Keroro Gunsou has this with Keroro's occasional hair-brained schemes to raise money for invasion funds, like his plan to sell ikinari-dango instead of chocolates on Valentine's Day.
Theres tons of them when its all about their Invasion Plans. But one of Giroro's plan takes the cake :
Phase 1 : Make Weapon
Phase 2 : Invade
Phase 3 : ????
Phase 4 : Invade sucessful
One Piece offers us Luffy's brilliant plan to become Pirate King, behold:
Phase 1: Get on a boat (survive drowning because of a miracle)
Phase 2: Gather a crew through a series of coincidences.
Phase 3: Go to the Grand Line.
Phase 4: Travel the length of the Grand Line to reach Raftel.
Phase 5: Find One Piece.
What the hell is One Piece, anyway?
Phase 6: Profit
The best part about this is that it's intentional. Luffy wouldn't be doing it if he actually had any concrete idea of how to accomplish it.
Luffy: We are NOT asking him where the treasure is hidden!!! We're not even asking him whether there IS any treasure or not!! I'm not sure, but... ...everybody set out to sea, risking their lives to search for it!!! If you ask this old man anything about it here and now... Then I'll quit being a pirate! I don't want to go on a boring adventure like that!
Pokémon has Team Rocket's plans pre-Best Wishes revolve around giving the bossa Pokemon for something simple. One gag actually had them plan to give the boss a Pokemon. Like their kidnapping of Togepi. When they present it to their boss, the first thing he asks is what it does. The two have no idea, eventually settling for the rather unimpressive "It would make an excellent paperweight!"
The SOS Brigade's Valentine's Day chocolate-making meeting in Haruhi-chan had the following steps:
Phase 1: Make chocolate.
Phase 2: Powder chocolate.
Phase 3: Wrap chocolate.
Phase 4: Unwrap and eat chocolate.
Phase 5: ?
Phase 6: Profit.
Kuranosuke's plan to stop the tearing down of the Amamizu-kan café:
Phase 1: Build army of cyborg animals with machineguns.
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Environment is saved
Keep in mind, this is the plan of the protagonist, not the villains.
The villains in Chick Tracts can sometimes fall into this, such as the gay rights group who wanted to make sure their children wouldn't be bullied by infecting the Red Cross' donor blood supply (which was kept in a huge vat) with AIDS.
A Scrooge McDuck story has an example of two such plans that are successfully executed and still remain in this status, because it's never explained what the heck is going on. The story involves Scrooge going to the centre of the Earth to fetch the Key of Time, whatever that is, in which process Donald also gains a positive briefcase, whatever that does. Scrooge's plan is:
Step 1: Obtain Key of Time
Step 2: Operate on all time zones at once = ???
Step 3: Profit!
It turns out he can't actually keep doing that because of the invisible negative briefcases he was given, but Donald can use the positive briefcase to win the lottery... somehow.
Harry was only following in dear old Dad's footsteps, considering that (after offing some business rivals — that at least made some sort of sense) his plan in the first movie boiled down to:
Phase 1: Fight and tie up Spider-Man.
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Spider-Man is at my side! Profit
Phase 1: In the event Plan A fails because Spider-Man won't cooperate despite the fighting and the tying, kill him instead.
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit
It makes more sense than that in both cases. In Plan A, step 2 is to point out to Spiderman that the public will turn against him. And in Plan B, if he kills Spiderman, he has no real obstacles to continuing what he was doing (destroying people who were inconvenient to his business aspirations.)
As thisCracked article shows, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation continuously has some plans involving the Alien - a killer machine which can never be controlled, and usually escapes traps. What are they intending to do?!
Both Weyland-Yutani and the military-industrial complex intended to use the xenomporphs for military purposes. The problem with each film is that both are implied to basically rule the Earth and have pretty much everyone in the series working for them in one way or another, and there is never any hint as to who their rivals are, if any, in what is more or less a future where these xenomorphs seem to be the only type of "alien" life that is out there. In other words, who the hell are these "weapons" supposed to be used on anyway? Especially given just how impossible it is to control the damn things.
Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler was one of those rare people with the ability to think in straight lines. Most people think in curves and zig-zags. For example, they start from a thought like: I wonder how I can become very rich, and then proceed along an uncertain course which includes thoughts like: I wonder what's for supper, and: I wonder who I know who can lend me five dollars? Whereas Throat was one of those people who could identify the thought at the other end of the process, in this case I am now very rich, draw a line between the two, and then think his way along it, slowly and patiently, until he got to the other end. Not that it worked. There was always, he found, some small but vital flaw in the process. It generally involved a strange reluctance on the part of people to buy what he had to sell.
There was another one in Night Watch, that almost gets to "profit", but trails off with "7. You're looking at me funny, Sarge. 8. Are we gonna get in trouble for this, Sarge? 9. Sorry, Sarge..."
Subverted in Mistborn, where for the first bit of the first book the plan seems to be:
Step 1: Overthrow ancient empire
Step 2: ??
Step 3: Profit
Then Kelsier turns around and explains that Step Two is to rob the Evil Overlord's treasury and steal his Unobtanium reserves. And it turns out it was never about profit anyway.
In Doctor Who, the hero's plans seem like this to most people around. "We're going to go to the lair of the Omnicidal Maniac and his whole army, stop the impending doom without getting reduced to chop suey, and be back in time for supper (chop suey sounds delish.) What's that you say? How the hell do I plan on doing that? No idea, I'll think of something." His confidence gets people to go along with him, and in the end, he always does. Though sometimes it doesn't turn out as well as he intends.
The format has become a bit of a meme in certain parts of the internet. Can be combined with almost anything, and be any length as long as the last two steps are "????" and "Profit". Example using tropes:
This was a running gag in Doonesbury comics during the Dot Com Boom. A character started a Dot Com company and began Step One by finding venture capitalists to invest in his company. He was so successful at this that he never got around to figuring out what Step Two was supposed to be. To his great amazement the company actually developed a Step Two on its own but he does not find out what they were actually selling until the very end when Microsoft forced them out of business.
In a FoxTrot story arc, Roger Fox falls for a get-rich-quick scheme in an infomercial. He pays $200 for a pamphlet supposedly containing information on getting rich, but it amounts to telling him to invent a product, sell it for $200 and sucker 5,000 people into buying it.
Jason also had at least one arc where his plan amounted to Step 1: Create a Dot Com company; Step 3: Profit when investors come running.
Trolls on the Runescape forums use this quite a bit on "How do I make money" threads. Step 1. Cut willows. Step 2. ? Step 3: Profit (Willow logs are very cheap, around 13 GP each, and as a reference, 2 million GP is considered broke by many players.)
In World of Warcraft, one of the Draenei jokes is an ultimate plan for the victory over evil:
Phase 1: We land the Exodar
Phase 3: We defeat Legion, and go home.
There's just... one thing missing...
Also, a gnomish oil rig in Borean Tundra has a note on the wall with a Step Three: Profit plan. Step 1 is "build oil rig", if you're wondering.
One of the goblin jokes is "Skip to step three: Profit!"
In the Sunken Temple, Itharius sends you to kill three different troll leaders; the third leader is the Prophet Jammal'an. The quest to kill him, naturally, is called "Step Three: Prophet."
Recordshop Tycoon plays this trope straight: Under the "The Office > Marketing Menu > Prices", you see a convenient illustration: Step One: Karma and Average Selling Price. Step 2: ? Step 3: Profit
Utsuho, the Final Boss of Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism, has one of these as her "grand plan", with Step One being "Reignite the Hell of Blazing Fires" and Step Three being "Take Over the World!". Entirely justified though, as even before she went mad with power she was deeply stupid.
ZUN: Even a fool that possesses great power can't do much harm.
This applies to pretty much every Touhou game.
Step 1: See a problem Step 2: Blow up youkai Step 3: ?? Step 4: Profit (or lack of...)
The instructions for the Kongregate game Effing Worms reads as follows:
Step One: Eat
Step Two: Grow
Step Three: ????
Step Four: Profit
Lampshaded in Dragon Age II when the Champion calls Isabela out on not having a plan to find Castillon. She responds that the plan was 'step 1, find his henchman, step 2, something exciting happens, step 3 profit.'
In the Fallout 3 DLC The Pitt, Wernher's plan was essentially "Step 1. Kidnap Ashur's baby, Step 3. FREEDOM!" At least Ashur and his wife have the scientific knowledge to make some form of progress to the cure while keeping Marie safe. Wernher however has no such resources at his disposal. Of course, he's using the slave rebellion as a power-grab than anything.
On the other hand, Ashur's plans aren't the most well thought-out either. Before Marie's birth, it was essentially: "Step 1. Get steel mill situated in a highly toxic and unlivable area up and running, Step 3. Make a nation." After Marie's birth and her chance immunity to radiation, an addendum was added as: "Step 1. Find cure for trog disease, Step 3. End slavery in the Pitt."
Aperture Science seems to pretty much run on this at first glance. It only gets scarier when you realize that they actually have a very solidly formulated business model; it's the EXECUTION that goes completely off the rails, and in a very meta way half the steps THEMSELVES become a Step Three: Profit plan. Ergo:
Step Two: Use it to test another, slightly-less-world-changing technology.
Step Three: Apply the second technology in completely implausible ways. Example: Propulsion Gel, a material that accelerates objects moving across it. The ideal use for it? As a food additive that will make objects travel through the body too fast to digest, so you can lose weight while still eating!
Step Four: Continue spending time and money "testing" things in more and more unnecessarily elaborate ways looking for more and more obtuse ways to make them "useful".
Step Five: Sell the other, "lesser" products (that still serve a primary function as part of the testing process.) to finance continued testing of the original product.
Step Six: Profit.
Bonus points for step seven: using hyper-advanced, brain-mapped (and dangerously unstable) AI and robots to eliminate the need to hire humans you can't afford to keep replacing because the tests kill them. And just to make the point further, the AI itself was an outgrowth of a plan to build a de-icing system for fuel lines. Yes, they created a sentient computer and can't think of anything better to do with it than put it in charge of testing in the hopes it can make their other failed products better though more testing.
Step eight, by the way: Shower curtains. Yeah. Aperture started out producing shower curtains and never officially changed its business model. Cave Johnson was convinced that eventually every last thing they made, from mobility gels to quantum tunneling to mantis men to sentient computers, came back to making better shower curtains.
Hilariously subverted by one of the alternate Cave Johnsons from "Perpetual Testing Initiative", who somehow managed to buy out the Black Mesa of his universe and correctly deduced that Mesa's experiments would lead to the end of the world. It's likely that this Cave Johnson did manage to figure out step 2 along the way, which allowed him to actually profit off of his inventions and gain the money to buy out Black Mesa in the first place.
Even the turrets, which at first glance seem to have a straightforward use that they are apparently sold for, fall victim to this. Expanded materials include a schematic for one that indicates it's run by an AI that has a chip for producing empathy, right next to a chip for suppressing empathy, and a third chip to resolve the stalemate the first two chips create....
Mega Man's Dr. Wily's plan for world Domination can be expressed as:
Step 3:Unleash the robots across an undisclosed city to cause havoc
Step 5:WORLD DOMINATION!!!
Step 2 makes at least a little sense if we assume it was Willy trying to plan for potential rebellion. If any of his eight robots betrayed him, he'd need to have another robot on hand designed to counter them. And assuming the ability to salvage and reproduce the powers of a defeated robot master isn't unique to Mega Man, it makes more sense. So long as Willy retained the loyalty of one of the set of robots, he could counter a rebellion from the others by basically doing exactly what Mega Man does in every game.
Dr. Ned in Borderlands indicates he is going to do evil for the sake of profit. Evil seems to be raising the undead for recreational use. Later on he admits that step two never materialized and he's broke.
The Sims Medieval has a quest in which one of your heroes intends to learn the secret of creating life. The description ends with "...And somehow profit from it".
The Apprentice from Orcs Must Die sometimes says this gem when placing a coinforge, an item that increase the monetary reward of any mob killed on it:
"Step 1, Put down coinforge. Step 2: Something with orcs but I forget. Step 3: Profit!
In this Red Mage's escape plan consists entirely of "Jail, Action/Hijinx, Freedom!"
Another plan is a variant on the theme. He reasons that the logic of his previous plans was their flaw (since a failure at any one step meant the whole thing fell apart), so he devises a plan utterly devoid of logic; that way, even if one step goes tits up, it didn't actually have any connection to the next step, so the plan as a whole could soldier merrily forward regardless.
The Underpants Gnomes from South Park, as seen in the image (and thus are the Trope Namer). They go around at night collecting vast quantities of underwear, which they will use to profit. Somehow. As shown, the chart has become a Memetic Mutation. Note the element of Beam Me Up, Scotty!. Every gnome figured that some of the other gnomes knew what step two was, and that it was being kept secret for a very, very good reason, which is why they didn't question it.
Some of the plots of the Legion of Doom in Super Friends ran this way. They were foiled every time, of course, but their schemes would include an often equally expensive escape plan.
They would go to some ridiculous expense to get some item that would brainwash the Super Friends into walking into a volcano, thus clearing the way for the Legion's conquest of the world or something.
One time, Cheetah and Bizarro turned people into Cheetah- and Bizarro-people, for no adequately explored reason.
Parodies this trope by having Eddy start a smalltime corporation with the cul-de-sac kids that was only focused on "going up". Once people realize that the corporation was basically doing nothing, and that everybody was working without pay, everybody left except the Eds (which of course, is Truth in Television).
In the episode where Ed makes a scam, the plan goes from zany to ridiculous and disjointed.
Phase 1: Put the rock on the 'X' 'Q'.
Phase 2: Dress Eddy and Double D outlandishly.
Phase 3: Have Double D give Eddy the pancakes.
Phase 4: Paint a cement mixer like an Aztec temple.
Phase 5: Steal teddy bear.
Phase 6: Bite into teddy bear's stomach.
Phase 7: ???
Phase 8: Curse of Evil Tim (Profit?)
Many of Eddy's plans could probably be summed up as this, especially ones where he actually seems to go out of his own way to sabotage, such as randomly putting a bowling pin in a cream puff they were selling (to make it bigger maybe?)
Word Of God is that this was intentional. The whole point was a Green Aesop, but they just couldn't bring themselves to use realistic people with realistic motivations as villains. Too many kids with parents in those fields watching, you see.
This was pretty much Sokka's plan for submarines. His plan involved what looked like getting in a whale. No explanation was given to how the plan would work. Good thing the Mechanist was there to properly design the subs.
In Dan Vs., Dan's plan to overcome the terrible traffic in LA:
The Lobe once had a machine that could turn people into clowns, which he thought would help him take over the world because "Everyone likes clowns". Freakazoid ends up just talking him out of it by pointing out that no one likes clowns. After a dejected Lobe leaves, Freakazoid admits that it was an awesome plan.
Brain's plans from Pinky And The Brain usually follow this route. He explains them as "implement some bizarre technological gizmo and rise to power in the ensuing confusion", never actually explaining how he was planning to seize power.
Homer Simpson has probably run through quite a few, but usually they're more Zany Schemes than this; however, he once ran an online business whose business plan was something like:
Phase 1: The Internet.
Phase 2: ???
Phase 3: Profit. (Still gets bought out by Microsoft, though.)
The internet dot com bubble basically ran on this exact plan, pets.com being the poster child of an ill-defined business plan relying on the mystical powers of the internet to make money when conventional business savvy dictated to look elsewhere. In fact, one business magazine cover questioning the viability of this model at the time even used the Simpsons as an illustration, showing Bart wearing a T-shirt advertising his internet start-up (bucks2bart.com) and Mr. Burns hefting a huge sack of money he was evidently planning to invest in it.
One of the MIT Mystery Hunt puzzles in 2008 featured this as a puzzle device.