Infallible Babble

"Whenever anybody comes up to you with a patently ludicrous claim (such as, 'I'm not a cat, I'm really an ancient Red Dragon') there's an at least two-thirds chance they're telling the truth. Therefore, it pays to humor everyone you meet; odds are you'll be glad you did later on."
Law of Productive Gullibility (Ruby Rule), The Grand List of Console RPG Clichés, #101

Information's answer to Chekhov's Gun.

When provided information in a work, you need not ever take it with a grain of salt. Given the limited amount of time and lines of text allotted to exposition, the law of Conservation of Detail ensure that the information provided to the hero by casual bystanders is 1) entirely accurate; and 2) nearly always relevant to the plot. This holds true even if the information is a vaguely remembered myth, a prophecy spouted by a raving preacher, or a rumor that somewhere, some or other event is taking place.

For example, if someone tells you that, "I think King Samuel's apprentice keeps an ingot of Asagron Mythril in the desk of his workshop", you can be absolutely certain that not only will you find it there if you ever need to forge the Sword of Plot Advancement, but also that you'll have to do it in the first place.

Nor do you ever need to consider the source; the delirious town drunk is just as trustworthy as a respected high-ranking government official (often more so, in fact). The only exception seems to be gossip about your own adventures, and even then, they've got the bare bones right.

Commonplace in other media. Indeed, one reason why we are often presented with the true facts before the Malicious Slander is because the audience will often take the slander as true otherwise, relying on this. As a result, any aversions show the characters actively pointing out to the audience how they were being misled.

Contrasts Treacherous Advisor and Treacherous Quest Giver, who often misguide you with false information.

This often happens in the same kind of story where All Myths Are True.


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     Comic Books  

  • This is the Rumor's power in The Umbrella Academy, anything she says, preceded with "I heard a rumor that" or something to the same degree, automatically becomes true.
  • Downplayed in Astro City story "Pastoral" because not all of Roustabout's backstory — labeled online (in story) as speculation — comes up, but enough does that Cammie realizes he may have told the truth all along.

     Fan Works 
  • In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, the four are bombarded with sayings, poems, rumors, and suchlike. They're told that these things are the only way the Pyar gods usually have to communicate with their imported heroes, so George dubs the stuff "Gods Chat." Some of what they find is relevant to them, but much isn't.


  • Played with in 2012, in which absolutely everything the zany Conspiracy Theorist spouts turns out to be down-to-the-minute true... except for the arks being spaceships rather than big boats.
  • Double Subverted in The Blair Witch Project: all strange events notwithstanding, the local folks' babbling about the witch seems to be just that... until the very last scene, where it turns out to be at least partly true.


  • In the 6th Harry Potter book, Dumbledore openly states that everything from this point on regarding Voldemort is unconfirmed theory and speculation. Despite this, nearly everything Dumbledore says is pretty much dead on. This isn't as farfetched as it sounds as they do have a decent amount of information to base these theories on (and hey, it's Dumbledore).
    • Well really, Dumbledore was stretching the truth to breaking point when he said that everything was just speculation, since he later says that he considered his theory confirmed as early as the second book. And as book seven reveals, there are certain elements of his Batman Gambit that he never tells Harry, despite his promise. Though it's not that relevant to the plot, Dumbledore was wrong about the victims used to create the horcruxes: They were not all significant murders. They varied in importance from his biological father to a Muggle Tramp.
      • He was also wrong about the victim used to create the Horcrux in Nagini. He speculated it was Frank Bryce, but Word of God that it was actually Bertha Jorkins, earlier on.
    • Harry's own babble is apparently infallible, as all of his ludicrously specific wild guesses about the Hallows turn out to be dead on. For instance, "I bet the Resurrection Stone was in the ring that Voldemort just happened to also turn into a horcrux! And I'm just positive it's inside the snitch Dumbledore gave me!"
      • The cursed ring was a stretch, but there isn't much else the snitch could have been for, particularly since it was implied it would "open", and was therefore containing a plot gizmo.
    • The Deathly Hallows themselves are a bit of an inversion as well: the Invisibility Cloak is not completely impenetrable (Moody's magic eye was able to see through it, for example) and the Elder Wand is not unbeatable (Dumbledore managed to beat it, but only after what was later and universally dubbed the greatest wizarding duel in history). Nevertheless, both objects are much more powerful than any other in their class, which explains how their legend came about.
      • And the Resurrection Stone is basically useless. Not only do the people brought back belong with the dead (as in the story), but you can't actually see them unless you're holding the stone, and they seem otherwise to be about one shade above ghosts. Really hammering home that no magic can raise the dead thing.
      • Actually, it's implied that the Resurrection Stone has varied powers. For example, Dumbledore surmised that Grindelwald would use it to create an army of Inferi. Harry probably subconsciously used it to call the spirits of his loved ones to bolster his courage. He could have probably raised them from the dead "enough" so that others could see them, but likewise, they still wouldn't "belong" in the world of the living, and bad things would happen.
    • In earlier books, the fake "prophecies" that Ron and Harry whip up in Divination class have an ironic tendency to come true, despite having been deliberately concocted because they'd both failed to divine anything.
      • Professer Trelawney's predictions also have a tendency to come true. Occasionally, this is because she uses cold reading and other staples of Muggle "psychic" methods, such as looking at the clumsiest, most nervous guy in the room and then telling him he'll drop his teacup soon, or simply makes fairly self-evident predictions (Harry will be in GRAAAAVE DAAAANGER). However, she also makes completely accurate prophecies about ludicrously specific, plot-critical details. Hers is The Prophecy that kicks off the series, due to being vague enough about who the child destined to defeat Voldemort will be: both Harry and Neville Longbottom qualify, but Voldemort's actions force Harry into that role.
  • Aversion and Lampshading: Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time books have tons of rumors popping up, most of them false. But the series is stuffed with Poor Communication Kills, so the main characters can be very gullible, which is mocked very well in ISAM's parody summaries.
  • Sort of comes up in Allegiance. Two Imperials have betrayed Mara Jade, and now they're trying to kill her. She recognizes a tactic they're using, in which one sneaks after her while the other gets talkative, distracting her and covering any noise the first makes. But, she thinks, you are not supposed to give out actual useful information while doing this, and in this case it means they're either stupid or very, very confident. The talking one mentions stormtroopers deserting, which happens to be plot-important.
  • Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian:
    • "Shadows In Zamboula": Conan is thoroughly warned about staying with Aram Baksh, where he hired a room.
    • The Hour of the Dragon: the rumors that Conan is Not Quite Dead spread over the entire kingdom without getting mangled.
    • "The Phoenix on the Sword": Conan has heard the rumors on Epemitreus's ghost, down to his purpose being to aid Aquilonia; Epemitreus has only to explain that Conan's destiny is tied to the land.
  • In most of H.P. Lovecraft's stories, especially The Shadow Over Innsmouth, in which, in the titular village, the insane ramblings of the town drunk all seem to be horrifically true.
  • Tyrion in A Dance with Dragons treats his father's last words "wherever whores go" as this, considering them to be a crucial hint as to where his lost love Tysha disappeared to.
    • There's also a small inversion of this in the first book, where Arya hears wildly different rumors in the crowd at her father's execution regarding the death of the king. The reader knows most of the facts (probably), but Arya doesn't.
  • Subverted in A Brother's Price. The newspapers make every rumor easily available to everyone, and very little of what they say that the characters notice is true.
  • This is an actual magic power in Xanth. Princess Ida's magical talent is the "idea"; anything she believes is true becomes true. Provided that the idea came to her from someone who does not know about her abilities. So if you can trick someone who is unfamiliar with her to engage in this trope, the babble will in fact be infallible.
  • Lampshaded in The Long Dark Teatime Of The Soul. Dirk tries to make some cash on the side by becoming a Phony Psychic. Every prediction he makes, no matter how off-the-wall or strange, is absolutely true. He primarily finds this irritating. At one point he even sarcastically fingers a random bystander who ticked him off as the Big Bad. He's right.

     Live Action TV  

  • Firefly:
    • Subverted. Characters bandy about various theories about the Reavers. Mal suggests they've been separated from civilization too long, and Kaylee suggests they reached the edge of space, saw nothing beyond, and went insane as a result. All of these turn out to be wrong in The Movie, where the Reavers were made via Government Drug Enforcement that all went horribly wrong.
    • Played straight with River, whose seemingly random utterances often have a ring of truth to them. It is justified though, as she has psychic powers, allowing her to read minds and see the future. Unfortunately, the medical experimentation used to boost her abilities left her without proper control of them, and she often has trouble understanding what's going on.
  • The X-Files:
    • In far too many episodes, Mulder will randomly spout a random guess about the nature of the Monster of the Week. No matter how little information he has, whether that information is remotely reliable, or how many other explanation there could be for it, his random guesses are almost always right.
    • Specifically inverted in the episode "War of the Coprophages", which mostly consists of Scully debunking Mulder's various (increasingly insane) theories about why people in a particular town are dying in cockroach-related ways.
  • Inverted in Psych. Shawn regularly tells outlandish lies in an attempt to make himself sound more interesting. And he does this in addition to the gimmick where he claims to be a psychic. An inversion because Shawn knows they're lies and they end up being true in spite of this.
  • Doctor Who:
    • One executive producer and writer complained at length in a episode commentary about the fact that any time a sci-fi character starts giving exposition, the audience automatically believes him, despite the fact that he may very well be wrong or confused.
    • In The Doctor's Wife Idris aka the TARDIS in human form says a lot of things, very fast and with pretty much no context. You would be excused for thinking it's utter nonsense, but much of what she says foreshadows something either later in the episode or coming up in the next few episodes. Aside from random observations, like how much fun kissing and biting are, and wondering if fish have fingers.
  • In Power Rangers RPM a guard remarks that a Venjix hardware detector has been giving him false positives all day when it goes off on Tenaya 7. In the two-part finale it turns out they weren't.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Giles' first line in "I've Got A Theory" (from "Once More With Feeling"): "I’ve got a theory that it’s a demon! A dancing demon? No something isn’t right there". Actually...
    • Also done in "Earshot." When Buffy tells the Scoobies that someone in the cafeteria is planning to kill everyone, Xander quips that he told everyone the lunch lady would do them all in with her mulligan stew. Guess who it turns out to be, and how they were going to do it. Go on, just guess.


  • Panic! at the Disco's "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" implies that the protagonist is going to leave his fiancee at the altar ("technically our marriage is saved") because he heard a waiter call her a whore.

     Tabletop Games  

  • The Enemy Within campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay gave the GM several rumours that the players might encounter while talking to people. Some had a grain of truth, most were just rubbish.
    • One held that the mayor of some town was a Chaos Cultist who was feeding his cat milk mixed with human blood. Several people swear they heard the mayor telling his cat to "drink your bloody milk!".
  • The infamous story of the Head of Vecna is an Aversion. In the tale, a DM for Dungeons & Dragons was playing two groups of players against each other. The first group had the idea to come up with a rumor of a third example of one of Vecna's magical remains (the Eye and Hand being objects that grant you their power if you remove your own eye or hand and replace them with the Artifact of Doom). The rumor was given to the local townsfolk and was then overheard by Group Two, who then marched their way into the dungeon where a fake head was placed and attempted to graft it on to one of their numbers by decapitating themselves. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Subverted in Paranoia, where many adventures have a list of rumors provided for the Gamemaster to drop to players. Given that virtually everyone in Alpha Complex lies constantly to protect themselves, though, this means the occasional true rumor will be disregarded as well.

     Video Games  

  • Averted in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, especially with the various vampire characters and their minions. Almost everyone you meet is trying to manipulate your actions and influence your opinions in various directions based on their agendas. Even relatively benign vampires have plenty of cause to deceive and control you, even if it's just to learn more about you - or for a laugh.
  • Averted in DeusEx. Characters will lie based on their own various agendas, not even just concerning grand, important topics but smaller, subtler issues.
  • Inverted in Final Fantasy VI, where the people of Zozo lie. Always lie, mind you. Nobody ever tells a normal rumor. This culminates with one person saying "Zozo? Never heard of it!" There is one guy in the town who tells the truth, but he's of no significance until the second half of the game. The boss of the area even goes so far to say that he dislikes fighting and that he'll let you pass by him unscathed, immediately before attacking you. To find the Chainsaw hidden in the town, you need to Talk to Everyone to find out what time it ISN'T, to set the clock appropriately and open the door.
  • On the planet Dezo from Phantasy Star II, there are two kinds of Translator Microbes available. If you use the wrong one, everybody lies to you — but just like Zozo, it's absolute pathological lying. The same planet in Phantasy Star I has a town where everyone on the eastern side will lie to you.
  • Averted in Star Control II, where some rumors are true, others incomplete or false. The game is largely about figuring out (and fixing) what's been going on, and it's comfy with never giving the player a Cliff's Notes version. Note, however, that all of the information you pay for is both true and relevant, if not always useful; this is because the Knowledge Brokers are much better informed than everyone else.
  • Inverted by Persona 2 where you have the ability to spread rumors and make them come true. Some of those affected are kinda confused... "I don't know what the mob is, but here's some of their stuff for sale."
  • Quite darkly inverted in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers in the case of Grovyle, who everyone including the hero and partner believes is a wicked criminal intent on stealing the Time Gears and cause the planet's paralysis but later turns out to be the hero's friend, and they traveled together from the future where the planet is paralyzed, to steal the Time Gears and bring them to Temporal Tower, which would stop the planet's paralysis and prevent the bad future from happening. It also turns out that Dusknoir, who is made up to be the good guy, is actually a henchman of the Big Bad sent back in time as well, with the intent of killing the hero and Grovyle. Thing is, the protagonist would have known all of it if he didn't have a case of Laser-Guided Amnesia for the entire game. Pretty dark indeed.
  • Averted in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest for the NES. The manual warns you that what the villagers say may not be the truth. Indeed, while some things the NPCs say are true, some are only partially correct, and others are completely wrong.
    • This was originally believed to be the result of bad translation, but it was found that the Japanese script for the game was just as incomprehensible.
    • Some of the townsfolk tell you things like what Dracula's rib does or where you can find some of the thirteen "scriptures" which explain what to do at the impassable cliffs and lakes etc. One villager tells you how to get through the poison marsh, another that it's necessary to get the cross at Laruba's Mansion... Not everything is useless or lies, and the manual does warn you that some of it is. Talking to some of the townspeople is also necessary in order to find out which ones sell you items. The dialogue sets the tone for the atmosphere and type of people you encounter in each town, deepening the game, and some of the utterances are quite funny, adding to the entertainment value. Also you know you're getting nearer the end when the townsfolk are more scared in the towns you come across, which is a useful clue and adds to the ambiance as well.
    • Of course, their lies are perfectly justified: you spend most of the game trying to resurrect Dracula, the townspeople don't want Dracula back (despite Simon only doing it so he can slay Drac again to lift a curse on himself), so they lie to you to slow you down.
  • Subverted in NetHack. There are fortune cookies throughout the game, which pull fortunes from two massive files of information: the "true rumors file" follows this trope to the letter, while the "false rumors file" is filled with irrelevant, useless, and even dangerous information ("A cockatrice corpse is guaranteed to be untainted!"). The game also includes an Oracle, who can be paid to tell facts from the true file only, and can even be paid a massive sum to tell you major true secrets, one of which is the answer to an obnoxious Mastermind puzzle in the mid-to-late game.
  • Subverted in the ending of Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. The Final Boss tells you that the whole "legend of the chosen one" was a rumour he started...and then you go on to make him dead anyway.
  • Viva Pińata has the character Leafos, who guides you through the tutorial and gives you hints. This is subverted later, as 50% of what she tells you turns out to be totally false gossip. Making this a case of Guide Dang It!.
    • One of the things Leafos says, it's that one of the best games she ever played is Grabbed by the Ghoulies, another game by Rare, a possible case of Self-Deprecation since the game was panned by critics and sold poorly, GBTG gets the same treatment in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.
  • Played straight in Drakengard. The downside of this is that people, including members of your party, barely ever know anything about the important stuff, and it all comes in the form of speculation. The same beings can be referred to as either the Grotesqueries, the Watchers, the gods, as the characters don't know what they are and are just guessing. Anything people tell you that happens to be a concrete fact is almost completely unimportant or irrelevant.
  • Ogre Battle:
    • Subverted with Sirius. You encounter Sirius at the beginning of the Lake Jannenia level, and he tells you that the local boss is great, he's thinking about joining your rebellion, and it's best to visit him at night. However, doing so is an incredibly bad idea: the local boss turns out to be Sirius, who is actually a werewolf. Played straight in that other people you talk to will mention odd things that hint at what's behind the spoiler (one hidden town will flat out tell you what's going on, but the rest merely hint at it).
    • Averted in the Valley of Kastro. There's a recruitable character there, and every town you visit has a different description of that character. Even the most accurate description doesn't describe that character properly (since the character is described as a member of one class, but is actually a member of another and just considered one of the first class in spirit).
    • Amusingly enough, the Sirius example has a grain of truth - while fighting him in his Werewolf form is a great way to get your ass kicked, units killed off by Sirius can come back as Werewolves themselves, having contracted lycanthropy after being beaten down.
    • Note that otherwise this trope is played straight: If a town you liberate tells you of a rumor or legend. It's 100% true.
  • The RPG Cliche quote derives from the red dragon Ruby in Lunar: Eternal Blue, who takes offense to being called a flying cat at every opportunity.
  • Exception: Ultima III was notorious for having objects mentioned in one piece of dialog that never appear within the game.
    • For that matter, most PC RPGs are immune to this trope. This is almost the exclusive province of console games.
  • Yggdra Union. Very, very early in the game, when you're touring the lands of your allies who just so happen to be embroiled in civil wars, you always hear one NPC mention a "wandering magician" who made a small contribution to the chaos. During the game's final chapter, Nessiah says hello.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Generally played straight throughout the series. If you come upon some lunatic NPC babbling about something, there's a very good chance that he's involved with a quest.
    • One exception occurs in Arena, where NPCs have bits of random dialogue that occasionally hint that certain political figures in the gameworld are cannibals or doppelgangers. They aren't (at least, so far as you can find out), with one partial exceptionnote 
    • Subverted in the main quest of Morrowind, which involves finding the correct interpretation of a certain prophecy. You find out pretty early on that the most commonly available interpretation is inaccurate.
    • Every game in the series since Morrowind has had M'aiq the Lair, a recurring Easter Egg Legacy Character, in this role. M'aiq is a known a Fourth-Wall Observer (and Leaner and Breaker) who voices the opinions of the series' creators and developers, largely in the form of Take Thats, to both the audience (given the ES Unpleasable Fanbase) and isn't above above taking some at Bethesda itself. His comments often mention features that the fanbase wanted in the series, elements from past games that were removed from later games, and comments on features Bethesda finally delivered after years of fan demand. Much of what he says is (at least from an in-universe perspective) blatantly falce, though in a few cases, his statements do have some truth to them.
  • Played straight in Fallout 2. Early on, you can take a job in the den to collect a loan from a local hobo. Not only is he unable to pay the full amount, but he also immediately wants to borrow some of the money he does give you back, with a promise to return it to you at some unspecified point in the future. Amazingly enough, he will fulfill that promise, and repay you with massive interest when you return later.
  • Averted in GoldenEye. You're told that Xenia Onatopp might be on board the Frigate, so you expect to encounter her. It turns out there's no trace of her ever being there. It was a last minute change. The large helipad was originally going to be a boss fight area.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, you encounter No-Bark who sounds like he's lost his last marble (and all the other residents of Novac confirm this, even down to interpreting his nickname as having some sort of meaning towards "being crazy"). Turns out, a lot of what he's saying is true, particularly about anything going on in Novac, but between his disheveled look and backwoods-y way of talking about things (he tells you about the ghouls that have taken over a nearby rocket test site and Nightkin appearances near the town, for instance, but conflates the two into a story about "Commie ghosts" that want to "paint the moon pink and draw a Lenin face on it"), he's pretty well doomed to telling Cassandra Truths.
    • It can sometimes border on subversion, however; a resident is complaining about cattle mutilations, and No-Bark is the only person who has apparently encountered one of the culprits. No-Bark's theory is completely and utterly insane ("It was the work of the chupacabra, I know it! But people don't believe me! 'There's too many holes in the cows', they say, 'and there's bullets in them!") However, the specifics of what he cites as evidence are more than enough to let a player know who the culprits really are.
    • If asked for his take on Carla Boone's "disappearance," he'll spout some Black Comedy philosophy about how everyone's a little crazy; his opinion being that anyone who doesn't act eccentric from time to time is hiding an eccentricity even their own mother couldn't forgive. If the player keeps this in mind during their investigation, and thoroughly searches the home of the only creepily-polite resident of Novac, they will find the physical evidence needed for a sure-fire "conviction".
  • In Black Mirror III, the player has the option to call a fortune teller. If you decide to do so, she gives you some cryptic advice which turns out to be helpful in the next chapter.
  • Completely, utterly subverted in the first BioShock. You spend half the game being led around by Atlas, only to find out that he's been lying to you since the beginning about everything, up to and including his name.
    • The above is related to a straight example: the clearly imbalanced Peach Wilkins tries to kill you because he believes you're working for Frank Fontaine despite the fact that by this point the player has been potentially exposed to a ton of evidence that Fontaine has been dead for a long time. Whaddya know, he's right.
  • Averted in the NES game Who Framed Roger Rabbit. If you ask someone for help (i.e. to find out whether there are any goodies in the building), an answer phrased a certain way indicates they are lying.
  • Subverted in EarthBound, where a woman in the First Town says she would love to tell you a story, and it's not relevant to your quest, but she decides not to tell you because it wouldn't be relevant and hearing strange stories like that from NPCs would make you more likely to ignore then when they're telling the truth.
  • In Faria, townspeople often drop accurate hints about things they should have no reason to be concerned about, like how many statues are in the nearest tower or what the boss's weakness is.
  • In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, the Jolly Swagman's ECHO recording describes an ancient temple in a great, glowing, purple rift that echoes with the deafening silent prayers of its long dead worshipers. If you've played either of the earlier games, this sounds an awful lot like the Eridian ruins surrounding the Vaults.
  • Final Fantasy XIV plays with this quite a bit in the main story. Its not uncommon to be sent checking out rumors relating to the current main goal, and while you usually stumble upon something that needs to be dealt with, its often a dead end in terms of said goal.
  • The ubiquity of this trope may be why, when Dishonored playtesters were told by a guard that they weren't allowed to go upstairs, accepted this completely at face value and did not even attempt to go upstairs, leaving them wandering around aimlessly and unable to complete the mission.
  • Played with in the Mass Effect series. The flavor text describing important features of planets you come across or background information that's provided form clues about what's really happening (such as records showing former civilizations having disappeared at roughly 50,000 year intervals, and a reference to a massive kinetic weapon strike which later turns out to have been used by Cerberus to find dead Reaper) and you'll run across characters, such as the apparently nutty scientist you first encounter right at the start of the first game, who make statements that, in retrospect, turn out to be true. On the other hand, sometimes it is just nutty babble. One planet entry mentions a volus excavating a planet looking for "beings of light" to fight against creatures of darkness he saw coming. This led players to anticipate that at some point these entities would turn out to be real and would be used against the Reapers, but it turns out that no, he really was just a nut.

    Web Original 
  • Completely averted in Nan Quest. The Pilgrim's creepy speeches? Random junk Henry made up to sound intimidating. Santiago's rambles about freedom? Lies he made up to sound edgy. Anna and Kim philosophizing about the nature of the creatures and the hotel? Total nonsense with no bearing on anything.