Savage Setpiece

This creature normally doesn't look or act like an enemy, and unlike everything else, it's not interested in your blood. It's simply there to provide flavor. However, if you attack it or otherwise provoke it, it will turn on you and dish out the hurt.

Most commonly this is programmed as a form of Video Game Cruelty Punishment. Video games are rather infamous for having player characters who can still be considered "the good guys" no matter how much petty rampaging they engage in, so even to this day a harmless creature that suddenly turns vicious can catch gamers off-guard, forcing them to question whether engaging in your inner Jerk Ass is really worth having to start the level over from scratch.

Compare Helpful Mook and Shoplift and Die.


  • Zelda
    • Multiple franchise installments have the Cuccos, vicious birds who many old-school gamers can recognize by name as being this trope. In every game they appear in and are attackable they'll gang up on Link and viciously destroy him should he poke them with his sword one too many times.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker replaces them with pigs. If you return to the first island you'll find that the pig you caught at the beginning of the game is now HUGE. It can be provoked just like the other pigs. It does more damage than any other enemy in the game when it attacks- including the Final Boss!
    • In The Legend of Zelda, if you attack NPCs with your sword, the fires next to them start flinging fireballs at you.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, you repeatedly defeat the Moblin King until he's living in a one room house in a village making bombs for sale, utterly disheartened at how low he's fallen, to the point where makes no attempt to harm you. If you put a bomb in his stockpile, however, it's the final straw, and he and his mooks run outside and watch the house explode- with you still in it.
  • Super Metroid has a turtle-like creature and its adorable babies in a certain room in Maridia. While they're normally utterly harmless, if you attack the little ones, the mother will immediately spin around in her shell after you. This is how you can reach an item upgrade before acquiring the Space Jump.
  • The Game Boy Advance RPG Dokapon had the Shopkeepers. While they would never pick a fight with you, you could pick a fight with them... Ouch.
  • In the jungle stage of Contra Hard Corps, there's an apatosaurus whose back you land on after defeating one of the stage's minibosses. You have to walk up his neck and over his head to move on, but if you shoot his face, he'll unleash a stream of white-hot plasma DEATH out of his nose. In the Japanese version where you could take up to 3 hits before dying, this is the only attack in the game that kills you instantly.
  • A not-really-an-enemy example: Earthworm Jim's Peter The Puppy. You have to escort him across a level full of dangerous enemies and pits. You can't hurt him, but if an enemy does, cute little Peter will morph into a giant monster and maul the heck out of you. Then he'll drag you to the nearest checkpoint before turning back to normal.
  • In the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, you can occasionally find shops in dungeons. Attempt to shoplift, and you'll face an army of extremely high-level Kecleon with max stats. Even if you're prepared, they'll probably wipe the floor with you. The worst part is that this is the only way to recruit a Kecleon for your Rescue Team.
    • The shopkeeper can also go ballistic on you or the enemies if accidentally struck by an attack. His behavior is rather unpredictable in that regard, so fighting around him is generally a bad idea.
    • The shopkeepers in the Chocobo Mystery Dungeon series look like the Grim Reaper and are ungodly powerful. Naturally you need to kill one to achieve 100% Completion.
  • In Left 4 Dead, the Witch does nothing besides moan, sob and cue creepy music. If you attack her in any way (be it by bullet, melee, explosion or fire), get too close to her, shine your flashlight at her for long, and in some cases, look at her too long, she'll get startled, which means she'll run at you faster than a survivor can run when not under the effects of an epinephrine boost (although not when she's on fire, then she's slower), claw the offender for either an instant incap or, on higher difficulties, a One-Hit Kill, and if said offender is incapped, she'll rake furiously at them. In some versions she'll rampage against the the other party members, too, out of sheer spite, and in all cases, she'll switch targets if another survivor lights her up. Sneaking past is the preferrable option, although the Director is often smart enough to spawn her at a chokepoint with no way around, and vanilla bots don't have enough AI to run past her one at a time, and that often forces the player to kill her by any means possible. While she's a Demonic Spider when all four Survivors are together, in any game mode where the player is alone, making stealth far more manageable, she's rarely more than an annoyance and a slowdown in pace, even less so than the Spitter.
    • A particular example of this: the sugar mill. Even a single Survivor might have trouble weaving through dozens of the bitches.note 
  • Most cashiers in the Grand Theft Auto games can be robbed at gunpoint, but those in the gun shops and high-class nightclubs carry shotguns and will bust a cap if you try anything funny. Oddly, this can work to your advantage as if you're trying to kill some annoying gang members and can't quite get the police to aggro them. Gunshots will attract the police, who'll kill the cashiers, which will cause cashiers to become more aggressive in their behavior, and probably shoot or beat to death the wandering gangers. Good for when your objective is to kill one of their number and they're mulling about near both the target and the gun store/nightclub. Just aim your gun at the cashier and duck behind someone else.
  • In Temple of Elemental Evil, there are several locations which automatically spawn groups of giant rats (such as the Moathouse entry hall). Unlike most rats you'll meet, these are not hostile. You can attack them, but if your party is low level (which is usually the case) you could end up with a couple of diseased characters. The rats mostly serve the purpose of indicating that a location is not healthy for sleeping.
  • In Age of Empires, elephants (except for King Elephants) only attack if you hurt them first. While they're dangerous to hunt as a result, you can safely ignore them. This is a big contrast to lions and crocodiles. Wild boars in Age of Empires II are similar: attempting to hunt one for food will likely end up with a few dead villagers on the side as a result.
  • The Big Daddies fill this role in BioShock. They'll lumber past ignoring you all day long, at worst shoving you aside dealing zero damage if you stand in their way, but if you take a shot at them (or their Little Sister) they won't stop until one of you is dead. But if you do kill them, you can both capture the Little Sister and loot their bodies for money and ammo.
  • The Zombie Pigman from Minecraft will even walk right up to you and look at you without attacking. When you attack him, not only does he attack full-on with his sword, but any other Pigmen in range come in swinging, and on the normal difficulty, they can take off a quarter of your maximum health with one hit. The game actually encourages you to attack them by making them drop gold nuggets, which is more fun than mining for gold and arguably faster. Wolves behave with a similar pack instinct, except you can also tame them so that they'll gang up on monsters that attack you. Spiders are hostile at night, but turn into this in the sunlight, albeit without the group attack. However, due to how the AI works, you can kill them without fear of reprisal by maneuvering them into harmful obstacles like cacti, nudging them off cliffs, or starting a fire under their feet.
    • The Endermen are a weird case because they define "provocation" as "looking directly at them." However, so long as you keep your crosshairs away from their noodly torsos, they'll just wander peacefully around carrying their blocks.
  • The Shopkeepers in Spelunky are like this. Even worse, killing one directly would cause all the other shopkeepers for the rest of the game to be hostile as well.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, you may see a large T-Rex-esque creature wandering around a very early area of the game. It's harmless as long as you leave it alone. If you're foolish enough to run up and smack it, don't expect to live for much longer...
    • The Elementals and Entites too. They appear in a variety of locations, all the same level regardless of region (so in some places they're overpowered and in others remarkably weak). Unfortunatly, casting magic anywhere near them will also set them off.
    • Similarly, the Long Guis and Shaolong Guis in Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2 ignore you completely unless you deliberately pick a fight with them. They don't show up nearly as early as the FFXII example, but they are very powerful for when you first encounter them. By the postgame of XIII, however, you'll be farming them if you want to achieve 100% Completion.
  • World of Warcraft has a neutral NPC named Gamon in the Horde capital. He used to be the general beating doll, then apparently Took a Level in Badass and can now deal enough damage to one-hit players attacking him.
  • Guild Wars 2 has a substantial amount of neutral fauna, ranging from roving herds of moa to lumbering oakhearts. They typically will not actively engage anyone, but if hit by anything (players or enemy mobs), they will defend themselves.
  • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has Oho Jees. Attacking these oddballs with elemental moves triggers a battle. Incidentally, defeating them doesn't kill them; they simply return to normal, harmless, friendly blobs.
  • In The Elderscrolls III Morrowind, the netch are non-aggressive animals resembling large flying jellyfish, but they can easily dispatch a low level character if provoked, especially the females.
  • A less 'non-enemy' variation of this can happen in Neverwinter Nights. For example, in one dungeon in the first chapter of the original campaign its boss will animate the occasional corpse just to taunt you as you enter a room. That corpse (unlike any other undead in the same location) will be harmless and just collapse on its own after saying its piece if left alone, but if attacked will start to hit back and turn out to be effectively indestructible...
  • In the Baldur's Gate series you can find bears around in earlier stages of the game. Unlike other creatures you find on the map, they mind their own business and don't attack you, unless you come too close. Unfortunately for a budding hero fresh out of Candlekeep a single black bear can quickly overwhelm low level fighters and end your journey abruptly.
  • The King P Statue in MOTHER 3 is normally nothing more than a background element found in the upper right corner of New Pork City. However, you can choose to provoke it, in which case it will come to life and, unless you know a secret to defeating it, hand you your ass on a silver platter.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X is absolutely lousy with these; the world is filled to the brim with monsters, a number of whom won't attack you unless you provoke them. The enormous Millesaurs are the earliest example. They're some of the largest and most powerful enemies in the game, but will ignore you as long as you leave them alone. The most extreme example is the game's Bonus Boss; it's completely non-hostile. But if you attack it, it's the single most powerful enemy in the game.
  • Pikmin has sleeping bugs that sleep unless you a) get too close to them or b) attack them. You can find out which is which by looking at their eyes. The ones with half open eyes have the lighter slumber.