Hey! The guy on the right started it.
(Looks at small switchblade) "That's not a knife."
(draws massive bowie knife) "That's a knife!"
So Fingers McStealy
is lurking in an alleyway waiting for a victim. Ah, here comes someone, and that fetching hat and coat
look expensive. He's smiling too
, so maybe he just came into money? Ooo
, he even has something shiny under his coat
. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Basically this is when some random crook
, and occasionally a pretty stupid one
at that, has the misfortune of targeting someone much more powerful than he anticipated. When the monster/alien assassin/robot/ sorcerer
from the future/other world
appears, the criminal acts as an Acceptable Target
for them to begin their massacre. Alternatively, The Hero
is held up while going about their business. If they have a Secret Identity
, then it can lead to a Bruce Wayne Held Hostage
scenario, but if the criminal attacked them in costume
or the hero is just some Badass Walking the Earth
, then it typically just serves as an introduction. Bonus points if the would be victim looks particularly vulnerable.
When an assailant targets a crowd of people not knowing that Everyone Is Armed
, you get this trope with strength of numbers replacing individual dangerousness.
Tends to make a good Establishing Character Moment
, depending on how (and how easily
) the crooks are dealt with. Occasionally this can lead to them recruiting a sidekick
or other ally. Can be deeply satisfying. When the person looks vulnerable due to chronological endowment, it's Never Mess with Granny
When a Video Game
character does this, it's often due to Suicidal Overconfidence
. See also Dude, Where's My Respect?
when this keeps happening with no signs of anyone figuring out the pattern. Compare Colliding Criminal Conspiracies
and Unintentionally Notorious Crime
. Supertrope of Robbing The Mob Bank
Please note: the trope need not include actual mugging (though it is a popular method). As long as the provoker or provokers intentionally and excessively antagonize someone much more powerful than they are without
knowing beforehand what they are screwing with, and the provoker or provokers are thrashed because of it, then it's Mugging The Monster.
- Bullying a Dragon: Messing with a powerful entity that you know can destroy you.
- A Mugging the Monster situation can evolve into this if the attacker doesn't have the sense to back down and retreat after finding out what they're up against.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Showing defiance to something you know is about to kill you.
- Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: If they immediately stomp you into a pancake.
- Fearless Fool: The character routinely gets into these situations because he's just too dumb to know better.
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- One of those bewilderingly insane Arinamin V commercials starring Arnold Schwarzenegger has two punks come up to Arnold —who is cleverly disguised as a nerd— and start harassing him and his lady friend. Arnold nips off to chug a bottle of Arinamin, and one "Daijo BUI!!" later, well, just look. Could even count as Bullying a Dragon, since according to the simple formula provided here, Arnold Schwarzenegger + Nerd Glasses = still Arnold Schwarzenegger.
- A Ford Icon commercial has a guy in a bear mascot costume is standing outside of an air conditioner store when four punks walk up and start harassing him, like kicking him in the butt or generally mocking him. He then puts one of his paws on the 'leader' of the group, and another of them slaps the head of the costume off... Revealing a real bear. They quickly loose any sense of mirth at this revelation, and three of the four run in terror, leaving the 'leader' staring down the bear.Has to be seen to be believed.
Films — Animation
- Superman/Batman: Apocalypse features a naked Kara Zor-El wandering confused into an alley just after arriving on Earth and being spotted by three workers. One decides to play Lothario and gets his ass kicked. The second tries to help his friend. The third wisely proclaims he's not with the other two and offers her his coat.
- In Appointment with F.E.A.R., the main character (who is a superhero) is approached by criminals who want to mug him/her. If you fight them, you out yourself and have to give up your career as a superhero, which leads to a bad ending (albeit one that's quite a bit less dark than the other bad endings); only by letting them mug you can you continue playing.
- In the Lone Wolf series, when in "civilized" parts of the world rather than evil fortresses or the wilderness, various rogues trying to mug the hero is a common type of fight encounter. It rarely ends well for them. In later books, some of those fights aren't even played out — there is just an off-hand mention of Lone Wolf leaving a few dead brigands behind.
- The premise of the song "Earth's Fire Breathing Daughter" by Leslie Fish. The title sort-of-demigoddess entity buys a house in California with her coven and start enacting pagan rites. Neighbors complain and send the police after them on false drug charges. She triggers an earthquake and mudslide that kill the entire police force and destroy all the surrounding houses, while of course leaving hers entirely intact. (They deserve it.)
- The music video for Skrillex's "First of the Year (Equinox)" is about a pedophile choosing the absolute worst victim possible.
- Joe Bethancourt's "I'll See Your Six" recounts just such a situation. In this case, the "monster" was a young lady who's not only carrying a broadsword, but knew how to use it, and was wearing chain armor. (See Real Life section for details - yes, it happened.)
- Mercedes Lackey wrote a song called "Threes" about the trope, then reworked it and used it in the novel "Oathbound".
- In the Big L song "Lifestylez Ov Da Poor and Dangerous", he boasts that "once a burglar broke into my house, and I robbed him!".
Myths & Religion
- Older Than Feudalism: This happened to Odysseus a few times in The Odyssey.
- Theseus basically started his heroic career by dealing with a series of robbers on his way to Athens.
- Contrast with Oedipus, who was much the same, only it was people who cut him off in traffic instead of robbers.
- In Roman mythology an Etruscan prince took it into his head to rape a respectable Roman woman. Guess what happened next?
- Greek Mythology:
- Hm, who is this impossibly beautiful woman surrounded by several almost as beautiful women, in the middle of the forest, bathing? Oh who cares, let's peep on them some more. It's not like they're an impossibly powerful goddess and her followers who could turn me into a stag and set my own hounds on me because she's incredibly protective of her chastity....
- Dionysus was seized by pirates, who took him for a young nobleman and planned to either ransom him or sell him as a slave. However, one of the crewmen recognized him as a god and begged his companions to set him free. Unfortunately for them, they refused to listen and soon found their oars bound by ivy and themselves attacked by panthers and lions. To save themselves, they jumped out of the ship and were changed into dolphins. The only one spared was Acoetes, the one man who argued for freeing Dionysus. When they got back to shore, Acoetes become one of Dionysus' priests.
- A little forgivable if some conditions are present in Exalted. There are a few charms that allow the characters to keep their weapons and armor Elsewhere, and as a result bandits might not discover that the short, blonde, small-framed teenaged girl they are trying to mug/capture to sell as a slave/etc., is actually a Demi-God wielding a six feet giant golden sword capable of completely eradicating them (and the floor they are standing on) until it's too late. That said, any Exalt ought to be able to warn off most moderately sensible muggers simply by flaring their Caste Mark. Jury is still out as to whether or not it's more satisfying than simply beating the stuffing out of them.
- Also can happen in Old World of Darkness.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, most Garou look like normal human beings while in homid form and normal wolves is lupus form; however, an attacker will get a nasty surprise when their would-be victim transforms into an eight-foot-tall clawed killing machine. Variants of this apply to all fera save perhaps the Kitsune (werefoxes) who find it more effective to just start tossing spells.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade it's very satisfying to, after your Ventrue businessman has been stopped in transit by robbers with shotguns, take their blast in the chest, get up without any visible effect and rip them into shreds. This is noted to be one of the main reasons why Ventrue take Fortitude.note
- This is bound to happen in the New World of Darkness games: it's a Crapsack World with half a dozen flavours of human-looking supernatural. Special mention goes to the Prometheans: soulless reanimated corpses, trying to learn how to be human, but who are inhumanly powerful and spread a Hate Plague against themselves wherever they go. Most of their alchemical Refinements require prolonged study; the inevitable Dragon-bullying they face is why any Promethean can instantly adopt the Refinement of Tin and say to hell with you all.
- Considering how ultra-antagonistic gangs are in-universe, Shadowrun's random encounters for new players is pretty much all about this. The Halloweeners are this trope invoked for even the squishiest of mage or decker.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Metallic dragons intentionally invoke this trope. One of their favorite tricks in combating evil is to use their Shapeshifting ability (many metallics have this upon birth) to turn into something that seems weak. When some evil idiot takes the bait, they don't have very long to live. It's actually a part of their mythology: one story involves an apparently harmless old man who would entertain travelers with his seven trained canaries. Then a band of ogres, led by an ogre mage, started down the road to kill or rob all the folks on it... and found that the old man was the metallic dragon god Bahamut, and those canaries were all great wyrm gold dragons in disguise.
- Al-Qadim has a tale about "why dragons so rarely appear over the place". A big red from North flew in only to immediately get himself into troubles with the local populace. Until he was reduced to telling his woes to the next creature he met. The "child" heard the story, gently told the dragon those people did in fact go easy on him because he doesn't know better and there's folk whom they obey without question — and helped the poor battered, hungry and tired lizard, returning him to the sweet home. On an intercontinental guided whirlwind. The moral, of course, is "try not to annoy genies, or just in case, anyone."
- Forgotten Realms. On top of "usual" dangers (such as archmages going about their private business in magical disguise or creatures that would send townpeople into screaming run if they didn't resort to mimicry) has people well aware of their world's trends and holding a lot of power while not caring at all to advertise it.
''If you accost a barefoot laborer digging in the mud of a turnip field and stained glass golems suddenly lurch out of nearby sheds or the columns of a barn come to life, and gemstones float out of the man's pockets to circle his head and spit lightning at you — well, you've found one of those fabled jewelers of Irl
- There's also a possibility of Urban Encounters with Muggers all being 4 to 6 levels below the party.
- The 4th edition of GURPS Magic introduces the chapter on fire magic with a story about a wizard in a modern setting having a knife put on her throat in a mugging. Unfortunately for the mugger, she can breathe fire.
- Warhammer 40,000
- In the RPG Dark Heresy, this is actually the PCs job. And it has the expected results until you figure out that flipping off a Daemon is a Bad Plan and maybe you should try shooting the guy that just summoned it in the head. From over there. Waaay over there.
- A more human example, the fluff sometimes makes notes of many former Imperial Guardsmen settling down on planets they conquered. This led to some robbers finding out the hard way that a bar called The 127th is named after a certain platoon, that the grumpy old men are veterans of battles against unimaginable horrors and that the lasgun above the bar is not a replica.
- In Traveller Vargr hardly ever raid Zhodani. The reason why is that when they do they know that the Zhodani will take years tracking down the perps. Then when they do this their retribution, will be sure, whether it takes the form of Death from Above or the more frightening form of kidnapping Vargr and brainwashing them.
- In any of the Star Wars RPGs, a Jedi can look like anything. Keep that in mind when the off-world stranger you're harassing in a bar says, "You REALLY don't want to do this." It only gets more fun if the hapless dopes tick off a disguised Sith instead.
- In the world of In Nomine, an angel or demon's abilities remain the same regardless of what their earthly Vessel happens to look like — which means that 9-year-old girl on the playground you just tried to abduct could actually be a 700-year-old Malakite warrior angel who considers you practice. At best.
- This becomes even more so with Kyriotates and Shedim, who possess ordinary mortals, using their celestial abilities through a host. So that 90-year-old grandpa who really WAS so sweet and helpless five minutes ago is now anything but when a Shedite of Death is in the driver's seat ....
- Speaking of pirates, as late as 1630 there were two recorded villages in England that had the skin of a captured raider nailed to their church door. At least one of those villages wouldn't actually count as this trope since a few years ago someone decided to run some tests on a fragment that had survived around one of the nail and found that it was actually de-haired calf skin. It was probably nailed to the door and the rumour spread around as a form of psychological warfare against potential raiders.
- Paul Hager, a pro-gun Libertarian from Indiana related this anecdote:
The most interesting — or bizarre, take your pick — story was told by an acquaintance with whom I took a defensive pistol course. Late one evening he got onto an elevator in a parking garage to go to his car. A man who had been waiting in the shadows quickly got on the elevator behind him. Just as soon as the doors closed, the man pulled a knife. Before the man had time to say anything, my acquaintance pulled his own pistol. There ensued the proverbial pregnant pause. The man then said, "Do you want to buy a knife?" A moment later, with nothing else being said, the doors opened and the man got off.
- There is also a famous story under Aikikai (practitioners of Aikido) that one of Osensei's original students was nearly robbed in the Paris subway... emphasis on the "nearly." Imagine a seventy-something year old Japanese sitting alone in the subway, when three would-be muggers showed up with knifes, demanding his money. Then imagine the old frail man simply snapping their wrists in precise, efficent motions.
- The U.S. military holds very large areas of desert in the southwest that are used for training exercises. The areas are bigger than they really need, so some parts are used rarely. Meth labs sometimes move in. And fight small-scale gang wars. Until they accidentally fire on real soldiers, and then they learn about things like indirect mortar fire, and air support.
- Ever wonder why you so seldom hear about Russian diplomats being kidnapped? According to tales it is because when that happens, the Russians simply abduct terrorists and or their relations-and start mailing fingers to the terrorists who claim responsibility. You do not want to mess with Mother Russia. You wouldn't like her when she's angry.
- One story that's made the rounds on the internet is as follows; a group of Ku Klux Klansmen in Texas heard that some Pagans were holding a ritual out in the woods somewhere and decided to go and harass them. Finding the spot where the other vehicles were parked, they donned their hoods, assembled a cross and strode off into the woods, confident that they'd scare any remaining pants off the fluffybunny Pagans. To their surprise they ended up staring down the business end of at least two spears, a couple of swords, assorted knives, and more than one firearm. They'd crashed an Asatru blot, and didn't realize that not all Pagans are pacifists. From somewhere behind the hardware, a voice called out: "If that cross goes up, you're getting nailed to it. I've got my hammer right here..."
The Klansmen left in a bit of a hurry, it's said.
- The Ku Klux Klan ended up at the receiving end of something much more unexpected in 1933, when they tried to run Italian immigrants out of from Vineland (New Jersey). Until then, Italian immigrants in the US had taken discrimination and lynching with little resistance, because they were outnumbered by a too much large margin. This time, however, the Klan took on 20% of Vineland's population, and the Italians ran the Klan out. The Klan's influence in Vineland disappeared overnight.
- This story is presumably the pacifist equivalent — using legal knowledge instead of fighting prowess.
- There is a story popular in the SCA about a female member who was walking home from an event in Central Park in the 1980s. She hadn't taken off her armor, just wrapped a cloak around herself and put her helmet in her bag. She was accosted by a disreputable sort wielding a switchblade and making threats. She said "A six-inch knife?", opened her cloak and drew her sword. "I'll see your six and raise you thirty."
- Kinda count in Tsukihime where the protagonist goes insane with bloodlust and kills some foreigner who just happens to be pretty much the most powerful thing on the whole freaking planet. She got better, though it wasn't easy.
- In Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai! S, a poor robber tries to hold up a restaurant. Who's currently in the restaurant? Among others, Momoyo, Tsubame, Yoshitsune, Benkei, Shakaido, Tesshin, Lu, Hume & Claudio. Basically, all the absolutely strongest fighters in the game. Oh, and the girl he took hostage, Seiso, just sent him flying out the door with a light shove too. Poor bastard then gets run over by her robot bike.
- In the Whateley Universe, this happens from time to time:
- A mugger tries to rob Jade and Jinn. The knock him unconscious, destroy his gun, and steal his wallet.
- A pair of stick-up artists bump into Chou "Bladedancer" Lee while attempting to rob a diner.
- A third-rate punk is silly enough to call Jadis "She-Beast" Diabolik a "little skank".
- In Darwins Soldiers, some punks tried to pick a fight with Aimee. She looks completely harmless as she is missing both arms and has them replaced with prosthetic limbs. They found out the hard way (IE death) that not only is she a skilled fighter, her artificial arms give her enough strength to crush the barrel of a pistol with almost no effort.
- The trio of bullies that torment Taylor in Worm would probably reconsider what they're doing if they knew that she was secretly a supervillain with a reputation for ruthlessness. Well, two of them would.
- In the French MP3 saga Reflets d'Acide, a bunch of thieves attempt to ambush a beautiful young woman on the road. The woman turns out to actually be the Evil Black Dragon Alia-Aenor in human form, who mercilessly kills them.
- In the first chapter of Ra, four muggers attempt to kill Laura Ferno, a drunk but very talented mage. Only about two and a half of them survive.
- During the Oingo and Boingo mini-arc of Vaguely Recalling JoJo, Oingo kicks Broly in the face because something about Broly's face ticked him off. Unfortunately, this bites Oingo in the ass as Broly plans on killing Oingo and Boingo.