aka: Interchangable Plot Driving Item
"In crook stories it is almost always the necklace,MacGuffin (a.k.a. McGuffin or maguffin) is a term for a motivating element in a story that is used to drive the plot. It serves no further purpose. It won't pop up again later, it won't explain the ending, it won't do anything except possibly distract you while you try to figure out its significance. In some cases, it won't even be shown. It is usually a mysterious package/artifact/superweapon that everyone in the story is chasing. To determine if a thing is a MacGuffin:
and in spy stories it is most always the papers."
and in spy stories it is most always the papers."
- Check to see if it is interchangeable. For example, in a caper story the MacGuffin could be either the Mona Lisa or the Hope diamond, it makes no difference which. The rest of the story (i.e. it being stolen) would be exactly the same. It doesn't matter which it is, it is only necessary for the characters to want it.
- Does it do anything, and if it does, is it ever actually used in story? If the answer to both is yes, it's a Plot Device, not a MacGuffin. For Plot Devices that get the same attention as a MacGuffin, compare Magnetic Plot Device.
- A man is riding on a train when a second gentleman gets on and sits down across from him. The first man notices the second is holding an oddly shaped package."What is that?" the first man asks."A MacGuffin, a tool used to hunt lions in the Scottish highlands.""But there are no lions in the Scottish highlands," says the first man."Well then," says the other, "That's no MacGuffin".
- Accidentally Broke The MacGuffin: When someone breaks the MacGuffin when he needed it.
- Artifact of Attraction: If the object itself is inherently irresistible.
- Clingy MacGuffin: Inversion of this trope — its most important attribute is that the person who has it wants to be rid of it.
- Dismantled MacGuffin: The MacGuffin is split into several parts and hidden in different places. Plot coupons are most often this type of MacGuffin.
- Egg MacGuffin: A MacGuffin that is an egg.
- Free Sample Plot Coupon: The first MacGuffin is given or found with zero effort, compared to subsequent ones.
- Going to See the Elephant: Taking a trip with no serious purpose. The reason for the trip may be a MacGuffin or may not.
- Hostage for MacGuffin: The heroes have the MacGuffin. The Villain has a hostage and wants the MacGuffin. Trade ya?
- I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: A character has the MacGuffin. (S)he dies after giving the MacGuffin to another character (usually the heroes) and asking them to take care of it.
- It May Help You on Your Quest: An irrelevant object turns out to be useful in the end.
- Living MacGuffin: A living being, free (or at least in no danger), who serves as the MacGuffin.
- A MacGuffin Full of Money: The MacGuffin is simply a large amount of cash.
- MacGuffin Delivery Service: The good guys get the MacGuffin just in time for the bad guys to steal it from them. Bad guys win! (Temporarily.)
- MacGuffin Escort Mission: The good guys get the MacGuffin early on. The rest of the story is about them transporting it somewhere else without losing it.
- MacGuffin Girl: The MacGuffin is transformed into a living being (usually a girl).
- MacGuffin Guardian: The monster that guards the MacGuffin.
- MacGuffin Location: The MacGuffin isn't a thing or a person, it's a place.
- MacGuffin Melee: When multiple groups searching for the MacGuffin find it at the same time and a fight breaks out.
- MacGuffin Title: The MacGuffin is right there in the title of the work.
- Memento MacGuffin: A MacGuffin that holds sentimental value to one or more characters.
- Mineral MacGuffin: A gem, a jewel, or a rock of some type that holds great power, that is used as a MacGuffin.
- Mock Guffin: A MacGuffin that turns out to be worthless.
- No MacGuffin, No Winner: Neither side has the MacGuffin in the end. It's been destroyed, lost, or discovered to be fake.
- One True Sequence: The heroes and villains reach the MacGuffin simultaneously, regardless of how much sense it makes timescale-wise.
- Pirate Booty: Older than the Briefcase Full of Money, and even more likely to be stolen.
- Plot Coupon: A common manifestation in video games, an item that the player must acquire to advance the plot, but serves no other gameplay purpose.
- The President's Daughter: The MacGuffin is a living person, and is in danger, held captive or being actively hunted. Contrast with Living MacGuffin.
- Ransacked Room: What the bad guys do when they suspect the good guys already have the MacGuffin. May also include ransacked luggage, tearing up the grounds, or even destroying a room or building.
- Sound Stone: The MacGuffin is a sound rather than a thing, or a thing that must be used to produce the sound.
- Stolen MacGuffin Reveal: The MacGuffin was a fake, or stolen before the thief got it.
- Timeline-Altering MacGuffin: An otherwise unimportant item from the future that, if left in the past during time travel, will have serious consequences.
- Two Halves Make a Plot: A MacGuffin is in two pieces and need to be put together for the plot to move forward.
- Anime and Manga
- Comic Books
- Live-Action TV
- Religion and Mythology
- Video Games
- Web Comics
- Western Animation
- Real Life
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- In The Prayer Warriors, during "The Battle With the Witches", the heroes look for five keys to get into Dumbledore's office in Hogwarts. One is carried by Ginny, another by Ron, a third by Harry, and a fourth by Hermione. It's unclear who has the fifth key, since after the fourth key, the Prayer Warriors break into Dumbledore's office and kill him.
- In Pokeumans the Gemstone Files take this role at first, but are later replaced by the Dimensional Gems.
- The Captain Of The Virtual Console has the Runestones, manifestations of players' love for gaming.
- In Catherine and Her Fate, the skein of silk that Catherine's Fate gives her is so apparently worthless that she nearly throws it out. It has, it turns out, two properties: it is exactly the color needed to sew the king's wedding garments, inspiring him to say that she shall have its weight in gold, and it outweighs his entire treasury, thereby inspiring him to demand her story.
- The Paranoia adventure "The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues". The title Black Box. What it does is eventually revealed, in some versions of the adventure, but it's unlikely your player characters will live long enough to discover it.
- The "Honor & Intrigue" system has a character attribute actually called "MacGuffin". Taking it turns one of the items in your character's possession into a future MacGuffin.
- Referenced in Mistborn Adventure Game, where the book uses the term "MacGuffin" to describe a Secret that has no function other than to be the thing everyone wants. For example, a vast hoard of precious metal that may or may not exist, and which is of little use anyway, because the world is coming to an end and there's nothing to buy with that wealth.
- In Philoctetes, while much is made of Philoctetes' special bow (received from Herakles himself) the plot itself is not really concerned with its purpose as much as the choices the characters make because of and in spite of its importance.
- In Sherlock Holmes, the MacGuffin is a packet containing letters, photographs, jewelry etc. that were sent to Alice Faulkner's late sister by a foreign gentleman who seduced and ruined her, and the villains want it out of the picture now that he wants to marry. The name of the gentleman is merely whispered inaudibly, and the sister's name is not revealed either.
- Mary's eye in Shikkoku No Sharnoth. We know what the eye does for her but exactly how it would really help anyone else who acquired it is vague. They simply want it.
- The Project Orwell software in series 1 of KateModern, which is mysteriously absent from the second series.
- The Nostalgia Chick has a jar of mayonnaise that has been transformed into one by Lord MacGuffin.
- The Tower of Pimps, a stack of four gold blocks on an obsidian block pedestal, in Rooster Teeth's, "Let's Play Minecraft". Nothing fancy, just bragging rights material for whoever wins the challenge of the episode.
- The dimensional transponder in The Cartoon Man which turns out to be a pen the characters found earlier. In the third movie, the Glove of the Animator becomes one as well.
- This trope was featured in Episode 2 of the TV Tropes podcast On The Tropes.