1 Days Left to Support a Troper-Created Project : Personal Space (discuss)

Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?

Mortal, do you not know who I am? Let me tell you. I am Tzeentch. The Changer of Ways. The Master of Fate. The Lord of Change. The Controller of Destinies. I have existed before the stars, and I will exist long after they have died! No mere mortal could possibly—what is that pawn doing there?

"Even devils should beware when bargaining with Thanos of Titan."

A scheme concocted by the resident chessmaster ends up involving the manipulation of a supernatural entity. Such a plan may include the deity from the outset, or the deity may be integrated into the plan along the way.

Contrast Evil Is Not a Toy when someone attempts to invoke either this trope or make a Deal with the Devil, but fails.

See also Wishplosion, which is specifically for outfoxing wish-granting entities.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Death Note, Light, world champion of the Gambit Roulette, manages to manipulate Rem, a Shinigami, into sacrificing her life by killing L and Watari in order to save Misa, and she dies cursing him as she crumbles to dust. Magnificent Bastard, indeed- although Ryuk is not so easily manipulated.
  • In the Haruhi Suzumiya novels, Kyon forces the near-godlike Data Overmind to back down by threatening to provoke the even more godlike Haruhi into recreating the universe with him, to a place where the Overmind would not exist. Essentially, Did You Just Blackmail Cthulhu?
  • Lelouch of Code Geass manages to use his Geass on what can reasonably be described as God, taking control of it and forcing it to delete his parents from existence.
    Lelouch: "I don't intend to defeat God. This is a request."
  • Izaya Orihara of Durarara!! fame, who screws with everyone every chance he gets. Celty and Saika included.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion executes this beautifully. The Angels are coming to merge with Adam and wipe out humanity. However, SEELE cloned Adam to make the Evas and kill off the Angels so that they can merge with Adam themselves, elevating humanity into a God. The "Adam" that the Angels search for isn't even actually Adam, and one of them realizes Adam is actually Lilith. At the same time, Gendo has the real Adam in his hands (literally), and is scheming to kill off the Angels then screw over SEELE by having Rei merge with both Adam and Lilith so that he can get his wife back. The Angels are none-the-wiser...
  • At the end of the second season of Black Butler, Ciel manages to pull this on Sebastian. Contracted to have his soul eaten once their deal was complete, Ciel is turned into a demon himself; Sebastian can't eat the soul of another demon, meaning that he's trapped in a loophole and bound to serve his master for all eternity.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka uses her single wish from Kyubey to erase all witches, throughout time, before they can come into existence. Nice job, Kyubey. Next time, make sure you don't- Oh, wait, there is no next time.
  • In Saint Seiya, Gemini Canon becomes infamous for this with his 13 year spanning scheme involving Poseidon and a holy war to Take Over the World. Also, the Gold Saints pull that on Hades one arc later.
  • In Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, with some help, Pope Sage managed to seal Thanatos into the Holy Coffer.
    Pope Sage, "I wouldn't be the Pope if I wasn't able to predict the next moves of the gods."
  • Dragon Ball Z deconstructs this trope in the Buu Arc. Super Buu demanded seeing the 'Strong Fighter'/ Gotenks (Goten and Trunks fused together) he was promised by Goku, in an effort to buy more time Piccolo suggests that Buu amuse himself by terrorizing the people of Earth, knowing they can be revived with the Dragon Balls. Despite Majin Buu previous rampage there were still billions of humans left on earth so Piccolo thought that with that many humans left it would take Super Buu at least a few hours to fly across the world and terrorize every single one of them. Super Buu instead kills every single human, with the exception of Mr Satan, Tien, Chiaotzu and all those present on Kami's Lookout in only two minutes and never left Kami's Lookout while doing it. All of humanity had essentially become a sacrificial lamb for the sake of giving Goten and Trunks just two more of minutes of time to train. The deconstruction comes in when one considers the realistic aspects of "Cthulhu" in this case note . Buu is an eldritich being of immense power. Even if Piccolo were talking to a human hat had a finer on a nuke button, it wouldn't be this bad; the Sayians would not be this bad. With Buu, yes, he really could do that.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, exactly how much of this, how much simple punching, and how much absolute dumb luck contributed to Joseph's defeat of Kars is up to Joseph himself, and he's not particularly truthful. Being a consummate Guile Hero, it is probably largely options one and three.
  • In a side story of A Certain Magical Index, the Amakusa Church prevents R'leyh from rising by making it seem like Cthulhu had already defeated them; because of the way magic works in the setting, the spell became nonfunctional once no humans remained to terrorize.

    Comic Books 
  • John Constantine, the Hellblazer, is the Trope Codifier. In what may be Constantine's Crowning Moment of Awesome, the First of the Fallen, aka Satan, tried to get Constantine's soul, so Constantine sold his soul to two of the most powerful demons in Hell at once, which would force them into a war with each other, leaving them no choice but to cure his terminal lung cancer and keep him alive. And then he flipped them off—the logic being that if he died someone had to claim him, and since each one of the three Fallen had a claim to his soul, just giving it up to another would be a sign of weakness. And if they actually went to war with each other over it, Heaven would take advantage of the chaos and invade. Mind you, this whole thing backfired when the First of the Fallen decided to simply kill his fellow rulers and come after Constantine himself...
    • When the First of the Fallen killed his fellow lords of Hell and attempted to take Constantine's soul for himself, the world literally became a Hell on Earth. John was in a very tight position, and had no other options left. He even contemplated just dying, since his girlfriend, Kit Ryan, left him. But John, being a Magnificent Bastard, used a series of Gambit Roulettes. The first came when he made a scheme to recruit the Archangel Gabriel. He did this by using a succubus to seduce Gabriel and rip his heart out. With his heart in John's hands, Gabriel was under John's control, and tried to use him to fight the First. The plan soon failed when the First heard of it from one of John's friends, and killed Gabriel by destroying his heart. The second came when John surrendered himself to the First. John entertained him with a series of his own ideas of the world that contradicted that of the Devil's. While chatting, John's succubus friend stabbed The First with the Twin Blade, a knife that can kill anyone—even the First—with one strike. The First died... or did he?
    • Then there's the reason the First of the Fallen did this: John had found out that his dying friend Brendan had sold his soul to the First of the Fallen. Five minutes before Brendan's soul ended up in the First's clutches, John suggested they share a toast. Brendan had this magic working that turns an underground spring into pure stout. John and the First shared a drink, then John revealed the spring was blessed by a saint, so technically, the base of what the First just drank was holy water. And then the spell expired, and the First had a glassful of holy water in his gut, disrupting his body long enough for Brendan to slip away to Heaven.
    • In the Critical Mass storyline, Satan, aka the First of the Fallen, was resurrected by God as a mortal as part of his new punishment. The First plotted his revenge on Constantine by using the Archdemon Buer to take the soul of the son of Constantine's friend as hostage. In return for the child and his safety, John had to offer his soul to the First by means of suicide. With no way out and in a standoff, John chose to save the child by taking the deal with the First, killing himself by stabbing his abdomen. The First then took John's soul to Hell to be tormented for all the humiliation John did to him and Hell itself. When the First thought he already won, John later reappeared unharmed. John then told the First that before the confrontation he collected all the bad side of his soul, formed it into his image, and had that part of him sent to Hell, while the good side stayed safe. The First was yet again fooled.
    • John Constantine, being a conman, has screwed a lot of gods from different religions and mythologies, but none can compare to the events in Hellblazer Issue 128. The First and other enemies were still on John's tail to take his soul to Hell. John went face-to-face with the Judeo-Christian God aka Yahweh—the most powerful being in whole existence and the God of all Gods. While having a campfire discussion with God, John blackmailed him by saying that if his soul goes to Hell, he would take over, and would release many abominable things into the world. God, who knew of John's reputation and what he could do, saved John's soul, forever keeping it out of the reach of Hell and its minions.
    • Another one of John's feats involved finding out his destiny. In the Roots of Coincidence arc, it was found out that John and his supposed-to-be-dead twin brother are the Laughing Magicians, people who have the power to control Synchronicity, thus putting Fate on their sides. With this, John found out that his very existence was a glitch, and that he scammed the whole universe by simply existing.
  • In Preacher, Cassidy pulls off a clever scam which results in him getting cured of his vampirism and God getting killed. Yes, that means the Christian God, who is essentially the Big Bad of the series.
    • Cassidy didn't know of Jesse's deal with the Saint of Killers which will result on God's demise. Cassidy's deal basically spelled out, "I'll bring you Jesse so you can kill him (and thus kill Genesis) on the condition we both leave alive." The deal was honored: Jesse dies then comes back, and Cassidy becomes human again. It's only coincidence that Jesse planned to get himself killed anyway. It was the only way God would be comfortable enough to return to Heaven. Only thing is, the Saint of Killers would be waiting for Him for some much-overdue payback, armed with a gun forged from the metal of the Angel of Death's sword.
  • 2000 AD:
    • In Anderson: Psi-Division, Cassandra Anderson manages to make Satan blow himself up by forcing himself into a Douglas Adams-style self-contradiction.
    • In Judge Dredd, PJ Maybe is defending his new residence as the husband of an aging billionaire from looters and the infected during Chaos Day. Three of the Dark Judges, omnicidal life-hating ghosts, show up to kill everyone in sight. Maybe keeps his cool and manages to trap them inside a bottle after promising them new bodies.
  • Jack Horner's signature ability in Fables. Although half of his schemes fails miserably, his successes outclass his failures. Jack once managed to trick a whole legion of Devils (including Lucifer, Chernabog, and Old Nick) by making him nigh-immortal, unkillable and unbeatable.
  • The Magus' Batman Gambit in The Infinity War miniseries involved the manipulation of some of the Marvel Universe's most powerful cosmic beings, from Galactus up to Eternity and even the Living Tribunal.
    • And he himself was outmaneuvered by Adam Warlock and Thanos of Titan.
  • Speaking of Thanos, he also at one point literally scammed Mephisto. "You wanted a cosmic cube but didn't specify it had to be functioning..."
  • Wolverine, of all people outdoes them both in a What If? issue, "Newer Fantastic Four". Thanos is in possession of the Infinity Gauntlet, with Mephisto as his advisor, and Wolverine outwits them both by manipulating Thanos' love of Death against him.
  • In Watchmen, Veidt's master plan involves the manipulation of pretty much the entire rest of the cast, up to and including Dr. Manhattan, an energy being of unimaginable power who can normally see the future as clearly as he can see the present.
  • Black Panther, being The Chessmaster he is, pulled this off with Mephisto. The Black Panther pledged his soul to Mephisto in exchange for Mephisto agreeing to depower an enemy of the Panther's that he had given great demonic power to. Mephisto lived up to his end of the bargain, and so did the Panther...but when Mephisto tried to claim the Panther's soul, Mephisto found that it was linked to the souls of the Panther God and every single previous Black Panther warrior in existence, whose sheer goodness threatened to destroy him. Mephisto requested that the Black Panther agree to release him from the pact, and the Panther agreed.
  • In DC Comics' Underworld Unleashed, the Trickster, in a Heel–Face Turn, managed to scam the Devil.
  • In Emperor Joker, Mr. Mxyzptlk decides to give The Joker 1% of his power to see what he would do with it, but Joker tricks him into giving 99.99%.
    • Which makes it fitting when Superman defeats him by turning Batman into a Mind Virus (the Joker's obsession with Batman keeps bringing him back and his fear when Superman points out he can't control it makes Batman ever larger and more ominous until the Joker is overwhelmed.)
  • Galvatron in the Marvel The Transformers comic pulled one on Primus, making him believe Autobot and Decepticon alike had finally put their differences aside for the greater good, all so Galvatron could take revenge on Unicron.
    "HAH! For all their supposed omnipotence... Even gods can be conned!"
    • This was somewhat easier than it sounds, as Primus had become so senile that he didn't even notice Unicron's approach until Unicron was right in front of him, and even then it took Ironhide to actually point it out.
  • In Triumph and Torment, Doctor Doom manages to trick Mephisto into doing what he wants.
  • Hawkeye manages to beat the Grandmaster, one of the Elders of the Universe, (who was at the time pitting the Avengers (or Captain America and Hawkeye, the only two still alive) in an endless series of games to the death) by convincing the Grandmaster to engage in a game of chance to make it more interesting. Hawkeye, of course, wins. He did, after all, cheat.
  • Loki has managed to scam Mephisto on at least two - and possibly more - occasions in just the last few years of publishing. And since Mephisto regards Loki as a Worthy Opponent (which is about as close as the Devil gets to having a friend), he usually laughs it off. (It helps that they're both immortals, so a loss today isn't that big a deal to them.)
  • In Queen Sonja #20, Evil Sorcerer Thulsa Doom tricks an Elder God into giving him enough of its power that he is able to kill it.
  • In Phil Foglio's Xxxenophile, a friendly version of this occurs between a woman and her genie lover. Her wish to free him is stymied; in order to be freed, he must be commanded to perform a task that he wishes to, but cannot, perform. She accomplishes this by engaging in a marathon love-making session and then wishing, immediately after, that he repeat the act. Even genies have limits.

     Fan Works 
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist fanfic Build Your Wings on the Way Down  Edward exploits the fact that the Gate is bound to follow its own rules when reversing Nina's chimera transmutation. So despite the Gate wanting to screw Ed over, it has to give Ed the allotted energy when Ed trades Alexander for Nina.

    Films — Animated 
  • The title character in Aladdin manages to trick his newfound genie servant into freeing him from a sealed cavern without making a wish by prodding the genie's ego, and gets away with it. Later on, when Aladdin is drowning and couldn't reasonably wish for rescue, the genie just takes it for granted that he would wish for it and does so, still counting it as a wish (he takes Aladdin "nodding" as a yes, though this was just Aladdin's head was dropping from lack of oxygen). And at the end of the movie, Aladdin tricks Jafar into turning himself into a genie, only to remind him that genies are bound to servitude in lamps. Not to mention he had the handicap of being unable to directly kill Aladdin or his allies when he escaped for revenge in the sequel.
  • In Coraline, the eponymous character does this to the Beldam, the demonic master of a pocket universe who needs to consume the souls of children to live. Frustrated with a boring life and uncaring parents, Coraline is enticed into the Beldam's world which appears as an ideal version of her own home and family. The kicker comes when she is prevented from leaving and imprisoned when she refuses to give up her soul (by having buttons sewed onto her eyes, like all creatures in the Beldam's world) and her real parents are captured and held hostage by the Beldam to force Coraline to give in. Coraline makes a deal with the Beldam to play a game by betting she can find the souls of three previous children taken by the Beldam along with her parents. Knowing the Beldam won't concede if Coraline wins, she pretends to lose before stealing the key back to her own world and escaping with her parents to safety. That happens in the book as well, although the movie makes Coraline's plight more desperate. In the book, the Other Parents willingly allow her to go home, but kidnap her parents and then try to trick her into thinking that they just abandoned her. In the movie, they don't magically return her home after she refuses (which she was expecting) and she has to escape home herself, only to find her parents being held hostage and forcing her to return to the Other World.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Davy Jones gets this in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, although who it is that actually scammed him is up for debate. It took the combined conflicting efforts of possibly the three smartest/wittiest/cleverest Brits in the Caribbean to steal his heart, though James Norrington walks away with the heart and documents at the end of the film.
  • The way the heroine from the first Wishmaster movie gets the best of the evil Jerkass Genie. He can't grant a wish that directly affects him, so she can't just wish that he stuffs himself back in his lamp. She's down to her third and final wish, and after she makes that wish he'll be free to run amok and destroy the world, and he's forcing her to take action by murdering and torturing people around the heroine. So, with some clever thinking, she comes up with a wish that will work: she wishes that a specific crane operator hadn't been drunk on the job a few days ago. That crane operator had dropped and destroyed the statue that the genie had been trapped inside of, so the wish undoes everything the genie had done and winds up with him imprisoned again.
  • In the Short Film The Happiness Salesman, a Salesman, who is later implied to be a demonic servant of the devil, offers Karen a great destiny, giving her a laptop with a DVD that will show her any point in her life if she accepts his offer. Rather than use it to see how great her life will be years from now if she accepts, she uses it to discover what will happen five minutes after she accepts, allowing to her to discover what the "payment" is when she sees a demonic version of the Salesman preparing to consume her child. She promptly refuses his offer.
  • In Constantine, the film version of Hellblazer, the titular character manages to defeat the film's Big Bad by attempting suicide, knowing that Satan will personally come to collect his soul, at which point Satan will realize what's going on and stop the Big Bad, whose attempt to start the apocalypse early would screw up Satan's plans. Satan shows his gratitude by offering Constantine a favor, and he asks that a wrongfully damned soul go to Heaven. Satan then realizes too late that Constantine had just performed a Heroic Sacrifice, which allowed him to go to Heaven as well despite committing suicide. Satan instead resurrects Constantine and cures him of his lung cancer in hopes that he will sin again.
  • In the The Devil's Advocate, Kevin Lomax succeeds in his suicide attempt, undoing The Devil's entire scheme.
  • In Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, the boys first attempt to escape death by giving the Grim Reaper a wedgie and running. When they get cast into Hell, they win their souls back and continue on their quest to stop the Big Bad by challenging the Reaper to games like Battleship and electronic football (which he doesn't play, unlike chess) that they're experts at.
  • In The Avengers, Black Widow pretends that Loki's taunting is affecting her more than it actually is (she even pretends to cry). In his arrogance, he makes a comment that allows her to figure out his scheme, and she thanks him. The look on the God of Lies' face when he realizes he's been tricked is priceless.
  • V'Ger of Star Trek: The Motion Picture effortlessly destroys anything that affronts it—including a Klingon task force of three battlecruisers—on its way to Earth. Depending on the cut of the film you're watching, the energy field that V'Ger creates around itself has a diameter either greater than that of the solar system, or just greater than Earth's orbit around the sun. When it arrives at Earth, the machine casually prepares to obliterate the planet's biosphere. None of that stops Jim Kirk from playing chicken with V'Ger, and winning; making the leviathan stand down by threatening to not reveal who its creator is if it doesn't.

  • "The Devil and Daniel Webster".
  • In the backstory of David Eddings' The Belgariad, the prophet Gorim managed to shanghai UL, the Father of all the Gods. Initially, UL was not a part of creation, and abstained while his sons (also Gods) created the world. After all of the Gods had chosen a race of humans that pleased them as their chosen people, there were some humans left over, the Godless Ones, who languished without a God. One among them, Gorim, managed to find UL and shame him into becoming their God (and also the God of all monsters, those creatures who were imperfect because UL did not participate in their creation). Fairly impressive, overall.
    • And he did it basically by sitting there and waiting. For several hundred years. The mention of it came at the time when Belgarath and his Master (One of those gods behind the creation scheme) were unable to find UL and his people. Belgarath wonders if he perhaps abandoned them again since the new Gorim was particularly irritating.
  • Janus from Maledicte pulls this off against the goddess possessing his cross-dressing girlfriend, trapping said goddess inside her with a recursive paradox that made her incapable of ever trying to kill him.
  • In the Uplift series, every scam Earth clan tries to pull on the ancient, Sufficiently Advanced Aliens backfires, until the very end of the series when they manage a doozy… accidentally, with a lie so ridiculous they never expected it to do more than buy them a few seconds.
    • Even more impressively, what actually clinched the deal wasn't a deception at all, but the enemy misinterpreting a genuine offer of surrender.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: Sauron the chess GRANDmaster of Middle-Earth was outwitted by the Kansas City Shuffle directing him away from Frodo. It helped that Evil Cannot Comprehend Good.
  • Happens to an extent in The Silmarillion—specifically, the story of the Downfall of Númenor, where Sauron essentially manipulates Eru Ilúvatar into destroying the Númenórean empire for him. Also subverted in that Sauron only intended for the Valar to get involved, and the amount of power Ilúvatar was packing was enough to kill Sauron as well. Of course as anyone who's read The Lord of the Rings could tell you, Sauron came Back from the Dead, and at any rate it's impressive to set up a situation where God wipes out your enemies for you in a 'verse where God is both competent and good.
    • It was implied that Númenórean dominion over the world had in the end become worse than Sauron's ever was, so Eru may simply have chosen lesser evil.
  • In the second book of the Xanth series, Bink wonders if his magical talent of bizarre luck preventing him from ever being hurt by magic actually manipulated events so that the Source of All Magic the demon Xanth decided to play nice in the end and not destroy everything.
  • In one Discworld novel, Cohen the Barbarian has to roll a 7 with one six-sided die. Naturally, being a Hero, he takes the most awesome method and cuts the die in two while it is spinning in the air, rolling a 7 and cheating Fate at the same time.
    • Notably, he drew inspiration from an in-universe version of the Gordian knot story, which at the time his companions declared to be cheating (Cohen himself was a little more introspective about it). He must have reckoned there's no reason to play fair with gods, who aren't known for their tendency to do so.
  • Another Discworld example, Granny Weatherwax once cheated Death at a card game. Then threatened him. Though he let her win, because he's just that kind of guy, and because Granny Weatherwax is no one to be trifled with.
  • In one short story by Brian Jacques (yes, That one), a kid traded his soul so he could lie better, and ended up convincing the devil he's illiterate, voiding their soul contract, and got an angel to agree to come over to his house for cake - the latter implying he wasn't using his supernaturally-enhanced lying skills.
  • In the Larry Niven short story "Convergent Series", a man deals with a demon he's semi-accidentally summoned by asking the demon to freeze time for a bit, then redrawing the summoning pentagram on the demon's belly, trapping the demon in a paradox. The mechanics of the summoning requires that the demon has to fit inside the pentagram, and because it's drawn on his belly, when he shrinks himself down to fit in the pentagram, the pentagram shrinks as well.
  • In the Robert Bloch short story, "That Hellbound Train", features a protagonist who just barely manages to outwit Satan after trading his soul for a watch that can stop time. He goes through his entire life, never finding the perfect moment, and as he's dying the Devil tells him that he's given the same watch away dozens of times. As he rides the titular train, he realizes that a) everyone is partying like it's their last chance, because it is and b) Satan hasn't taken the watch yet!
  • The Devil and Simon Flagg: A mathematician makes a bet that the devil can't answer one question within 24 hours. The devil tells him that paradox and Logic Bomb questions are forbidden and that the question asked must have an answer. He asks him whether Fermat's Last Theorem is correct. The devil spends most of the allotted time learning a few Ph.D.s worth of mathematics without making substantial progress toward the question. And, of course, this is 40 years before Wiles published his proof so there's no easy way out.
  • In His Dark Materials, Mrs Coulter successfully lies to Metatron of all creatures, who is explicitly stated to be able to read her heart and/or mind, by manipulating his desire to be corporeal.
  • The men of the city of Gibil do this to the gods all throughout the story of Between the Rivers by Harry Turtledove. The Crowning Moment of Awesome came when Sharur performed a Fake Defector gambit to fool the enemy god Enimhursag, so that Enimhursag believed that Sharur was betraying his home city, Gibil, against their hated enemies, the city of Imhursag. And Sharur successfully deceived the god even though he had to invite Enimhursag read Sharur's mind to see if he was lying.
  • Belisarius Series had several medieval Europeans able to outwit Link; a superrobot from millions of years in the future. Most notably Belisarius but also Damadora and Narses. Narses actually managed to deceive Link looking right in her face, in spite of the ability to otherwise tell when someone is lying to her.
  • American Gods has Cthulhu scamming other Cthulhus - all the gods are being manipulated by Mr. Wednesday (Odin) and Mr. World (Loki). They convinced the old and new gods respectively that there wasn't enough belief to go around and that they should start a war with each other. Odin and Loki then arranged circumstances so they could draw power from the ensuing carnage by having Loki symbolically dedicate it to Odin beforehand, turning the bloodbath into a blood sacrifice.
  • In the fairy tale "The Three Brothers" in Harry Potter, all three brothers are granted "gifts" from Death, who is actually mad at them for using magic to stay alive. The first two request items of great power which lead to their downfall and Death collects them swiftly. The third brother, however, recognizes why Death is offering these favors and asks for an item that would make it so not even Death could find him. Death is forced to surrender his own invisibility cloak and the third brother leaves unmolested. He chooses to die at a very advanced age and "greets Death as an old friend."
  • Many people outsmart genies in the Arabian Nights. One of the more memorable is also one of the simplest: a fisherman finds a genie trapped in a bottle who tells him to choose how he wishes to die. The fisherman just can't believe such a huge genie fit in a small bottle, and the genie is very proud and doesn't like hearing such a challenge to his powers, so he goes back in and the fisherman puts the lid back on. After that, the genie is much more helpful.
  • In We Are Not All Made Of Colour, the Dark Mage Gorog is defeated when Gwynn goads him into "admitting" that he's mortal. Because Gorog has infinite power, "admitting" that he's mortal causes him to become mortal, and Gorog - being 360,000 years old - was long overdue to die by mortal standards. He promptly turns into dust.
  • Land of Oz: Oscar Diggs, a third-rate Nebraska con artist, used nothing more than a combination of parlor tricks, late 19th century technology, brains, misdirection, and an amazing ability to bullshit to effectively muscle his way into power and force four of the most powerful magic users in Nonestica into an Enforced Cold War with himself as the unquestioned ultimate ruler, the Wizard of Oz. It went pretty well for him for nearly fifteen years, until a little girl from Kansas exposed the scam.
  • Happens in one book of Animorphs when a Yeerk steals the Time Matrix and rewrites history. The Animorphs get to go back and stop him, in exchange for the one of the Animorphs dying. Jake dies to honor the deal, but the team gets around this and brings Jake back to life by using the Time Matrix to prevent the birth of the Yeerk's host, thus preventing it from ever finding the Time Matrix and preventing the Yeerk's rewriting from ever happening, thus accomplishing what they set out to do without losing anybody.
  • Journey to Chaos: At the end of Journey to Chaos, Nunnal is revealed to have Order himself into not only wasting resources and freeing elves, but also preventing him from ever invading her village again. It was basically a high stakes bet; she allows him into Dnnac Ledo to thwart the Mana Mutation Summit and prevent its agreements going forward, in exchange for several conditions. The catch was that if he failed, he couldn't try again later. Little did he know that Nunnal's adoptive daughter and houseguest prepared a plan to destroy his vessel and repel him.

    Live Action TV 
  • Happened in Star Trek multiple times, with godlike beings practically being a franchise staple.
  • This is one of the Doctor's favorite tactics on Doctor Who, particularly his seventh incarnation. For instance, in "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" he outwitted the Gods of Ragnarok and in "The Curse of Fenric", he out-gambitted the titular character who is defined as being an Eldritch Abomination and a Chess Master. Three lifetimes later in "Blink," he tricked a group of Weeping Angels into looking at each other (immobilizing them, since Weeping Angels can't move while being observed).
    • If you count the Doctor as Cthulhu, the (very) few times somebody runs a truly effective scam on the Doctor also apply. One scammer even noted it was an honor to have gotten him with the same scam twice.
  • In Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Autolycus, King of Thieves, once managed to steal Hermes's winged sandals right off of his feet.
  • Both Londo and Sheridan manage to do this to the Shadows in season four of Babylon 5.
  • Angel manages to manipulate the Circle of the Black Thorn for most of Season Five.
  • Stephen Colbert had a recurring segment called "Cheating Death with Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA." The graphic shows Stephen in a lab coat playing chess with Death. He cheats. In his final installment in the Grand Finale, Death, instead of giving a "Seriously?" gesture, starts strangling Stephen, who shoots Death with Sweetness.
  • A magnificent example: "I of Newton" from The Twilight Zone (1985). A professor (Sherman Helmsley) trying to solve a mathematical problem accidentally summons the Devil (Ron Glass). The professor is allowed to ask three questions regarding his powers, and then a final question (or task) in exchange for his soul; if the Devil can't do it, the deal is forfeit and he keeps his soul. Since it turns out the Devil has no physical limitations to his powers and can return from any place he's sent, the task "Get lost!" is impossible...
  • Supernatural:
    • Lucifer manages to trap The Grim Reaper into his servitude. Death, who is very annoyed that he's being leashed by a petulant child with daddy issues (...yes, that is how Death perceives the Devil), proves that it's not a good idea to piss off an eternal and infinite force of nature by ignoring Lucifer's orders and actually helping the Winchesters against him.
    • Subverted in "Apointment In Samarra" when Dean tries to blackmail Death into helping him by using Death's ring (which Death previously loaned to Dean) as leverage. Death notes that Dean's gamble assumes that he doesn't already know the location of his own weapon, but he remains open to an equal exchange and asks Dean to become him for a single day.
    • In season 7's first episode "Meet the New Boss", the Winchesters attempt to bind Death themselves in a last-ditch effort to stop the newly godlike Castiel. Death warns them that it won't end well for them, but he doesn't follow through on his threat after the new villain unbinds Death's restraints because the "mutated angel" is a bigger concern for him.
  • In Wizards of Waverly Place it happens in part two of the "Wizards VS Angels" special:
    Alex: "We might pay for this later, but I think I just manipulated an angel..."

  • The Odyssey: Who has blinded you? 'Nobody'! 'Nobody' has blinded me! Of course, Odysseus promptly screws this scam up by boasting and basically telling the cyclops his name and address once he knows he's safe. Since the cyclops is Polyphemus, son of Poseidon, and Odysseus has to cross the sea to get home, this was what they call a bad move (the sea god makes the rest of Odysseus' journey a living hell, which is the reason for the rest of the story).
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Sisyphus pulled this off for a little while. He was punished for it, though.
    • Hercules tricked Atlas (the Titan who held up the sky) in order to get the golden apples of the Hesperides (Atlas's daughters). The catch was, the Hesperides probably wouldn't have let Herc take the apples. So Herc made a deal with Atlas. If Atlas would collect the apples (he could pick them because he was the father of the Hesperides), Herc would hold up the sky while Atlas was fulfilling his part of the deal. Atlas agreed, but after collecting the apples, he refused to take the sky back. Herc basically said, "Okay, but just take the sky back for a bit so I can make my lion-skin cloak into a pad for my shoulders." Atlas took the sky back, and Herc walked away.
      • This story is particularly notable because it was just about the only time Herc won using his wits alone rather than his strength or both together (several labors needed some forethought, planning, and lateral thinking, but also relied heavily on Heracles' prodigious strength).
  • A lot of stories involving deals with the Devil have the Devil being tricked out of getting his side of the deal.
  • Jack of the Jack O'Lantern tale in Irish folklore also scammed the Devil. He got the Devil to agree not to take his soul after scamming him twice. When he died, though, he was too wicked for Heaven and the Devil upheld his bargain not to claim his soul. The Devil gave him a glowing coal and wished him the best roaming the Earth. Jack later put the coal in a turnip he carved out and created his lantern.
  • There's a story about little girl sold her soul to the devil for a pail of milk that she spilled. When the devil came to collect she ripped the SOLE off of her shoe, gave it to the devil, then continued skipping along, oblivious to what she just achieved while the devil just stood there dumbfounded at having been tricked by a 7-year-old.
  • Many indigenous American trickster figures fall for their own tricks. Of course, it was likely what they wanted to do all along.
  • One Asian Indian story involves a princess tricking Yama, the lord of death, into reviving her dead husband. When he agreed to grant her a wish for her bravery in following him to the end of the world, she wished for seven children of her own, then pointed out that she couldn't logically have had children without her husband. She won.
  • Many local legends about a bridge whose creation involved the Devil being scammed one way or another.

  • That Mitchell and Webb Sound has a skit in which the Devil shows up to claim a man's soul, and he complains that his life of wealth and success had felt rather hollow. Satan gloats that this is what makes it all the more satisfying, until the man reminds Satan that before signing the contract he had asked if he could keep it for a few days, and tells him that he had his lawyer add a clause that prevented the Devil claiming his soul in just such an eventuality which Satan had skimmed over, and furthermore criticizes Satan for running an antiquated operation that clearly hadn't adapted well to widespread literacy.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons optional sourcebook Tome of Magic, one of the vestiges (beings that exist outside of reality) was originally a prolific thief (possibly a kleptomaniac) who, upon his deathbed, renounced all of the theft he had done in life, thus effectively stealing his very soul out of the hands of Olidammara, deity of thieves as a way of proving himself the most worthy of the deity's devotion. Olidammara was pissed at first, but then realised the sheer audacity of his actions and was about to accept him with open arms (and minimal chance of pickpocketing) when the deity realised that accepting his soul in the afterlife would prevent his incredible theft. Since Olidammara didn't want the soul to go to anyone else, the thief's soul ended up outside of all known forms of reality; existing in no plane or identifiable location beyond 'nowhere'.
  • A Dungeons and Dragons character class, the Malconvoker, specializes in summoning evil extraplanar creatures and tricking them into serving good causes. High-level Malconvokers acquire demon lords as their patrons who provide them with great power under the false impression that they're using that power to spread misery and destruction. In reality they're using it to slay monsters and bring down corrupt rulers, making the world a better place on the sly. Needless to say, a successful Malconvoker puts every skill point they can into Bluff...
  • In Legend of the Five Rings, the big bad evil god, Fu Leng, fell to this at the hands of Naseru, who eventually became the Emperor. When Naseru and his siblings led a Big Damn Heroes moment in an attack on Fu Leng's stronghold in the Shadowlands to prevent him from taking over the heavens, while his uber-powered brothers and sister were slaying abominations left and right, Naseru, being a courtier, walked up to Daigotsu, leader of Fu Leng's forces in the material world, and began talking to him. The resulting conversation allowed Naseru to trick Fu Leng into temporarily withdrawing his dependence on Daigotsu, which gave the other gods and dead heroes enough time to take him down and send him back to hell.
  • Eclipse Caste Solars in Exalted have a name for this trope: Tuesday.
    • Marsday, actually.
    • And Fiend Caste Infernals get one additional trick on top of this: they can renege on any promises they make to Eclipses or Moonshadows (the Abyssal mirror of the Eclipses) without suffering any penalties. Yes, that means they can scam the people who scam Cthulhu on a regular basis.
    • Present at lower levels of the game, as well. Raksha are even mechanically rewarded for letting a mortal 'trick' them, since even defeat involves delicious delicious emotions — but a mortal who gets in the habit will discover that the Raksha don't do habits, and instead do omnom on souls.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
  • Changeling: The Lost features an Entitlement known as the Legates of the Black Apple. When The Fair Folk come barging into the freehold, it's the job of the Legates to try to figure out what they want and how to get them to go away. Mind you, this doesn't necessary involve giving them exactly what they want, and negotiations can involve intimidation just as well as diplomacy. Mind you, being a member of the Entitlement is quite risky — you don't want to know what the Gentry did to the guy who preferred to use intimidation tactics once they found out his frailty.

    Video Games 
  • Probably the most clever of them all, Lillet Blan from GrimGrimoire tricks a very powerful demon into leaving the human it's possessing by asking for a wish from it at the cost of her soul, and then wishes for the demon to DEVOTE ITSELF TO GOD. Needless to say, the demon refuses... which sends it back to Hell.
    • In fact, her plot is so impressive that the local would-be Magnificent Bastard Devil Advocat actually backs her on the deal.
      • And to top it all off, that demon was summoned in order to get rid of what was the Big Bad until then. Lillet successfully wishploded two beings way out of even her league.
  • While not supernatural beings per se, the Scrin from Command & Conquer are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens with psychic powers and access to exotic, Tiberium-powered technologies. They are led to believe by Kane that the civilisation on Earth has collapsed and that Earth is ripe for Tiberium mining. Not so much. By the time the Scrin realise they've been suckered to landing on Earth, they are already having their asses handed to them by Nod and GDI alike (and the two won't even stop fighting each other to fight the Scrin).
  • The plot of Marvel Ultimate Alliance is essentially Dr. Doom making a Chain of Deals that winds up suckering or screwing over most of the other villains in the universe, including gods like Loki, Mephisto, and Odin.
  • This is the goal of The Emperor in Dissidia: Final Fantasy, who plans on living forever and manipulating the gods themselves to become something more than them.
  • In Ever17, the whole point of You'haru and Kaburaki's gambit is to trick a 4D being called Blick Winkel into believing that the events of 2017 and 2034 are one and the same. The clincher? It was Blick Winkel himself who set up the whole gambit to do that.
  • In the Dragon Age series, the player can make deals with demons and then back out of them once the demon's brought up their end, often with no consequences worse than having to fight them (which is usually what refusing to deal leads to anyway). In one particularly noteworthy case, you can even trick a demon into teaching you powerful Blood Magic... And then use said Blood Magic to kill the demon.
    • Said noteworthy case is more of an inversion: the Mage Warden was already a prodigy by his own kind's standard before he even became grey warden and the demon possessing Connor is the one who's desperately trying to scam its way out of a direct confrontation.
    • Another notable case occurs in Act 1 of Dragon Age II, when Hawke can convince an ancient demon to lead you both to the exit back to the Deep Roads, in exchange for defeating an ancient rock wraith. It turns out, the wraith was sitting on a sizable treasure hoard, enough to restore your family fortunes twice over. Varric's preferred response? Renege on your deal, kill the demon, and walk away, filthy rich.
  • Happens in the The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings during the first act. Geralt comes across a pair of former soldiers who were a part of the events directly responsible for an insane asylum burning down and becoming haunted by the spirits of the people burned alive and the enemy soldier that was tortured and killed. One of the ways he can resolve the issue is by collecting pig or monster eyes and hearts, and offering them to the Wraith to sate his desire for vengeance. However, he gets the Wraith to remove the curse before handing over his fake parts, which he promptly sees through now that he has them in his grasp and attack Geralt. Of course, Geralt is a genetically engineered mutant who's trained to kill monsters and spectres, and promptly puts him down.
  • You, The Dragonborn, can scam multiple demons in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Daedric quests typically end with the player character pledging their soul after death to that Daedric Prince, then the demon bestows a unique artifact for the Dovahkiin to use. The scam comes when this results in multiple of said Daedric Princes believing they will gain your soul when you die, while you get to keep all of their nifty stuff. In the end, it's likely none of the Princes will gain your soul, since it's Akatosh who was the one that bestowed Dragon Blood on the mortals (and therefore, you), so your soul belonged to him since your birth. And if you finished the main questline, Tsun promised you a place in Sovngarde regardless of race.
    • There's also Sithis, who was one of the two gods that created the entire universe (Nirn, Oblivion, and the Void) simply by existing together. Its relatively likely that if Sithis cares at all, then it's the one getting your soul (assuming, of course, you did the Brotherhood questline).
    • Another example occurs in the in-game text Azura and the Box, where an old Dwemer philosopher manages to prove Azura, an all-knowing Daedra associated with the spheres of dire prophecy and petty revenge, wrong in front of live audience. Since he isn't a protagonist, this doesn't end well for him or any of the surrounding survivors.
  • Ariane in RuneScape sort of pulls this off, but the Cthulhu scams her right back. Ariane has been working for years to try to master her visions of the future, which often come in association with pain. A caged demon in the Wizard's tower offers to interpret her visions of impending doom to the tower, but she must first offer a drop of her blood as fealty to Zamorak. Ariane makes the cut, the pain instantly triggering a vision of what the demon was about to say. Sweet! She doesn't need to actually offer the blood! She won, right? The demon responds by loudly thanking her for her offering, convincing the other wizards in the tower that she IS a demon worshipper and getting her kicked out of the tower.
    • A certain book of background lore detailing the history of Zaros describes him making a contract for control of a certain number of demonic legions with an ancient demon named Hostilius the Autocrat. Hostilius, not aware of Zaros' true identity, attempts to word the contract so that the control of the legions will go to the oldest among them. The deal backfires when Zaros reveals that he's older than the entire demonic plane, resulting in Hostilius being forced to hand the legions over to Zaros for nothing whatsoever in return.
    • The quest "Smoking Kills" is about an attempt by Amascut the Devourer to get you killed by banshees in the Smoking Dungeon. To get you involved, she takes human form, tells you about a sister in peril (also Amascut in disguise), and offers you her services upon completion of the rescue. When you successfully find a way to protect yourself from the choking smoke and banshee howls simultaneously and carry out the rescue, "Sumona" is bound by her word and forced to serve as a Slayer Master. In this case, the "Cthulhu" scammed herself.
  • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World Richter makes a deal with the demons of Niflheim - they give him the power to kill Ratatosk, whose lifeforce prevents demons from entering the mortal realm. Richter gets to satisfy his desire for revenge against Ratatosk while the demons get to cause chaos in the mortal realm. Except that, after killing Ratatosk, Richter plans on sacrificing himself to seal away the demons once again. It's implied that if the heroes hadn't talked him down, his plan would have succeeded.
  • In Shadowrun Returns: Hong Kong, the Player Character can inflict one of these on Qian Ya in the finale, forcing her to retreat unless you summon all her siblings clamoring for revenge to kill both of you. You can then force her to release all her slaves and taken souls by pointing out that by her own laws, she has forfeited all rights because she attempted to renegotiate the bargain by asking about said thralls in the first place.

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick: This is Redcloak's ultimate goal, to harness the power of The Snarl and hold the world hostage so he can negotiate with the pantheon of gods to get a better deal for the race of Goblins in-universe, rather than just serving as sources of XP for adventurers.
    • Also something of a Xanatos Gambit; if the plan fails and the universe is destroyed by The Snarl, then the gods will remake it - this time with the goblin deity The Dark One among their number, and he'll make sure the goblins don't get screwed again.
  • 8-Bit Theater: Thief outsmarting Trickster God Raven.
  • Chicanery begins with Pokey having just embezzled Giygas' $44,000,000 retirement fund.
  • Ayanah in PAWN is implied to be doing this to Baalah, with unfortunate implications.
  • In Sluggy Freelance Aylee comes up with a plan (and Zoë complements it) to trick some nigh-omnipotent Jerkass Genies into granting what seems like a worthless wish (making it rain the blood of the innocent), without them realizing that "the blood of the innocent" is exactly what Torg's Cool Sword needs to become a magical weapon that can kill just about anything, including, that's right, nigh-omnipotent Jerkass Genies.
    • In a parody of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Torg outsmarts the pseudo-Literal Genie that's been interpreting people's wishes as "Turn in me into chocolate" (including someone who had merely screamed in terror rather than actually wishing) by wishing that he'd "Turn Torg Potter into chocolate." This results in the kid Torg was a body double for being turned to chocolate, allowing him to safely wish everyone back to normal. (Fortunately, the genie doesn't mess around with the remaining wishes)
  • In XKCD, Mephistopheles encounters the E.U.L.A.
  • In Homestuck, Terezi pulls this on the supernatural Doc Scratch in order to bait him into enacting her revenge on Vriska. Yes, Terezi managed to manipulate an omniscient being. She is simply the best there is.
  • Dominic Deegan had to face The Beast in the Borders of Destruction and he managed to get a Destroyer to take care of The Beast.
    • Later, he runs into the Beast again, and scares it away by pretending to possess the Destroyer's powers.
  • The german webcomic Der Tod und das Mädchen shows, in an hilarious reel, all the cases where people tried to trick death, starting with a knight that successfully won in chess against him. Since you need to call him by his name to allow him to kill you, he soon defined that rule very loosely (with hilarious results at times). The fact that the heroine still manages to avoid calling him anything for almost 400 pages frustrates him greatly since she has been due for over 14 years already.

    Web Original 
  • Linkara pulled this one off in a big way against "The Entity" in his Electric Tale of Pikachu review.
  • Spoony tells a story in his Counter Monkey series of a player's attempt to scam the Lady of Pain by purposefully antagonising her enough to get mazednote , trusting that his character's racial ability to automatically know the correct path out of any dungeon would help him. He was right! The exit? 100 million miles down that straight, featureless corridor.
  • Scp Foundation:
  • During the first episode of the Atum mini-arc in Vaguely Recalling JoJo, Telence T. D'Arby somehow got Double's soul off-screen, as her doll is seen in Telence's collection. Telence wouldn't last five seconds against an Eldritch Abomination like Double, so he probably used his words to get her to play video games with him.
  • Noriko Null from Beyond the Impossible:
    -You want to trick Hermes? He’s the GOD of tricksters!!!
    Noriko smiles. It’s the smile of someone who has just figured out how to beat impossible odds.
    -Do you have any idea of many millions of lawyers there are on Earth? They are all here – she says, tapping a finger on her head.

    Western Animation 
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, Jade uses Exact Words to trick the Monkey King, the ultimate trickster, into pulling on Jackie's detached puppet leg (It Makes Sense in Context) returning him to puppet form (as Jade says, the spell required the Monkey King to pull Jackie's leg, but it didn't say it had to be attached at the time!).
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, Spidey manages to trick LOKI by playing to his ego, saying that unless he defeats Thor while the Thunder God is in his normal form, no one will respect him for it. As Loki undoes his Baleful Polymorph, Peter lampshades how he can't believe Loki fell for that!
  • Gargoyles: Xanatos (of course) did this to Puck, when he chose Owen Burnett instead of a wish, forcing Puck to play human for the rest of Xanatos' life. note 
    • A Pet the Dog moment as well. Xanatos could have had any wish he wanted, but passed up a ticket to wealth or power to keep his faithful servant. This, incidentally, was done on purpose by Puck, who was curious about Xanatos's human nature and whether or not he would value companionship over power. Then again, Xanatos is 'never boring'
  • In Metalocalypse, the boys encounter the Devil (well, the Blues Devil) and sell their souls to him for Blues talent. Except they negotiate it all the way down to little more than a $5 Hot Topic giftcard.
    • Oddly, he appears to very reasonably refuse the contract at the time. It's only at the end of the episode that it's revealed that he agreed to these terms — presumably, he was just that impressed with someone actually managing to put one over on him.
  • Eric Cartman does this LITERALLY in the South Park episodes Mysterion Rises and Coon vs. Coon and Friends as he actually scams Cthulhu into doing his bidding by acting sickening cute.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy's entire premise began with this trope.
  • Vilgax did this to Eldritch Abomination Diagon in the finale of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien. Bonus points for Diagon being actually based on a Great Ancient One. Considering the Badass Decay he had been through in his previous appearance, this is generally considered by fans as the Moment of Awesome that marks his Character Rerailment.
  • In Regular Show, Skips accidentally kills Rigby for cheating in arm wrestling, he then challenges Death to an arm wrestling match for Rigby's soul. Skips wins by using the same trick Rigby used on him.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Discord gets to be on the receiving end of this when a heavily weakened Tirek promises him that he'll let Discord go back to the way he was before his Heel–Face Turn if he helps him drain all the ponies of their magic, which Discord happily accepts. When Tirek gets powerful enough, he then steals Discord's own power.
  • In Teen Titans Go!, when all of the Titans except for Raven are turned old and promptly die, Raven goes to the underworld to get their souls back from Death. Death offers to give Raven their souls in exchange for her own, but once he gives them to her she reveals that she's a half-demon and has no soul; this results in the Titans coming back as zombies, which Raven is ecstatic about.
  • The Gaang from Avatar: The Last Airbender try to pull this on Wan Shi Tong by promising not to use the knowledge they could learn in his library for violence. He doesn't entirely believe them but gives them the benefit of the doubt, and is not happy when he finds out they lied to his face and intend to use the knowledge to take down the Fire Nation.
  • In Avengers Assemble, Galactus appoints Tony Stark to be his Herald. Tony loyally finds Galactus an energy-rich planet to devour... but Galactus doesn't learn until after he's eaten it that it's so energy-rich because its core is about to explode. This effectively takes the Devourer of Worlds out of commission.
  • In Gravity Falls, Bill Cipher is a dream demon who is as smart as he is powerful, and is able to play one heck of a long game (as in over a trillion years). By the series finale, through a series of well done maneuvers and bargains, Bill managed to turn the town into an apocalyptic hellscape of pure chaos by merging the nightmare realm with the real world. Unfortunately his power doesn't extend outside the town and he needs Ford's permission to enter his mind to get the information he needs to escape it. What ultimately does him in though is a supreme case of Hoist By Their Own Petard, as when he does strike a bargain, he falls for a Twin Switch by Stan Pines, aka the greatest con man in Gravity Falls, that allows his brother Ford to destroy him while he mistakenly possesses Stan's mind instead.

Here comes a pissed-off Eldritch Abomination!

Statler: Didn't you scam a god once?
Waldorf: Yeah. Some feller named Poseidon asked me to get him some ice water.
Statler: So what did you do?
Waldorf: I gave him some ice water. With the ice already melted!
Both: Doh-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho!