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Conflict Ball
A character introduces or provokes conflict for reasons which are weak or which contradict previous characterization.

For example, why is Bob The Lancer arguing with Chuck The Big Guy about his plan to infiltrate the enemy base? Bob actually suggested similar plans before. In fact, it's his favorite kind of plan, so why is he disagreeing with Chuck now? He never says. Bob's behavior is entirely plot mandated: now he can go off on his own, screw up, get captured and need rescue, and then learn a valuable lesson about teamwork. For added annoyance, Bob might forget all about it just in time to be handed the Conflict Ball again.

Conflict is the driving force of a story. Unfortunately, not all writers are good at pulling it off. So we often get conflict out of nowhere or conflict based on trite or contrived reasons, as if the characters had simply picked up a ball (hence the trope name). Much like Poor Communication Kills, this is done to keep the plot moving, or at the least to steer it along it to where the author wants it to go.

This trope almost always involves a character suddenly gaining a Hair-Trigger Temper momentarily. This temper comes out of nowhere and more often than not, isn't one of the character's personality traits, so he/she/it comes across as an instigator who wants to start a fight.

The Load, the Ineffectual Loner, and Commander Contrarian often carry this Ball, being belligerent and contrary for no apparent reason, or to Overcome Their Differences with the leader.

When there is some actual effect or force compelling the characters to fight, that's a Hate Plague.

Compare Rule of Drama, Idiot Ball, Apple of Discord, Out-of-Character Moment, Let's You and Him Fight.

See also Designated Hero, Designated Villain.

Now since this trope involves contrivance, this is not technically possible in real life.

Examples

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    All Serial Media 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In One Piece, Usopp is surprisingly adamant about not abandoning the Going Merry, despite admitting that he knew it couldn't be fixed, and Luffy is quite undiplomatic about his decision to let it go, without noting that he had previously been unwilling to accept that the ship was doomed.
    • The Going Merry was not only a present from Usopp's sick friend, and a reminder of his home town, but a sentient being. It's understandable that Usopp would have trouble letting go. At the same time, it couldn't sail any longer. Luffy had no choice but to get a new ship. He couldn't very well give in to Usopp and sail his crew to their deaths.
      • What is odd is that Luffy never mentions to Usopp that he also had refused to believe that the Going Merry was doomed, and silences Nami when she tries to explain his point of view to Usopp, which makes it easier for Usopp to perceive Luffy as being heartless. It's also natural for Usopp to get sentimental about his friend's gift to the point of ignoring rationality, but in this case, he also went against what he personally knew to be true.
      • The Going Merry fixes itself in the Skypeia Arc and Usopp knows that too. It's plain heartless to abandon it, but at the same time still sailing in it is plain brainless (and Luffy is not THAT brainless). Franky even points out it's better FOR THE SHIP to abandon it, because if the crew it loves sinks with it, the ship will not find peace. Usopp's denial is part of his character personality based on his own side story. Eventually Usopp learns that things like this happen and he has to learn from this, not deny it or lie to himself leading to a moment of redemption, yes, this one, at the end of Water Seven Arc he's still a coward and fights with deception, but now he doesn't make excuses for his coward personality; he now accepts he is a coward. Plain and simple
  • The Soul Society in Bleach does more than occasionally show fondness for this trope as Captain Yamamoto and Central 46 have been considered to do this before. Though some are willing to contest the former, the latter not so much.
    • Which is a little odd considering how little the Central 46 have actually been in it; their biggest mistake was exiling Urahara for a crime he didn't commit, but was expertly framed for by Aizen. In the Soul Society arc they were presented as ruthless pedantic to the point of Lawful Stupid, if not plain evil, in wanting Rukia dead, but this too was a ploy by Aizen as he had actually murdered all of them already and had taken their place.
      • The problem with these is that between Yamamoto and Central 46, one will suggest a plan of action and the other will agree out of respect, seemingly without taking into consideration whether this plan was good or not. Also, almost every problem encountered in, say, the movies, the fillers, and many in the canon are their fault. In the Bount arc, it's revealed that Central 46 ordered genocide of the Bounts because they might eat human souls to get stronger, despite the fact that they didn't really show any definite desire to do this. In the second movie, Central 46 decided that since Hitsugaya and his friend had the same Zanpakuto in two different forms, that one of them needed to die... for some unexplained reason. When Urahara tried to blame Aizen, Central 46 informed him they had collected witness statements from 200 shinigami to confirm Aizen's whereabouts at the time in question. Urahara didn't have a leg to stand on, especially as he was caught "red handed" with the forbidden hollowfication research (and victims). Revealed earlier in the series, but chronologically later, forging this would be child's play for Aizen.
  • Certain viewers have noticed in Project A-Ko on how B-Ko's desire for C-Ko probably would have gone better if she didn't antagonize A-Ko so much. One might think that while conflict is an absolute necessity in an action story but then you realize that B-Ko wasn't exactly the main antagonist in the 1st movie.
  • Mousse from Ranma ½ is almost always in conflict with the titular protagonist, which is absurd when you realize that their primary goals regarding Shampoo coincide perfectly. They have literally no reason to fight, since (aside from his massive ego) Ranma should love an opportunity to remove one unwanted love interest, and Mousse should be happy to have at least one ally who will want to see Shampoo end up with Mousse. But that would be too easy, so instead Mousse is too blind to see the reality, and Ranma just responds as usual to someone attacking him.
  • In the Area 88 manga, it seems implausible to have Shin go into temporary psychosis upon learning that Kanzaki was flying a commercial plane near the base. Nor was it plausible for a frenzied Shin to attack said commercial plane, then attack Saki and Mickey once he was back on the ground.
  • Heero Yuy in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is normally The Stoic and in perfect control of his emotions, to the point where another character remarks "Everything he does is thorough and well thought-out." However, this obviously isn't the case in Episode 7, where he impulsively attacks an airplane supposedly containing The Federation's leadership (and acts quite smug while doing so), falling right into Treize's trap and actually killing the people who wanted to make peace with the space colonies, which sets up the conflict for the rest of the series.
  • Jeremy from A Cruel God Reigns tends to do this often to Ian, picking fights with him for seemingly no reason and attempting to seduce him, although considering his Dark and Troubled Past, this could be passable.
  • In Haiyore! Nyarko-san, the trio of Nyarko, Cuuko, and Hasta are always being clingy and disruptive, to the annoyance of Mahiro. However, they take it even further in episode 11 of the second TV series, when Mahiro is asked by his mother to babysit a young alien girl named Guthatan. While he does his best to look after the child, the other three are acting even worse than normal, with Cuuko constantly harassing Mahiro to make her breakfast while Hasta gets extremely jealous of how much attention Guthatan is getting. Nyarko gets it even worse, acting even more jealous than Hasta and at one point jumping to the conclusion that Mahiro had sex with Guthatan. While the conflict is a plot point, only one small element (Guthatan getting a cut on her forehead during a battle where Nyarko et al. went overboard) is explained; the rest of it comes off as if the trio just woke up that morning and decided to be as selfish and annoying as possible. And this isn't even mentioning the the things they did earlier, like loudly playing video games in Mahiro's room while he was trying to sleep.
  • In episode three of The Vision of Escaflowne Allen seems to carry one around him constantly. After hearing Hitomi's scream Van comes running to find Allen holding her unconscious in his arms. Not only does Allen refuse to explain the situation he actually threatens Van when Van starts to draw his sword. Unsurprisingly, Van attacks. By the end of the episode Allen has revealed that Van's kingdom was destroyed in a surprise attack and makes no suggestion that Allen or his country will help Van. Van gets into his titular mecha to go back to his people, only to find Allen waiting to stop him... for literally no reason.

    Comicbooks 
  • The Civil War in Marvel Comics. Many characters are fighting over the issue of a Super Registration Act, but insist on Let's You and Him Fight with some of their fastest friends rather than getting their act together to prove their case (pro or anti) and finding a solution that doesn't result in very necessary heroes being hunted down like dogs, or more battles as the pro and anti sides fight and invariably give villains free rein in the chaos. In the end, the Pro side got Designated Villains to simplify the debate.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men is this in SPADES to the point where people are hoping for a huge retcon to make it all a fever dream or something. The main conflict comes from the Phoenix coming back to Earth to find a new host, which most likely will be Hope Summers, the Mutant Messiah. The Avengers decide that they must stop it, since the Phoenix is killing people on its way back, and they want to take Hope off-world. The X-Men want Hope to stay on Earth so that she can repopulate the mutant race. The plot kicks off with the Avengers, particularly Captain America, deciding to take the reigns of the destiny of the mutant race, even though they've never shown much concern for mutants. But wait, you could just have Cap tell Cyclops to have Hope meet the Phoenix in space, which would lower the risk... Instead he shows up on Utopia and demands that Cyclops hand over his granddaughter... Cyclops then blasts Cap, Cap then calls in back up, Cyclops does the same, Hope runs away, and loads and loads of fighting ensues. The rest of the plot consists of the Avengers antagonising the X-Men who possess the Phoenix, which was split thanks to Iron Man. You may have noticed that, if both sides had sat down and talked this over like actual adults, then there would've been no problem. The plot can be summed up as follows:
    Cyclops: To me, my X-Men!
    *Punch punch punch*
    • It gets worse. Rachel Summers used the Phoenix for years with no ill effects. Wolverine knows this. Wolverine is an Avenger, and, in fact, is the guy who gave Cap his intel... His horribly outdated and bias intel. The conflict requires both sides to ignore the existence of Rachel Summers, her history and basically most Phoenix-related stories outside of the Dark Phoenix Saga. You may think that the writers merely forgot about Rachel... Except that she is still a prominent character in the X-books, and she actually has a role in the story. She just never speaks up about the Phoenix for no apparent reason.
  • In a Black Panther comic, T'Challa is explaining his plan to take out a vampire infested city to Luke Cage, Brother Voodoo and Blade. Blade tells T'Challa that just because he runs a country doesn't mean he can tell him what to do. Cage says Blade is being difficult for no reason since he doesn't have a plan. Blade admits to it and says he just doesn't want to be part of a team. So T'Challa tells Blade to go off on his own and this immediately puts him in a good mood, so good he gives Luke Cage one of his guns before leaving.
    • Blade and John Blaze also traded the conflict ball around in the various Midnight Sons series. One notable example was after Blade had a possession exorcised and returned with information vital to the team but Blaze wouldn't hear any of it and threatened to shoot him.
  • The Lehrigen arc in ElfQuest pushed this to pretty extreme levels: Scouter's rebellion against Ember was not only extremely out of character (although he has been Flanderized into a complete asshole over time), but pretty much against everything the elves stand for.
  • In the Birds of Prey series, Huntress is a living Conflict Ball between Batman and Oracle. Batman is always suspicious of Helena thanks to her past (she killed mobsters in her campaign to avenge her parents — who were also mobsters), and Oracle is always willing to give her a chance.
  • Oh, dear sweet merciful Xenu, Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog comics have had this A LOT under Ian Flynn, but the crowning moment of this came during 178-179. In those two issues, the House of Acorn imprisons Tails' dad for wanting to reform the government ('Cause that makes your monarchy look benevolent, right?). Sonic sides with the monarchy instead of...you know...his best friend, to the point that Sonic gets into a fight with Tails for daring to break his parents loose! Tails makes some rude comments toward Sonic during the fight, yelling at him for leaving him behind on important missions, and blah blah blah...except that's not why he's fighting Sonic, it's really because Sonic took Fiona away from him. Yep, that was the core reason. Not his parents, just the passing love interest who not only wasn't even the same Fiona that Tails loved (that was a robot duplicate of her), but also who, just a few issues ago, was revealed to be a bad guy.
  • Batman and Hal Jordan were not always at odds. The rationale for Batman disliking Green Lantern was initially because Batman did not trust Hal after he became The Parallax. But that eventually got Retconned so that they never liked each other from the start, with little convincing justification as to why. John Stewart once claimed that it was because Batman's main schtick is instilling fear, and Hal, having the ability to "overcome great fear", never "bought what he was selling". But that doesn't explain why Batman doesn't dislike Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, or any number of other superheroes who also don't seem to be afraid of him. The New 52 Justice League Rebooted version seems to suggest that Batman doesn't like Green Lantern because he's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Mary Jane went from supporting, loving partner to Spider-Man who understood his need to be a hero, to someone who all of a sudden couldn't handle the pressure and questioned his accomplishments, even belittling the "With Great Power..." mantra. She finally left Spider-Man being threatened by an average thug (despite being attacked by villains such as Venom, the Green Goblin and Spider-Slayers) with the argument that she couldn't deal with the notion that her life could be in danger. She's recently realized that she does love Peter, but for some reason has yet to actually tell him this.
    • And when she does, Peter's not entirely home.
    • And it gets worse once Peter DOES get back: once Peter explains everything, Mary Jane reveals she kinda figured that and reaffirms that being with him and being in danger is ridiculous and goes off with her boyfriend. Even more, Carlie Cooper decides to wander off as well, deciding that living away from Peter and this sort of crap is a good thing.
  • As a general rule, this occurs more often than not when two heroes encounter each other while working different ends of the same case. No matter how many times they've teamed up before, something will cause the two to brawl for five minutes before realizing they should team up.
  • Torturous Convolvulous of Astérix and the Roman Agent is a living Conflict Ball. He can cause people go at each other's throats just by standing in front of them and doing nothing. After seeing his ability to cause discord in action, Caesar hires him to destroy Asterix's village, something he comes very close to accomplishing.
  • Supergirl catches the ball and flies away with it in H'el on Earth. She can not accept the fact that she's been in stasis for twenty years and that her formerly baby cousin (Superman) has grown up in that time. As such she refuses to listen to anything he says. This came back to bite her in the ass when she ended up in a relationship with H'El despite everyone else telling her that it was a bad idea.
    • Although Superman and the Justice League aren't exactly faultless here either, ignoring several opportunities to explain why she shouldn't trust H'El and letting her go on believing that they're trying to stop the two of them from going back in time and saving their home planet from destruction just because.
  • In the Runaways arc "Homeschooling", Victor, in a stupid attempt to impress Nico, causes an accident that kills Old Lace and causes Klara to lose control of her powers, burying the Runaways' house in vines. Naturally, Chase is pissed off, but because nobody realizes that the accident was Victor's fault, he blames Klara. Inexplicably, Victor takes his side in the ensuing debate about what to do to bring Klara's powers under control, going so far as to suggest that they "take the kid gloves off" (which presumably means "beat the crap out of her until she retracts the vines".) It's inexplicable because 1) There's no indication that he's aware that he caused the accident, and thus he has no real incentive to support scapegoating her, and 2) Assuming that he still wants Nico to take him back, advocating the beating of a badly-traumatized eleven-year-old girl is probably not going to win him any points.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift features the Gaang constantly at each other's throats over minor disagreements, though thankfully this isn't actually the main story and they all apologize by the end of issue 1 as the real conflict arrives.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In My Immortal, everything everyone does seems to be a bit arbitrary and stupid, but the conflicts bear special mention. Dumbledore appears to be portrayed as a prep because he's not goffik enough, and therefore he must hate all goffs and act cruel and mean to them, just because. Voldemort also appears to be the story's seeker in terms of conflict balls.

    Film 
  • In A Woman of Paris, both Marie and Jean's fathers are violently opposed to them getting married. There's no clue why, as they both seem perfectly nice and are much in love.
  • In The Cossacks, no one respects Lukashka, the chief's son, because he won't go with them on raids against the Turks. This creates a lot of tension and problems for Lukashka both with his dad and with his girlfriend. However, the film never explains why Lukashka won't go fight the Turks. When he finally does, he really likes it and he's really good at it.
  • Team America: World Police spoofed this. One of the guys had a problem with the new guy, and he eventually told the new guy his improbable reason he had a problem with actors, although that traumatic event should have made him hate furries instead.
  • In Volcano, an angry black guy butted heads with a bigoted cop, while the volcano was still going off. The effort to stop the lava conveniently helped them see past their differences.
  • George A. Romero just loved tossing this one onto the court in Night of the Living Dead. It wasn't guaranteed to get everyone killed, but it never helped their situation to stand around and quibble.
  • In the Star Wars movies, the Jedi Council are more or less good people. Sticklers for the rules perhaps, and maybe they should have kept a closer eye on their Chosen One, but at the end of the day, they tried to do the right thing. In much of the Expanded Universe however, they don't just carry the Conflict Ball, they play intense games of Volley Conflict Ball at a moment's notice.
    • Example: In Knights of the Old Republic 2, the Exile has to visit three hidden Jedi and convince them to band together and help fight the Sith. Individually they all agree with you that the Sith need to be fought. Once you get them together, however they come to the conclusion that because the Exile's nature as a void in the Force might bring about the death of the Force itself, they turn their attention towards the Exile. Their rationalizations are fair enough but are jarring given how much the Sith have them backed into a corner.
    • The Ruusan Reformations. This is where you see the movies' Order come to be from the KOTOR-era Order. Much stricter, less flexible, and a bunch of new rules that make conflict virtually impossible to avoid. (No love on pain of expulsion? Really?) This is where the Jedi stopped growing and became static/stagnant.
    • The post-ROTJ EU runs off this trope, particularly Legacy of the Force. It doesn't matter how many Aesops the Galaxy has learned, it doesn't matter how many planets are devastated, how many populations eradicated, how many governments toppled, there will always be one planet that feels the need to wage war for absolutely retarded reasons.
      • See also the Council during the Fate of the Jedi series. Internal politics and hypocritical bickering between members, rash judgments and plans that are enacted without considering the obvious, sensible alternatives, aggressive approaches to undo plots of a villain who could be handled without the need to lift a lightsaber. It gets pretty bad.
  • Bride Wars has the two protagonists have their weddings for the same date and the same place. The two have been best friends for years, but they now suddenly don't want their identical dream weddings to be combined in what would be an awesome double wedding. Bad Movie Beatdown had a field day pointing out how arbitrary it was, to the point of a gaping Plot Hole.
  • The Odd Life Of Timothy Green: Timothy makes friends with Joni, the girl he has a crush on, and the two have a great deal of fun together. But Tim's parents quickly turn against her upon seeing them be friends because... they don't want their son to have friends, maybe? It makes even less sense considering that they were afraid Joni would bully him because Timothy had accidentally kicked her in the face, so why would they still be hostile to her when they see she's forgiven him?
  • Lost in Space had the father go from merely being neglectful of his son Will to outright dismissing anything he has to say, even when he should at least address some of those things.
  • Wild Wild West. Sure it was their first assignment, but Jim West and Artemus Gordon's fighting came across as petty instead of natural differences in their characters.
  • Apollo 13 has astronauts Jack Swigert and Fred Haise argue over what may have caused their mission's accident. In real life, no such arguments occurred at all, and was added because Word of God thought it didn't seem right that they were completely together through the rest of the mission. It is ultimately justified afterwards, when they discover their CO2 levels have gone up considerably and it's affecting their judgment.
  • In A Knight's Tale William picks a fight with Jocelyn for no good reason, presumably so he can spend the next half-hour trying to win her back via a beautiful love letter.
  • In The Avengers, Loki's spear seems to act as a literal, physical conflict ball, escalating trivial disagreements and dislikes into full-fledged hostility. While it fails to permanently turn the team against each other, it does occupy them for a good while, distracts them from the incoming reinforcements, and makes Banner more vulnerable to Hulking out during the attack.
  • The Lord of the Rings has several examples making several important supporting characters in direct conflict with the main protagonists. Among the victims are Faramir, Théoden, Elrond, and Treebeard, all of whom become road-blocks to the main characters to a greater or lesser extent.
    • Justified for some examples, as the One Ring acts as a conflict ball in order to sow dissent amongst its enemies in hopes of either being reunited with its master or finding a new master to serve.

    Literature 
  • In Robert Merle's Malevil, the conflict ball is given to Catie. A shameless tease, frequently undermining discipline, arguing against Emmanuel, and causing problems for her husband Thomas, Emmanuel's second in command.
  • In the Wheel of Time, it is often averted or played straight, depending upon your point of view. Despite the obvious rise and return of the Dark One, the many factions in the world bicker and fight each other rather than teaming up. Could be viewed as an aversion, as the entire series seems to be a response to classic fantasy series like LOTR, where political and philosophical differences are just too great to easily set everything aside and band together against the approaching evil. However, a recent straight example of this trope is Egwene's opposition to Rand's plan to destroy the remaining seals. Although it's a curious plan that's a bit outside the box, it never shows her even considering why Rand wants to do it or to try communicating with him to discuss the matter. She just immediately dismisses it as a horrible idea and sets about trying to turn everyone against him, all for the sake of conflict.
    • This was finally (and thankfully!) averted and eventually deliberately invoked (in-universe) towards the end of the series with Rand sending Perrin on mission and hiding it by publicly getting into a petty argument with him and concealing the fact that he was Elayne's children's father by publicly avoiding her.
  • James Corvidae, in Pact, has this as his explicit superpower. A spirit who is speculated to have been created by the First Nations as vengeance against intruding Europeans, he has the ability to magically reassign the connections between objects-a treasured heirloom will find its way, legally and fairly, into the hand of another, or a lover will break it off to go be with someone else. In the story, he convinces a fire elemental belonging to a group of elementalists to take up shop in the skywriting equipment of one of their allies, leading to conflict over who gets to keep the equipment and the elemental.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The West Wing episode "Isaac and Ishmael", the normally calm, moral and - of course - liberal Leo McGarry character has to turn into a ranting strawman of a right-wing ideologue for plot purposes. It should be pointed out that the actors give a small speech at the beginning that openly states that it doesn't fit into the regular continuity.
  • In an episode of Clarissa Explains It All, she wanted a job, but the parents kept saying no. They gave no reason, even when asked, and they eventually relented for no stated reason either. That might have been justified, as the show was largely seen through her Point of View.
  • Ray Kowalski of Due South in "Mounty on the Bounty," when he seemed to pick a fight with Fraser out of nowhere. The conflict just wasn't convincing.
  • Some of the series in the New Generation of Kamen Rider are particularly bad at this when it comes to provoking battles between Riders. They more or less have a rule that any given pair of Riders must fight at least once during the series (preferably more), no matter the cost in terms of character and story consistency. This is especially the case in works written by Toshiki Inoue.
    • This trend was however finally averted in Kamen Rider Double and seemingly every show afterwards, with the Second Rider only having minor disagreements at worst with the main Rider.
    • In Kamen Rider Fourze, Yuki Jojima is normally an outer space Otaku who, despite being quite genki, is knowledgable enough about space to impress even the school principal, himself a former astronaut. This all goes out the window in the Aquarius arc, where she suddenly becomes a screeching, annoying lunatic who has to pray to "rocket gods" in order to pass a basic intelligence test, seemingly just to make her exactly the kind of person Erin Suda despises. It's made even more blatant since Erin would probably get along with "normal Yuki" just fine — as illustrated at the end of the arc, where they actually do become friends after the villains mind-wipe Erin following her defeat at the hands of Fourze.
  • In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Tommy and Jason suddenly stopped being able to work as a team for one episode, implying that they NEVER were able to work well together, so they could learn a valuable lesson of teamwork. It didn't use the Ineffectual Loner path, but instead used a new variant of All Your Powers Combined for the two of them to beat a monster without their mecha.
    • Another version of this happens several years down the line in Power Rangers S.P.D., when after learning to work together as a team, some episode plot would revolve around the teammates disliking each other. This reached a new high in the SWAT two-parter when the bickering that occurred during the first part of the episode was pretty much unprecedented, even considering the fact that three of the Rangers were openly enemies of the other two in the beginning of the series brought together by an Enemy Mine situation.
      • Part of Power Rangers' problem is that a lot of these incidents is due to a case of converting Super Sentai to Power Rangers. For instance, in MMPR, Tommy and Jason were friends after Tommy joined the team, yet in Kyouryu Sentai Zyuranger, their counterparts, Burai and Geki respectively, were brothers who had a falling out. Thus, a plot that worked for the Super Sentai version feels like a Conflict Ball for Power Rangers.
  • The character Steven Caldwell of Stargate Atlantis was, according to the actor, supposed to be more of a jerk in the original script. However, the actor subtly nicened him up a bit. Unfortunately the trade off was that whenever the script called for him to truly be a jerk, it often looked a little forced. One notable example is the episode Sateda, in which Shepard claims that Caldwell doesn't value alien team members such as Ronin as much as earth members, a point that had never been hinted at before.
    • Later subverted in a very clever way when the audiance learned that Caldwell was a goa'uld spy, normal Caldwell's personality was much more balanced.
  • Subverted with on Stargate SG-1, where Jack O'Neill suddenly starts acting like an uncaring, greedy jerk, and leaves the Stargate Program when reprimanded to join a group who steal alien technology. However, it later turns out that the whole thing is a trick to unearth said group.
    • Star Trek: Voyager had an almost identical subversion with Tom Paris, showing him having more and more problems fitting in over a long arc culminating in his leaving Voyager to infiltrate an enemy group.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sometimes conflict seems randomly shoehorned in among the characters just so the writers can meet some sort of mandatory drama quota.
    • This was particularly glaring in Season 7, when Buffy and her cohort end up sharply at odds towards the end of the season.
    • Season 6 just may have been worse about this, particularly regarding Xander and Anya's failed wedding. Or how about Willow's magic addiction try try to justify her turn to the dark side after Tara is killed?
    • There's a rather aggravating example in the Season 5 episode "Tough Love" where Willow and Tara suddenly get into a fight that comes out of nowhere so Tara can conveniently go out alone to get attacked by the Big Bad.
    • Let's just say that Joyce and Buffy's friends mishandled her return from LA on a thermonuclear level in Season 3's 'Dead Man's Party'. Joyce was an early S1 flake; Willow and Xander were their S6/7 selves four years early.
    • Spike deliberately passes it around in the Season 4 episode The Yoko Factor, making insinuating and subversive comments to make the Scoobies turn on each other and vent repressed feelings of anger and resentment that had been bottled up. He even lampshades the trope, pointing out that people latch onto one specific event or situation as a cause of strife, but that what really happens is that the event or situation is just an excuse to bring to the forefront issues that were there all along.
  • There's an episode of All in the Family in which Mike, the show's resident liberal, abruptly reveals a stay-in-the-kitchen attitude toward women that runs contrary to his character. The purpose of this revelation is to create conflict between him and Gloria.
  • One episode of Saved by the Bell: The College Years has Slater discover he actually has Mexican heritage. He out of nowhere accuses Zack of being racist because Zack tries to set him up with a blonde girl. He actually says "why do you only think girls with blonde hair and blue eyes are attractive? I've dated girls with dark hair and dark eyes". This is completely ignoring that the love of Zack's life was brunette and that he dated girls of many ethnicities in high school, including their friend Lisa. Slater spends the whole episode being overly sensitive and Zack is presented as the one who needs to learn the Aesop.
  • In The Dead Zone TV series, Johnny holds the ball whenever Greg Stillson is involved. One particularly annoying example is when Stillson (Vice President at the time) shows up at his house to ask for his help in bringing a space shuttle home safely after it loses radio contact. Johnny reluctantly helps him, with emphasis on reluctantly. The audience can identify with Stillson's frustration at some points, when Johnny berates him for (what he sees as) using the incident to advance his career. Come on, Johnny. You're helping a team of astronauts get home safely. Does it really matter that Stillson was the one to ask it of you? Notably, this was after Johnny had stopped getting Armageddon visions from Stillson. Stillson was still a shady, ambitious politician, but in this episode it seemed like Johnny was being a jerk for apparently no reason at all.
  • Sanctuary: In Fugue, Will gets handed this big time. His girlfriend gets infected with something that slowly turns them into a violent abnormal. Magnus then suggests a cure and considering she is the foremost expert of these things, you think that Will would go along with her idea. But NO, he thinks that the idea is too risky, which doesn't make sense in the first place because the victim has a 100% chance of dying without the cure. Then he accuses her of having ulterior motive, which doesn't fit with his character and there is no way that she would do that kind of thing anyway. It gets so bad that they have to lock him away so he won't go on a violent rampage to "save" her. Classic Conflict Ball
  • Supernatural does this quite a bit. For example, in season 2, Sam argues against killing the pacifist vampires, yet in season 8, he refuses to even consider the idea that Dean might be right about Benny.
    • Flipped from when Dean killed Sam's pacifist kitsune friend earlier, only to defend Benny from being killed by Sam in season 8.
    • Likewise, Dean never shows any signs of having problems with Missouri and Pamela's psychic abilities, but is suspicious of Sam's abilities from when they first start manifesting all the way back in season 1. Of course, Sam's powers turn out to be bad news after all, but Dean didn't know that at the time.
      • Potentially justified. At the time they met Missouri the brothers didn't know much about Sam's abilities, but they knew that their mother had been killed by a demon in Sam's nursery when he was a baby. By the time they met Pamela, they knew for sure that Sam's abilities had demonic, and therefore "evil" origins. Moreover, while Missouri and Pamela seemed to have ease and control over their abilities, Sam's visions were involuntary, unbidden, and excruciatingly painful.
    • A half-season Conflict Ball in Season 8 when Sam was revealed to not have tried to look for Dean when Dean had vanished at the end of Season 7 (widely regarded as an extreme Out-of-Character Moment for Sam mostly to manufacture conflict between the brothers, or plain bad writing). The out of character behaviour combined with an almost Strawman lack of explanation or defense from Sam made fans honestly wonder if Sam had been supernaturally affected (again), whether he Took a Level in Jerkass, or if the writers were simply looking for a reason to have the brothers fighting.
  • On an episode of The Practice just about all the firm's lawyers except Bobby show resistance at representing a convict on Virginia's death row, despite evidence that he's innocent as he claims, and despite him being a big teddy bear. It's especially jarring in Ellenor's case, since she'll crusade against the death penalty in later seasons.
  • In Charmed Season 5, the sisters (especially Phoebe) were distrustful of Cole and constantly expressed as much. It didn't matter that Cole was constantly trying to do good, either. The stated reason was because of Cole's turn as the Source of All Evil, but these episodes overlooked that Cole didn't choose to be the Source at all. (Instead, he had been possessed by the old Source and overtaken.) The sisters themselves were even told as much by the wizard ("He didn't die. He was reborn into a new sorry ass.") and Cole's new personal assistant/failed seductress ("You've ruined him. Made him pathetic, weak, good.") near the end of Season 4. Their distrust was rooted in a severe case of Negative Continuity.

    Tabletop Games 
  • All over the place in White Wolf's Old World of Darkness games. It seemed that every single faction was in a war, cold or hot, with every other faction; a particularly standout example would be the entirety of the Werewolf: The Apocalypse line, where the various tribes fought each other, other shapeshifters, regular humans, and sometimes the Wyrm (the entity they were supposed to be fighting), mostly for reasons that made the reader wonder how the place ever got past the stone age. Shapeshifters, simply put, can be just as bad as any humans but with infinitely more anger issues and less self-control.
  • The [[Tabletop Game/Warhammer40000 Imperium of Man]] would have a few less problems if they decided to wait and figure out whether or not a Xenos species needs to be exterminated before doing so (most of them do need that, though). Either that or one would cause a lot of damage while they were busy deciding.

    Videogames 
  • Many hotheaded RPG characters, whether heroes or villains, will be more in the mood to fight when it makes more sense to talk, because the plot can't go further if they resolve things peacefully.
  • The entire population of Azeroth was handed one of these between Warcraft III and World of Warcraft. Nearly all the civilizations of Kalimdor, which includes forces from both the Alliance and the Horde, allied to fend off the Burning Legion and the Scourge by the end of the former game, but those alliances dissolve offscreen in the years between the games. The release of Wrath of the Lich King, and the corresponding rise of the Scourge as a major threat once again, has caused a thaw in relations between the coalitions, but they still battle openly in some places. The main purpose of the war seems to be to have an excuse for the two sides to be in opposition.
    • Varian and Garrosh are walking Conflict Balls!
    • The Wrath of the Lich King area of Grizzly Hills is of special note, as its main theme is that you must help your faction to gather as much of the Hills' plentiful resources as possible, while sabotaging the rival faction's attempts to do the same. Both factions want to use said resources to help them defeat the Lich King - which is to say that in Grizzly Hills, the Lich King's two main enemies are locked in a savage war over who will get to fight the guy they both actually came there to fight. With enemies like these, the Lich King doesn't need any friends...
    • In Icecrown, the Horde and Alliance each have a flying gunship specifically built to take on the Scourge, and yet are used almost exclusively against each other. This culminates in Icecrown Citadel, where they battle over who has the right to take on the Lich King. They do this even though the respective gunship captains are otherwise very sensible sorts who are perfectly aware that every Horde and Alliance soldier who falls in battle becomes a potential recruit for the Scourge.
    • The ground forces in Icecrown are worse, and yes, there's a ground campaign simply because the Scourge would overrun anyone who just flew in to confront the Lich King. Anyway. Because of impassable mountains, the ground forces have to take a path right through a series of gates in some rather impressively defended walls. The first assault starts off with some reasonable teamwork, but then the Alliance blames the Horde for what happens next, and the Horde apparently takes that as an excuse to screw the Alliance and go it on their own. They end up sabotaging and backstabbing each other whenever it looks like one faction might take a gate, because allowing someone to take the gate would mean having to fight through the other faction - again - to progress towards the Lich King, only from a less defendable position. The aforementioned airship captains praise the ground forces when they hear about this.
    • At this point, the Alliance vs. Horde conflict is really only sustained by liberal passes of the conflict ball. Everybody seems to realize that the war is counterproductive at best, and every expansion gives the two sides a common enemy. With the ridiculous amounts of Enemy Mine, taking place between them, you would think they would start to realize that there's really no justifiable reason to be fighting anymore. At least not until the writers give them one by making characters more evil.
    • The problem is that Blizzard can't seem to decide whether they want WoW to have the Alliance vs. Horde themes from the first two Warcraft games, or the Enemy Mine theme of the third game. Instead they've tried to do both, but the two ideas are contradictory, and the result is a plot riddled with Conflict and Idiot Balls as the two factions chronically backstab each other while neutral characters lecture them on not getting along.
    • The really jarring part of the WoW Alliance vs. Horde is the fact that members of the opposite faction can't, for all intents and purposes, have any in-game communication with the other at all. To the point that emotes are obfuscated. It gets odd that there are a lot of groups and organizations that have Alliance and Horde members which get along fine.
      • If you're a Druid, it's even stranger. You can get training and talk freely with NPC druids of species from the opposite faction (which crop up quite a bit), but can't talk to other player druids of that same opposite faction species.
    • When Garrosh Hellscream took over the Horde from Thrall, his goals were to secure the prosperity of the Horde, which meant taking land and resources from the Alliance. By Mists of Pandaria, his goals are more selfish: he's a warrior and so he wants a war.
  • The "ring of conflict" in NetHack is a conflict ball... for the group of monsters you're facing.
  • Used as a joke in some of the Touhou games, especially fighting games. Often the fights are for improbable, ridiculous reasons. However, it's also clear that, ultimately, these people just like beating the heck out of each other!
    • Even funnier in that it usually works. The logic is more or less "There is a problem. The problem was probably caused by someone. Keep beating people up until you happen to beat up the one causing the problem and they can no longer cause the problem"
  • During one infamous scene in ''Tactics Ogre', your choice directly affects your best friend's choice to put the Conflict Ball into play. Essentially one of you is going to be a Knight Templar to the other's Chaotic Good and there's nothing you can do about it.
  • In Mega Man X 5 many reploids you fight want to have a piece of your character for various reasons. While there are varying degrees of justification, the fact that several not in the throes of Maverick fever insist on doing this when the giant space colony is coming crashing down is a bit incredulous.
    • Mega Man X4's entire plot starts simply because Colonel would rather throw the entire Repliforce into a pointless war with the Maverick Hunters than simply turn off his Laser Sword when asked to come to the latter's headquarters.
  • The Conflict Ball is the plot to Vivisector: Beast Inside. It starts out with a General Ripper hiring an Evilutionary Biologist to create an army of Half Human Hybrids, only to split into a civil war over disagreements over how the army should be utilized. Okay, that's reasonable. Then the General decides to nuke the biologist's soldiers for no good reason, and when he tricks the player character into coming to their island hideaway, he conveniently forgets to inform his own soldiers that he required your help, turning them against you for no reason other than to add more enemies for you to fight. It gets worse, though; later on, the General kills your only ally in the game for absolutely no reason but to get you to abandon him for the doctor's side, and then you learn that the beast soldiers are pre-programmed to hate humans on sight, forcing you to fight your new allies, even though there really should be no reason for that to happen. In essence, the only reason why you have to fight any enemies in the game is because But Thou Must.
  • The AI in Galactic Civilizations II likes to lob one of these your way if it gets bored. The galaxy is prosperous, quiet, and peaceful? A Mega Event goes off in which one of your citizens assassinates the head of the Drengin Empire, plunging you into war! Which drags the Drengin's allies the Drath Legion into it, and thanks to their racial ability they convince the Yor to attack you too! But then the Altarians step in on your behalf, and use their racial ability to have the Iconians help out too, but that serves as the last straw for the Korx who team up with the Thalans...
  • A bit of this goes on in Persona 3. Junpei has a surprising amount of malice towards the main character for a very long time, but the conflict ball didn't get into full swing until FES' The Answer. Yukari forced Aigis to fight just about everyone because she can't respect the decision of the MC because she loves him too much.
  • Fighting games take this trope Up to Eleven. Most of the time, characters are only fighting each other, because the players simply wanted to select those particular characters. If loving family members and True Companions are in the roster of a fighting game, they can be "forced" to fight each other. This also leads to certain characters that wouldn't hit females or children breaking their ethical codes. Admittedly, matches like that aren't invoked through the stories, but fighting game Story Mode/Arcade Mode "conflicts" are very underwhelming, because the characters often fight over trivial things.
    Green Arrow: Why are we fighting?
    Green Lantern: You started it.
  • Sonic Heroes really suffers from this. Each of the four teams in the game will fight two of the other three teams over the course of their story - for extremely lame reasons. Sonic beats up Amy just to get her to stop pestering him about marriage. Rouge assumes for NO reason that the Chaotix must be after Eggman's treasure and the Chaotix likewise assume for NO reason that Team Dark must be working against their client. The Chaotix try to take Cream's chao because their client gave them a mission to collect 10 chao...a task they already accomplished. The Team Sonic vs. Team Dark battle is even worse - Sonic's response to seeing someone who he thought died saving the world is to call him "stubborn and full of surprises" and automatically assume the worst, and it seems the reason the battle is being fought is because...both of them want the right to beat up the bad guy. Yeah. But what makes ALL of these battles worse is that it's not just two characters having a battle, it's two teams of three. That should give plenty of opportunity for someone to say, "You know, this is a dumb reason to fight," but everyone just goes along with it.
  • Gadlight Meonsam from Third Super Robot Wars Z: Jigoku-Hen is capable of taking the sleeping desire for conflict inside the hearts of humanity and reversing them], which he took advantage of to throw the combined Earth into chaos.

    Webcomics 
  • Emily McArthur of Misfile has had this a lot lately.
    • A straighter example would be the constant, immature sparring between Emily and Missi. While Emily has generally gotten better at this and only retorts back when provoked, Missi seems to take a perverse delight in annoying her. The only reason for this, it seems, would be so that the two can clash over their feelings for Ash. Even more irritating, though, is Missi's refusal to accept that Ash isn't her girlfriend anymore. It's makes one wonder whether Chris only created her to exacerbate personal drama in the lives of the two protagonists. When you consider that Ash and Emily are steadily becoming less hostile towards Rumisiel over time - they aren't friendly with him, but they seem to trust him more than they did at the start - this theory isn't without justification.
  • Hardly a week goes by without something going down in Candi, and there have been perhaps three instances over the course of the comic's six-plus-year run where characters have actually, permanently learned anything from the resulting drama. Trevor, Linda, and Rebecca in particular are especially fond of The Ball.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of the Super Mario Bros. cartoon series, "True Colors", the Koopas spray red paint on half the townspeople, and blue paint on the other half. The Toads begin arguing over petty differences (egged on by two of the Koopa Kids) and end up dividing based on color. Naturally, this allows for a corny allegory about racism.
  • In episode 12 of The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, Tom and Anne both get a hold of the ball for a time when Tom refuses to believe Ms. Scarlet Avondale is the crook simply because she's female and Anne insists a woman can be a crook just as easily as a man, as if it's an accomplishment. Anne turns out to be right, but the reason for the argument is rather silly.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic uses this in a number of episodes, like Rarity and Applejack's escalating tiff in "Look Before You Sleep", and Applejack and Rainbow Dash's competitiveness getting out of hand in "Fall-Weather Friends".
    • Invoked by Twilight in "Lesson Zero" with the hope of being able to solve someone's problem and learn her weekly Aesop. It gets out of hand when everyone in town winds up fighting over her doll. In doing so, she ironically ended up holding the Conflict Ball herself, by dint of her sudden obsession with helping fix others' problems.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Whenever Candace actually goes along with her brothers' latest scheme, she (usually) has a great time and often gets quality time with Jeremy. Yet she is constantly trying to bust them for no apparent reason beyond sibling upmanship (pointless as they genuinely look up to her) and winning her mom's approval. Later on even she has pointed out that the urge is irrational, but often tries (and usually fails) to resist the "urge to bust" like it's an odd G-Rated Drug addiction. Sometimes, admittedly, the things the boys are doing would be dangerous if they were even a smidgen less competent (showcased in "Phineas and Ferb get Busted" where one misplaced bolt led to most of the house being wrecked. Thank goodness that Just a Dream...), and sometimes she does seem to be in it more because she thinks what they're doing is dangerous (like the all-terrain vehicle bit) or disruptive (driving cattle through downtown).
  • Total Drama Action: The cast seemed pretty cold and mean to Courtney's reappearance even before being shoe-horned in as the season's 'villain'.
  • Lots... and lots... and lots of episodes of The Simpsons. Even characters who have genuinely liked each other for years (e.g. Bart/Lisa, Edna/Seymour, Homer/Moe, Mr. Burns/Smithers) aren't immune. At least with Lenny and Carl it's pretty much just played for laughs.
  • In the A Pup Named Scooby-Doo episode "Night of the Living Burger" Scooby and Shaggy have a falling out for some reason and spend almost the whole episode fighting before making up at the end. We never even find out what they were fighting about.
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien: Ben suddenly deciding that it's absolutely necessary to kill Kevin in the first season finale, even though he never focused on killing any previous enemies (including ones which were much more of a threat than Kevin), and Grandpa Max points out that he's acting out-of-character in the show itself.
  • All Grown Up! is full of these, compared to the original series. In Rugrats, the babies almost always got along (with the exception of certain episodes), seeing as how they often had to band together to put up with Angelica.
    • Even Phil and Lil's occasional sibling rivalry moments (in the midst of plot) were Played for Laughs. However, TheRugratsMovie would be the first to show friction between the babies as the colicky Baby Dil would come into the world, combined with a series of events that would leave them stranded in the woods. When things get intense enough, Phil and Lil put all the blame on Tommy.
    • However, as the cast got older, Angelica would decide to mingle with the cool clique and pre-teen angst would catch up to the former babies, putting them at each other's throats each episode. Whenever some dilemma would befall the gang, Tommy would be made the designated scapegoat, with Kimi being the worst offender and Phil and Lil about as loyal as two housecats during a burglary. In fact each of the 'Rats would have their own one-on-one disputes:
      • Tommy vs. Chuckie - Tommy and Chuckie's friendship would be tested on separate occasions, up to the point where Chuckie would suspect Tommy of liking his sister and go into big brother mode.
      • While the original Kimi adored her new step-brother, the two got older, Kimi would develop a snarky attitude and become so wrapped up in her own interests that she disregards he Chuckie (or anyone else) feels, or would often force / blackmail him to support her ideas, while Chuckie on the other hand simply turns the other cheek and goes out his way for her best interest, without receiving too many thanks, let alone apologies.
      • Phil vs. Lil - As the twins got older, their sibling rivalry would be driven Up to Eleven, where Lil would become gender-conscious and see Phil as an immature Gasshole. Because of this, Lil would move into her own room, get into a gender dispute with Phil on their birthday, and deprive him of a romance with one of her soccer friends.
  • Justice League has Clash, a rather infamous episode amongst the fanbase. Superman, typically the most rational and open minded of the group suddenly becomes a stringent hard-ass towards Captain Marvel. What made this really stand out is that everyone else in the League, including Batman, liked Captain Marvel.

Advantage BallBall IndexDistress Ball
Idiot BallContrived Stupidity TropesDistress Ball
Chandler's LawRule of DramaDiabolus ex Machina
Comedic SociopathyCharacter DerailmentDerailing Love Interests
Character DerailmentImprobable Behavior TropesCybernetics Eat Your Soul
Idiot BallStupidity TropesDistress Ball
The Complainer Is Always WrongDiscord TropesCooperation Gambit
What an IdiotIdiot BallBullying a Dragon
ChickificationBad Writing IndexCreator's Pet
Character DerailmentThe Plot Demanded This IndexConflict Killer
Complaining About Rescues They Don't LikeExample as a ThesisConflicting Loyalty
Color FailureIndex FailureCorrection Bait

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