->''"Once there was a beautiful girl named Snow White, who lived with seven dwarfs, and they lived Happily Ever After." Pretty dull, isn't it?''
-->-- '''A Disney special on the importance of villains'''

This is the basic problem to overcome in a story, the driving force. If you don't have conflict, you don't have a story. Or [[JustForFun/TheTropelessTale just a story of things happening without incident]].

More than any other trope, save for the {{Characters}} who are in a conflict, this is vital to fiction. You can likely find loads of theories and [[BooksOnTrope essays]] on why this is so, [[AnthropicPrinciple but for here, just trust us. You need it.]]

Conflict can come in many forms. According to Arthur Quiller-Couch, there are seven kinds of conflict, creating seven basic plots (Not to be confused with ''Literature/TheSevenBasicPlots'' by Christopher Booker, which articulates a theory closer to that of TheHerosJourney).

# '''Man vs. Man:''' The problem is [[TheAntagonist another character]] (Bob needs to defeat Alice to become Class President).
# '''Man vs. Self:''' The problem lies [[InternalConflictTropes inside the protagonist]] (Bob doesn't know how to express his emotions to Alice).
# '''Man vs. Nature:''' The problem comes from [[NatureIsNotNice natural sources]] (Bob's town is destroyed by a volcano, or Alice is sick).
# '''Man vs. Society:''' The problem is [[AllOfTheOtherReindeer the social environment]] (Bob struggles to maintain his dignity in an ignorant community after receiving an AbominationAccusationAttack).
# '''Man vs. God/Fate:''' The problem is [[YouCantFightFate destiny, eventuality,]] [[ScrewDestiny fate, or divine will]] (Bob does not want to fulfill a prophecy that he will lose his family).
# '''Man Caught in the Middle:''' [[InnocentBystander Of other characters]] [[ActionSurvivor or conflicts.]]
# '''Male and Female:''' [-Quibbler-Couch was [[AnOfferYouCantRefuse persuaded]] to replace the "[[MarsAndVenusGenderContrast versus]]".-]
# Going beyond Quiller-Couch's list, there is also '''Man vs. Machine,''' as in [[LuddWasRight machinery]]. Most commonly told from the perspective of a worker being replaced by a machine.

Traditionalists boil it down to the first [[RuleOfThree three]], redefining "Man" as a defeatable entity and "Nature" as anything that has to be survived or changed rather than defeated. According to the three basic conflicts, a ZombieApocalypse would thus be Man Vs. Nature. Going by this model, Man vs. Society and Man vs. God/Fate would both become Man vs. Nature, and Male and Female would become Man vs. Man (Man in the Middle and Man vs. Machine, on the other hand, could be either one depending on the plot).

Now, it seems that some fiction doesn't have conflict, but even then it's presented as a challenge, which is the third type of conflict. See NoAntagonist. Of course, not every work in media needs conflict, but those tend to be non-fiction, or some episodes of SliceOfLife series can also qualify. If it's a story or game, conflict drives it.

It could be said that MarySue stories are weak because there is no conflict in how the Sue achieves things, or that the conflict is so weak and ineffectual that it still comes across that way (as with {{Boring Invincible Hero}}es). Conversely, some works come off as weak [[DarknessInducedAudienceApathy because the conflict is too grave and appears to have no palatable solution]]. Like many other things, it's wise to strike a balance between the two.

Due to the breadth of this trope, any work examples should be listed in the tropes under the sub indexes.
+ ContrivedStupidityTropes (when the conflict comes from contrivances)
+ {{Heroes}}
+ InternalConflictTropes
+ ThePlotDemandedThisIndex
+ {{Plots}}
+ RuleOfDrama (other RuleOfIndex tropes are for different reasons)
+ {{Villains}}
+ ViolenceTropes