Free Sample Plot Coupon

You're Bob the Hero, and you're going on an adventure!

The work you're in has a writer, of course. In this case, the writer knows that a handy way to structure a plot is to present it as a quest for a certain number of special items. But your heart may sink when you receive what looks like the Grocery List from Hell — find the Four Stars of Virtue, slay the Six Dragons of Deceit, win a kiss from all Fifteen Maidens of Dubious Intent... You know, slaying even one Dragon of Deceit could be the plot of an entire adventure. And what does a Maiden of Dubious Intent look like, anyway?

So the writer decides to prod you by having the first MacGuffin or Plot Coupon land right in your lap. (Let's hope it's a Maiden and not a Dragon.)

This first encounter is the Free-Sample Plot Coupon. It serves as a good motivation to look for the remaining objects or characters, which (or who) will be genuinely more difficult to find. Now, how the first MacGuffin appears may depend on the plot or the place:
  • It may be found right next to you. Not too shabby.
  • The Quest Giver already has it and gives it to you.
  • If it's an object, whoever holds it will appear instantly. If it's a character, he or she may appear instantly.
  • It may turn out that you already had one of the tokens... Or you are one yourself!

Naturally, if the first item or character takes a lot of effort to find (if not more than the others), then it doesn't fit the trope. Not to be confused with This Is Your Premise on Drugs.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Earlier arcs of Dragon Ball, for the most part, revolves around looking for the Dragon Balls. But at the start of the first arc, Son Goku already has one and Bulma meets him having two, making the quest much easier already. After Shenron is summoned and the corresponding wish is granted, the Dragon Balls scatter across the world after granting a wish, making finding them again harder.
  • Downplayed in InuYasha. Kagome already has the Shikon pearl inside her at the start of the series, but after some unsavory events it is fragmented into several pieces, scattered through Feudal Japan. Thus the objective is to retrieve them, and the first of them is held by a very powerful opponent, negating the trope entirely.
  • In order to save Athena in Saint Seiya, the main characters must walk through the twelve zodiac houses and confront the Gold Saints whenever it's necessary. Fortunately, Aries won't be a major concern. Mu, the house's guardian, is on the good guys' side, and after jokingly faking a battle with them, he proceeds to repair their (at that point weakened) armors so they can be better prepared. Mu also gives them suggestions about how to confront the remaining Gold Saints.
  • The manga version of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past has Link getting the first pendant from Sahasrahla.
  • Futari wa Pretty Cure:
    • It's revealed that the heroines needed to obtain all seven Prism Stones...which meant they needed to get five back from the bad guys, to go with the two they already had.
    • A year later, they had to search for twelve of something called "Heartiels." They had absolutely no idea what that meant until the first one turned up on her own and introduced herself.
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, while the rest of the Clow Cards were freed, the Windy remains (Sakura having had it in her hand when she read its name).
  • The main conflict of Yu Gi Oh Zexal revolves around collecting the 100 Number monsters. They were released into the wild during a duel, and the first one we see chose main protagonist Yuma's opponent (and later rival), Shark. Luckily, Yuma himself got the second one.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Lockout, Snow receives the lighter and briefcase from the dying Colonel and promptly stashes the briefcase (which turns out to be a Mock Guffin) and — unknowingly — keeps the lighter which is the ACTUAL item he seeking.
  • The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. The Grand Vizier of Marabia gives Sinbad a quest to find the three golden tablets before the evil Koura does. Luckily Sinbad accidentally acquired the first tablet from Koura before meeting the Vizier, and uses it to locate the area where the other two tablets can be found.

  • The quest for the Horcruxes in Harry Potter is a Double Subversion. The first Horcrux destroyed was Riddle's Diary, four years before Harry even knew it was such. And it took the plot of an entire book (Chamber of Secrets) to destroy it, so it wouldn't fit the trope. However, in Half-Blood Prince, when Dumbledore tells Harry about Horcruxes and the importance of destroying them, he tells him that not only is the diary already out of the picture, so is Marvolo Gaunt's Ring, which he and Snape had already found and gotten rid of prior to the events of Half-Blood Prince.
  • In the novel The Dark Is Rising, Will Stanton is given the first Sign, the Sign of Iron, before he even learns that he is an Old One and starts his quest for the other five Signs.
  • In The Keys To The Kingdom, Arthur is given half of the first Key right at the start of Mister Monday, and the first part of the Will has already escaped before he enters the House to find the rest of the seven Keys and free the other six parts of the Will.
  • A villainous example occurs in The Dark Tower, where The Crimson King is trying to end reality by destroying the six beams that hold up the titular Tower. By the time the story starts, two of the beams have broken on their own, and the King has destroyed another.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Outer Limits (1963) episode "Demon with a Glass Hand". Trent must find the three missing fingers of his artificial left hand to save humanity from the Kyben invasion. Fortunately Trent's incomplete left hand is a computer that can help him find the three fingers.
  • In Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, it's the last of the five jewels that's easy - it was already in their base in a sealed compartment. But then the villains come barging in.
  • In Power Rangers Dino Charge, of the ten Energems lost in the dinosaur age, the first five are what gives the Rangers their powers.

  • In the Doctor Who stageplay "Seven Keys to Doomsday", the Doctor already has the first of the seven crystals when he shows up at the beginning of the play.

    Video Games 
  • Banjo-Kazooie:
    • In all games, Jigsaw Pieces as MacGuffins. In the first game, they are required to complete magical pictures that open the levels they portray. Who tells the title characters about this? The first Jigsaw Piece, of course, which is found at the entrance lobby of Gruntilda's Lair.
    • Banjo-Tooie has Jingaling explain Jiggies to the protagonists while handing them the first one of that particular game.
  • The trope is often averted in The Legend of Zelda games, where Link has to traverse through a dungeon and other places before gaining the first of the Plot Coupon items. However, there are a few exceptions:
    • In Ocarina of Time, after Ganondorf takes over Hyrule and Link wakes up from his seven-year slumber, the first Sage tells him that all the others have to be awakened so they can together capture and seal Ganondorf. He also gives him the first Sage Medallion, Light.
    • In Twilight Princess, Link and Midna must reunite the four fragments of the Mirror of Twilight in order to enter Zant's whereabouts. The first fragment, luckily, is still in the Mirror when they find it broken, so they only have to look for three more.
    • Also in Twilight Princess, Midna is already wearing the first piece of the four Fused Shadows when the player meets her.
    • In Skyward Sword, the first Ancient Tablet is already given to him by Fi in Skyloft, allowing him to gain access to the first area of the Surface, Faron Woods. The trope is inverted in the Song of the Hero quest, as Levias is the character that tells Link about the song and the parts of it that were taught separately to him and the three Dragons guarding the areas of the Surface, but he won't teach him his part until all others are learned.
    • In A Link Between Worlds, the Pendant of Courage is actually Zelda's special charm, which she gives Link when he goes to warn her about Yuga.
  • In Star Fox Adventures, a character tells Krystal that the Krazoa Spirits are the only beings capable of bringing an end to the war that is wounding the population of planet Sauria. He even tells her that the shrine guarding the first Krazoa Spirit is a few steps on her right side.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, the player is introduced to the quest for the Star Maps by finding one just outside the Jedi Enclave.
  • Mass Effect 1, Shepard accidentally finds a Prothean beacon in the end of the tutorial level. It proves to be the first in line of Mac Guffins you have to collect before you can beat the Big Bad, namely, the Prothean Cipher that allows to decode the beacon's message, Liara who does the actual decoding, and the coordinates of the Point of No Return kept by the Rachni Queen.
  • In King's Quest: Mask of Eternity the entire reason why Connor is the hero is because he picked up a piece of the Mask (one of five plot-necessary Mac Guffins) before the spell that turned everyone else to stone could hit. Everyone acts as though he's the destined hero, but if that's true then Destiny must've aimed that mask piece directly at him. This is confirmed by a Prophet and a prophecy later in the game.
  • In Super Paper Mario, Mario gets the first Pure Heart handed to him before the player even officially has control of him. Hilariously, you can avert But Thou Must by refusing multiple times to accept the first Plot Coupon, eventually leading to the giver just giving up and a Non Standard Game Over before the game even begins.
  • Mario's goal in Super Mario Galaxy is to retrieve the Grand Stars that fuel the Comet Observatory built by Rosalina. Luckily for him, the first of these Stars is the only one that isn't guarded by any of the bosses, in fact its power hasn't been fully used yet. Also a case of Back from the Brink.
  • Ōkami has a sidequest-based example: In Shinshu field, a priest asks Amaterasu to hunt down five criminal demons, each marked with a sacred arrow. As soon as the titular wolf exits the priest's house to start the search, night falls and the first criminal demon challenges her to a fight.
  • Averted in Jet Force Gemini: When Mizar escapes from his palace after Lupus easily defeats him, he threatens the characters to redirect an asteroid to blow up planet Earth. Aware of this, King Jeff tells the protagonists that there is a huge mothership that will help them intercept the asteroid and find a way to stop it, but it's missing twelve pieces. Eleven of these pieces are scattered through the galaxy, so the three characters have to do a Fetch Quest to retrieve them. The 12th piece, technically the first, is in Jeff's hands, but he won't give it away until all 282 missing tribals in the game are rescued. He doesn't even care if the aforementioned asteroid manages to hit Earth in the meantime.
  • In MacGuffin's Curse, the main character gets the desired quest object at the end of the tutorial level. Then the real story begins.
  • In Sonic Adventure, Tails already has possession of the first Chaos Emerald. Sonic Adventure 2 has both Eggman and Tails with their own Chaos Emeralds.
  • Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song has the FateStones, a selection of jewels that give various bonuses when equipped. One of the main characters, Barbara, is given the Amethyst as a gift at the start of her storyline. Alternately, any of the other characters can recruit her and find she's already carrying it.
  • Played straight in Skies of Arcadia, but you don't actually find out until more than halfway through the game. When Fina joins the party, she says that her quest is to find the six Moon Crystals, but she doesn't mention that one of them is already accounted for until you've collected four of them.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening gives you 3 out of 6, when you find out you need them. The coupons are the Fire Emblem itself and the five jewels that attach to it. The character who explains why you need them gives you a gem, and Chrom has had the Fire Emblem and the first gem since the first half of the game. The emblem (with first gem already attached) was important in the first half of the story, but its exact use wasn't established until the second half.
  • Played with in all Metroid Prime Trilogy games; each of them involves a Plot Coupon hunt, but it doesn't begin until about mid-way through the game.
    • In the first game, the first of twelve artifacts can be found at the Artifact Temple you need to bring them all to in the first place.
    • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes takes it further, as one of the ten keys needed to access the final area is already in its lock thanks to the efforts of a long-deceased Luminoth warrior, so Samus only needs to find nine. And one of those nine keys lies close to its required destination, needing little effort to find it; namely, its location is the Dark World version of Samus's landing site.
    • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, you're instead hunting Energy Cells to restore power as you go to portions of a derelict space vessel; conveniently, a wrecked fighter is crashed in its docking bay, with its Energy Cell having fallen out for you to grab and use right away.
    • Metroid Prime: Hunters downplays this trope. The whereabouts of the first Octolith are found at the start of the game, but like all other Octoliths it's guarded by a boss that must be defeated.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X has the Blood Lobster sidequest, where the main character has to find 99 lobster-shaped toys stuffed with explosives, scattered all around New Los Angeles. Why 99 and not 100? Because Rook manages to spot one and throw it away before it explodes in his hands (as the culprit planned to kill them before the start of the collection).

    Web Comics 
  • Keychain of Creation has its whole premise centered around Misho and co. searching for the Keys of Creation. Fortunately, Misho already possesses Eternal Dawn, the Key of the Sun. Unfortunately, the bad guys also start with one already. Three more are left for the hunt.
  • In Godslave, Anpu gives Edith a task of retrieving his nine ba. Thankfully, he's the first one.