A somewhat more literal case than most.
DANIEL RADCLIFFE: Michael, I found out that Ralph Fiennes split his soul into 7 pieces and scattered them around the world. And yes, this really is what I learned, not the set-up to an RPG on Super Nintendo.
A thing that a character needs to obtain in order to cash it in later for a Plot
For example, let's say that our intrepid hero must steal a key, then find the Treasure Chest of Galumphry that the key will open, then remove the Orb of Power from the chest and use it to banish the Big Bad
. The key, the chest, and the Orb are all plot coupons. Extremely common in video games, where collecting these coupons is known as a Fetch Quest
, it is often presented as collecting several pieces
of a lost artifact
or gaining recognition from several factions.
A plot coupon might just as easily be one item in a series of MacGuffins
, where the things themselves are not important, it is the seeking
of them that moves the story along (indeed, the two terms often get used interchangably). See also Sword of Plot Advancement
If the items in and of themselves are useless and only become valuable in hindsight, see It May Help You on Your Quest
If the goal of the mission is to obtain an item that turns out to be less valuable than the finding of it, It's the Journey That Counts
Coined by Nick Lowe in a science fiction convention talk, later printed as an article The Well-Tempered Plot Device
in the fanzine Ansible
and popularized by the Turkey City Lexicon
Subtropes and Related Tropes:
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- Shards of the Shikon Jewel in InuYasha.
- The rings with the Cagliostro crest in The Castle of Cagliostro.
- The Dragon Balls in Dragon Ball. In its sequels, the plot is resolved more by fighting, and they become used to enforce status quo.
- Fushigi Yuugi has the two Shinzahou.
- Every Story Arc of Sailor Moon had one or more of these. Most notable are the Seven Rainbow Crystals...especially since they weren't in the original manga and were created by the anime specifically to extend the storyline. In the manga they're just looking for one big crystal; in the anime it breaks into seven color-coded pieces so the senshi have to spend that much longer trying to find them.
- The Jewel Seeds in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, and season 3 has the very-similar Relics.
- The five Weapons of Light in the third season of Slayers; most of the time, the one we see is the Sword of Light wielded by Gourry. And it isn't just for the third season either, the Sword of Light is the key to a lot of storyline events.
- The Cyber Planet Keys and Omega Lock in Transformers Cybertron.
- The Clow Cards in Cardcaptor Sakura.
- The Crests in Digimon Adventure.
- Shikizaki Kiki's twelve Perfected Deviant Blades in Katanagatari.
- The Philosopher's Stone from Fullmetal Alchemist.
- The feathers in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle.
- .hack//ROOTS intially has a set of items that the Twilight Brigade were collecting because they think it will lead to the Key of Twilight. Ovan claims that the items are leftover data from the previous iteration of The World and have no ingame purpose anymore. They turn out to be the breadcrumb trail for a trap laid by Yata but there's also no reason to assume Ovan's explanation is wrong since he had to fool Yata about not recognizing the trap but being interested in the items.
- Swordquest has one for each realm, and they are used to take the heroes to the next world in their quest.
Films — Animated
- The hero's medal in Wreck-It Ralph. Ralph needs it to win a modicum of respect among the Nicelanders, and the first major plot point is his adventure through Hero's Duty to retrieve it (within Hero's Duty, it's a MacGuffin). Unfortunately, it gets stolen by someone who cashes it in for almost exactly the same reason. Then the main plot starts.
Films — Live-Action
- Lara Croft: Tomb Raider had the pieces of the Eye of the Illuminati.
- Men In Black had the Galaxy "on Orion's Belt" or rather, on the cat Orion's collar.
- Pirates of the Caribbean had this in each movie. The cursed coins of Cortez needed to lift the curse in the first, the key to open Davy Jones' chest in the second, and the Pieces of Eight in the third.
- The Ark of the Covenant, the Sankara Stones, the Holy Grail, and the Crystal Skull in Indiana Jones
- Also the headpiece of the Staff of Ra, Grail Diary and Grail Markers.
- Subverted in The Matrix Revolutions when Trinity provokes a Mexican standoff rather than fetch "the eyes of the oracle" in order to save Neo from the Merovingian.
- The Death Star plans in Star Wars: A New Hope. Luke's original quest was to get them into the hands of the rebels.
- The Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief movie features the titular character, Percy Jackson, and his friends Grover and Annabeth following a magical map given to them by a guy who's clearly very trustworthy to find three magical pearls that will let them escape from the underworld. In the books the three pearls are given to Percy by some water Nymphs, via his father. In contrast to the book, the movie seems to miss the lesson the books set up by having Percy leave Grover, his best friend in the underworld, abandoning him. Then again, I'm pretty sure no one making the movie had actually READ the book, so that's not much of a surprise.
- The tape in Enemy of the State.
- The floppy disk in The Net.
- Sucker Punch- to escape the insane asylum/brothel, Baby Doll and the other girls must collect a map, fire, a knife, a key and a distraction.
- The image above is of a Golden Ticket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In the opening stretch of the novel, virtually everyone in the world wants to find one of these — there are only five, each of which is hidden beneath the wrapper of a Wonka chocolate bar. A ticket will grant its finder a tour of the titular, long-closed-to-the-public (and seemingly people in general as no one ever sees workers enter or leave it) factory chaperoned by Living Legend / Reclusive Artist Willy Wonka himself, along with a lifetime supply of sweets. Pinball Protagonist Charlie is lucky enough to find the last of these tickets, kicking off the rest of the novel.
Live Action TV
- Mocked in the Angel episode "Reprise," wherein Angel is told that to get to the Big Bad, he needs a ring; to get the ring, he needs to kill a certain demon; to kill the demon, he needs a magic glove. Angel cuts off his informer with, "Okay, now you're making this up."
- The long-running T-Bag series, whose 9 series and 4 specials consisted of nothing except chasing plot coupons (first letters, then numbers, then whatever arbitrary things the writers came up with). And hanging lampshades on them.
- Subverted in the Doctor Who episode Last of the Time Lords: The Doctor's companion Martha spends an off-screen year assembling a super-gun and set of super-bullets that can kill a Time Lord permanently. As soon as she's done it, the Master captures her and destroys it; Martha later laughs at him for believing in such an obvious plot device and reveals that her search was just a cover for her real mission.
- The Objects in Sci-Fi's miniseries The Lost Room.
- Just about every Rambaldi artifact from Alias (very evident in season one).
- Supernatural : The four rings from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse form a key that will allow Sam and Dean to re-imprison Lucifer.
- Prison Break uses this repeatedly, with varying effectiveness. Coupons range from a specific bolt to all sorts of evidence about the Company to the five million dollars that DB Cooper stole and buried in Utah.
- The protagonists in The Legend Of Dick And Dom need to make a magic potion, and hunt down an ingredient Once an Episode. The ingredients vary in difficulty (The Eye of the Beholder, which requires a Journey to the Center of the Earth! ... A Pint of Milk!) which allows more time to be spent on adventuring or comedy, as required.
- In one episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Jake and Nog end up trading one plot coupon for another in a seemingly endless chain. 5000 wrappages of yamok sauce, for 100 gross of self-sealing stem bolts, for seven tessipates of land...
- Just about every adventure game ever made: Space Quest, The Dig, Sam & Max: Freelance Police, Monkey Island. The second episode of Tales of Monkey Island by Telltale Games did some Lampshade Hanging with this, when a local bait shop will ONLY accept literal coupons to purchase bait. One of these three coupons leads to a (literal) Red Herring, but the other two are quite essential to progress in the plot.
- In Albion, a long quest revolves around finding (of all things) a virility amulet for a tribal king (and saving the guy who made it, who got lost in a big dungeon). Then there's the Metal-Magic Scroll and the High Knowledge which are required for a spell that is pretty much the only thing that can defeat the Big Bad.
- The Jiggies in Banjo-Kazooie, which are used to complete the jigsaw puzzles in Gruntilda's Lair to open new worlds. Used again in Banjo-Tooie as proof that you are worthy to complete the challenges of Jiggywiggy, who seems to be the master of all things Jiggy, whose completion opens new worlds. They return in Nuts and Bolts, and are gained during the challenges settled by the Lord of Games.
- The parts of Dracula's body in Castlevania II Simons Quest, again in the inverted castle portion of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and a third time in Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance.
- Almost every Sonic game has used the Chaos Emeralds (or "Time Stones" in Sonic the Hedgehog CD) as plot coupons. In the earlier games, they were not necessary to complete the game, they just made it easier and gave you the good ending. However, since Sonic Adventure, they have, in nearly every game, been necessary elements of the plot, often being the goals for completing the level.
- Used in most Commander Keen games (ship parts in Invasion of the Vorticons, guardians in Goodbye Galaxy!, bombs in Keen Dreams).
- Used repeatedly in Diablo II:
- In Act II, you must collect the Viper Amulet, the Staff of Kings, and the Horadric Cube to assemble the Horadric Staff, which acts as a key to open the tomb of Tal Rasha.
- In Act III, you must collect Khalim's Relics; combined, they act as a key to open the Durance of Hate.
- In Dragon Warrior/Quest IV and sequels, the player must collect the 4 legendary armaments (sword, shield, helmet, and armor). Only the hero may wear them, and by the time the player acquires these, his hero likely already has better equipment.
- In the flagrant Dolled-Up Installment Dragon's Lair: The Legend, Dirk quests to collect the Lifestones to awaken a sleeping giant knight. Specifically, 194 of them. It's as much fun as it sounds.
- Elemental crystals in many Final Fantasy games.
- The music notes of Harvest Moon: Magical Melody and the harvest sprites of Harvest Moon DS
- HarmoKnight has you hunting for Royal Notes, 53 in all. These are only required to progress further twice throughout the entire game, the third time to unlock the level Birdwatching.
- Kirby games generally have a set of special stars (or Crystal Shards in the game with that title) that you must collect to actually face the real Big Bad — who will only show himself you complete everything else. However these items are generally used to make the weapon he needs in the final fight.
- The Legend of Zelda and its various sequels are the namesake for this trope. In later games, there are often two sets of coupons, the first usually being three items (pendants, pearls, etc.) needed to claim the Master Sword, rewarded halfway through. The second act then has a set of more items (medallions, pieces of a mirror, etc.). Another is simply eight items (essences, pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom) without any distinct midpoint
- The Legend of Zelda: Eight Pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom.
- Zelda II The Adventure Of Link: The Six Crystals, or rather the six statues to put the crystals in (you have the crystals at the outset).
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: Three Pendants first, then the Seven Maidens.
- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening: Eight Instruments of the Siren.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Three Spiritual Stones followed by the Six Medallions. In a more literal (yet minor) example of this trope, Zelda also gives you a letter that allows you to pass by a certain guard.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: Four Mask Remains.
- The Legend of Zelda Oracle games: Eight Essences of Time (Ages) and Nature (Seasons).
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords: Three Great Keys. Note that there are 3 types of Keys (Silver, Golden, and Hero), and to fully complete the game, the player must collect a total of nine keys. However, you only need 3 of a kind to fight Vaati.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: Three Goddess Pearls, then the Two Sages, finally the Eight Pieces of the Triforce of Courage.
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures: Seven Shrine Maidens (including Zelda), and Four Royal Jewels.
- The Minish Cap: Four Elements.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Four Fused Shadows, then the Four Mirror Fragments.
- The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: Three Spirits, then the Three Pure Metals.
- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: Four Force Gems/chunks of the Tower of Spirits, followed by the Bow of Light, and then the Compass of Light.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: The three Ancient Tablets, the three Sacred Flames, and the four parts of the Song of the Hero.
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: The three Pendants, and then the paintings of the Seven Sages and Zelda.
- Every Mario RPG uses this.
- Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars has you locating the seven pieces of the broken Star Road.
- Paper Mario makes you rescue the seven Star Spirits. Unlike most examples, the Star Spirits actually unlock usable moves in standard gameplay.
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has you locating seven Crystal Stars. Like the original, the Crystal Stars also unlock moves. Peach is also a MAJOR plot coupon, but for a different reason. A bad one.
- Super Paper Mario mixes it up a little, you need eight Pure Hearts (You start the game with one of them, though, so you still only actually need to find seven).
- Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has you collect the four pieces of the Bean Star after it shatters.
- Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time has you collecting the six pieces of the shattered Cobalt Star. Played for laughs in this one, as the number of shards you have goes up and down wildly throughout the game, until you get them all which is worse than useless; it actually frees the Final Boss).
- Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story has the three Star Cures.
- Mario & Luigi: Dream Team has the five Ultibed parts and the Dream Stone. The villains steal the last one before you get there though.
- Super Mario Bros.:
- The 3-D Platforming Mario games also use this trope. Super Mario 64 and the two Super Mario Galaxy games all have you looking for 120 stars. In the case of Galaxy, you even have to get them all a second time to with Luigi to unlock the 121st star (for both characters) for the 100% completion, while in Galaxy 2 you also have to collect 120 green-colored stars to unlock the Grandmaster Galaxy, which has the last two stars, leaving you with a grand total of 242 stars for 100% completion.. Super Mario Sunshine replaces the stars with Shine Sprites, which retain the purpose of collection and are justified in-game for being the source of solar energy in Isle Delfino. In both Galaxy games, stars are justified as being fuel.
- The coins in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. These are special coins from boss battles, not the normal kind found in ?-Boxes.
- Taken to the extreme in New Super Mario Bros 2: The game wants you to collect 1,000,000 coins (regular coins) for no apperent reason. If this is achieved, it then challenges you to find 99,999,999 coins (enough to fill the coin meter with all 9's, basically). You are then rewarded with a new title screen.
- Each of the Metroid Prime games has a set of items that must be collected in order to access the final level. 12 Chozo Artifacts in the first game, 9 Sky Temple Keys in the second, and at least 5 out of 9 Energy Cells in the third. Fortunately, neither Metroid Prime or Metroid Prime 3 force you to get them in the main quest, and Prime 2, despite having a set of keys for The Dragon of each energy controller (which aren't Plot Coupons themselves), only told you to find them when you needed them, many times along with you doing something more important/interesting. The big exception here are the Octoliths in Prime: Hunters, of which there are eight, as you must find them all at very specific plot points, and in a specific order.
- Each game in the MOTHER series features Plot Coupons. However, only the first game actually had you collect anything, and that's in the loosest sense of the word.
- MOTHER1 features the Eight Melodies, or the 8 parts of a song that the mysterious Queen Mary of Magicant has forgotten. The Melodies aren't actually items. Instead, various NPCs or Items sing them to you, you even get one melody from a cactus. In order to proceed to the Big Bad, you have to sing all eight melodies to Queen Mary. It turns out that Mary is actually Maria, Ninten's great-grandmother, who was abducted by aliens. Gigyas was a baby she volunteered to raise, and the song you have spent the whole game learning is a lullaby she used to sing to him. Singing the lullaby to Gigyas is the only way to actually defeat him.
- Mother 2/EarthBound features Your Sanctuaries, eight locations where Earth's Power was the strongest. Each also had a melody associated with it, and when Ness uses the Sound Stone to play them all back, he goes to his own version of Magicant. Unlike the first game however, the eight melodies, nor the power of Magicant are used against Gigyas. Paula has to pray nine times instead.
- Mother 3 features Seven Needles scattered across the Nowhere Islands, which require the use of PK Love to be pulled out. Pulling out all seven awakens a sleeping dragon that the islands rest upon, who will only listen to the person who pulls out the seventh and final needle. The Big Bad eventually reveals a mysterious masked general who can use PK Love as well, and uses him to try and pull out the seventh and final needle. The Final Battle takes place at the site of the final needle.
- Dark Souls has the Bells of Awakening, that must be rung to reveal the purpose of the Undead. And then, after that, you retrieve the Lordvessel and then kill some gods for their Lord Souls.
- Most Bioware games are, to a large extent, about retrieving plot coupons rather than the plot itself:
- In Knights of the Old Republic, the player has to find all Star Maps to get behind the villain's military strength; to retrieve these Maps, he always has to do something that involves finding out about the game's background and/or solving problems unrelated to the actual plot, like a Wookiee civil war or a conflict with Tusken raiders. The main plot will only go on after finding one of these coupons.
- Dragon Age: Origins has the player finding a few rather large coupons in the form of allied armies - to get these, he, just like in KOTOR, has to solve several local problems unrelated to the main plot.
- In Mass Effect 2, most of the game revolves around finding living breathing coupons aka squad members - the actual plot is few and far between and only moves on after gathering a certain amount of members.
- Donkey Kong 64 has Golden Bananas, with 25 available per level: Four bananas per each of the five Kongs, plus one per Kong from "Blueprints", which themselves could be considered Plot Subcoupons due to being traded for Golden Bananas sometime after collection.
- This game also has Banana Coins, with each Kong having their own color of coin. In order to progress, a certain number of these must be collected and traded for "moves" (such as the ability to press stronger switches). Not enough coins means no move (and thus no progression) for you! note
- There are also "DK Coins", which feature heavily in minigames and races. While not traded directly, the races / minecart sections require a certain number of these to be in your possession by the end of the section, so even if you "win" the race, if you don't have enough coins, you lose.
- Sky Odyssey has the four pieces of the Lost Map, hidden in ruins scattered throughout the Islands of the Dark Sea. The player needs to find these map pieces in order to discover the only way into the Tower of Maximus, the games final level.
- Robopon has the X-Stones of the second game. Each one is required to challenge a ranked competitor, and people will go to obscene lengths to hide them and keep their rankings.