"I'd made up my mind to steer clear of the Alliance, make my living out where I wouldn't be bothered and wouldn't be bothering neither. But you won't seem to let me live that way. Every time I try to walk away, you come followin'. Well, from now on, you choose to chase me, I'm gonna turn and meet you head on. Be honest, I'm developin' a taste for it."There are many innocents in the epic battle between good and evil. Some people will join on the side of good because the evil invaders destroyed their home. A lot of people will join on the side of evil because Evil is Sexy, Rule of Cool, or just 'cause. Then there are the people who deliberately try to stay out of the conflict. These could be the people in the Hidden Elf Village or the Actual Pacifist. Often, they don't have a dog in the fight either way or they're just opportunists supporting both sides. No matter how you slice it, these people don't support either side more or less than any other side. That is, until the good guys turn out to be a bunch of self-righteous jerkasses or the villains Kick the Dog. At that point, it's on and there's going to be hell to pay. This Trope comes in two varieties.
— Mal, Serenity: Leaves on the Wind
- The first kind is rather straightforward. The neutral party is initially undecided until the villains press their Berserk Button. Then the neutral party will oppose the villains from then on.
- The second kind is less frequently used. As it turns out, sometimes heroes and villains are really bad at making first impressions. After initially meeting the heroes, the neutral party will decide that evil is so much cooler and join them, or vice versa. This isn't a Heel–Face Turn or a Face–Heel Turn, because these people were neutral at the start of the story and would have remained so if the villains and/or heroes weren't a bunch of a-holes. They will often only go out of their way to oppose someone out of vengeance.
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- Blood+: When she discovers her past, Saya is initially reluctant to jump into the fray against chiropterans. She changes her mind and goes with the Red Shield when she loses her father George to the chiropterans.
- The island nation of Orb in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is vehemently neutral: one of their central beliefs is complete non-involvement in any wars that have nothing to do with them. In order to protect their neutrality, however, they have developed some of the most advanced military technology in the world. So the Atlantic Federation attacks them to gain it... and succeeds, except that Orb proceeds to destroy their own infrastructure rather than let the Federation have it. The remaining Orb forces throw in with the Three Ships Alliance, which opposes both sides of the war and plays a major role in ending the conflict.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, shortly after the start of the series, Orb throws their lot in with the Earth Forces in order to avoid getting attacked and destroyed again. The characters involved with the Terminal (a secret underground organization that grew from the Three Ships Alliance) spend the duration of the series trying to invert this trope, with mixed results.
- Spider-Man had his moment in his origin story after his refusal to stop a thief on the grounds that it wasn't his problem got his Uncle Ben killed. He gave up on using his powers for fame and fortune and became a superhero.
- Star Wars: Legacy: It takes nearly the entire series for Cade Skywalker to stop being a selfish Jerkass. After the Sith have endangered and killed just about everyone he gives a damn about, Cade declares war on them, though he still doesn't accept the Jedi calling yet. That doesn't happen until the Final Battle.
- The Jedi themselves choose to sit the war out, thinking the Sith would turn on itself soon. But when the Sith get more despotic, they soon started to join with the Fel Empire and Alliance Remnant in the war.
- Doctor Strange started out as a Dr. Jerk who cared only about himself. When circumstances confined him to the hidden retreat of the Ancient One, he realized very quickly that magic is real — and that it can be used for evil. Though he had come to the Ancient One to heal his hands, he changed his request and asked to learn magic instead, so he could fight back.
- Uatu The Watcher is a prime example. His race of omniscient watchers swears an oath of neutrality. But as Galactus approached Earth, intent on consuming it, Uatu spoke directly to the Fantastic Four, telling them where to find the Ultimate Nullifier. Not a direct alignment change, but enough involvement to end his neutrality.
- In Serenity: Leaves on the Wind, when the New Resistance catches up with Serenity, Mal initially rejects their request to be their leader. But after the Alliance captures Zoe and kills most of the NR in separate incidents, he finally gets angry enough.
- The hidden runners of The Seven Hunters were originally neutral to Redclaw's schemes. After the slaughter of an entire pack with the exception of one child, Viscond, the leader of another pack, decides they can no longer remain neutral to the conflict. Harthron, the highest ranking hidden runner in all the land, at first wants to remain out of the conflict and hide, but later comes to the realization that running and hiding will no longer work. The combined efforts of the hidden runners help out greatly in the battle in the Great Valley.
- In A Great Endeavor, Equestria wanted to stay out of World War II at first, seeing it as a human problem. When the Nazis extended their purge of the lesser races to include ponies, though, the princesses refused to merely stand by and watch any longer.
- Though none of them are remotely badass, in Adamantine Mist all the civilians of Nerima set out to destroy Ranma's would be fiances after Shampoo attacks Kasumi. This is done through actions like delaying orders to Ukyo's restaurant or flat out refusing to sell to Shampoo's and Cologne's cafe.
- In Queen of All Oni, Courageous Conrad considers himself a True Neutral in matters of good vs evil, as it's a better attitude for business, and as such aids both the Shadow Hand and the J-Team when they cross paths with him on the hunt for the final tablet. But then Hebi's kleptomania causes her to steal from Conrad's store, enraging him and making him aid the J-Team directly.
- Rick Blaine, and eventually Captain Renault, in Casablanca.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Ents. In the film version, they initially decide to remain neutral, and only change their minds when Tree beard comes across a field of felled trees. This trope does not apply as much to the book; the Ents hold Entmoot, and decide to attack Saruman. Either way, the outcome is an awesome Curb-Stomp Battle.
- Star Wars:
- Luke Skywalker in A New Hope after his Muggle Foster Parents are massacred by stormtroopers. Prior to that, his attitude about the war was "it's all such a long way from here."
- Grand Moff Tarkin demonstrates the Death Star's ability to be a roving Kill Sat on the planet Alderaan in the hopes that other systems who want to join the Rebel Alliance would think twice. It backfired; not only did it hasten the defection of those who were already considering it, but a whole swath of otherwise neutral systems joined up because of it.
- Lando Calrissian is also an example. All he wanted was for the Empire to leave him alone to run Cloud City in peace, and was willing to sell out his old friend Han to get that. When Vader broke the deal they had made, though, Lando joined the Rebellion, this time for good.
- Serenity has "I aim to misbehave": Mal, who pretty much just wants to be left alone and fly under the Alliance's radar (after losing a war against them and having a Heroic B.S.O.D.), finally decides to act against the Alliance by getting the word out about the atrocities they committed in search of a perfect world.
- Benjamin Martin of The Patriot.
You've done nothing to be ashamed of.
I have done nothing. And of that I am ashamed.
- Dogma had the character of Azrael, the Fallen Angel. During the war in heaven between God and Lucifer, he refused to take a side, stating that he was a muse, an artist who had no place on the battlefield (a view apparently not shared by other muses such as Serendipity, who argues that Azrael was simply being cowardly). Upon God's victory, She cast Azrael into hell along with the rest of the rebel angels. Cue massive Rage Against the Heavens.
- Eddie Stanky in 42, who breaks his silence after teammate Jackie Robinson gets taunted with a barrage of racist insults during a baseball game.
- A plot point in Captain America: Civil War is that the isolationist nation of Wakanda finally renews diplomatic ties with the rest of the world in the aftermath of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
- In The Godfather Michael is drawn into the family business when his father Vito is shot by a rival who would keep trying until Vito is dead. Ironically, America declaring itself Neutral No Longer in World War II was what led Michael to declare his neutrality in the family in the first place, by joining the military.
- The centaurs in Harry Potter are pretty much this, continually declaring their refusal to meddle in human affairs until Hagrid, carrying a dead Harry, berates them for being a "cowardly bunch o' nags". Subsequently they show up firing arrows to assist Hogwarts in the Final Battle.
- Slytherin House too. The members of the house that we see the most are all children of Death Eaters, but when Professor McGonagall sends the whole house away to avoid the risk of treachery, the rest of the students use the entire night of the battle to gather up a massive amount of reinforcements. They return at dawn with enough people to crush the Death Eaters with weight of numbers.
- Night by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel pleads the readers to turn to this trope.
- The smugglers of the Star Wars 'verse are typically neutral - they'll take any job you happen to want, regardless of faction, and then take your competitors' tomorrow.. until the Empire starts encroaching just a little on their line of work. First they take Talon Karrde prisoner to keep him from revealing (i.e. selling) the location of the Katana fleet. After he gets broken out of prison, Karrde promptly turns around and gives it to the New Republic. Then the Empire hires a mole to stop the smugglers from banding together, who promptly ordered a hit on a smuggler meeting that killed the one unarmed guy in the room and approximately no one else. Turns out upsetting an entire underworld's worth of cutthroat low-lives is a bad idea. His Imperial handlers had actually instructed him not to do anything like that, for this exact reason; he was just an idiot.
Atour could not stand to see this happen again. He was old, he had lived a long and full life, and he decided now that whatever days he had left, he would dedicate to defeating an Empire capable of abominations.
- Then the Yuuzhan Vong go and make exactly the same mistake by breaking a mercenary contract. With the Mandalorians. Yeah, that'll work.
- Most of the main characters in Death Star are working for the Empire, whether enlisted or conscripted and kept from leaving. Many of the cast dislikes the Empire, but having no non-propagandistic knowledge of the Rebel Alliance they assume it's no better, so all they're doing working on the battle station is keeping themselves intact. The moral complacency of most characters is jarred after Despayre and shattered after Alderaan. Old archivist Atour Riten explicitly states in his narration that for all his life he's been apolitical, just a historian, but now that changes - killing billions of people just like that is evil.
- Old canon and new canon, the events of A New Hope was a watershed moment of this across the galaxy, pushing entire systems into actively aiding the Rebel Alliance as the destruction of Alderaan and the dissolution of the Senate crippled the Empire's legitimacy and reputation while the destruction of the Death Star showed that the Rebel Alliance was capable of confronting and defeating the Empire.
- At the end of Adrian Tchaikovsky's Empire In Black And Gold, the Moth-kinden and the militia of Helleron finally come to aid the heroes against the evil Wasp Empire.
- In the Old Kingdom series, there were nine superpowerful magical beings in The Beginning. When the most powerful of them, The Destroyer, wanted to destroy the world again, seven of the others allied and bound him. The eighth one, Yrael, decided to remain neutral. But when The Destroyer gets free, Yrael unexpectedly decides to help bind him again.
- In Horus Heresy, Jaghatai spends most of Scars tip-toeing between siding with Leman Russ (who's an asshole, but a good guy), and Horus (evil, but the Khan promised his help to him). A conversation with Magnus (evil, but convincing him to join the good guys), combined with encounter with Mortarion (evil and asshole) convince him to choose Russ' side.
- In Children of Dune, Duncan Idaho has to pull a Heroic Sacrifice in order to convince Stilgar to lead a rebellion against Alia Atreides.
- He does more in the book than in the miniseries. In the latter, all he does is kill his wife's lover, although, by Fremen custom, he should've challenged him to a duel first. Stilgar, who has promised neutrality, kills him in retaliation. In the book, this is not enough. Duncan proceeds to taunt and insult Stilgar until the latter is furious. Only later does Stilgar realize that this was what Duncan wanted all along. The book also specifies that Alia took the guy as a lover only because she knew he was a traitor and wanted to flush out the conspiracy.
- In the Honor Harrington books, this is played straight by the Andermani Empire. At one point the Andermani and the Manticorans come dangerously close to going to war, with ships firing on each other, but the revelation of Havenite operations in the area (including False Flag Operations and a major attack on the Manticoran base at Sidemore Station) push the Andermani the other way. And of course, let's not forget the Solarian League.
- In The Dresden Files, the Faerie Courts of Winter and Summer are neutral to the war between the White Council of Wizards and the Red Court of vampires. They offered the Council access through their territory (letting the wizards take advantage of the Alien Geometries of Faerie) but were otherwise neutral. Then in Dead Beat, the Red Court invaded Faerie in an effort to wipe out the senior leadership of the Council after an already-devastating victory, and Summer immediately fell all over the Reds, with Summer declaring war on the Red Court for the transgression. However, the Summer forces could not go on the offensive because Winter refused to move against the vampires and made to threaten Summer's borders, which only allowed the Summer fae to provide limited support to the wizards.
- However, it should be noted Queen Mab of Winter was angry and does want her vengeance against the Red Court, for this infraction and another action taken in a previous time, she simply is waiting for a time that would best suit her. So she, through a long gambit, got Harry Dresden to fight in her personal courtyard wielding Summer-enhanced fire, and destroy her wellspring. This action draws the entire Winter Army away from the boarders and allows Titania to move her forces for their vengeance. Mab would wait a few years until Harry's child was taken and he needed her help in saving her, and so Harry became her Knight. Then her vengeance would be wrought on the Court with Harry using the Court's own truly dark ritual to destroy every single Red Court vampire.
- In the Dragaera universe, a rival Dragonlord attempts to start a war with Morrolan, who employs Vlad as a security consultant. Vlad makes no effort to support Morrolan until Fornia's men come to his house and threaten him to make sure he stays out of it. Now that they've threatened him, and, further, have broken a rule he and the rest of the underground criminal syndicate hold sacred, he is pissed, joins Morralan's army out of pure spite, and winds up being a central figure in the final battle of the war.
- In The Wheel of Time, the Ogier are in many ways Captain Ersatzes of the Ents from The Lord of the Rings, though physiologically are more like sasquatch than trees. They avoid involvement in human affairs, and in the prologue of the last book are preparing to transport themselves to a new world and abandon humankind to the forces of Darkness, until Loial speaks up. We're not told what he says, but when the Ogier are next seen, they've dedicated every last member of their species who can hold an axe to the oncoming battle, where they show the meaning of the saying, "To anger the Ogier is to pull the mountain down on your head".
- A Civil Campaign has a non-combat example; Miles isn't especially interested in the inheritance conflict between two heirs to a Countship...until one of them threatens to have a murder charge laid against him if Miles doesn't vote for him. Miles promptly throws his full support behind the other heir.
- Nightshade in the Magic Kingdom of Landover series was always evil, but was not actively opposed to King Benjamin at first. In fact, they first met when Ben insisted on going to meet her, over the strong objections of all his friends, in hopes of recruiting her to his side against the Iron Mark, the Big Bad of the first book. Questor, Ben's court wizard, pointed out to him that this was a terrible idea and that even the last real king of Landover had wanted nothing to do with Nightshade, but there was nothing to indicate that Nightshade had ever been in open conflict with the kings of Landover. Ben's meeting with her, however, did not go well: Nightshade banished Ben's friends to Abaddon, home of the demons, so Ben retaliated by banishing her to the Mists, which was much the same thing for her. After that, Nightshade would remain one of Ben's enemies. Things got really bad after the events of the fourth book, though.
- In a Star Trek Expanded Universe novel, the entire plot is revealed to have been a ploy by Starfleet Intelligence to bring the Klingons out of their neutral state in regards to Federation-Romulan negotiations on the side of the Federation by making the Romulans appear to be dishonorable and underhanded (not a difficult task, mind you). This results in the Treaty of Algeron, when the Romulans close their borders for several decades in exchange for the Federation banning all cloaking research.
- Diamond Sword, Wooden Sword has a hermit, imprisoned under the foundation of the Temple of Cold Flame since time immemorial, who turns out to be formerly Merlin, the True Mage. He remained in exile up until deciding that it is time to get involved to help Tavi — and turned out to be far more powerful than any of the current generation's mages. Of course he redeemed/sacrificed himself to stop Chaos and save the current world
Live Action TV
- Game of Thrones: Wyman stood out of the war in the North to avoid the loss of life by his men. By the end of the season, he is now firmly a follower of House Stark.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Romulans insisted on remaining neutral in the war between the Dominion and the Federation/Klingon alliance. The Federation was taking such heavy casualties that Starfleet realised they could not win the war without gaining allies. The only race powerful enough to make a difference was the Romulan Empire, who had no reason at all to drop their neutral stance due to the fact their three major rival powers were exhausting themselves while they watched from the sidelines in the hope they could mop up the Alpha Quadrant after the war was over. Sisko decided to do something to bring the Romulans into the war on the Federation's side and recruited Garak to come up with the franchise's best example of a Batman Gambit to achieve it.
- The Archangel Gabriel on Supernatural pulls off one of these. It's a combination of the two types: on the one hand, he has bonded with planet earth and its denizens, i.e. the good guys in this story, and wouldn't be doing this otherwise. On the other, it wasn't enough to make him take sides until Lucifer went and started slaughtering his friends and girlfriend at the pagan god convention, so if Luci hadn't Kicked The Dog, he mightn't have had to face Gabriel.
- Mind, all he winds up doing is buying a few minutes. Awesomely.
Gabriel: Lucifer, you're my brother, and I love you. But you are a great big bag of dicks.
- Oh, except he also winds up telling the brothers how to stop Lucifer for good.
- Mind, all he winds up doing is buying a few minutes. Awesomely.
- On the Community episode "Pillows and Blankets", while a campus-wide Civil War rages round him, Jeff first exploits the conflict for personal gain. However, he makes a genuine stance once he sees that the friendship between Troy and Abed has seriously deteriorated. (Subverted in that instead of picking a side to support, he works towards the pair's reconciliation.)
- In the earliest episodes of Doctor Who the Doctor was nowhere close to the altruistic hero he is now. He traveled mostly to satisfy his own curiosities. It wasn't until his seventh serial, "The Sensorites", that he did the right thing precisely because it was the right thing to do.
- In the minisode, "The Night of the Doctor", with the universe in danger of tearing itself apart from the Time War and having failed to save lives by remaining neutral, the mortally wounded Eighth Doctor is given an option to pick what his next incarnation will be. He decides to enter the conflict and forsake his promise.
Eighth Doctor: I don't suppose there’s any need for a "Doctor" any more. Make me a Warrior now.
- In "The Day of the Doctor", it's revealed that this eventually lead to the War Doctor's grim realisation that there was only one way to end the Time War, which he avoided enacting until he finally left with no other option.
- In the minisode, "The Night of the Doctor", with the universe in danger of tearing itself apart from the Time War and having failed to save lives by remaining neutral, the mortally wounded Eighth Doctor is given an option to pick what his next incarnation will be. He decides to enter the conflict and forsake his promise.
- Dominion: Michael states that during the Extermination War, the other archangels declared neutrality and sided with neither him and humanity nor Gabriel and the lesser angels. However, with The Chosen One revealed, Uriel at least has decided to enter the fray... and is Playing Both Sides for yet unrevealed ends.
- Babylon 5 sees a Civil War break out between the Earth Alliance military. One side being run by the tyrannical President Clark and the resistance being led by Captain John Sheridan. Originally, the different alien governments only provide support by announcing that they will do nothing to aid the Earth Government against Sheridan's rebellion. After hearing that Sheridan had been captured, all of the alien governments vote to provide full military support to aid the resistance in overthrowing Clark, both out gratitude to Sheridan for all he did for them in the Shadow War, as well as knowing that, along with his atrocities, Clark would also make Earth extremely isolationist or hostile to their different races. They note it as a rare occasion where the smart political decision is also the good moral decision.
- During BattleTech's Clan Invasion, ComStar - a NGO Super Power that manages the Subspace Ansible network in the Inner Sphere - remained neutral, providing their services to the invading Clans so long as they left ComStar alone. Eventually, ComStar gets wind that the end goal of the Clans is to retake Planet Terra, effectively their Mecca, which is inconveniently the headquarters of Comstar. After a schism with their leadership, ComStar's new leader challenges the Clans to a Trial Of Possession, unveiling the fact that for the past three hundred years, they have been amassing an army backed up by Lost Technology that they have salvaged and stolen, including interstellar warships. ComStar kicks the crap out the Clans, forcing a truce and giving the Inner Sphere time to rebuild for a counterattack.
- The third act of Dragon Age II revolves around Hawke finding it increasingly difficult to remain neutral as the tensions between the Mages and Templars rise in Kirkwall. At the end of the game, Anders destroys the Chantry, leaving there no middle ground left and no way to resolve the situation peacefully, forcing Hawke to pick a side.
- Another one from BioWare and Star Wars: Jolee Bindo from Knights of the Old Republic is a ex-Jedi in Sour Armor who left the Order and had exiled himself. Despite being neutral on the Karma Meter, and making a good show of not caring about the outcome of the current war, he is very quick to scold a player's Dark Side acts. When it comes down to the wire, he chooses the path of a Jedi and will positively refuse to join you if you choose Dark Side.
- Kreia from the second game is similar. She will chide the player for specifically Light Side or Dark side acts, seeing them as Stupid Good and Chaotic Stupid respectively. In the end she comes down on the Dark Side end, but it seems to be out of convenience more than actually accepting the Sith philosophy.
- Fallout: New Vegas has four endings to the main quest, three of which involve siding with one of three factions (the New California Republic, Caesar's Legion, or Mister House, with the fourth option to be seizing power for him/herself). In order to move into Act III of the game, the player must invoke this trope, forsaking at least two of the factions. There are even a handful of quests, such as "The House Has Gone Bust!" that can't be completed, only failed; the notification that you have failed them is letting you know that you have reached this stage.
- In Mega Man Zero 4, the human refugees of Area Zero, known as Caravan, prefer to stay out of the war between the La Résistance (who they only see as terrorists with petty goals) and Neo Arcadia (which has fallen into dictatorial rule). However, over the course of the game, upon seeing that the Resistance's goals were no different from their own, the Caravan finally welcomes their help in fighting off and finally defeating the Neo Arcadian army. At the end of the game, in fact, they all mourn for Zero's Heroic Sacrifice, knowing that all of it would never have been possible without his efforts.
- In Rogue Galaxy, Broken Hero Deego Aegis could care less about the Morarty family taking over Vedan. He would like nothing more than to spend the rest of his life drinking away at his friend Angela's bar. However, once the Morarty Family burns down her bar, Deego is more than willing to make a stand against them.
- Many of the characters in the original Suikoden are True Neutral and forced out of retirement. Most of them join La Résistance because The Empire attacked/drafted them, but one notable occasion has La Résistance itself drafting a forger who wants live a quiet life.
- In Suikoden V, one of the Stars is a doctor who struggles to remain neutral in the civil war due to a desire to help the wounded and ill on both sides. Eventually, however, he begins to realize that the Godwin's absolutely have to be stopped, and promptly joins the Prince's army.
- Suikoden V has the Oboro Detective Agency, who go through several layers of this. First, Oboro must be convinced to officially join the Prince, which can go very easily if he was impressed by the Prince helping out their investigation earlier or poorly if the Prince made a wrong choice or two (or missed out on the investigation entirely). When he finally does join, Sagiri chooses to Opt Out, staying with the agency but refusing to join the war effort... unless the Prince finds somebody else and tries to recruit them, leading to Sagiri revealing her reasons for not wanting to fight before deciding to sign on anyway.
- Played with in the second Avernum game: the Empire-Avernum War is interrupted by the Vahnatai, who start out as "neutral" in the sense that they're targeting all humans due to the theft of their revered Crystal Souls. When Imperial involvement in the theft is exposed - and, more importantly, when your party clears the Avernites of any wrong-doing - the Vahnatai side with your people against the Empire.
- Subverted in the third and fourth games, when Rentar-Ihrno continues to seek vengeance against first the Empire and then Avernum, despite the majority of the Vahnatai preferring to remain neutral.
- Warcraft and World of Warcraft:
- In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, the new playable races, the worgen on the Alliance side, and the goblins on the Horde side, are suddenly thrust into the conflict by the re-emergence of the black dragon Deathwing, and the subsequent run-ins with opposing factions. The worgen, whose isolationism is forcibly broken by the Cataclysm, are fighting off an invasion by the undead Forsaken who want to annex their lands for a strategic harbour. The goblins escape a volcanic eruption on their home island, only to be shipwrecked after their boat is sunk by Alliance crossfire at sea.
- The high elves originally wanted to stay out of the various wars, and only aided the Alliance enough to defeat the Horde during the Second War. While some remained part of the Alliance, the majority retreated to their nation and tried to ignore the Third War... until the Scourge invaded and killed ninety percent of their population. The survivors tried to make amends with the Alliance, but their liaison took every opportunity to try and undermine them, eventually leading to their racial Face–Heel Turn.
- The novel Wolfheart shows that the process of the worgen becoming part of the Alliance is far from smooth. Namely, most of the Alliance members approved... except for King Varian Wrynn of Stormwind, the strongest member of the Alliance. Varian isn't so much opposed to the animalistic nature of the worgen as to the fact that they left the Alliance when the Alliance needed them. Later on, Varian and King Greymane reconcile their differences, and Varian leads the worgen in a charge that utterly devastates the Horde, which is in the process of curb-stomping the night elves.
- In the Mists of Pandaria expansion, Dalaran goes down this path after the Horde uses Dalaran's neutral portal network to sneak into the Alliance city of Darnassus. Jaina, Dalaran's newly-appointed leader, reacts by giving the Horde citizens and soldiers in Dalaran an ultimatum: leave or be imprisoned indefinitely. And then her companion Vereesa, wife of the deceased former leader of Dalaran, has the player kill anyone who does try to escape.
- Similarly, in Mists, the Klaxxi Paragons, and perhaps their entire race, join Garrosh and the (evil) Horde. They are bosses in the Siege of Orgrimmar raid. This is solely because Garrosh possesses the heart of their deity, which they outright stated at the beginning that they would turn on you for. No one probably would have guessed that the Klaxxi would join Garrosh of all people, but at the moment, he is their god incarnate, therefore, they have finally chosen a side. This doesn't end well for them.
- In Warlords of Draenor, the Frostwolf clan of orcs refuses to join the Iron Horde, expecting them to respect their neutrality and leave them be. When that doesn't happen, and the Iron Horde abducts several Frostwolves as sacrifices for the Dark Portal and later attempts to destroy them outright, the Frostwolves ally themselves with the Horde of Azeroth to fight them.
- In Final Fantasy VI the city of Narshe originally refused to take a stand against the Empire, believing it only attacked people who sided with the Returners. After the Empire attack them a couple of times anyway, to get at the Frozen Esper, they decided to join with the Returners.
- Cloud of Final Fantasy VII starts off neutral towards Shinra, though he gets personally invested in the conflict eventually.
- In the early timeline of the X-Universe the Boron are relatively small and weak and just want to be left alone. The Argon are emphatically not small and weak, but they too have chosen to remain neutral. The Split, a trigger-happy race of violent psychopaths, hate the Boron and start a war with them. The poor militarily-inferior Boron are reduced to just their home sector, and this slaughter finally moves the Argon to pity. They renounce their neutrality, turn on their war machine on the Split and curb-stomp them back to their home sectors. A long alliance with the Boron results.
- The Boron, having almost been annihilated, finally understand that neutrality is impossible, and they themselves gear up for war.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Jarl Balgruuf the Greater of Whiterun initially maintains a position of neutrality in the Civil War, refusing to get involved (though he has no fondness for Ulfric Stormcloak). Eventually, if you start the questline, Ulfric forces his hand by sieging the city of Whiterun, causing Balgruuf to side with the Imperials. Speaking to him afterwards will have him reveal that he has nothing but contempt for Ulfric, who he regards as a power-hungry barbarian.
- In Tears to Tiara 2, the city of Tartessos honors an ancient treaty to the Barcids to serve as the capital of Hispania. It then proceeds to remain completely indifferent besides having its groundkeeper tag along with the Party, despite being invaded and having its walls broken down. Finally when it witness Monomachus' Last Stand defending it, it joins in the fight and easily wins with Story-Breaker Power. Though it pretty much goes back to being neutral right after, being originally a city of the dragons and all.
- Shin Megami Tensei games often have shattering revelations or events that force everyone's hand, driving them over and over into the Order Versus Chaos Forever War.
- A running theme in The Witcher. Geralt of Rivia is smart enough to know he gains nothing from getting involved in the war between the Order of the Flaming Rose and the Scoia'tael and would rather get on with his personal quest. But everyone recognizes what a badass Geralt is and tries to persuade him to join their side, and those that don't try to persuade Geralt berate Geralt for thinking he can stroll through the middle of a war zone and not get involved. It's possible to avert this trope, but it is very difficult and involves some Video Game Cruelty Potential.
- The theme continues in both The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, where Geralt finds he's typically stuck in the middle between two hostile factions, and he has to pick someone to side with, as he needs their help. Early in the second game, for example, Geralt is accused of assassinating the king of Temeria, and has to side with either Vernon Roche, head of Temeria's special forces, or Iorveth, leader of a Scoia'tael guerilla force, in order to keep from being executed and find the true killers.
- In Star Trek Online, the Romulan Republic Player Character is this. They start out as a simple farmer on the Romulan colony world Virinat, trying to make some semblance of normalcy since the Hobus supernova destroyed Romulus. Then, General Hakeev of the Tal Shiar decides to be a dick and invade your home. This sets off events that see the the manipulative Tal Shiar and Romulan Star Empire destroyed and the much more peaceful Romulan Republic established. All at your hands.
- As you work your way through the various runs of Undertale, though he certainly won't hesitate to call you out on it, you can murder anyone you want in the Underground and Sans the skeleton will still let you pass him without a fight. Even if you kill Papyrus. But if you decide to Kill 'em All and thus permanently remove any chance of ever reaching the Golden Ending again, he finally becomes motivated enough to step up and make a last stand in the Judgement Hall, at the point of no return. Bad times ensue.
- Borderlands 2 begins with this. The player characters are Vault Hunters - basically mercenary adventurers employed to open Eridian Vaults. While they had their reasons for being on Pandora, only two really had any meaningful ties to anything there - Salvador was born on Pandora, and Krieg had an old enmity with Hyperion and was only on the train because of Maya. The initial driver of the plot is Handsome Jack betraying the player characters and leaving them for dead, which is one of those things that influences people without making friends and successfully motivated them all to side with his enemies, the Crimson Raiders.
- The nation of Heyama in Forever Home refuses to get involved in the conflict between Auria and Tren, but they're eventually forced to take a stand against Tren's Judgment Faction when the latter razes a Heyama housing complex.
- RWBY: In Volume 5, the Faunus of Menagerie are largely unwilling to help Blake fight the White Fang, who are planning an assault on Haven Academy. This all changes in "True Colors" when White Fang members, acting on Adam's orders, attack Blake's parents, the chieftains of Menagerie, and try to kill them. The assassination fails, but the attack nonetheless provides just the proof and incentive Blake needs to persuade the citizens to overcome their Bystander Syndrome and help her.
- In Sluggy Freelance Bun-Bun is frequently the subject of this trope. As a Heroic Comedic Sociopath, he's frequently disinterested in whatever life and death struggle everyone else may be involved in, but more often than not the Big Bad du jour will do something that irritates Bun-Bun in some way (or the heroes will tell Bun-Bun the Big Bad did something irritating). Cue the Revenge of the Killer Rabbit.
- Hinted about the elves in The Order of the Stick. "Old allies, that are slow to go to war."
- A more direct example would be the reptilian bounty hunters Gannji and Enor, who have no stake in the Empire of Blood's political struggles and are perfectly willing to do business with it...until Tarquin tries to have them kill each other in a gladiatorial arena, after which they sign up with a newly-formed resistance group.
- Breakfast of the Gods: Toucan Sam throws his lot in with Tony and the rest of the kingdom's defenders, after witnessing Count Chocula set Cap'n Crunch up to be murdered.
- Pibgorn: There's no way to be neutral with demons.
- In Earthsong, the Spinster is a powerful spider-like telepath who is uninterested in taking sides in the fight between Earthsong and Beluosus, and will provide his handmade clothing to both sides since he can enforce his privacy through his spiderwebs. After befriending Willow, he decides to change his policy and sides with Earthsong. He dies in defense of Haven when Beluosus invades it.
- In an online game called Memesville 2, one of the neutrals (who just had to survive to win) was trying to help those who were being lynched if they were neutrals like him. Then one Villain, who could changed who she appeared as, lied to him to try and live, but failed. Then they killed the one guy he KNEW was a Neutral. His response? "... ... ... Alright, villains. Thanks for choosing my side for me."
- In Worm, Parian, who previously used her powers (mental control of objects like thread and cloth) as an advertising gimmick for her fashion career, is forced into this position in order to get enough money to pay for medical treatment for her friends and family-specifically, she joins the local supervillain gang that is taking over the city, much to the horror of her superhero friend Flechette.
- In The Gamer's Alliance, Jahi and the demon clan she has gathered around herself have chosen to settle into living in Alent's Threshold district after entering the Land of the Living, staying out of the conflicts their new home is involved in. However, when agents of the demon hordes infiltrate Alent and keep harassing Jahi in order to force her to side with her old demonic allies, Jahi does her best to not choose any sides until it gets personal as both demons and humans cross the line and hurt her loved ones. She ultimately unleashes the darkness she has kept in check and embraces it, choosing to side with the Eastern Horde but not on their terms but her own terms, and her newfound ruthlessness in dealing with both enemies and allies alike quickly proves that bringing out the darkness within her may not have been a great idea.
- The Falcon Cannot Hear: After the death of MacArthur, Admirals Fletcher and Bloch use the Atlantic Squadron to set up an American exile community in Guantanamo Bay, declaring themselves separate from any of the factions in the Civil War. This lasts until Japan invades the West Coast; this pisses off the Admirals enough that they join The Alliance against the Japanese and their allies, the fascist White faction.
- The Japanese invasion actually triggers another example: Canada had up until this point been officially neutral, albeit running supplies to the more democratic factions. Shortly after the invasion, Canada declares war on Japan and floods the occupied Northwest with troops.
- A More Personal Union: Shortly before the Great War breaks out, Poland signs a nonaggression pact with the Holy Roman Empire, but doesn't outright join the Catholic League. Then, more than midway through the war, they stab the Empire in the back, no longer being willing to play second fiddle to the Habsburgs.
- Happened with the Constructicons in the Transformers Animated cartoon. Initially they were neutral hedonists and were even friendly to Bulkhead, but after Optimus Prime was a bit of a Jerk Ass to them they threw in their lot with the far more seemingly benevolent (and generous with his oil) Megatron.
- Tigertron does this in Beast Wars. He wakes up from stasis all confused, not certain who he is, when he sees the Predacons threaten to kill an innocent animal if the Maximals don't surrender their friend. The Maximals surrender — and he realizes who the good guys are.
- The Flutter Ponies in My Little Pony: The Movie are the only creatures which can drive off the overwhelming purple glop known as Smooze, but they insist it's "not their fight." It takes a Rousing Speech by the Ponies' human ally, Meagan, to convince them to help.
- That and Lickity Split and her friends saved one of their own.
- Played with in an episode of Road Rovers, the president of Switzerland, under hypnotic suggestion, almost launched a missile strike against the other nations. After coming out of it, he immediately declares "We are neutral again!"
- Star Wars Rebels: Kanan meets an ancient force-welding being called The Bendu who is Above Good and Evil and prefers to live in isolation on the unmarked planet Atollon where Phoenix Squadron has made their hidden base. When Grand Admiral Thrawn finds their hideout, Kanan tries to get his help but The Bendu is having none of it, then he calls him a coward this finally spurs him into changing into a massive thunderstorm which then precedes to attack both the Empire and Rebellion indiscriminately.
- Apparently, in some places, watching traffic from the curb is a national spectator sport. The Stryker ICV is a favorite with the youngest fans. One day somewhere in Baghdad, a convoy was moving one of these. Simultaneously, a group of insurgents moving an IED entered the same intersection. The insurgents panicked and triggered the device. Locals were appalled at the lack of concern for civilian life and began cooperating with the NATO forces.
- This serves as an allegory for pretty much the entirety of the occupation. The insurgents have had much, much less concern for innocent life, detonating devices in near schools, restaurants, and other public places. This has led to a lot of the civilians siding with the occupation forces.
- Really, this trope has pretty much been America's Hat. Examples:
- The U.S. sat out the Cuban rebellion against Spain for about fifteen years until the USS Maine blew up in Havana Harbornote , which got the U.S. into the war against Spain.
- The U.S. stayed neutral in World War I until the Germans were caught attempting to form an offensive alliance with Mexico against the United States.
- The U.S. didn't really start to help the Allies in World War II until after the fall of France, and did not get into the war until after Pearl Harbor, and did not declare war against Germany until after Germany declared war against the U.S.
- When the Cold War began, the Truman administration was quite indifferent to what happened in mainland east Asia, cutting off aid to Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT in the critical year of 1946, and then, after the Communists took over China, withdrawing American forces from Korea and declaring South Korea to be outside the American "defense perimeter in Asia." When the North Koreans then promptly invaded South Korea with Soviet and Chinese backing, the U.S. intervened on the South Korean side.
- When Lyndon Johnson became President, he declared that he was "not going to send American boys halfway around the world to do a job that Asian boys can and should do for themselves." When it became apparent in 1965 that South Vietnam was months if not weeks from falling to the Communists, however, and Communist forces fired on a U.S. naval vessel in the Gulf of Tonkin, he did exactly that.
- Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. was largely neutral in the Arab-Israeli conflict until the early 1970s, and did not, for example, intervene to open the Strait of Tiran in 1967 despite an earlier promise to do so. But when during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the Soviet Union sent a massive airlift of supplies to the Egyptians and the Syrians, the Nixon administration decided to send an American airlift of supplies to Israel. This is only a partial example, however, since the United States only sent supplies, and did not intervene directly.
- In 1990, American ambassador April Glaspie met with then-ruler of Iraq Saddam Hussein to ask him about the troops he was massing on his border with Kuwait and the threats he was making toward Kuwait. He apparently assured her that he was just saber-rattling to win diplomatic concessions on a border dispute, and she seems to have understood him to say that he was committed to resolving the dispute peacefully. She famously assured him, however, that the U.S. has "no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait....the Kuwait issue is not associated with America," and he may have taken that as a green light to invade Kuwait. Suffice it to say that when he did, the U.S. sent troops to the Persian Gulf, first to defend Saudi Arabia, but then to liberate Kuwait.
- Later in that decade, during the Balkan wars that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia, the United States did not intervene for several years in the war in Bosnia, but did finally decide to back Croat intervention on the side of the Bosniaks against the Serbs, after watching Serb attacks on Sarajevo and other Bosnian towns on the news every night for years. Then, when the Serbs went to war in Kosovo to attempt to prevent that province from breaking away, the U.S. decided to intervene directly, launching an air campaign against Serbia.
- Also during the 1990s, the United States was neutral in the civil war in Afghanistan between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, even as the Taliban took over most of the country, pushing the Northern Alliance into a tiny strip of territory in the north. After September 11, 2001, however, the United States intervened in Afghanistan on the side of the Northern Alliance, and removed the Taliban from power; the "civil war"/insurgency continues to this day, however.
- Also happens within the United States - at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Kentucky was a slave-holding state that identified culturally with the South but one that didn't have much appetite for secession (its governor Beriah Magoffin was Southern-sympathizing and bristled at President Lincoln's call for troops to serve in Union armies but believed slave states should remain in the Union and the Constitution). For the first several months it tried to stay neutral, its legislature refusing to vote on a bill of secession and instead passed a bill asking both side to leave them alone. Then Confederate General Leonidas Polk occupied the town of Columbus that summer, spurring the legislature (which at this point had become pro-Union enough to override the governor's vetoes) to start passing legislation blatantly against Confederate efforts but not the Union's - this in turn pissed off pro-Confederates in the western and central parts of the state, who established their own state government that joined the Confederacy that December. Kentucky's stance was sorted out by 1862, with the state effectively in Union hands thanks to General Ulysses Grant, the original pro-Union government remaining in effective control, Governor Magoffin resigning, and the rival pro-Confederate government existing only on paper having been forced to flee to Tennessee.
- Italy in both World Wars. In World War I, Italy was supposed to immediately enter the war on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary, but refused due a loophole and stayed neutral for about a year before entering the war AGAINST them. In World War II it happened TWICE: first Italy was supposed to join Germany as soon as France and Britain declared war, but stayed neutral until the war appeared to be already won and attacked France and a small British colony just for the show, only to get held off by the French and find out the hard way that the British Empire wouldn't surrender; in 1943 an invaded Italy sued for peace and became neutral again until the German reinforcements sent to help the defense were ordered to become an occupation force.
- Vichy France was a subversion during World War II. The government (including France's colonies) was neutral in the war (at least officially). In particular they were guaranteed control of the French Navy, which they promised to the Allies they would not allow to fall into German hands. Evidently lacking confidence in this promise (or the Vichies' ability to keep it), the Royal Navy seized several French ships and fired on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir. There were numerous skirmishes between Vichy French and Allied forces after this, and Vichy neutrality effectively ended with Case Anton, the German seizure and occupation of all of Vichy France. As it turns out, the French kept their promise regarding their Navy, scuttling their ships in the harbor at Toulon.
- To protest against SOPA and Protect IP, Wikipedia blacked out their website on January 18, 2012. Wikipedia is notable for staying as True Neutral as possible, making this a huge change in their policy. Ironically enough, they had to break their own neutrality in order to fight for the principle of neutrality.
- In the Napoleonic wars Denmark tried to be neutral so they could trade with both England and France, "unfortunately" they had a very big fleet at that time, making England scared that France would get to use the fleet. So they bombed it in 1807, ironically that made Denmark join the war on France's side.