troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Confusion Fu
aka: Schroedinger Fu
That's the problem. He's a brilliant lunatic, and you can't tell which way he'll jump - like his game he's impossible to analyse. You can't predict him, dissect him... which of course means he's not a lunatic at all.
Anatoly Sergievsky, Chess

Some fighters have speed, some have strength. Proponents of Confusion Fu have unpredictability.

Their attacks and motions are random (or seem to be), making them difficult to read and predict. Perhaps their priorities and motivations are so different from your own that attempting to guess their next move doesn't work, or perhaps their bodies are structured in such an unfamiliar way that you do not recognize the movements that foretell a particular action.

They are the natural nemesis of those blessed with Awesomeness by Analysis. Stylish Confusion Fu fighters sometimes double as Dance Battlers. This style is often used by Bunny Ears Lawyers and Crazy Awesome characters.

Sister trope to Spanner in the Works, in a general sense. The reason why something Crazy Enough to Work might actually work. Refuge in Audacity is a favorite tactic. See also Drunken Master and Drunken Boxing. Compare Improv Fu. Contrast Strategy Schmategy, where the randomness is unintentional. Not to be confused with What the Fu Are You Doing?.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • AIKI: One of the bizarre training regimens involved doing a crazy dance so that your strikes couldn't be seen.
  • Gate Keepers: The Super Prototype beats the Awesomeness by Analysis enemy general because its lack of a Power Limiter makes it impossible to completely control. The general can't predict its random motions and thus can't hit it or defend against its attacks. The downside to not being able to control the prototype exactly is the risk that the attack you want to make isn't always the attack you get.
  • Ginji and Ban, the protagonists of Getbackers.
  • Ikki in Air Gear does this in his battle with Buccha.
  • Dragon Ball
    • In the first Tournament arc of Dragon Ball, Goku and his sensei Master Roshi (in disguise) end up face-to-face in the finals. Both eventually resort to the trope. Since Goku's shown himself to be a very fast learner (copying Roshi's trademark Kamehameha just by watching him do it once), Roshi decides to catch Goku off guard with a Drunken Master technique (something Goku can't imitate because he's never been drunk). But Goku counters with a technique specially suited to him: the Crazy Monkey style (basically, fighting more like a monkey). Now Roshi can't figure Goku out since he's not familiar with living with beasts in the wilderness.
    • Dragon Ball Z: Majin Buu, especially in his basic (or Kid Buu) form. The dialogue even implies that this form has the weakest power level, but ends up being the most dangerous because there is no reason to his behavior. Of course, the fact that he's violently insane also helps.
      • Before anyone knows who he is, Cell pulls a couple of these on Piccolo, Trunks and the others. Since he has the cells of all of the strongest fighters, he knows almost all of their attacks, many of which are unique to them. He abuses this to get the upper hand on Piccolo whilst in his Imperfect Form. Piccolo at this point is considerably stronger than Cell, but Cell then performs a Kamehameha, which shocks Piccolo enough to allow Cell to grab him. When Trunks and Krillin show up, he then uses Solar Flare to escape.
  • Naruto
    • Naruto has Rock Lee, but when he's drunk off his ass, which is easily accomplished.
    • Naruto himself is often referred to as the "number one ninja at surprising people". This is the main reason he was able to beat Neji and Kakuzu: both times he caught them off-guard by using a Shadow Clones charge in which the real one was hiding where it made the least amount of sense for him to be.
    • A smaller example is Hidan's scythe, which he swings around on a cord making it fly around in a manner that's incredibly hard to predict and thus block (and if you even get a scratch you're pretty screwed). That's probably why the first thing Shikamaru did in the rematch was destroy the cord with an explosive.
    • Bee's swords style (where he wields seven swords in everything but his hands while spinning around) is too damn weird for even the Sharingan to predict.
  • Monkey D. Luffy of One Piece. Case in point when the methods he used to defeat self-proclaimed god Eneru was not just due to having the properties of rubber, but to catch him off-guard even when another of Eneru's godlike abilities is predicting your attacks by reading your thoughts. He did this by ricocheting his attacks off a wall, Luffy himself didn't know which way they'd ricochet, and therefore had no control over his own attack, which means that Eneru couldn't read his mind to evade them.
    • Hilariously enough, his first attempt to defeat the mind-reading was to think nothing, but since this consisted of him turning off his mind dodging only on instinct, he could only move out of the way of the attack and not counter in any way.
    • Usopp, not being one of the (as he calls them) super-powered freaks of the crew, utilizes a mixture of various gadgets and just plain trickery, including calling out the wrong attack name, playing dead and randomly flicking rubber bands at his opponents.
  • Natsu from Fairy Tail tries the same trick against a similar opponent — only Natsu can apparently fight quite efficiently when his thought processes shut off. Even better, it doesn't seem like he was actively trying to not think — his thoughts stop rather easily.
    • He's also miscalled attacks, misleads his opponents by seeming less skilled/strong than he actually is, and he isn't above dance battling if charging straight at his enemy doesnt work.
  • Not involving fighting, but this is key to all of Tylor's victories in Irresponsible Captain Tylor.
  • Samurai Champloo's Mugen uses a style based on apparently random sword strikes and spinning kicks which make him unable to be beaten by (or to beat) the classically trained Jin, although he eventually gets taken apart by Awesomeness by Analysis master Kariya Kagetoki who works out the patterns underlying Mugen's instinctive attacks while commenting that, because he attacks on nothing but instinct, he involuntarily reveals all his limitations to his enemy.
  • In Shin Angyo Onshi this is pulled off in army level. Seeing how the Big Bad relied heavily on mind reading, Munsu rolls dice to determine the army's strategy.
  • In the second season of Hajime No Ippo (subtitled The New Challenger), Takamura ends up fighting one of these for the World Championship belt — a crazy american who goes up against Takamura's orthodox boxing-style with a wild, crazy, uncontrolled street-fighting style, including weird sways and punching upwards from a bent-backwards position. Amusingly enough, this resulted in them turning into a Red Oni, Blue Oni matched pair, even though Takamura is usually as crazy as they come...
    • In the manga match-up of Itagaki vs Saeki, Itagaki has a rough start of it largely because he's an instinctive fighter but the quality of his opponent is making him overthink his moves. Once his trainer gets him past that, however, Itagaki is able to grab the advantage, becoming able to repeatedly hit Saeki because there's no trackable rhythm to his movements. In fact, the only thing going through Itagaki's mind is a one-player game of Shiratori.
  • Vigo from Psyren gets frustrated when Shao reads his mind. First tactic- think so much that it's much harder to read him. Second tactic- stop thinking. It works frighteningly well.
  • Jounouchi/Joey from Yu-Gi-Oh! builds his deck around this trope, many of his cards (Time Wizard, Roulette Spider, Graceful Dice, Skull Dice, etc.) revolving around sheer luck of the draw, and can either give him an incredible advantage, or get him into a worse mess than before.
    • Also, the Mind Shuffle Technique or topdecking blindly to counter Pegasus' Millennium Eye. Much like the One Piece example above, mindreading is useless if your opponent doesn't know what the face down card is either.
    • Most duels in the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise end with a character pulling out some "never seen before" card that allows him/her to make a comeback one turn short from suffering a humiliating defeat.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds is an extreme case where in some occasions, the character in question obtains the card during the match. Shooting Quasar Dragon, we're looking at you as Yusei mystically creates your card.
  • Star Driver: This is pretty much the reason for Takuto's spotless winning streak: he makes a point of never showing a skill or ability unless it's absolutely necessary in surviving the fight so that the Glittering Crux have no idea what their opponent is capable of (and thus have no way to counter it) even a dozen battles into the series. Heck, Takuto still had some items in his bag of tricks for the very final battle.
  • This of course is Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo's forte. note  Its an official fighting style that consists of confusing your enemy until they give up.
  • A few examples in Eyeshield 21. First, there's the Dragonfly formation, which uses two quarterbacks that have to be in synch with one another to allow split-second, unpredictable plays. Second, there's Hiruma Youichi.
  • Oriana Thompson of A Certain Magical Index is dangerous for, among other things, never using the same magic spell twice due to the nature of her 'Shorthand' flash cards. This makes her very difficult to predict.
    • Interestingly, this actually works against her: Touma notices that the way she designed her attacks to be unpredictable means that her attacks never come from the same direction twice in a row — and it's not a conscious choice on her part, but something literally built in. This allows him to dodge her attacks perfectly by running through the space her previous attack covered (though this is only actually explained in the light novels).
    • Acqua of the Back often uses his water powers to slide around chaotically and make it hard for his opponents to keep track of him.
    • Rensa's facial expression doesn't change, she barely has any body language, and her involuntary muscle movements like blinking and breathing are completely regular. This makes it very difficult to predict her in battle. Ultimately, she can't keep it up forever, especially if she gets upset.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple the title character attempts this against Siegfried, because Siegfried can seemingly predict every single move Kenichi makes. In a rare subversion, it doesn't work, and Siegfried sees through it and ends up still countering Kenichi's moves.
    • Berserker is the straighter use of this trope. He's Unskilled, but Strong to such a degree that he was Ragnarok's number two fighter and The Dragon to Odin. His utter lack of formal training made him difficult to predict for any character who faced him. When he did receive formal training, it focused on actually refining this trait.
  • Angels, the main antagonists of NeonGenesisEvangelion, fit the trope to some degree: though they're all considered the same species, and each one for its own part seems to conform to a single pool of skills and abilities, there is little to no continuity amongst them, as each is radically different from the others.
  • Bleach: Happens during the fight between Starrk and Kyouraku. After it becomes clear there are a lot of similarities between these two reluctant fighters, Starrk is convinced he's fighting a kindred spirit. Then it's revealed that was a red herring and the only thing they truly have in common is that they're both Brilliant, but Lazy. Lampshaded by Kyouraku himself:
    Starrk: I thought I told you not to do uncharacteristic things, Captain-san!
    Kyouraku: It's not good to keep forcing this characteristic thing, Espada-san. And, if you're going to talk about characteristic, not having a characteristic behaviour is characteristic of me.
  • Sexy Commando style in Sexy Commando Gaiden: Sugoi yo!! Masaru-san is all about this. A typical move in the style goes like so: 1. do something utterly weird; 2. when the opponent stands there boggling at the weirdness, punch his lights out.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, when Hiko Seijuro retrains Kenshin, he uses confusion fu to prove a point about Kenshin being over-reliant on Awesomeness by Analysis. He raises his sword, then kicks Kenshin. He telegraphs a move, then does a different move, etc.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni Beatrice's fickleness is part of what makes her so hard to fight. Battler's method usually relies on "turning the chessboard around", i.e. think from his opponent's perspective. But that only works when the opponent's goal is clear and when we assume they try to do the best move. Bernkastel explains early on that Beatrice often makes unnecessary moves that don't seem to make sense and are only meant to confuse the opponent.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has Joseph Joestar, protagonist of Part 2, who uses a mix of improvisation and Obfuscating Insanity to lure his opponents into traps. In the anime adaptation, even the theme song has lines calling for him to confuse his enemies into submission.
  • The main character in Angel Densetsu, Kitano Seiichiro is feared by other delinquents, not because of his terrifying appearance (though that does play a role) so much as his utterly incomprehensible behaviour. The truth of the matter is that Kitano is a genuinely good person who only wants to help others, with an unfortunate tendency to run towards people shrieking incoherently when upset.
  • Holyland: Masaki diagnoses Yuu's fighting style as this in chapter 89 - while Yuu genuinely has raw power, the reason why he can beat better conventionally trained foes is due to mixing styles into an unpredictable blend.
  • When Yusuke in YuYu Hakusho finds out that Sensui is reading his attacks, he tries to confuse him by stopping in the middle of the fight to take a swim in a nearby lake, and then used the distraction to wrap his t-shirt around Sensui's arm so he couldn't dodge his attacks.

    Comics 
  • Done in Regifted during a hapkido tournament; the main character takes a move from her sparring buddy, that she describes as idiotic, and it works; no one would know to expect it.
  • Deadpool, from Marvel Comics. To the extent that he once defeated the freakin' Taskmaster by sheer unpredictability — Tasky thought that Deadpool was about to get angry and sloppy, but he really just started on a dance number. True, Confusion Fu has already been proven to be an effective strategy against Taskmaster (for example, Daredevil used a similar trick to goad Taskmaster into jumping in front of a moving car), but Deadpool beat the Taskmaster by being Deadpool.
  • In Watchmen, Dan says that Rorschach was a good fighter because he was unpredictable. Probably related to the fact that he's not quite sane.
  • This is usually the reason given as to why The Joker can occasionally actually win at hand-to-hand combat against Batman.
    • Tim Drake managed to overcome Cassandra Cain's bodyreading ability by throwing out all style and just going with what felt natural.
    • Batman himself is sometimes portrayed this way, not due to his moves being random, but due to the fact that he sticks to the shadows and employs gadgetry. You might know Batman is stalking you, but you don't know which direction that Batarang/gas grenade/grapple/fist is coming from. He's been known to, among other things, trick an opponent with super-breath into thinking he was using a smoke bomb to cover his escape. She simply inhales all of the smoke... whereupon Batman informs her that it was anesthetic gas.
  • The Authority: This is one of the three ways to beat Midnighter, as it completely confuses the precognitive computers in his brain. (The other two are "Be better at Awesome by Analysis than he is" and "Be so powerful that it just doesn't matter if he predicts your moves or not.")
    • Taken to extremes in the DC/Wildstorm crossover, where Midnighter takes one look at the Joker, tries to predict him and has a petit mal seizure.
  • Nextwave famously and hilariously had Schrodinger's Death!
  • The Quiz, from the appropriately named Brotherhood of Dada, had the superpower of "anything you haven't thought of yet". A particularly nonsensical example was the ability to turn people into toilets with flowers in them.
    • In fact, her ability was so chaotic, it was only defeated by the power of Lists. The Doom Patrol fought her by running away and yelling out powers, so she couldn't use them.
  • During a Secret Six/Suicide Squad crossover, Catman explains that he is able to hold up in his fight against Bronze Tiger because Bronze Tiger has "a defense for every style... and styles are for $%#@ing idiots." He then proceeds to take a big bite out of Bronze Tiger's jugular.
  • May from The Interman knows many fighting styles and uses them at random- which makes her a very dangerous opponent for Van Meach, a Ditto Fighter who needs time to adapt to each new challenge.
  • In the Brian Bendis series of Moon Knight, the title character can manifest the personalities of Captain America, Spider-Man, or Wolverine and, so doing, adopts their weapons and fighting styles. To say that this is unexpected by his opponents is an understatement. It also saves his life several times when fighting Count Nefaria.
  • Speaking of Spider-Man, with his speed, agility, spider-sense and ability to climb or swing anywhere he wants, he has often invoked this trope with opponents having difficulty predicting his movements.
  • In the Justice League of America story arc where the league had to fight the Martian Manhunter's alter ego Fernus the Burning, Batman found a solution to fighting a shapeshifter who could predict your every move by reading your mind: bring in Plastic Man, a shapeshifter whose mind is so chaotic that his thoughts bear little connection to his actions.

    Fan Fic 
  • The entire point of the Chaos Army in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Lacking Draco Mafloy's experience in the wizarding world or his ability to understand other people or Hermione Granger's ability to learn quickly or understand other people, Methods!Harry actively courts and confusion among all three sides of the fight, as he and his army suffers the least from such confusion compared to Hermione's lesser ability to plan for the unexpected and Draco's knowledge that running such ridiculously complex plots is suicidal.
  • Socrates, Calvin & Hobbes: The Series' resident prankster, uses the Time Pauser during a climatic fight to appear "everywhere and nowhere", as the fic puts it.
  • Friendship Is Aura: Unlike in the Pokémon games, Lucario has access to his entire moveset, which any Pokemon player can tell you is a lot of moves. This is how Lucario beats most of his big opponents.
  • Upon A Falling Feather has Pinkie Pie fight like this, to rather impressive effect.
  • In the Pony POV Series, lots of characters do this when they need to fight. As in the above, Pinkie Pie is the stand out due to having performed a Split Personality Merge, making her a considerably saner Cloudcuckoolander who runs on Toon Physics. This results in her doing such things as weaponizing a Hard Work Montage or use Offscreen Teleportation after being thrown out a window to come back in through the other window with a flying kick.
    • This is pretty much the norm for every character in Dark World, as one side is run by Discord and the other is fighting Discord. Twilight even invokes this trope when they're planning to fight Discord (and makes good use of it later with her vast amount of spells) because any well laid plan is destined to fail in this situation. She even outright refuses to come up with a single plan, instead opting for a list of optional goals that can be completed in any order, with the rest of the 'plan' being an Indy Ploy.
    • This is particularly clear with Dark World!Derpy, who's flying style is completely unpredictable and thus makes her very difficult to hit.
    • Another notable example is Dark World!Spike, who's a Genius Bruiser that's spent the last thousand years pretty much reading whenever Discord wasn't using him as his personal ride. When faced with Rancor, Discord's little sister and The Dragon, he breaks out everything from Tickle Torture to chiropractic massage to simply pinning her wings and letting gravity do the rest to bypass her immunity to violence and fight her off.
    • Notably subverted with the Valeyard who, while he came to the fight Crazy-Prepared with layers upon layers of backup plans, ultimately had lost the Doctor's knack for this and Indy Ploys. Because of this he's ultimately out-thought and beaten.
  • In Mass Effect Human Revolution, Jules' fighting is a blend of moves from many styles, making it impossible for Adam to analyse and develop a counter.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Wong Fei Hung in The Legend of The Drunken Master. His drunken boxing style is ALL ABOUT doing stuff that seems insane or physically impossible to do.
    • In the first Drunken Master movie Fei Hung's master, Su Hua Chi, teaches him the style and how it's based on the 8 Drunken Immortals- Fei Hung learns 7, but refuses to learn the last since it's based off a woman's style. Fast-forward to the final battle against the assassin, Thunderleg, where Fei Hung bests Thunderleg's Devil's Kick style. Thunderleg switches to the Devil's Shadowless Hand instead, besting Fei Hung each time he demonstrates another Drunken Immortal's style, until he gets to the 8th- Miss Ho. He admits to his master he didn't learn the style, so Su Hua Chi tells him to combine the other 7 styles and improvise, creating a hilarious and nearly unpredictable improvised style which defeats Thunderleg's Shadowless Hand.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean : As anyone who's fought Jack Sparrow more than once knows he's a wicked Chess Master with a one-track mind, sometimes the only way he can win a fight is by being unpredictable.
  • Near the end of Chocolate, Zen gets rather badly beaten by a man with Tourette's syndrome. Her usual method of evading attack, anticipation, is ruined by his tics - she can't tell them apart from his attack tells. Only when she starts mimicking his tics does she get any offense in.
  • Serenity: So says Joss Whedon in the commentary, regarding the end fight between River and the Reavers:
    "My wife often refers to this style of fighting as 'just keep waving things until they go away'.".
  • In Quantum of Solace, this is what lets the physically nonthreatening villain stay alive (temporarily - not a spoiler, it's a Bond film). He flails about so wildly that Bond can't really fight him effectively - that is, until the downside of wild flailing is illustrated, when the villain performs an inadvertent axe-foot interface that is excruciating to watch.
  • In Push, this is how the good guys hide their plan from the precognitive Pop Girl. Nick writes the individual steps of the plan down and seals them in envelopes, which are marked as to when and where they are to be opened. He then has his memory wiped so even he won't know what the group's going to do until he opens the envelopes he carries.
  • In the earlier Godzilla films monsters would sometimes have a hard time even getting close to the three headed space dragon King Ghidorah because he'd keep moving his heads around in wild ways like a total spaz that it was hard to predict which volley of gravity beams he fired from his mouths would hit or miss or if he would rake them across an enemy monster's body or readjust his aim if he missed or not and because there is no glowing or charge time he spammed these rays like no tomorrow. It's because of this he'd hit any attacking monsters half the time and the other half miss. He wasn't a dangerous planet killing monster because of strength but because of how wild he was. He is chaos incarnate!
  • Blaze, in Delusions of Grandeur, finds himself at one point facing a nobleman who seems to be a much better fencer than him. His solution? Taunt his opponent with erratic sword moves, before literally kicking his butt.

    Literature 
  • In The Oval Amulet, Paragrin beats Cam by swinging wildly. Kirk, however, knows what he's doing.
  • The Fourth Realm by John Twelve Hawks: The Harlequins are sworn to protect the titular Travelers from a totalitarian shadow government which seeks to eliminate liberty and free choice. To fight these control-freaks, Harlequins "cultivate randomness". They are deliberately unpredictable in battle and go so far as to use random number generators to make decisions in order to confound predictive tracking algorithms.
  • The Elenium by David Eddings: Taking it to other levels, the reason Sparhawk can stick the metaphorical middle finger up to the gods is because he moves outside destiny, and therefore even the gods can't predict what he's going to do next. In one of the few cases of this ever, this is Jossed in-universe. To wit: In The Tamuli trilogy which follows on the heels of the Elenium, one of the fundamental forces of the universe says that even its own path may be thwarted by random chance; lesser beings like mere Gods are just as subject to deviation from their intended plan. The gods are freaked out at Sparhawk/Anakha because Anakha is said universe-shaping powers' son, making him not only a God but a God more powerful than any in the world, unique in the universe - if only he could release his full potential. It's implied (though never directly stated) that the whole "lack of destiny" deal is a smokescreen to help keep him from realizing exactly what all of this implies.
  • Rincewind of Discworld is a walking entropy generator. Being The Lady's favorite pawn (which works against you just as often as for you) can confuse everybody, even Death himself. His hourglass is equally unpredictable due to its strange shape.
    with him here, the only certain thing is uncertainty. and i'm not even sure of that.
    • When Mort and Death fight it's noted that while a scythe is not preeminent among weapons of war, once it gets spinning its practically impossible for anyone, including the wielder, to tell where it's going to be next.
  • The Scar by China Miéville: Uther Doul has a probability-altering sword that's this trope at its most literal. It passes through all the paths it could potentially have taken with each swing, and he's taught himself a style to maximize the effect. It's not a totally random and uncontrolled style. Complete randomness would cut himself up as much as his enemy. Complete control would leave too few alternate possibilities to be effective. It has to be somewhere in the middle, controlled but not precise.
  • An example occurs in the second book of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, when Vin counters Zane's ability to see the future by using his movements to figure out what she's going to do next, and then doing something else.
  • In Fred Saberhagen's early Berserker stories, the berserkers were omnicidal self-replicating war machines whose combat strategies were driven by a random number generator, seeking to avoid predictability at almost any cost. As the series progressed, this aspect of the berserkers' programming came up less and less often and the berserkers' strategies became much more logical.
  • The woman known as Schrodinger's Cat in Eric Flint's Joes World series. When she fights it's possible to keep track of where she is, or what she's about to do, but not both.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden often defeats opponents with hundreds, sometimes thousands of years of experience on him, buttloads more magical talent and skill, and vastly superior physical abilities often by doing things that are the exact opposite of sensible. With a bit of every Gambit trope ever thrown in. Yes, even Unwitting Pawn. On Harry.
  • In Larry Niven's The Ringworld Throne and Ringworld's Children, doing this sort of thing is the only way Luis Wu can stay in the game against the superhumanly smart protectors... until he becomes a protector himself.
  • Achilles from the Ender’s Game. While not as intelligent as the other battle school students, he is able to outsmart them all by keeping them guessing. This is particularly frustrating to Bean, who eventually kills him by being unpredictable himself; in Shadow of the Giant, Achilles trusts that Bean will act to preserve his unborn embryos, but Bean elects to shoot him and let them die, rationalizing that it is for the greater good and Achilles likely was either bluffing or intended to kill them regardless.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish is a proponent of this style, and after he arranges the killing of Joffrey and takes Sansa on his ship tells her that when executing a plan, it is important to sometimes appear to be working against one's aims, just to keep the enemy guessing.
  • Light And Dark The Awakening Of The Mageknight: Alsono's preferred form of combat is being unpredictable. Combined with Fragile Speedster and his opponents have no idea what he's doing at any given moment.
  • In The Sea of Trolls, Berserkers are immune to trolls' mind-reading powers because their mindless, frenzied style of fighting is impossible for the trolls to decipher.
  • In the Twilight series, Alice (who can read future intentions from people's minds) cannot read the wolf-transforming Quileute tribe because, when acting as wolves, they act on instinct and have no clear "intent" to read.
  • Book 1 of Darren Shan's Demonata series starts off with the main character spending most of his childhood learning to play chess, specifically so that he could grow up to challenge a demon whose sole hobbies are playing chess and tormenting the protagonist's family throughout history though no one bothered to tell him that part until later. When he does ultimately face down the demon, he realizes that the only way to beat someone who has spent literally millenia doing nothing but playing chess, is to pay absolutely no attention to the games at all, instead spending the time chattering inanely and only looking at the boards enough to ensure he didn't move a piece illegally. He wins, and in the process frustrates the demon so badly that Lord Loss proceeds to all but flip the table in his indignation and announce that Grubs's performance was a disgrace to the game, then pretty much rage-quit that plane of existence.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Engine Sentai Go-onger, Hiramekimedes, master of Awesomeness by Analysis, kept losing to Hiroto, who was even better at it... so he went One-Winged Angel and adopted a nonsense-based style, calling himself Detaramedes (detarame = nonsense), fighting crazily and yelling things like "1+1=300!" He was winning until Sousuke, who has the usual Hot-Blooded hero's style of "charge in mindlessly and win via plot convenience," stepped in. Throwing his sword and riding it like a surfboard, he managed to finalize Detaramedes singlehandedly.
  • Doctor Who: The idea is sort-of mentioned in passing in Resurrection of the Daleks. The Daleks, and their enemies the Movellans, are engaged in a war against each other. Both sides are more machine than animal (the Movellans are possibly androids, maybe cybernetically enhanced bio-forms), and each side controls their entire battle fleet from a giant supercomputer. Because both fleets are using purely logical tactics, the computers never launch an attack, as the opposing computer can instantly create a counterattack scenario. They both realise that the only way for either side to win is to turn off their battle computer and do something random, as a totally logical battle plan is doomed to fail due to its own predictability.
    • And invoked by the Doctor in the first season finale of the new series: The Doctor has no plan, and that just scares the Daleks to death.
      • The Eleventh Doctor suggests attacking an armada of evil alien spaceships with 3 unarmed people because they'll never expect it. He then mentions that the reason they'd never expect it is because they would kill them instantly and tries to think of another plan.
      • The best part about his plan? He eventually resorts to it, simply standing, seemingly fearlessly, atop Stonehenge to face an enormous armada of fully armed alien battleships, whilst giving a speech about just how awesome he is and how afraid all his enemies should be of him, given how many times he has defeated them from a seemingly unwinnable position, and urging them to 'let someone else try first'. All the spaceships run away.
  • Smart Guy: Child Prodigy TJ is beaten at chess by a computer. In the rematch, he wins by deliberately making bad/random moves, having learned while practicing how hard it is to play against someone who doesn't know how to play well. The computer virtually melts down in response.
    • believe it or not this is, almost, Truth in Television. Beating a computer this way may not work, but it's definitely possible to last longer against computers of TJ era by playing randomly. This is because computers play chess by calculating every possible move, and every possible move that results from every possible move etc etc. They will do this while your thinking, and they are better at it then you are. By playing quickly it's possible to drastically shorten the time a computer has to process and so force them to make worse moves because they had to play before they finished calculating. This has proven effective against Big Blue and similar computers.
  • A variation appears in Star Trek: The Next Generation, where the android Data proves unable to beat a Stratagema grandmaster. For their rematch, he intentionally plays to draw rather than win, and frustrates the grandmaster to the point that he leaves the table.
  • A variation in Glee, when the football team performs the dance from Beyonce's "Single Ladies" to the utter bafflement of the opposing team... which gives them the window of opportunity needed to score a touchdown.
  • Farscape's John Crichton, whose best moments usually come when a plan fails horribly and he resorts to taking advantage of the confusion and winging it. It helps that he's pretty much slipped aside the bonds of sanity to be able to accept his circumstances by halfway through the first season.
  • This is [[Trickster Sheridan's]] favourite tactic in Babylon5 and it's implied that other races are afraid and suspicious of humans because of their frequent use of unconventional tactics and overall unpredictability.

    Music 
  • James Brown doesn't know karate, but he knows ka-razy.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer:
    • Orcs have the Animosity special rule, meaning that each turn there's a chance that any given greenskin mob might ignore orders and squabble amongst itself, shoot at or even charge a friendly unit making funny faces at them, or let loose a mighty "WAAAGH!" and charge at the enemy. If the army's general can't predict how it's going to behave, how can the enemy?
    • Skaven are similar. Is that ratling gun going to fire more lead than an entire Empire battalion or explode into white hot fragments? Will the Warp Lightning cannon blow a hole in the battlefield or electrocute half your own side? These are the questions to keep your oponent on their toes.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Orks have the dreaded Shokk Attack Gun, which has a lengthy table for both critical failures and critical successes, meaning that whenever it fires something interesting is going to happen. Looted vehicles have a chance of jolting forward each turn when their drivers hit the wrong button. Hitting a ramshackle Trukk dead-on with a lascannon might make it clatter apart comically without injuring its occupants, or send the flaming wreck veering off like a missile. Madboyz might tear the enemy general apart with their bare hands or stand around picking grubs out of each others' noses...
    • If an Inquisitor calls in an orbital bombardment both sides get edgy, and not just because it's starship-grade ordnance being fired at the table. Because the targeting is taking place miles above the battlefield, accuracy is somewhat compromised, so the most you can say is that something within 24" of a landmark is about to have a very bad day.
    • Chaos Daemons deploy after the enemy army is done setting up, or to paraphrase Sun Tzu they can discern the enemy's form while remaining formless. Unfortunately when they do deploy only half of the Daemonic army starts out on the board, with the rest having a random chance of turning up each subsequent turn.
    • Deep Striking in general works out like this. You can set down those drop troops or tunneling monsters anywhere on the board, but there's a chance that they'll deviate from the point you designate, and if they try to land in impassible terrain or an enemy unit they either suffer a one-turn delay or Critical Existence Failure.
    • As a meta-example, certain players. Kids new to the hobby might have picked up whatever units they thought looked coolest (such as half-naked chicks wielding six-foot chainsaws) without having an inkling of what they're actually capable of. Other gamers might be trying out a wonky new army list, thrown together a kit almost at random, or are deliberately trying to baffle their opponents.
    • An in-universe example is found in the 5th Edition Necron codex - Imotekh the Stormlord is an incredibly skilled general, bordering on prescience of his opponents' tactics, represented in-game to make him three times more likely than anyone else to steal the initiative and take the first turn due to him out-thinking and countering his opponents' plans. However, as an enemy without a plan can never be out-planned, he will always fail to steal the initiative against Orks due to the sheer impossibility of second-guessing total anarchy.
    • On a strategic level, this is something that the Eldar are well known for. Their seers are skilled in reading the skein of fate to divine the future and heavily employ Combat Clairvoyance, both in personal combat and in planning their warhost's maneuvers. Since the smallest thing can have unexpectedly powerful effects on the future, this has the effect of giving the Eldar at war the appearance of being very random and impossible to predict, when in fact it is all part of a very carefully planned gambit.
  • An old staple in Dungeons & Dragons, starting with 2nd edition, is the Wild Mage. Conceptually, his casting power level is modified by a die roll whenever casting a spell, and each spell has a small chance of producing a "wild surge", which is something completely random from a long list. The original list had 100 entries, but various fanmade lists on the Internet are far longer. Then he gets a spell that does nothing except produce a random effect. In 4th edition, this is severely toned down. The "Chaos Sorcerer" has numerous random effects (such as attacks that deal damage of a random element) but lacks true wild effects because they don't fit the strict ruleset, or because they would be disadvantageous to the caster. Usually a player character (and this can be highly frustrating to the other player characters), but there's nothing stopping the Dungeon Master from throwing one at you.
    • The new Chaos Sorcerer has an element of unpredictability in most of his attacks. Heck, every attack you make has a 10% chance of moving everyone on the battlefield either toward you or away from you.
    • Before that, there was the Wand of Wonder, which was Wild Magic on a Stick. Best used when desperate... or bored.
    • The Wild Mage in D&D Miniatures also has the Wild Surge, but its effect simply modifies spell damage. Contrasted with the Green Slaad, a chaos monster whose spells also have random effects but could include fireballing your own army.
    • Speaking of Slaadi, as embodiments of pure chaos they do everything this way. This should certainly include fighting.
      • In 2nd Edition Planescape, Slaadi were discussed as having utterly chaotic personalities, but preferring to fight their enemies one-on-one is slugging matches just so each individual would prove how tough he was.
    • Planescape in its various expansions discussed how Confusion Fu was actually a weakness of the tanar'ri (demons). Their unpredictability meant they couldn't get together and make a plan against their enemies, as they'd go off and do whatever they felt like. Even a bad plan is better than disorder, and their enemies (the devils) usually had excellent plans. Every once in a while, the tanar'ri would do something absolutely brilliant out of sheer chaos, but most of the times they simply relied on We Have Reserves.
    • A 3rd edition sourcebook included "Drunken Boxer" as a Prestige Class.
    • In Pathfinder and editions 1-3.5, an inexperienced player playing an illusionist will have trouble figuring out what to do with the class. A good illusionist will have the party's enemies chasing shadows, running into walls, falling off cliffs, and attacking their allies by mistake long before reaching 5th level. Unlike some Confusion Fu classes, the illusionist has to confuse his enemies with well-controlled and clever use of his powers, not rely on randomness.
  • Paranoia has the infamous Probability Grenade, which can and do end sessions in a TCK (that's Total Complex Kill, yup). The list, however, is so off the wall that it can only go here. You will learn to fear result 00 (which puts what happens entirely in the hands of the Game Master).
  • Feng Shui has a martial arts style based upon consuming alcohol. Yes, that's right, consuming alcohol. Needless to say, some of those fights can get a little strange...
  • In Magic: The Gathering, the flavor text for Spiraling Duelist alludes to this: "I never move the same way twice. The rotters can't grasp chaos."
    • From an actual gameplay sense, this can come up in tournaments thanks to so called 'rogue' decks. Every deck has things it can't deal with, so there's a 'sideboard' of 15 cards that can be swapped into the deck between games to help deal with the opponent's deck in any given match. Some players are able to devastate tournaments by using new strategies that players don't have a way to counter with their sideboard. Of course, the deck has to be powerful enough to beat the unsideboarded version of the top decks as well...
    • Some cards have randomness determining their effects (most often coin flips) which can really mess up the enemy or even the player who played it. Goblin assassin has a 50% chance of forcing EITHER player to sacrifice a creature any time it or another goblin is played.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, when you declare the target of an effect (when you activate a card but before its effect resolves), your opponent can Chain cards according to your target to counter it. If your card requires selecting a random target, then you're not declaring the target, so your opponent doesn't get an opportunity to Chain.
  • In the game Flash Duel, most characters have abilities that strengthen or debuff their opponents in a fantasy style sparing match. Lum's abilities plays a different game altogether. One ability allows the player to win for having a Poker Flush, or his other ability (out of three) gives your opponent a chance to forfeit the match to avoid losing the game!
  • Zig-zagged in Burn Legend. While the completely random "pick a move arbitrarily" system tends to fade away as players gain more experience and begin planning out what counters they're likely to need next turn, randomly chosen moves still have their place - occasionally you'll pick a move that counters their move, when they thought they were countering yours. Of course, just as often you'll pick moves that have nothing to do with each other. Tennin tend to be the worst at this, since their combat style is heavily formalised.

    Video Games 
  • In fighting games the general term for using psychology against you opponent is "mind games". Common mind games include rapidly changing attack patterns as soon your opponent think he has you figured out, or randomly switching between highly aggressive and defensive play styles.
  • MMORPG EVE Online is notoriously immune to this, ship fittings are crucial to attaining victory, meaning ship fits done poorly will simply result in newbies being crushed (this is of course, a game where a group of low experience players can take down a veteran, since combat mechanics are not reliant on experience point total or reflexes). This is part of what makes the game infamous for its brutal learning curve.
    • Great players play this straight - Bad players simply don't know what they're doing and aren't really invoking this trope in the first place. Good players know what tactics work and stick to them making them easily figured out and planned against. Great players know that being predictable means your enemy likely knows how to counter what you plan to do, so liberal doses of randomness can keep them guessing and score impressive victories with bizarre strategies that shouldn't actually work.
  • It's this basic principle that occasionally lets inexperienced button mashers beat experienced players in fighting games (and other games) at least a few times. Skilled players and the AI are generally predictable, but it can be tricky fighting a flailing foe whose moves are often the worst in a normal situation.
  • 3D Fighter Maker.
  • Voldo in Soul Calibur. Very few characters in the series can keep up a volley of attacks at an opponent while facing the opposite direction. Or while prone. And then there's his variety of interesting grab attacks, the most acrobatic of which is occasionally known by the Fan Nickname of "Where's Voldo Now?"
    • Ditto with Yoshimitsu. Yoshimitsu's repertoire includes propeller-based flight, teleportation, healing himself from the Lotus Position, Seppuku, spinning until dizzy, using his swords as stilts or pogo sticks, and a health-draining face grab, to name a few. Sometimes several of the above occur at once, and the health-drain also unlocks limited usage of a small move pool consisting of an attack borrowed from each Tekken character.
    • Also applies to Maxi: he has seven different stances and different moves from them, making him difficult to read.
    • Can be used when playing Stance Roulette with Siegfried by rapidly switching between his 4 different stances and mixing up the attacks deployed from them.
    • Nearly half of Xianghua's style revolves around the use of feints, counter stances, and evasive manuevers to either avoid attack, or position herself to attack. Her counter stances are purposely designed to make her appear open to attack and are usually accompanied by a taunt to bait the opponent, but they're recognized by the brief purple glow of her sword. If they fall for it, she'll auto-impact their attack and immediately follow up with an auto-counter (where she'll say: "Gotcha!"). And she can take it a step further, since many of her attacks can be delayed, or cancelled (which is indicated by "Just kidding!") to throw off their timing.
    • While all of the aforementioned characters are using unconventional stances to make their movements hard to read, nobody epitomizes this trope in Soul Calibur more than Lord Geo "Le Bello" Dampierre, a con artist with a pair of punching daggers appearing in Broken Destiny and V. Dampierre's damage output is pitiful compared to most characters, his range is practically nil, and he tends to take a lot of damage from attacks. What Dampierre has going for him, however, is how utterly bizarre his attacks are. A number of his moves involve him hurting himself and falling over, but Dampierre is one of the only characters who's at his most dangerous sprawling on the ground; characters unfamiliar with his fighting style are likely to eat several dangerous low-line attacks or Dampierre's extremely long and surprisingly damaging attack throw. While virtually all of Dampierre's moves look utterly ridiculous, he can prove himself a Lethal Joke Character very quickly if someone just pays attention to him moonwalking, stubbing his toe during a kick, or russian dancing to air-juggle rather than the damage or ring-outs this can cause.
    • Charade from II mimics a random fighter every round. So does Inferno (plus a few exclusive moves,) only with all the flames covering it it can make it harder for his opponent to see who he's mimicking.
  • Kefka in Dissidia: Final Fantasy. He doesn't shoot fireballs at you; he tosses out fireballs that zig-zag to hit from the sides, or stop and change direction at random. He doesn't shoot an ice block at you; he shoots an ice block that stops partway through the air, then explodes into shrapnel. His meteors don't hit you, they hit around you and fly at you after bouncing on the ground. His EX Mode ability makes all of his attacks even crazier; his fireballs multiply after being thrown, that ice shrapnel homes in you on a second time after the initial shatter, and those meteors bounce in place when they land before zooming at you. There's a reason his fighting style is dubbed "Mad Mage".
    • The sequel, Dissidia 012, gave this attribute to Gilgamesh. With every melee attack, he picks a random weapon out of eight, each with varying effects. The Naginata has increased attack range, Masamune gives you double EX Force from hits, Excalibur does double damage, Excalipoor does one damage with every hit, and so on. However, unlike Kefka, Gilgamesh becomes more predictable in EX Mode, choosing a set of weapons and sticking with it until he reverts to his normal form.
  • Jack in Power Stone. He walks on all fours with knifes in his hands and feet and has surprisingly long reach despite his main weapon being daggers. His Power Stone form has the longest non-projectile reach and has giant chainsaw hands with unique combos.
  • Claymores in Modern Warfare online are only dangerous when placed at precise angles around corners... or in the middle of the ground with no rhyme or reason.
  • Mr. Game & Watch and Wario in Super Smash Bros., thanks to their low-frame animations. Also, Game & Watch has genuine unpredictability in his Judgment attack.
    • Luigi, starting in Melee, is a mild case of this. Although he looks like Mario, his moves function notably differently, throwing many people off. Several of his moves are designed to come from nowhere, his Green Missile can randomly launch him at killer speeds, and several of his moves (most notably his forward+A on the ground) are designed to be longer than they look. His floaty nature and low traction make him hard to combo. Finally, his Final Smash move in Brawl is just plain weird, inflicting random status ailments on enemies (and inflicting sitar music on all the players).
    • Sonic is another mild case; the unpredictability comes from the sheer number of his moves that start with very similar spinning animations but do wildly different things and the fact that he can still attack after his recovery move.
      • In particular, the Smash Bros. Wiki has severe trouble in gauging Sonic's Tier level, since, while the character doesn't perform universally well in tournaments (unlike high tier characters, such as Meta Knight) Sonic performs so radically different depending on who is playing him that any kind of tier level is theoretical at best.
      • It also helps that, under certain circumstances, he can instantly shield out of some of his spins (during side-B's charge if it's not fully wound up, and during a down-B spindash if you're in the air and land).
    • Some of the characters, while otherwise predictable, have one or two moves that can mess with people's heads. Mario's cape attack flips the directions his enemies are facing, which can confuse new players that don't know why they suddenly are attacking backwards. King Dedede's projectile normally is just a Waddle Dee, but has a small chance being a Waddle Doo, a Gordo, or an item.
    • Similarly, Peach usually uproots turnips from the ground, but every so often she'll get a Bob-omb.
    • One of the reasons Meta Knight is the only one in S class in the tier list is that almost all of his special attacks can be used as recovery moves (on top of his five jumps) so it is impossible to predict how he will get back on the stage. Also his down B teleport move can really mess with people's heads.
    • Lucario has insanely weird hitboxes.
    • Olimar uses Pikmin in all of his attacks. Each color of Pikmin has different properties, and when Olimar creates them, they spawn randomly. When Olimar performs an attack, the line cycles, so his next attack will use the next Pikmin in line. This means that different strategies open up depending on what order your Pikmin are in. Fun times for both players.
    • A meta-example (not unique to Super Smash Bros., but a good example) if using the random character select in tournaments - provided you're at least competent with all characters, your opponent not knowing who they're about to face until the last second can let you get the drop on them before they have a counter-strategy worked out.
      • Of course, if you run into someone who's Seen It All, expect to get trounced. (That is why most people stick to learning one or two characters.)
    • Dash-dancing in Melee largely attempts to achieve this effect.
  • Brad Wong from Dead or Alive uses Drunken Boxing, making his movements indirect and unpredictable.
    • Due to the nature of the counter system in Dead or Alive, making your character do this is one of the most significant skills.
  • Guilty Gear
    • Faust. Three of his moves are explicitly random, one super involves swimming through concrete, and his Dust (a universal popup attack) has him become a tornado, change into a child with a baseball bat, smash the opponent, and tornado back. In XX, Venom challenges him to a fight on the grounds that he needs to train against someone who doesn't follow human logic.
    • Zappa. He's an ordinary man, who happens to be possessed by no fewer than seven different ghosts, and they do the fighting by using him as a puppet, leading to incredibly strange attacks and movements. He also randomly summons these ghosts one at a time, changing his moveset as he goes. While the player has no way of telling what ghost might pop up next, neither does the opponent.
  • Tekken:
    • Eddie Gordo (and his student Christie Montiero), with his weird capoeira ground-fighting moves, is sometimes impossible to predict unless you know his character inside and out. Not only that, most of the moves those characters use cannot be reversed. A random button masher using these characters is actually much harder to beat then someone who actually trying to do moves they plan on, until they truly master the character.
    • Lei Wulong has several different stances, plus a variety of moves that can be used from the ground or while facing the other direction.
    • Ling Xiaoyu also has two stances, some effective combos that hit someone behind her, and the ability to roll or cartwheel off to the side of her opponent.
    • Dr. Boskonovich from Tekken 3 has an unfortunate tendency to fall over for no apparent reason but capitalizes on it with several ground combos.
      • In Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Dr. B's moves are vaguely similar to Dampierre in that half of his goofy moves cause him to reel in pain, which puts him in a good position to mixup his opponents. He also explodes a lot, either for juggles, mobility, or making his moves safe.
    • Mokujin. At the beginning of each round, he randomly chooses the moveset of a random character to fight with.
    • Zafina from 6. Her attacks are similar to Voldo from the Soul series in that her movement is highly unpredictable, full of extreme body contortions and sneaky attacks. Hitting her can also be challenging as she can get her body very low to the ground. Unfortunately, that hasn't saved her from being low tier.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Most Nobodies in have some degree of unpredictability, due to their random stretching and boneless flailing. Organization XIII members (in fact, any Nobodies resembling regular humans) don't have this advantage. Not that they need it.
    • The Mysterious Figure. You never know just how he'll two-shot you. Maybe he'll do his spear-whip two times in a row, or maybe he'll do his blade combos after it, or maybe his tornado attack. Or perhaps he'll use Megaflare and then some unavoidable thing before you can cast Curaga. Or maybe he'll just do a random combo of all of these while having ten copies of himself running around the field doing each their own thing as little balls of light fly around trying to stab you with more spears, lagging your PSP to high-heaven.
    • Rinzler, who has a rather weird flipping attack style that hits at strange times (and hits hard), which is not helped by the changing gravity. No wonder he's That One Boss.
  • Pokémon:
    • Some Pokémon do this. Mew can learn all TM and HM moves in the game and has the stats to do fine in whichever archetype it needs. Smeargle takes this even further; while its stats are much worse, it learns Sketch, which permanently copies a move and can be used to learn almost any move that exists in the game. (Save Sketch itself and Chatter)More subtly, there's Clefable in Gen. IV, whose new oh-so-abusable ability and large movepool allow for a ridiculous number of viable movesets, many of which are completely unique (while being kept from being a Game Breaker by mediocre stats).
    • Similarly, Arceus's ability, Multitype, allows it to become any one of the 18 elemental Pokémon types, providing that it is holding the corresponding plate for each type (i.e., Draco Plate for Dragon-type).
    • Salamence was arguably banned in Generation IV due to a minor case of this combined with being rather powerful in its own right. Its two primary sets, MixMence and DDMence, were almost exactly the same barring one move—Draco Meteor for MixMence and Dragon Dance for DDMence—and possibly different EV spreads. Each set had radically different counters, and its checks generally relied on either a choice item or Stealth Rock. Very little could counter both sets, and the few things that could had their own weaknesses.
    • Lucario. This thing has a movepool so massive it's staggering, and it has the stats to run either side of the offensive spectrum. It most commonly runs a physical set... whih makes surprise special sets all the more dangerous as they utterly demolish most of what would normally counter it. In fact it's pretty much stated that Lucario has no counters whatsoever, absolutely nothing is guaranteed to be safe against it. In fact, its main weakness is the fact that it can only run four moves at a time. (So it's generally easy to counter after you know what it's using, but by that time the damage may have already been done.)
    • Zoroark, introduced in Pokémon Black and White, evokes this at times, as its ability, Illusion, pushes players to carefully discern whether they are actually facing the Pokémon they are seeing or a Zoroark in disguise instead.
    • Metronome is an attack capable of causing the Pokémon to use any available move in the game. The move Assist has a similar but more controlled effect, as the Pokémon using it will pull off a random move from any of its party member's current movepools. Sleep Talk is a very minor example of this, as it uses one of the user's other moves at random.
      • Played with in the anime, where May's Munchlax and Skitty probably won more contests with Metronome and Assist (respectively) than without.
    • Greninja can become a master in Confusion Fu thanks to its Hidden Ability, Protean. While Greninja is normally Water/Dark, Protean allows it to change into the type of whatever move it's about to use. Since Greninja can outspeed 97% of the entire Pokedex*, and its movepool includes everything from Flying to Psychic, this means it can pretty much turn into any type that would screw over its opponent the most, especially opponents with a type advantage over it.
    • Showderp is a group of competitive Pokemon players that specializes in this, with varying degrees of success.
  • Bal-Baros in Virtual-ON: Oratorio Tangram can leave his arms and hip-guns floating anywhere around the stage, meaning his can hit you from unexpected angles if you're not careful.
  • Players in World of Warcraft who make active use of the Engineering profession for combat purposes often succumb to this. Most of their gadgets have a chance of backfiring, so an engineer toting a net launcher may snare a foe for several seconds, or launch themselves headfirst into melee with the foe. Rocket boots may yield a short but powerful burst of speed, or they may explode and hit everyone nearby. The shrink ray is guaranteed to change the size of something, but whether something grows or shrinks, and whether that something is the wielder or the target is up to chance.
    • Engineers fit this trope and the Glass Cannon one as well. Due to high cost and low profit margins, players who specialize in engineering are traditionally some of the poorest in the game, with the crappiest armor and weapons. Fighting one can be a Curb-Stomp Battle or you can find yourself turned into a chicken and taking over 5000 damage from a death ray.
    • The randomness to Engineer craftables was eliminated with the second expansion; now everything works and is guaranteed to work. Perhaps to make up for that, everything was nerfed to hell.
  • In the online MMORPG Dofus, there's a class based on doing damage on the roll of a die or the flip of a coin called Ecaflip's Coin. Two attacks even go out and heal the target after it damages it.
  • Touhou character Marisa Kirisame does this in the fighting game spin-offs of the series, Immaterial and Missing Power and Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, with quick and annoying attacks that mess with combos, including the dreaded "Butt Attack".
    • Hisoutensoku added Suwako, who takes this trait and amps it to 11. Her default standing position is ducking, ducking makes her taller by summoning a lily pad underneath her, she air dashes by flapping her arms, she swims through the ground in both her ground dash and several of her moves, and many of her attacks involve summoning trees in various places. She does not even walk. She hops.
    • Both Scarlet Weather Rhapsody and Hisoutensoku involve some random factor because of the weather and deck system: The weather will mess with you depending on which one that comes up, while the deck system allows you to either change your moveset on the fly or use super moves at the cost of cards.
    • We might as well add Hong Meiling's final opponent. You've been fighting against typical opponents, all the while the background gradually becomes more simple in style. Then a giant catfish shows up. You already know the entire battle will be random.
    • Reisen Udongein Inaba has shades of this in both shooters and fighting games. In shooters, she uses bullets that can shift, turn, multiply, stop and/or become invisible mid-flight. In fighting games, her moveset is similarly built around deceptive attacks, like a missile whose explosion appears ahead of the missile itself, two physical attacks that look the exact same on startup, or attacks that use illusionary copies that may or may not be able to attack on their own. The kicker? Many of her illusion copy attacks involve movement with the copy being created mid attack or just after making you wonder if she followed through or if the follow through is a decoy...the difference between the 'heavy' and 'light' versions of the attack are which image is the decoy so have fun guessing.
    • And the fighting game Hopeless Masquerade added the Unexpected Character, Koishi Komeiji. What wasn't unexpected was that she would use confusion-fu. What was unexpected was how random and confusing it would turn out to be. Well enough for the fact that her normal attacks include things like sneezing (which fails by having Koishi catch her nose if attempted twice in quick succession) or having an Idea Bulb, her forward dash has her turn intangible while prancing onwards and, after a few steps, skips... which is actually an attack, by the way... The top of the mousse is that one of her attack buttons doesn't do anything. Until slightly later on in the fight, provided certan conditions are met. At first she's likely to be just as unpredictable to the one using her as she is to the opponent.
      "Koishi is a silly character that no one fully understands yet. Please wait warmly while Koishi mains start to learn what they're doing."
  • Punch-Out!!'s Aran Ryan, Wii version. He never holds still and slides all about the ring throwing in random punches. He's also a foul stinking cheat and incorporates headbutts, elbow strikes, horseshoes in his gloves and perhaps most blatantly of all a boxing glove on a rope that he swings around like a flail, into his attacks. Also, he's fucking crazy. We mentioned the crazy, right?
    • Every Minor (except Disco Kid) and Major Circuit fighter in Title Defense has some sort of feint, delayed attack, or other unpredictable movement, which is the main source of the mode's Nintendo Hard reputation.
      • Even Disco Kid to some degree, as his left jab can be delayed or not, though he's not as bad as everyone else.
    • Donkey Kong beats even Don Flamenco in the taunt-and-counter department, with multiple taunts, each with their own counter-attacks, and a lot of his attacks have similar build-ups. And sometimes he'll just accidentally hit himself in the face and give you a free star.
  • BlazBlue has the insane Eldritch Abomination Arakune, who fights much like you'd expect an insane blob-thing to fight. He can teleport, turn invisible, glide, fire out projectile clouds with random properties, and some of his moves are actually fake-outs for teleports.
    • BlazBlue is made by the people who made Guilty Gear, home of the Trope picture. Arakune is even more crazy than he is. His unofficial nickname is Where The Fuck Is He Now, because that's all anyone could say when they fought him after the initial release.
    • Now accompanied by Platinum the Trinity, who has six different modes to switch between. Her randomness is limited by the fact that her next mode can be seen by both players, but anything beyond that is as random as Zappa's ghosts.
  • Virtua Fighter. Shun Di, especially in VF 4 Evo: starts out predictable, but you get enough drinks in him, and there's basically no position he can't be a threat from.
    • Real life example, certain VF players use a playstyle called abare which emphasizes using an unusual style outside of what is considered the safe way to play a character to win a match.
  • Dawn of War 2: In "Last Stand" mode, the hero Ork Mekboy has two types of teleporter armor. The standard "Teleporta Pack" allows controllable teleporting within a certain range. The other is the "Mad Teleporta Pack"; this grants the Reactive Escape and Reactive Teleport traits. The former trait is a 15% chance to teleport the mekboy to a random nearby location when the Mekboy is hit by a melee attack whilst the latter is a 50% chance to teleport the attacker to a random nearby location when the Mekboy is hit by a melee attack. The result of this is that when fighting a wave primarily composed of melee troops both you and your opponents are being more or less constantly teleported around the arena with absolutely no control over it. Its worth noting that from a practical perspective this is probably not a very helpful piece of equipment as it is just as likely to throw you into danger as get you out of it.
    • This has improved even further lately with the "Juiced up tellyporta" accessory which adds the "Ported!!" trait. Now the act of teleporting anything causes it to explode at the end of its journey. This includes both enemies and yourself. So now not only do melee enemies get randomly teleported away but the majority instantly die at the end of it in an explosion. And if you yourself get teleported you blow up anything you teleport into.
  • In Lufia: the Legend Returns , Ruby has a few moves that rely on pure chance, such as "Fortune Dice", which simply has randomized effects, and "Double Up", which makes you play a card-guessing game to increase the power of the attack - a good run can be incredibly devastating, but guess wrong even once and you get a laughably weak attack. Of course, she's a habitual gambler whom you meet in a casino.
  • Final Fantasy has the Gambler class. Gamblers use slot machines, dice, and other random factors in their special abilities, which sometimes produce awesomeness and sometimes... don't. Examples include Setzer, Cait Sith, Selphie, Wakka, and anyone using the class in Final Fantasy X-2.
    • Final Fantasy XI 's Corsair is a variation. Like the Bard, his job revolves around giving the party Status Buffs, but he can make the make the buffs much more powerful with a "Double Down". Bad luck (or just being to greedy) can result in a "Bust", negating the buff.
    • To give you an idea of just how awesome the results can be, and how very far from awesome they can, these abilities typically include a One-Hit Kill attack on the entire enemy party. In some games it even works on bosses. In Final Fantasy VIII it works on the final boss. On the other hand, you can also end up activating a full-party One-Hit Kill against yourself. There are a wide variety of other possible outcomes, ranging from useless to decently helpful, which are all more common than either of the extreme outcomes.
  • Archer of Fate/stay night. He's an archer-class who prefers to Dual Wield swords in melee combat. His dress, weapons, and abilities do not match those of any known mythological hero, his personality is decisively non-heroic, and he has a magus-level knowledge of magical phenomenon, making it impossible to identify him. On top of this, he is shown to use multiple Noble Phantasms belonging to very different myths, in some cases even sundering the Phantasms as part of his attacks, normally a near-unthinkable, one-time Taking You with Me attack — and no explanation as to where he acquired his Phantasms is forthcoming. Due to this, none of the other Servants can predict him, often giving him the advantage even though he statistically is one of the weakest of the Servants.
    • In addition, Kuzuki is master of an unconventional martial art that incorporates odd, hooked and snake-like movements: while this makes it less energy effective, attempting to dodge or block attacks as if they were straight punches from a "normal" style allows the user to hook back and pierce the opponents' defence, landing telling blows. Once the enemy sees through the unusual movement pattern, however, the style loses its effectiveness.
      • Adding on to the entry about Archer: His fighting style itself is refined to inflict as much confusion as possible. He deliberately leaves openings in his guard so that he can control and counter where his opponents will strike, which has the added effect of making it difficult to tell if a slip up is exactly that or just a ploy. The swords that he wields he will throw like boomerangs at random trajectories, only to pull new ones out of thin air. Just about all servants have a trick or two up their sleeve, but Archer is the only one who games his every opponent from the get go.
  • Dhalsim from Street Fighter is quite possibly the first fighting game character to use this style, as his various angled jump attacks and different teleportation moves make him great at screwing with the opponent's head.
    • Gen from the first Street Fighter onward has two different fighting styles that he switch on the fly, even when getting attacked, jumping, attacking, etc.. The fighting styles not only change his attacks, but also change his jump and walk physics, give him multiple supers (four at a time in Street Fighter IV), and change his standing and crouching hurtboxes. If a Gen player uses him just right (much, much easier said than done), the opponent will never be able to predict his next move.
    • In later versions, we're given Crimson Viper, El Fuerte and Abel, all introduced in Street Fighter IV, and each one whose primary gameplay revolves entirely around scoring a single knockdown and keeping your opponent in an endless guessing game.
  • Havok from Mortal Kombat: Deception and Armageddon is basically Mortal Kombat's answer to Voldo: A rotting corpse that rotates its limbs and neck, making it extremely unpredictable and visually unsettling.
  • In the Mega Man Battle Network games that involve a light/dark system, one side effect of going dark is the ability to pull random Battle Chips out of goddamn nowhere. When you fight a DS Navi (most often MegaMan's own dark side), you can be moments from winning, only to get slaughtered by a GigaChip. But since this is random, DS Navis are just as likely to use low-level chips or miss you completely. If you choose to go dark yourself, you get the same ability in a modified form — your dark side will take over when your HP runs out, fighting randomly for a while. In this case you'd better hope for good random draws, because you come out of berserk mode with just 1 HP.
  • RuneScape has a small version of this; the Vyrewatch are a specific enemy that are normally undefeatable; it's said that they are able to read your mind so that they can predict your moves. Thus, you have to use an unpredictable weapon to land a strike on them. The Ivandis flail is a weapon which can only be controlled in a general sense - "swing it at that guy". Even the wielder can't tell where the blow will land, or from what angle, so the predictive telepathy is worse than useless.
    • Oddly, the more Vyrewatch you kill with the flail, the more skilled you become with it... but counterintuitively, this improves the flail's efficacy, rather than allowing you (and thus the telepathic Vyrewatch) to predict its movement better. A true straight playing of Confusion Fu would have the flail become slowly less effective as its wielder gained experience with it — green recruits would be the best Vyre slayers, predictable veterans would be dead meat.
      • It's entirely possible that the user's body gets more accustomed to using the flail properly, but the user's thoughts amount to little more than "swing stick, kill Vyrewatch". Being able to read a mind is pointless if the body is acting on successful previous experiences without thought.
  • Battle CAPacity has Kitsunoh and Fidgit. The former loves setting up traps with long-lasting projectiles and diagonal headbutts, while the second has insane combo ability with a long range launcher, an equally long range air catcher, and an airgrab.
  • In Defense Of The Ancients, most heroes have four skills; three normal and one ultimate. The Invoker hero has three "reagents", which grant minor buffs life increased speed or damage or regeneration, and Invoke, which grants a skill based on which reagents are active. Since there are ten possible combinations and the effects include summoning, buffing, disabling, creating temporary walls, four different attack spells (one with unlimited range), and turning invisible, it's very difficult to tell what an Invoker will do next. Since the Invoker is limited to having two skills readied at a time, it also makes him Difficult but Awesome.
  • Mass Effect 2: This trope is directly discussed by Joker and EDI. While EDI can control the ship all by herself, the Normandy can achieve maximum performance if Joker is manning the helm due to the page quote.
    • In the previous game, you can get this effect from the Mako APC. The handling is so bad that even you probably have no idea where you're going next, so the enemy are going to have serious trouble anticipating your next movement.
  • The Rogue class in Dragon Age II, even ignoring their skillset, have an unpredictable, acrobatic range to their attacks that make them impossible to counter. Adding in Subterfuge, Sabotage and Scoundrel gives them more means to sow confusion and keep on the move in battle.
  • The Japanese baseball game 98Koshien comes with an animation editor so players can customize their team's pitching animations. So much more needs to be said, but the words don't exist.
  • Hanataro from Bleach: Shattered Blade is a Joke Character who was given a story mode to fight through. Because of his ability to trip at the slightest change in wind direction, his attacks are completely unpredictable. His sword attacks heal his enemy, and the best way to beat the story mode is to trip and roll into your opponent to damage them, then run away until the match timer is over. He's not meant to be taken seriously, but he's still unpredictable.
  • While he's fairly straightforward in other aspects, Wukong from League of Legends has one move that uses this heavily: Decoy. It turns him invisible, but leaves a copy of him that explodes after a few seconds. If Wukong's opponents are not paying much attention he can make them just waste attacks and spells on his copy then get hurt by the following explosion. Or he can use the period of invisibility to get to cover, change directions after casting it to throw pursuers off his trail, not change directions because they'll think you did, and variations thereupon, or not cast it at all. The ability looks the same as if you had suddenly stopped moving, so some people will stop and their enemy will ignore the real Wukong to chase after an imaginary invisible one.
    • Also present in juking that any champ can do, changing directions at unpredictable times to throw off aim, or times where it's predictable that the enemy would attack (preemptively dodging as soon as you're in range is a fairly effective example), or changing direction the moment the enemy loses sight of you all help to dodge attacks and confuse the enemy.
    • Shaco is very adept at confusing the hell out of his enemies. He can clone himself, and the duplicate can attack but cannot use abilities. If the clone dies and he is in a tough spot, he can turn invisible—possibly to escape or to kill an unsuspecting player. He also does increased damage when attacking from behind, delivering a healthy dosage of Paranoia Fuel as well.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • The Spy can pretend to be other classes, of both his team and of his enemies, forcing the enemy team to waste ammo on anybody and being paranoid about everybody. They can also use a alternate cloaking items to drop fake body when hit, making it hard to tell if you killed the Spy or he is invisible and about to backstab you.
      • On servers with friendly fire enabled, it is ironically easier to check for spies since your teammates will flinch and cry out if they are real when you hit them and will react like a teammate on a non-friendly fire server if they are a disguised enemy spy. Of course, they will also take the full brunt of the damage you apply, so it's best not to check for spies with a high-crit-chance melee weapon, though the flamthrower will still not harm your teammates.
      • On the flip side, playing as a Spy can be made more difficult if your opponents operate this way. Randomly turning around, walking in irregular patterns, and suddenly backing up can cause many a Spy to miss his backstab, especially if he's new to the game. Spies operate heavily on knowing where their enemies would normally be, so if you're somewhere unexpected (down a back corridor, pressed against the wall where a Spy would normally walk, etc.) this can also throw Spies off, and you might even accidentally run into some invisible ones.
    • The Scout can double jump. This doesn't sound impressive, but a good Scout is a nightmare to deal with, being able to change direction while in the air and be impossible to hit, or SEE. And because of his high speed, you can never be sure whether a Scout is genuinely running away or circling around to ambush you again.
    • An increasingly common tactic with the Engineer is to put his mini-sentries in random places that make no sense outside of how unexpected they are, and then put up a new one in a different location as soon as the old one is destroyed.
    • The randomizer mod gives everyone this. Scouts with sniper rifles? Spies with miniguns? Backstabbing Soldiers? Heavies with flamethrowers? Rocket launcher Pyros? It's all possible, and you have no way to know what weapon your foe is carrying until he fires.
    • Due to the way this game handles lag, someone with a bad connection can be a nightmare to fight, what with their movements resembling Teleport Spam and their attacks fading in and out of existence without much of a pattern. Pyros are known for teleporting onto unwitting faces with the flamethrower blazing, Heavy's boolets occasionally curve around corners, Spies might backstab you in the face, or you might get struck down by a projectile that decided to appear out of thin air right in front of you, and neither you nor your opponent know when any of these might happen.
    • In Medieval Mode, where every weapon is disabled except for melee weapons (and a few others), engaging an enemy becomes a dance, as combatants will alternate between closing in and spacing themselves out until someone decides to swing.
  • Peacock from Skullgirls is an Ax-Crazy Toon who uses a huge variety of weapons and absurd objects pulled out of Hammerspace to attack her foe with. She pulls out pies, Bang Flag Guns, mallets, chainsaws and more for close-range hits. She shoots Abnormal Ammo out of her revolver, tosses walking bombs around, and can pull out a full-fledged cannon for long-ranged hits. On top of that, she has a veritable cornuciopia of random items she can summon from the sky to fall on her foe, from flower pots to pianos to steamrollers and more. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • You're practically forced to fight this way in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword; sword-wielding enemies are very good at blocking deliberate sword strikes from any direction. To hit them, you must either fool them into thinking you're swinging in one direction and then actually swing in a different direction (which is pretty tricky), or swing randomly like a maniac until you hit them.
  • In World of Tanks, one of the best ways to use the nimblest light tanks, especially the T-50-2, is being as "random" as possible in maneuvering once shots start firing. Hitting them becomes incredibly difficult, and they're known for their ability to sneak past large columns of tanks to strike at the weak artillery in the rear.
    • Also used by Camouflage-centric Tank destroyers. Basically their tactics connsist of picking the most inane spot possible, holing up in there and waiting for someone to pass by so they can blow him/her wide open with a High caliber gun.
      • This includes abusing the physics engine to hang over a cliff and shoot things under it, blowing up a building to use it as cover, and even just sitting somewhere out in the open if they have a high enough camo rating.
  • Patty Fleur in the PS3 version of Tales of Vesperia. Almost all of her attacks have random effects, some of which can actually end up damaging herself or the entire party. The things used for said attacks are just random, including a mini rocket ship she can ride out of the battlefield, presents with harmful "gifts" in them, a frying pan, and mahjong pieces.
  • Nanashi's move set in Duel Savior Destiny is mostly based around the fact that she's basically impossible to kill and can do fun stuff like throw her head at people and pop tombstones out of the ground. These and some of her other abilities make her very difficult to predict both in terms of gameplay and outside it, where she manages to score a victory over Lily and then Taiga without either having any idea what she just did.
  • Torchlight II has a skill for the Embermage that lets his attacks with a wand have a chance to cause a random effect, including acid rain, shadow bats exploding and a meteor out of nowhere. It gets better, though: The ability also applies to certain skills, including Shockbolts, which both emits several curving projectiles and has them hit enemies several times before dissipating, and every single hit has a chance to trigger an effect. High levels in both can make both your enemies and your computer fall to your knees.
  • Warlords Battlecry III: the Empire can hire "Foreign Mercenaries", which basically amounts to a random unit from another faction (basic, stronger or a general, so this covers nearly every single unit in the game) for a slightly expensive price which can be cut in half with some upgrades, making it quite cheap. It can be done as much as you like, making it perfectly possible to amass an army whose units are unknown to you and your enemy until the dice are cast, which can be a good strategy sometimes, a bad one some other times, but it's always fun.
  • Mesmers in Guild Wars 2 are considered one of the strongest classes in pvp due to their MO being screwing with your head. A properly built Mesmer can go in and out of stealth while dropping flawless clones of themselves nearly every second, guaranteeing that if you lose sight of them for even a second, odds are you won't find the real one until the clones all bum rush you for a devastating suicide bomb, followed before even more clones, rinse repeat, you're dead.
  • In Ougon Musou Kyou/Cross all of Shanon's regular attacks look accidental, hitting opponents with anything that would be used in her typical chores: serving trays and carts, entire tea sets, carpet beaters, scrubbing brushes, and her apron.
  • Dali=Dali in the mecha fighting game Schmeiser Robo pilots a Walker whose gimmick is fighting upside down. Some of his moves involve spinning wildly.
  • A minor example, but Warframe has a Warframe called Loki that contains an ability which creates a decoy of himself. This confuses enemies into attacking the decoy if it's closer to them than the player actually is. The ability, with practice, can easily block multiple enemies from attacking anyone smart enough to keep away from their targets that are affected by said decoy.
  • Haunting Ground: Daniella loves employing this tactic against Fiona; when you're hiding from her, she will wait outside of the room you're hiding in to catch you leaving, leave and then re-enter a second later when the "COAST CLEAR" text appears, and, if she's really in the mood to freak out Fiona, hide in your hiding spots between chases. When you fight her openly, she will stop at random times for no reason (or sometimes, to scream or laugh), sometimes she'll suddenly break out into a run, whack the floor near Fiona - making her flinch and therefore leave herself open to further attack - or start walking with robotic movements that can only be intended to weird the player out and distract them. Or, as a worst case scenario, she'll knock Fiona down, get on top of her and slit her throat. Game Over. No matter what, the average player will soon learn that the best strategy when facing her is to put a great distance between her and Fiona, and keep it that way.

    Web Comics 
  • Nemen Yi, the Chosen of Battles in Keychain of Creation, fights using a unorthodox Sidereal Martial Arts style that involves Medium Awareness and Breaking the Fourth Wall, literally. She jumps between panels of the comic strip, breaks off a piece of the gutter to throw at an enemy (which then pins them in place, because the gutter doesn't move), tosses her opponents across panels, and uses the perspective of the comic to hit enemies out of her reach — the Real Life equivalent of "I squish your head". It's enough to utterly baffle her Abyssal opponents, with whom she mops the floor quite handily. It doesn't hurt that, in Exalted, Sidereals can make themselves impossible to predict by most people.
    • She also looks down towards the following panels of the comic to see what will happen in the future. Yep, Sidereals.
  • Lord Sykos from The Wotch is particularly dangerous because, though his moves are random, each individual move is also incredibly clever and effective, showing a keen understanding of the psychology of most magicians.
  • Vriska of Homestuck is armed with the Fluorite Octet, a set of eight eight-sided dice that "execute a wide range of highly unpredictable attacks" when rolled; the higher the roll, the more powerful and lucky the attack. It's implied this is a bit of a double-edged sword, as getting a low roll against a sufficiently powerful opponent would leave the attacker defenseless. However when she rolls the highest possible number, all 8's,(which, incidentally, has a probability of 1/8^8 of being rolled, or 1/16,777,216) she channels the fighting soul of her ancestor and is able to go toe to toe with an omnipotent super being.
    • The Pop-A-Matic Vrillyhoo Hammer, which combines the Fluorite Octet with the Warhammer of Zillyhoo, does this, but on a smaller scale. Whenever you successfully bonk someone on the head with it, a list of 8 appears, and one status from that 8 is triggered.

    Web Original 
  • Superheroic teenager Random from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe gains a new set of superpowers every time he wakes up. This makes it impossible for his opponents to plan ahead when confronting him, as they never know what he's going to be capable of.
  • Appears on The Guild. Kwan is revealed to be a champion-level gamer in Korea. He was defeated by Mr. Wiggly, who seemingly picked his spells at random — including spells so unorthodox that Kwan hadn't bothered defending against them.
  • This Surviving The World comic advocates this strategy for Rock-Paper-Scissors.
  • Crazy Awesome Jade Sinclair (Generator) of the Whateley Universe seems to live this trope. Up against a mercenary in power armor? She beat him by first stabbing herself on his blade. Up against an unbeatable holographic simulation? She invented the Radioactive Condor Girl attack.
    • Although plenty of Team Kimba characters have tried this move at least once. Fey, opposing The Necromancer and a host of prepared spells his minion Nightgaunt was firing at her back, opted for an uncontrolled release of wild magic that manifested as hundred of hobgoblins she had no control over.
  • Mannequin from Worm has this down to a science.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Captain Planet and the Planeteers episode "Planeteers Under Glass", Dr. Blight's evil computer MAL takes over an environmental simulation and is able to block out the protagonists' attempts to regain control. Then Wheeler steps in to confuse MAL into submission by randomly inputting commands into the terminal, like he did earlier in the episode.
  • Darkwing Duck: Crazed toymaker Quackerjack. In addition to his deadly toys, his sheer instability and unexpected acrobatics make him as much of a challenge as the other members of the Fearsome Five.
  • The episode of South Park where Cartman thinks he died plays with this, in that Cartman actually intended to use his ghostly spookyness as the tactic. However, being that Cartman was entirely visible, what the criminals saw definitely qualifies as this trope, and were simply too weirded out to react.
  • Master Splinter, as befits someone that advises victory over fairness, fights like this. He'll distract his opponent anyway he can, even if that means licking them in the face. His weapon at first appears to be a cane, but conceals a knife and tangling line. And if that doesn't work, he'll drop to all fours and fight like, well, a rat, something that catches even a master ninja off guard.
  • In the ThunderCats (2011) episode "The Duelist and the Drifter" Rascally Rabbit and Trickster Mentor the Drifter befuddles opponents with his Dance Battler brand of Not Quite Flight Nonchalant Dodging that involves drifting on currents of wind like a leaf, and also employs Brandishment Bluffs, heavily exploiting the reflexive movements of those who attack him.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man Spider-Man and White Tiger use this to beat Taskmaster who can quickly copy their moves. They do this by switching weapons and turning the lights off.
    • Just like the Comic Books example above, Taskmaster has an Oh Crap moment when he hears Spider Man brought along Deadpool to capture him. Deadpool humiliates Taskmaster by dancing all over him.
  • The episode of The Legend of Korra called "Harmonic Convergence" shows Bumi ravaging a whole Northern Water Tribe camp with his usual goofy antics. He decides not to tell Tenzin about it because Tenzin has always dismissed his stories earlier.

    Real Life 
  • Often seen in the chess world. Many's the amateur who succeeds through offbeat play, and even at the grandmaster level, some players favour bizarre openings like 1. b4. A 19th-century example, William Potter, is described in Lasker's Manual of Chess:
    Potter probably saw through the emptiness and the presumption of the style then dominating and with his style of play he seemed to call out to his contemporaries: "You want to beat me right from the start by force of your greater genius? Look! I make ridiculous moves, and yet you cannot beat me. Become, I pray you, more modest and more reasonable."
    • Though not nearly as often as popular culture would think it happens. While you can certainly irritate grandmasters with offbeat variants in the opening, leading them astray from their vast knowledge (and often crazy preparedness) about mainstream openings, trying confusion fu later in the game will way more often than not lose you the game in a single move without you even realizing it. The problem is that the general knowledge (as opposed to the specific knowledge of Lasker's time) got way more advanced during the last centennium.
  • Douglas Adams invoked this trope when he coined the word "Aboyne", which he described as "To beat an expert at a game of skill by playing so appallingly bad that none of his clever tactics or strategies are of any use to him."
  • Bruce Lee was in fact a huge advocate of this trope:
    Become unpredictable, strike from your subconscious mind, let your moves flow out from your individual essence. Even the most masterful opponent will fall from a strike that has no history or reference, the moves created from your own individual unique essence may surprise even you.
  • "Beginner's luck" may sometimes come from this — in a game of moves, counter-moves and counter-counter-moves, sometimes the correct move against a professional is the most basic one. Until he figures out that his opponent IS a beginner and crushes them.
    • This is especially dangerous in games of chance like poker - a bad player may be very difficult to read and make stupid mistakes that can accidentally win him the game when you go in at the wrong time.
    • It can also result in wasted effort. In Magic: The Gathering, for instance, there are a lot of mind games which are possible, but many of them will only be picked up on by sufficiently skilled opponents, making a new player Too Dumb to Fool.
  • Chess playing computers play like this — not bound to any strategy or school, but simply by picking the moves that will, in the long run, have the greatest chance of success. Or should have... Kasparov did win his 3rd and 4th games in a 4-game match against a computer by ensuring that there was no positive history for the computer to rely on in the games they'd played—and going into purer Shrodinger Fu than the computer was designed for netted him a win while playing black.
  • There are a handful of baseball pitchers who throw the knuckleball. Essentially throwing the ball with no spin, allowing the imperfections (mostly the seams) to determine the flight path. Such pitches are so unpredictable (even the pitcher doesn't know what will happen, the catcher usually wears an oversize mitt to help snag them), that some batters take the day off rather than have their timing and instincts ruined for the next several games.
    • Even more so is the spitball. Similar to the knuckleball, it has an unpredictable trajectory, but because it doesn't require a special grip to be thrown, it can be thrown at higher speeds, and due to the dirt, grime, and tobacco juice that accumulates on the ball, it is more difficult to see. It is banned from most professional leagues due to this fact - a spitball killed Ray Chapman during a poorly lit game after going astray and hitting him in the head, resulting in its ban in 1920. Its equivalent is still legal in Cricket, with certain exceptions (for instance, gouging the ball with your fingernails is unacceptable, while spitting on one side and polishing the other is no issue).
  • In cricket, some fast bowlers like to bowl the ball so that the seam (which on a cricket ball is much more prominent than on a baseball, running straight around the circumference of the ball) strikes the ground on the bounce, producing a pretty unpredictable bounce on the right kind of pitch. Of course, this makes it unlikely to direct itself towards the stumps, but the idea is to hope that a batter will take a swing at the ball and 'edge' it, resulting in an easy catch for the wicket keeper. Such a tactic is, as you'd expect, known as 'seam bowling' and the bowler who uses it a 'seamer'.
  • The Wildcat Formation in American Football. There are four main plays (two rushing, two passing) that can be run from the Wildcat Formation, and all of them look exactly the same until the play is actually executed, making it difficult for the defense to anticipate what they must do.
    • The Wildcat is an interesting example. After seeing Ronnie Brown and the Miami Dolphins paste the recently near-undefeated New England Patriots with the Wildcat in 2008, several other teams misunderstood the reason it worked (the Dolphins simply surprised the Patriots with a scheme they had not thought to prepare for) and began to implement the Wildcat into their normal offensive playbooks. Once defensive coaches had a few weeks to study the Wildcat, defenses adjusted to counter the Wildcat and offenses designed around it were stopped cold. Today, the Wildcat is almost entirely out of vogue... which means that if a team is very careful about using it sparingly, it can still be an effective surprise attack.
    • There are a surprising number of Confusion Fu techniques in American Football, and almost every play utilizes them to some extent. Many running patterns are designed to confuse the defense and make them lose track. Beyond known plays such as the play action (start with what looks like a run play, but then go to a pass) the draw (the converse, fall back like you're about to pass while you're actually executing a running play), a quarterback can use his eyes or do a pump fake to fool an unsuspecting defensive player to think he will throw in a certain direction. He may also alter his pre-snap cadence to make it harder for the defense to time the snap. He may fake a handoff, then run the ball himself (a "bootleg"). Running backs will follow a blocking pattern until the defense adjusts to it, and then cut back and run the other way. Receivers will make moves to throw a defensive back off his coverage. Sometimes two or more receivers will cross routes, making it difficult for all the defenders to track them. Skilled defenders are just as capable of utilizing confusion by continually moving before the snap, or lining up in an apparent zone and then blitzing through linemen not expecting a strong pass rush.
    • And then there's just doing something so completely unexpected that the defense has no idea what's going on. Case in point? This.
  • Maurice "Rocket" Richard was once asked in an interview how he planned his shots on goal. He answered along the lines of "If I don't know what shot I'm going to make, how will the goalie?"
  • In poker, the most dangerous players at the table are the ones who always call and raise at random. It's impossible to tell whether they have a good hand, so calling their raise is a very risky business – but at the same time, folding means you'll lose your earlier investment when they could easily just be sitting on a high card.
    • Aside from that, online players who sit down at physical tables tend to completely ignore their opponents' physical expressions and focus on their betting patterns, simply because you can't read people online. This tends to throw off live players, though it can also create an exploitable weakness because the online players don't train themselves to get rid of their own tells.
  • Sun Tzu was a proponent of this, though he referred to "orthodox strategies" and "unorthodox strategies"; in fact, he said that implementing orthodox strategies at unexpected times was an unorthodox strategy in and of itself.
  • Retired fighter Genki Sudo owed most of his striking success to this tactic, being primarily a grappler. It was awesome to watch.
  • Mansour Bahrami is a tennis player known for his crazy fake outs and trick shots. It is a sight to behold.
    • It should be noted that Mr. Bahrami primarily plays in exhibition matches which do not adhere strictly to the rules. Many of his tactics, though not all, are against the rules in a regular tennis match.
  • The Karate school Genseiryu is a more controlled version of Confusion Fu; while it doesn't employ the outright random attacks of many examples on this page, the style is founded on the idea of the practitioner gaining the advantage over his opponent by making his movements and attacks difficult for his opponent to read or predict.
  • Drunken Boxing runs on this - it's meant to be hard to predict, using flowing movements that emulate a drunken stagger.
  • Capoeira has much the same thought in mind with its Dance Battler making you hard to predict because you are always in motion. Also for the sheer fun of it.
  • In game theory, this is known as a mixed strategy. For example, in rock-paper-scissors, if you went with a pure strategy, such as always picking rock, anyone who knows your strategy could easily beat you. If you use a mixed strategy, and pick rock a third of the time, paper a third of the time, and scissors a third of the time, then there's no strategy that can consistently beat you. In more complex games, there are more complex mixed strategies, where not all choices are picked with the same probability.
    • Do make sure, though, that you are truly randomizing whether you pick rock, paper, or scissors - if you're just going in a predictable pattern (i.e., 1st round rock, 2nd round paper, 3rd round scissors, 4th round rock, etc.), or even adhere too strictly to the 1/3 probability guideline (to the point where every three throws feature rock, paper, and scissors in some order), astute opponents will pick up on it and pre-empt you.
    • Another example is from soccer penalty kicks. Because the shot is taken from so close, the goalie has to decide whether to go left or right as they will not have time to react if they wait until ball is kicked. Meanwhile, the kicker has to decide whether to aim for the left corner or the right corner. Both players randomize which way to go based on the probabiities of scoring. Research has shown that professionals move to the left or right with a frequency that is within 1% of what game theory predicts.
  • This is a standard tool in military tactics, particularly for convoys. Rather than have one secure route, it is far better to have several slightly-less-secure routes and chose between them at random. That way, even if one route is compromised, the odds are against it being the one that you are using. Convoys escorting high-profile people, such as the President of the United States, use a similar strategy with their vehicles as well as their routes - have several identical vehicles and move them around at random.
  • In World War II, the Soviet Air Force did this with their formations of fighters in that they would fly in a disorganized mob moving in the general direction of where they were going, By doing this, they were able to prevent the generally superior Luftwaffe from getting the drop on them.
  • Some people with knowledge on how to misdirect human attention—mentalists, illusionists, pickpockets, etc.—have been known to apply said knowledge when cornered into a fight.
  • Karen Gillan had one of the highest scores in a game of celebrity bowling against Chris Hardwick's Team Nerdist (he stated at the end she broke 100 for someone who doesn't bowl, an impressive feat considering her team's combined total was only 305, and co-star Matt Smith walked away with a score of about 16.) She did this by throwing the ball in the general direction of the pins and hoping it scored. Everyone was surprised, as bowling is not big in the UK and Karen earned a reputation for being the clumsiest of the Doctor Who cast. Matt said flat out, any time she got a strike, it honestly looked like it happened by mistake.
  • Most veteran fencers will say that their most feared opponents are equally-skilled fencers and total beginners - the reason being that beginners might do anything, whereas more skilled fencers have years of proper technique drilled into them and aren't sure what to do when confronted with a flailing amateur who doesn't even know what a parry 4 is.
    • There are also the modern pentathaletes. Fencing matches are generally to 5 or 10 hits whereas fencing in the modern pentathalon uses one-hit. Even if predictable in the long run, as long as they are unorthodox enough to get the first hit, they win.
    • This is true for almost every martial art. It is often said that the most dangerous person on the mat is the beginner, as you have no idea what that idiot might do. Considering that all modern martial arts are heavily regulated to keep the practitioners from injuring each other, someone who does not know the rules would be in a lot of danger of injuring themselves or their sparring partner.
  • Confusion Fu in a nutshell.


Cloth FuFoo FuDung Fu
Competitive BalanceVideo Game CharactersCritical Hit Class
Cherry TappingVideo Game Tactical IndexElemental Ignorance
Compressed ViceJust for PunCool and Unusual Punishment

alternative title(s): Schroedinger Fu; Unpredictable Fighting Style; Schrodinger Fu
random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
190743
25