had never got involved. In fact, the final puzzle is to convince the BigBad to (fatally) use the machine on himself instead of the player. All Indy really manages to do is rescue Sophia. [[MultipleEndings Unless he doesn't]].
* Hisao, the viewpoint character of ''VisualNovel/KatawaShoujo'', starts out like this thanks to being jaded by losing all his old friends and thoroughly unenthused with the idea of attending Yamaku Academy. [[spoiler: Shizune reveals in her route she recognized this and make it a goal to set him straight]], and succeeds [[XanatosGambit no matter who he ends up chasing]], since at least he's showing an active interest in something.
* Raziel, one of two protagonists of the ''VideoGame/LegacyOfKain'' series, falls under this trope most of his screen time. He possesses an incredible power few characters in-story can match; but instead of completing his original quest, he tends to be unwillingly dragged in a GambitPileup by multiple Chessmasters at once, each of whom tries to use Raziel for their own agenda (while he's supposed to be the ''only'' person in Nozgoth to have genuine free will -- as a walking paradox, he stands outside of fate's control -- there are so many schemes going on that no matter what he does, he ends up inadvertently advancing ''somebody's'' plot), so he often ends up being a SwordOfPlotAdvancement of sorts, rather than actual character. This quote of his sums it perfectly:
-->'''Raziel:''' What game was this, where every player on the board claimed the same pawn?
%%* Snake, and more infamously Raiden of ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' are deliberately tragic examples.
* Samus becomes this in ''VideoGame/MetroidOtherM''. Apart from [[spoiler:saving Madeline Bergman from the Metroid Queen and retrieving Adam's Helmet]], she doesn't really accomplish a great deal and most major issues or plot points are given to other characters.
* The playable duo from ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil0'', Rebecca and Billy don't do a whole lot over the course of the game. The only character interaction that isn't between them or other S.T.A.R.S. members is running into the [[BigBadWannabe final boss]] of the game. Any plot developments happen in cutscenes, involve Wesker and Birkin, and are completely separate from what the protagonists are doing. Though really, this is true of all ''Franchise/ResidentEvil'' games until the fourth came along. Typically, the plot involves running around just trying to stay alive amidst odd enemies and even odder puzzles while the plot works independently of you. All those storylines would have had the exact same outcomes had Chris, Jill, Claire, Leon, Carlos, and the rest died within the first 30 seconds.
** You can honestly say this about the majority of SurvivalHorror protagonists, not just the ones from ''Resident Evil'', where the biggest concern for the player characters is usually just staying alive long enough to escape from whatever horrific situation they've gotten into. It's right there in the genre's name, as a matter of fact.
* In ''VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog2006''... Sonic himself is this. He has an entire "storyline" to himself being the main character and all, but he doesn't actually affect anything. Some of the side characters (Knuckles and Tails mainly) are even worse so. That, and he's [[DontExplainTheJoke literally a pinball]] in some games.
* Subverted in ''VideoGame/SpecOpsTheLine'', where the main character constantly asserts that everything he's doing, no matter how horrible, [[NeverMyFault is because Konrad keeps forcing his hand.]] [[spoiler: Then it turns out Konrad was a hallucination the entire time, and he could've easily stopped at any point.]]
* Alex from ''VideoGame/StreetFighterIII'' coined the Japanese counterpart of the trope, "[[FanNickname main character (lol)]]." He was meant to be the next hero of the series representing a new generation of fighters. But with no projectile and two command throws, he fit the grappler image better. Which would have been fine except combined with his all-rounder stats, nothing about him really stood out. Worse, Ryu was still where the Player 1 cursor started and Alex's ending had him losing horribly to said previous protagonist. Not fitting the main character mold was one thing but becoming completely overshadowed as well sealed it.
* The protagonists in [[VisualNovel/{{Air}} Studio Key's]] [[VisualNovel/{{Kanon}} visual]] [[VisualNovel/{{Clannad}} novels]] are justified in their general pin-ball status in the games, because that's the whole point of the genre. But as these games were turned into {{Anime}} series en masse by Kyoto animation, the fact that the boys simply bounce from girl to girl helping them [[DysfunctionJunction resolve]] [[ThereAreNoTherapists issues]] can be bothersome.
* Luke from ''VideoGame/TalesOfTheAbyss'' is this trope for the first part of the game. He's just a sheltered noble who by circumstance ends up kidnapped and dragged halfway around the world and back by others. When he DOES try to take an active role and be a hero, [[NiceJobBreakingItHero it ends VERY badly.]] Throw in the resulting dose of CharacterDevelopment and he becomes much more proactive for the rest of the game.
* In ''VideoGame/ZoneOfTheEnders'', Leo starts out as this as some random kid who finds the all important mech for a resistance movement. However, thanks to Viola, he eventually becomes emotionally involved with the story and becomes a more important character.
%%* Kage was like this in ''VideoGame/ZoneOfTheEnders: the Fist of Mars'', until character development and plot events forced him to stop playing NaiveNewcomer and actually do something constructive.
* Averted in the ''VideoGame/WingCommander'' series, as the overall progress of the war depends on your performance in certain key missions; later games in the series give you the opportunity to make decisions and influence the story with dialogue options.
* The second ''VideoGame/{{Mechwarrior}}'' game has story sections that are shown between missions. These sections do not change based on which side of the war you play on, giving the impression that the player's actions have no impact on the war whatsoever. As events are playing out by the canon of [[TabletopGame/BattleTech the tabletop game]], any impact the player has is meaningless in the end, causing it to edge into DoomedByCanon territory.
* ''Franchise/AssassinsCreed'': Desmond spends most of his time experiencing the memories of his ancestors, who avert this trope and become more active and influential in the narrative. [[spoiler:By the time he gets the chance to be agent of volition, [[TheHeroDies he dies]].]] [[WebVideo/WatchMojo MojoPlays]] [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXXHvpvYuC0 even calls him out on this]].

* ''Webcomic/RiceBoy''. The titular Rice Boy is kind and meek, so when he's told that he's fated to fulfill a prophecy and save the world, he has little problem stepping up. But he's ignorant about the larger world, and has no idea how he's supposed to do the job, so he spends the majority of the story bouncing from one source of exposition to the next, following their instructions.
** [[http://forums.koalawallop.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4524 No really, he bounces a lot]]
** At least until he [[TookALevelInBadass Takes A Level In Badass]] by the end of the story.
** [[spoiler:Shockingly, it's a subversion: Rice Boy and every potential prophesied one before him are just diversions, and the ''real'' hero is TOE, who has been proactive with tough decisions through the entire story.]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Lampshaded (like everything else) in ''Machinima/FreemansMind''. Gordon mentions at various points that he's "just a rat in a maze...with no cheese", and that he's "caught in the middle of some cosmic politics."
* The ''WebVideo/PoohsAdventures'' series on Website/YouTube. [[WesternAnimation/TheManyAdventuresOfWinnieThePooh Pooh]] doesn't do anything to change the plot of whatever movie he is in, just spouting off random comments. In fact, when it does come time to fight the villain, it's usually someone else who vanquishes the villain.
* Most of the cast of ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'' falls into this, especially in the first five seasons. Calling the Blood Gulch crew "reactive protagonists" would be stretching for a compliment, honestly. When left to their own devices, the most they'll instigate by themselves is childish bickering.
* Although they're nominally the main characters of ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'', Team [=RWBY=] tend to have little, if any effect on the plot's progression. Most of their battles tend to end with the bad guys escaping unharmed, someone else swooping in to beat the bad guys, or the bad guys just winning outright. Only by Season 4 have they actually truly taken steps to confront the bad guys directly, which also coincides with those [[VillainTakesAnInterest bad guys taking an interest]] in ''them'' (or at least Ruby), for their special powers that could prove a threat.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Omar of ''WesternAnimation/RockAndRule'' just sits back and look petulant while his sidekicks take the initiative to find Angel. Once he realizes what kind of danger she's in he turns around and actually comes off as quite heroic.