"You gotta love an elite killing force you can fool by putting on a hat."
Being a guard
for an Evil Overlord
is a low-status, low-pay, high-risk job in an unsafe workplace
, with very little long term job security
, but hey, they normally have a brilliant pension plan
. So it's hardly surprising that most applicants aren't exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer
(not that their bosses tolerate incompetent underlings
), and could be fooled by tricks that wouldn't bother an average six-year old.
Common issues are:
- Attacking heroes one at a time.
- Stopping them for the wrong reason.
- Dismissing odd sounds as nothing.
- Or just as bad, abandoning their post to investigate these odd sounds. Is it any wonder it's so easy to kidnap The President's Daughter?
- Sounding the alarm at the crack of a twig, even if it's just a cat.
- When searching for people, not looking in ridiculously obvious hiding places.
- Assuming anyone in a guard outfit must be a guard, even if they don't recognize them note or the outfits are quite visibly a disguise.
- Not asking for identification when an unscheduled prisoner shipment of a large and dangerous captive shows up.
- Assuming that the heroes would never attempt to sneak by Right Under Their Noses.
- Getting easily distracted, especially by prisoners getting it on.
- But never curious enough to eavesdrop on conversations between the prisoner and unscheduled higher-ups, especially when they say they want to be alone with a prisoner, if you know what I mean.
- Leaving important keys dangling from an easily accessible chain.
- Walking very close to prisoners.
- Examining allegedly sick prisoners whilst unarmed and alone, and having left the cell door open.
- Never watching prisoners locked in a room with a bed and an open window.
- Not raising an alarm upon seeing something suspicious, especially the corpse of another guard.
- Particularly in stealth-based video games, staring at the wall or otherwise ignoring key entry and exit points. note
- Another one common in stealth games is guards having to stare at the hero for a good ten seconds before they even think that the oddly-dressed guy running across the restricted area might be the hero that they're looking for. And then not bothering to look as soon as they can no longer see him.
- Ignoring the fact that Joe just put that box in the storage closet.
- Blurting out the password to the door they're supposed to be guarding.
- Falling asleep.
- Drinking On Duty.
- Ogling the centerfold in the latest issue of Hot Babes instead of paying attention to what's going on around them.
- Not noticing that the other guards seem to be disappearing.
- Carrying or storing weapons in a prison, in such a way that they are easily stolen by the escaping prisoners (prison guards being heavily armed makes sense, but not in a way that allows the prisoners to acquire these weapons).
- Talking too freely with prisoners.
- Allowing the prisoner/captive to go to the bathroom or relieve him/herself unguarded, especially when the bathroom contains possible alternate exits.
- Never learning that it's NOT a good idea to fight the hero/villain. Especially after he/she just left a mountain of their corpses in his/her wake.
- Not properly searching prisoners before throwing them into the cell. Especially, allowing them to keep their "harmless trinkets, which will totally not help me escape" with them in their cells. In the case they actually bother to confiscate the equipment, they will often end up leaving it in a place where the prisoners can easily recover it if they were to attempt an escape.
- Dropping Full Alert Mode because the hero (who two minutes ago ran across the room in a massive firefight with everybody) hasn't been seen for two minutes. And he keeps doing this.
- When a security camera stops working, ignoring it instead of sounding the alarm, or at the very least getting a maintenance team onto it ASAP with accompanying guards.
- Never questioning or getting confirmation about that mysterious surprise inspection or pizza delivery.
- Allowing the prisoner to taunt them into entering the cell to give them a sound beating, especially if they appear to still be shackled or tied.
- Having a very particular ratio of respect for authority and independence. Just enough of the former to be intimidated and release the hero when he claims higher ups might get annoyed, but enough of the latter that they don't just pass the buck by checking with their supervisor.
Yes, it causes much annoyance among viewers, but this trope is very handy for a writer because it allows the excitement of a bad guy or good guy to be captured and also leaves it open for said prisoner to escape. If the guards were competent, the story may end up bogged down with important characters stuck in prison. It is also one of the Acceptable Breaks from Reality
in that if Stealth-Based Game
guards were too competent, the games would be too damn hard to play.
This isn't simply about being captured by an Evil Overlord
either. Most public places have some simple form of security, like at the mall or a sports arena, and despite the "mall cop" stereotype of this security, it's usually on-the-ball. Some events like chase scenes count on that sort of general security being totally absent or inept so the story can continue to be exciting. The good guy is being chased by the bad guys to have him chased by security, too
when it isn't really important to the plot gives viewers a little too much to keep track of.
The trope name is a pun on the film The Gods Must Be Crazy
See also Conspicuously Selective Perception
for the stealth game variant.
Mind you the place the guards in question are guarding may have Swiss Cheese Security
, where the heavily guarded complex is easily entered and/or exited.
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Anime & Manga
- Code Geass:
- The Britannian guards frequently wait until Lelouch has geassed them before actually doing their job. Twice they have waited for Lelouch to give a long pretentious speech before he geassed them into killing themselves. Reaches its peak when Lelouch just walks up and waits more than a minute while the guards attack him with spears before geassing the entire room. Although he was still a Prince, and thus it's doubtful assault against royalty goes over great in Britannia.
- The Chinese Federation are even worse. While they do have guns, they just stare dumbfounded as Xingke fights them off with a sword since the only Chinese soldiers to fight are the ones with spears, and then they watch as Lelouch gives a speech before he finally has the sense to take his gun and hold Tianzi hostage with it.
- In one episode, an unarmed Lelouch and Kallen find some Britannians on a remote island and effortlessly steal their ridiculously powerful prototype mech. The mech itself was unguarded, and the "guards" left the keys in the ignition. Kallen has to beat up a few guys, but they don't make use of their firepower advantage. Euphemia was fairly close, though, so it may have been to avoid regicide.
- In Mazinkaiser, Baron Ashura's mooks are this trope, as exemplified in a scene during the beach episode that so utterly ridiculous that you wouldn't believe it unless you see it.
- In Naruto, the nameless ninja mooks are usually dumb brutes, masked and, in a world filled with powerful techniques, normally attack with kunai rather than, you know, throw a massive fireball or do any other flashy attack to blow the opponent to dust! Worse is that even the Red Shirts can be defeated by a single attacker and barely fight using any jutsu. It seems like that only the main characters, villain or hero, are trained in anything other than holding a kunai against the opponent who can pick one technique of his ARSENAL and shoot fire hotter than the sun, create tornadoes, open the ground beneath them and bury them, or throw rocks the size of buildings at them... etc. Yeah. That's the guy you want to try and take prisoner with your dinky little knife.
- In Windaria the key to Lunara's floodgates are guarded by an old man that sleeps most of the day in a guardhouse without a door. At the start of the film, a spy walks in there, takes the keys, and no one realizes anything until he opens the flood gates. Considering this could have flooded the entire city it merges with Too Dumb to Live.
- One episode of Digimon Adventure has Piyomon and Gomamon knock out and steel some food from a particularly dumb Bakemon guard by goading him into taunting them with it.
- Rose of Versailles:
- Some of Karl Spitzweg's most famous paintings (Der strickende Wachposten◊ and variations) depict a sentry standing or sitting on the battlements among the cannons and knitting.
- And there also is Der schlafene Wachposten◊, in which a soldier on guard duty has made a scarecrow out of his uniform and rifle and gone to sleep. And even if he had not been asleep, there is still a book lying on the howitzer.
- Older Than Print: In Xiangqi, the checkmated General/King's own Advisors/Guards are often part of the reason it's checkmate; there would be escape if they weren't there, and sometimes the one the enemy Cannon is using as a gun mount cannot move because it's in a corner of the Palace and the other Advisor/Guard is in its way.
- In Chess, it's a rare game where the King's pawns are not somehow involved in blocking his retreat and forming a checkmate.
- When Feliciano rescues Ludwig from the American base in the Axis Powers Hetalia fanfiction, "Auf Wiedersen, Sweetheart." The plan involved getting all but two American guards to leave by telling them that their counterparts had gotten into a Bar Brawl in town and then convincing the remaining guards to drink the drugged flask of bourbon.
- Legolas By Laura features a scene described thus by a sporker, caused by sheer incoherence:
"Looks like Legolas has just asked the guards — sorry, the gards to keep an eye on Laura's room while the orcs are kidnapping her, and... it all gets a bit confused."
"So the gard walks into the room and sees the orcs, and does nothing. Legolas runs off down the hall, then runs back and asks the gards where Laura is. They say that the orcs took her, neglecting to mention that they stood by and watched..."
"And by that time, the orcs have apparently already returned to Mordor. I think we can safely assume that all the characters have gone insane."
- Parodied in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series when Tristan is sneaking up on a guard in a suit of armor. "CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK." "Must be the wind." "CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK." "Yeah, that's definitely the sound that wind makes."
- In The New Millenium fanfic, this trope is subverted. Celeste's Yami, Aclina, who is supposed to be somewhat of a guardian for Yami (At least according to Word of God), is implied to be crazy by the way she punishes Ran's kidnappers: with an imersion into insanity. When she turns on the kidnappers, she has 'A smile stained with pure insanity' on her face. But when she turns back to Yami, she has 'Her usual look of indifference' on. This implies that Selective Insanity is present.
- In That Epic Plan, L sends Aizawa along to supervise the prisoner transfer of Beyond Birthday to taskforce HQ, but with the ease Light has with communicating with Beyond, Aizawa might as well not be there at all.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction Jericho has some amusing amounts of this.
- Lampshaded when a guard just lets the main character, Jericho (a foreigner), walk into a guarded compound when all Jericho offers in the flimsy excuse that he's a "plumber". (Jericho is dressed like a cowboy, by the way.)
You are a very trusting stallion and should be fired from your job. You didn't even check to see if I had any identification... if Equestria even uses identification like that. Huh. I should look into that.
- And then b-e-a-utifully subverted! Jericho walks up to the Baron's plantation house, tricks the guard into letting him in, then, as Jericho is walking past, the guard bashes Jericho upside the head with his nightstick. Turns out the guard was more Genre Savvy than anyone would have thought.
- The Dilgar War:
- Played straight when a Dilgar infiltrator on Earth successfully kidnaps the deputy director of the PsiCorps in spite of her and her guards being telepaths, and then defeats said guards by using their telepathy against them. To the guards' defence, they were usually employed to hunt down rogue unarmed telepaths and their opponent was a professional extremely good at fighting and hiding his thoughts and equipped with a suit making him invisible...
- Later Subverted: when the infiltrator penetrates EarthDome (the city near Geneva built specifically to house the Earth Alliance government), he successfully enters thanks to the codes he extracted from the deputy director, his invisible suit, and the fact he's believed to have drowned right after the scuffle with the telepaths, but fails to leave when a dog sniffs him, fails to see him, and attacks, wrecking his suit and causing half the guards to come to kill him (he's killed by the ones who found him about one minute before a hundred guards tracks him down). After that incident, guard dogs are dispatched to the entrance of all military bases, with one Dilgar with an identical suit failing to secretly follow one of his leaders to a diplomatic meeting specifically because of a guard dog alerting the guards.
Films — Animation
- The commentary reveals this is one of the very few complete relics of Joss Whedon's pass at the script.
- Double subversion in Monsters vs. Aliens. The heroes (who consist of an amorphous blob, a fish-man, and a human/cockroach hybrid) adopt Paper Thin Disguises to bluff their way past an alien clone. He recognizes one of them as a clone that's "defective beyond repair"... and immediately orders the other two to dispose of him. And gives them a key card. And a gun.
- The Guards in Tangled. They cannot find an old lady who has kidnapped the baby princess for almost two decades, when she happened to be in a tower within riding distance. Then said princess's crown gets stolen right under their noses. Then one of the thieves comes back to Corona later with a girl with 70 feet long of hair and they don't notice it, even though he is dancing around. The only competent member is Maximus, and he's the only one to make crime virtually disappear. The same thief was able to walk up to the palace and meet the King and Queen face-to-face.
- The guards in The Incredibles fall prey to a few of these. They're decent enough at their jobs when they're in action, but it's the boring surveillance part of the day that always slips them up. At one point in the movie, they all leave their posts to check on a colleague who's just collapsed. Later, they don't notice Helen when she's right behind them. She even talks. Later still, nobody is paying attention to the security cameras and are all partying in the background. Only Mirage notices the escapees that don't even bother to avoid the security cameras. Most notably, though, is later in the same scene where it gets absurd enough that Bob lampshades it. They enter a large room with no-one in it and he absently wonders, "Where are all the guards?"
Films — Live-Action
- Lone Wolf: Although even smart guards would have a hard time against a psychic hero specialized in infiltration and camouflage, some over the series display the typical incompetence associated with this trope.
- For example, in Shadow on the Sand, two Vassagonian gaolers believe their prisoner has escaped when they can't see him through the peephole, just because Lone Wolf is sitting against the door. And he isn't even doing it on purpose, but still gets the opportunity to ambush them when they open the cell.
- In Dawn of the Dragons, the Eldenorian guards capturing Lone Wolf and bringing him before Prince Lutha take his gold, backpack, and weapons... but not the weapon-like special items. Including the Sommerswerd!note The collector reedition explains this by having the soldiers being quite superstitious of touching magical artifacts or weapons.
- The Discworld books have a lot of fun with this.
- In The Last Hero, Evil Harry Dread (the archetypical Evil Overlord) hires his henchmen on the above criteria. "Butcher" is the archetype of the trope.
- Guards! Guards! opens with a dedication to those people "whose job it is, round about chapter three, to rush at the hero one at a time and be slaughtered."
- In Thud!, the text mentions how when Sergeant Colon is on guard duty, he "kept the cell keys in a tin box in the bottom drawer of his desk, a long way out of reach of any stick, hand, dog, cunningly thrown belt, or trained Klatchian monkey spider (making Fred Colon possibly unique in the annals of jail history)."
- Seemingly averted in The Last Continent, where the guards at Bugrup Prison are wise to every escape trope, but haven't worked out how Tinhead Ned (and later Rincewind) did escape (the jail door can be lifted off its hinges). Possibly because they reckon it makes a better ballad if the prisoner escapes and then gets killed in a last stand at the Post Office.
- In one of the Get Smart novels, one guard is particularly immune to this. Instead of entering the cell when Max sets fire to the bed as a diversion, the guard merely opens up on him with the firehose. However, just a few pages, later the rest of the guards in the prison are fooled by Max writing "out of order" with a piece of chalk on a death ray!
- Subverted in The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy: Ford attempts to save himself and Arthur from being chucked out an airlock by talking a Vogon guard into questioning the purpose of his life, but the guard is too dumb for Ford to get through to him. In fact, the guard really enjoys his job. Including the whole throw people out of the airlock part.
- Both fiercely subverted and then played straight in An Oblique Approach, the first book of the Belisarius Series by David Drake and Eric Flint. The Kushans guarding Princess Shakuntala were so highly disciplined, effective, and intelligently led that Raghunath Rao, greatest assassin in India, knew he could never rescue her from them. So Belisarius tricked Venandakatra into replacing the Kushans with "guards" so inept that Rao had no problem wiping them out — except for two killed by the princess herself.
- The guards at the "best guarded keep of the stoutest castle" in The Wind in the Willows apparently can't tell the difference between a washerwoman they see every day and is the sister or sister-in-law of the chief warden, and their main prisoner, who is an anthropomorphic toad.
- John Carter of Mars. Dear GOD, if a strange man climbs up to the roof you're guarding, tells you what a difficult and dangerous climb he had, and invites you to take a look at how precariously his rope is dangling off the edge, DON'T DO IT!
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian novel The Hour of the Dragon, Zenobia gets the keys, to the Tailor-Made Prison no less, by getting them drunk.
- Subverted in the novel Where Eagles Dare. The German soldiers searching for the commandos don't check the ladies toilet where they're hiding. When one commando mentions how stupid that is, his superior points out the soldiers were eager to think up excuses to avoid searching places where desperate men might empty a submachine gun into them.
- In Syren, the fifth book of the Septimus Heap series, Septimus gets past a guard in the Trading Post by claiming that he is someone important. Now, Septimus did not in fact lie to him. He was the Senior Apprentice(with the nifty Magycal cuffs to prove it), and he was on official business ( getting Jenna, the Princess). Trope still applies in that the guard did nothing to verify this.
- In The Hobbit, the Mirkwood elves demonstrate the Drinking On Duty variation of this, allowing the dwarves to escape. They don't seem to learn from the experience, since Gollum also escapes from Mirkwood in The Fellowship of the Ring.
- The secret police force known as DERSO in The Leonard Regime is supposed to be an elite organization of specially trained agents. In reality, they are often stupid, incompetent, or simply indifferent.
- In Doom: Hell on Earth, a pair of bored Clydes are frisking zombies boarding a plane. They fail to notice the heroes Pretending We're Dead or catch that one is being carried upright between them.
- The Chaser's War on Everything proved this was Truth in Television at the APEC summit, getting to George W. Bush's hotel, past two security checkpoints in a fake motorcade, with "insecurity passes" that stated they were NOT official delegates. And a guy dressed as Osama bin Laden in the back seat. See it here. The motorcade had runners with handheld cameras. Even the Chaser boys themselves started to get scared at how easy it was for them to get in — they'd been expecting to be stopped at the very first checkpoint! The were finally nabbed when their motorcade began turning around, and "Osama" decided to exit his vehicle and began asking guards why he hadn't been invited. As one commenter pointed out, it appears that day the world's leaders were mainly under the protection of the honour system.
- Doctor Who:
- Played with in the episode "Dragonfire", when the Doctor distracts a guard by engaging him in a philosophical discussion on the nature of existence, a subject about which the guard is particularly enthusiastic.
- Both averted and played straight in "State of Decay" — one of the guards recognises that the man claiming to be a guard is, in fact, a known deserter. But the other doesn't... and falls for "the old prisoner trick".
- Lampshaded in the episode "Deadly Assassin" by Security Chief Spandrell's criticisms of Commander Hilred for allowing the Doctor to escape:
Spandrell: Well done, Hilred. An antiquated capsule, for which you get adequate early warning, transducts on the very steps of the Capitol. You are warned that the occupant is a known criminal, therefore you allow him to escape and conceal himself in a building a mere 53 stories high. A clever stratagem, Hildred. You're trying to confuse him, I take it?
- The A-Team. Many a villain has been laid low by not paying attention to machine sounds after Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard. There was a particularly egregious instance where Hannibal and Face are arrested. Hannibal seems to have escaped, so the sheriff unlocks his cell and checks inside, then both he and the other officer in the building leave to find him... when Hannibal turns out to be hiding under the bed and promptly lets Face out and escapes.
- Hogan's Heroes is built around this trope.
- In the first episode, two guards go chasing off after some enchanted dice.
- In the fourth episode, they fail to notice a servant girl riding off into the night. What temp agency do they get these guys from?
- You can practically set your watch by the inability of the guards to actually "guard" anything.
- They're bad enough that Fanon has long decided the guards actually know Merlin's secret and are only pretending not to notice him sneaking around.
- Subverted in Dark Angel when Max tries to distract a guard with a rock, but he isn't fooled. She laments, "Why did I get the smart one?"
- Star Trek:
- Blake's 7:
- On the prison transport in Space Fall they station a lone guard inside the prisoners' room, whose palm print can open the door from there. Naturally, once the camera is taken out he's overpowered and coerced to open the door by Gan threatening that they'll simply take off his hand if he refuses.
- From a review of the episode "Bounty":
"...to say nothing of the guards' color codes, which include Red Standby Alert
(apparently meaning stand around and do nothing), Red Mobilisation (wander around outside the house), and Blue Mobilisation (allow the President and his daughter to escape in a vintage car accompanied by two terrorists)."
- In season 3 of LOST, Sawyer tries the whole "prisoners making out" thing to get the guards to come over when he kisses Kate, then overpowers them and takes their gun. It doesn't work, though.
- Subverted in Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) in that when someone escapes from a cell it's either a gambit by their captors (Bulldog, and later Ellen Tigh escaping from the Cylon basestar) or because the guards are in on things (Laura Roslin in Season 2, and Tom Zarek during The Mutiny). Probably the least plausible occasion is when Gina escapes from the Pegasus brig, makes her way to Admiral Cain's quarters and shoots her, and then slips off the battlestar unnoticed. Although she had the help of Baltar, a uniform and things were chaotic in the aftermath of a major attack, it still stretched the bounds of credibility.
- And played straight when you consider that with all the little accidents happening there, no one comes up with the bright idea of placing a guard at the airlocks. This is justifiable in the beginning when Galactica is massively understaffed, but not so much in the later seasons.
- At another point late in the series, the chief manages to knock out one of the human cylons, carry them all the way to the brig, create a blackout, and then replace one cylon with the other in the space of about 5 mins. Apparently in the middle of a blackout, the guards in the next room don't think it's important to double check the status of their genocidal machine prisoner.
- In the Babylon 5 episode "Between the Darkness and the Light", Garibaldi plays on his recent media fame in capturing Sheridan to break him out again. This gets him past the outer guard, but the cell guards aren't so impressed.
Guard: I don't watch TV. It's a cultural wasteland filled with inappropriate metaphors and an unrealistic portrayal of life created by the liberal media elite.
- Subverted in the Knight Rider episode, "Indecent Little Town", when the corrupt police arrest Michael Knight and impound KITT. Specifically, when the Mooks try to secure the robot car, he resists by backing up each time they try. Although obviously surprised at this, the head Mook calmly advises one of his minions to simply provoke KITT into backing continually until the robot car inadvertently rolls onto a car garage elevator platform and they elevate it, trapping KITT.
- The team on Leverage regularly talk their way past security, but they usually have fake IDs and the guards are standard office building rent-a-cops. However, in one episode Hardison, talks his way past security to get into an airport's control tower. He has an employee ID, but it is for a female employee, so he makes a big deal of how he is in the middle of a sex change and the guards are too embarrassed to pursue this further. The danger of their negligence becomes apparent when Hardison almost causes a plane to crash. There is a reason why security at airports is supposed to be very tight. Also, the man in charge of the tower, apparently, doesn't know who's supposed to be working for him.
- Played straight in the episode "Let It Bleed" of Supernatural. The mooks who guarded Lisa and Ben heard fighting noises outside the room, and went there one by one.
- Alphas had a pair of guards (working for the protagonists, actually) who are given one order: do not open the cell. Shortly thereafter, Parish stabs himself in the neck, so they open the door to stop him bleeding to death. Parish, an immortal alpha with a Healing Factor, points out as he's killing them that they should really follow orders.
- Lampshaded by Michael's voiceover in Burn Notice. The two thugs who are supposed to be guarding a kidnapped kid are watching a baseball game on TV instead. Michael snarks that poorly-timed ball games have brought down dictatorships.
- Game of Thrones. Subverted with Mord, a turnkey who's so thick that Tyrion Lannister, from the richest family in the Seven Kingdoms, can't even bribe his way out.
Mord: (searching Tyrion) No gold!
Tyrion: I don't have it on me! (Mord thumps him) Sometimes possession is an abstract concept— (thump)
- But played straight in Season 4. One spectacularly boneheaded guard sees a grappling hook pop over the wall. Rather than calling out to another guard or raising the alarm in any way, he very slowly investigates the hook he can physically see, and takes an axe to the face for his trouble.
- In Agents Of Shield, the soldiers guarding Creel appear to have missed out on three fundamental points of guarding. 1. If you are in a secure military base and are set to guard a prisoner, you should be looking at the prisoner. Let other people worry about guarding threats from the outside unless something happens. 2. If the prisoner appears to have disappeared from his cell, immediately inform people of that. It's better to look stupid radioing back a few seconds later to tell them "Wait, never mind, there he is" than to let his escape go unreported. 3. And this one is really important, do not open the cell door. If he hasn't escaped, all opening the door will do is give him the chance to escape. And if he has escaped, opening the door isn't going to make him magically reappear in the cell, and also will distract you from the dangerous escaped prisoner. On a more plot-specific note, if you know for a fact that the guy you're guarding can change his body into any material (and if they didn't, then their superiors are crazy too for not telling them) and his prison is made of solid glass, then you should consider that he has used this power to blend into the background rather than immediately assuming he has escaped, especially if there's no visible way he could have escaped.
- The guards at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Sesame Street special "Don't Eat the Pictures" never notice a group of nine people and four muppets who were locked in the museum overnight TRYING to find a way out until one of the people who was trapped inside mentions it to them as the museum reopens the next morning.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- 3rd Edition
- Most classes that would traditionally be used as guards don't have Spot, Listen or Sense Motive as class skills. This essentially makes them partially blind, hearing-impaired, and incredibly gullible. Exactly how this plays out depends on the DM. Most play the trope straight because guards tend not to be treated as more than minor enemies. Those skills are mainly intended to counteract Hide, Move Silently, and Bluff. In addition, those skills are not infallible unless the DM hands NPCs the Idiot Ball. For example, no matter what your Hide skill is, if you walk in front of a guard without some form of cover, he sees you, no matter what.
- Scouts used as guards can avert this trope. They possess Spot, Listen and Sense Motive as class skills. They get 8 base skill points per level. In addition, they have Hide and Move Silently as class skills, so they can stand guard without being readily visible. Their Skirmish feat also gives them a significant advantage in straight combat against most stealthy classes if there is some room to move around.
- Module B9 Castle Caldwell and Beyond. The gnoll guarding the PC prisoners is not very bright and will fall for any reasonable trick, such as one of them pretending to be ill. However, if the first attempt fails it will be very alert thereafter.
- Time Lord RPG (based on Doctor Who):
- "Curse of the Cyclops" adventure. If the entire Player Character party is captured and there is no-one to rescue them, the guards will demonstrate their usual stupidity and allow the prisoners to fool them and escape.
- In the Journies supplement, a captured Player Character could use "The Daft Guard Effect" to distract any guards present so the prisoner(s) can escape.
- Danger International, Investigation Script example. If the PCs are captured they can use the "sick captive" trick to lure the guards into their cell, ambush them and take their clothing and weapons so they can pass for them.
- Played for laughs in William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.
Dogberry: You are to bid any man stand, in the Prince's name.
Verges: How if a' will not stand?
Dogberry: Why, take no note of him, but let him go.
- In Clear Skies 2, the team are able to spring an informant from a prison outpost (admittedly, a very backwater one) by posing as guards for a prisoner transfer. It works, despite their credentials being stolen and very, very out of date, because the local guard was expecting a prisoner transfer at around that time. He gets chewed out later.
- The How It Should Have Ended's Assassin's Creed parody.
- An incredibly rare example in Dusk's Dawn when the guard in question, Donut, is a main character! He doesn't notice anything about the Big Bad who's "obviously cured" and as he's walking down a corridor monologing about how bored he is, a highly suspicious dark shadow flies by. Rather than do his job and check it out, he just brushes off a potential intruder as "a cat or something" (despite seeing it fly) and continues walking forward.
- In episode 8 of Code MENT, Lelouch/One spends about a minute and half firing roughly 70 bullets from a pistol without reloading. The two guards outside the room casually converse over and throughout the clearly audible gunfire. They then kick the door in and rush in guns blazing when they are alarmed by Lelouch's cough.
- The LifesBlood Labs goons in LG 15 The Resistance are pretty incompetent. The "Mace in Yo Face!" and "Done Dirt Cheap" incidents are particularly shameful. Although the "Mace in Yo Face" incident is justified because those weren't real LBL henchmen.
- The Evil Overlord List has all sorts of tips on how to turn the guards from this sort of behaviour and turn them into a ruthless fighting force prepared to guard anything anytime.
- A bit of a running gag in Mirai Nikki The Abridged Series is to explain any instance of a character making it past the security by simply saying "Their security sucks". Said characters included an injured and dehydrated terrorist, a blind man, and Yukiteru.
- This Cracked article has some pretty spectacular examples:
- Ted Bundy's escape from a Colorado courthouse when he was supposed to be using the law library.
- A Greek robber escaping via helicopter. Twice.
- A convicted murderer who changed his clothes while waiting for his lawyer — then walked right out.
- Used, played with, subverted and lampshaded frequently in The Venture Bros., most often through the misadventures of Number 21 and Number 24, two guards who somehow manage to survive the carnage of the series, and give plausible voice to the wit and social skills necessary for career henchmen.
- The Trope was played with in Stroker and Hoop, when Stroker has to knock a guard out to get deeper into a complex. After dressing as the guard, he gets into the next room where the guard is seemingly fooled by Stroker holding a clipboard over his face and using a bad falsetto. The guard isn't fooled for a second, asking Stroker if he thinks he's some kind of idiot. Stroker complains that the guard should have been reading a skin mag or watching a sports game instead of monitoring the camera feeds, causing the guard to retort "Hey, I happen to like my job."
- Averted in the first My Little Pony special. Tirac's guards are good at their jobs. They spot Megan and the ponies slipping in, and use smart tactics against the group. However, the heroes are Badass enough to win anyway.
- Played with in the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero episode "Grey Hairs and Growing Pains". When the Joes pretend to be civilian customers for Cobra's health spa, they are recognized immediately, and the Cobra agents play along and then trap them. Later, after the Joes get turned into old people and children, they pretend to be a family on a road trip and get into a Cobra base by asking the guard for directions and then for a bathroom. Once inside, they are immediately recognized again. Serpentor orders Dr. Mindbender to arrest the front guard for his incompetence.
- Subverted in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012). When April feigns a stomachache, the Kraang guard immediatly spots (and stops) her father from sneaking away, and isn't affected when April attacks him (being a robot and all).
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Played with in "It's About Time". Twilight sneaks into the private library of the palace and does a VERY poor job of staying hidden, yet the guards are completely oblivious to her. She finally gets caught trying to open the door to the library, and the guard greets her politely and unlocks the door. Turns out that since Twilight is the protégé of Princess Celestia, she's always welcome in the palace and library so the guards were just ignoring her.
- And played straight during "A Bird in the Hoof" — where a pet phoenix, dying of old age (therefore incredibly obvious because featherless) managed to trick Celestia's own Praetorian Guard while they were putting up Wanted posters with that bird's face on. Twilight and Fluttershy aren't any better.
- In fact, it's played straight throughout the series, almost to the point of parody. The Season 2 Finale, for instance, has the entire Royal Guard up and under arms because they were tipped off that something bad was going to happen. But when it did happen, they were apparently still surprised enough to be overrun without putting up as much as a fight.
- The Banana Guards in Adventure Time completely ignored a resident who claimed Princess Bubblegum had been kidnapped, preferred to watch reality TV shows over the surveillance tapes that clearly showed her being kidnapped, and only responded to the resident when he claimed he was taking a boat out after 8:00. Fortunately, it was all just a test to determine the efficiency of the Banana Guards, and the candy resident, who was the only one following the clues, became the new chief of police.
- Being a guard in real life can be incredibly boring. It's a repetitive, tedious job. While you're trying to get through your boring shift, your prisoners are watching your every move — you're probably the most interesting thing going on. All it takes is that one point in your pattern when your guard is down, though...
- Alcatraz's guards were fooled by one oldest trick in the book after another: dummy heads in the bed, digging a hole with spoons, and climbing up the ventilator shaft, making this trope not only Genre Blindness but Truth in Television. Since the Alcatraz escape was done some years ago, it might be Seinfeld Is Unfunny too.
- It Only Works Once... Thing is, this isn't a bad escape plan, which is why it worked. It relies on the fact that it simply isn't practical to monitor prisoners TOO closely, so if you're clever enough... plus, after this happened apparently it became a lot more popularized anyway. The Guards were also relying on San Francisco bay's freezing water and distance from the city doing the hard work for them. Which may have happened.
- Truth in Television: A convict in a US prison was able to escape by dressing up as a guard, because the guards were more familiar with the prisoners than each other.
- There has also been at least one case where an accomplice faxed realistic-looking release papers from a nearby McDonald's fax machine, resulting in a convict walking out scot-free, without anyone thinking about double-checking even the clearly visible fax-number.
- Another inmate once escaped by smuggling in a suit of civilian clothes, calling a meeting with his lawyer, and, when his lawyer left the room, simply changed and walked out of the (unlocked) cell they were meeting in. He made it as far as the front door when a guard stopped him, the inmate claimed to be an Assistant US Attorney and flashed his "badge". The guard let him go and walk out the door, reasoning the "badge" must be genuine since he had never seen anything like it. Just so you know, the "badge" was in fact the inmate's prisoner ID, issued by the prison that the guard worked at.
- During the Cold War a couple of East Germans made their own uniforms mimicking those of the East German Guards and simply saluted the guards on duty, then walked through the checkpoint to West Berlin.
- All of the approaches above were tried, often successfully, by prisoners of war attempting to escape under various conditions. One of them, a Britisher named David James who escaped from a World War II German POW camp, analyzed the challenge in a 1947 account published in ''Blackwood's Magazine'' as follows, "To sum it up, I came to the conclusion that escaping was essentially a psychological problem, depending on the inobservance of mankind, coupled with a ready acceptance of the everyday at its face value."
- There is a Ninja technique, the name of which translates as "throwing the toothpick", to distract guards. If it's done properly, the guards never see anything, they just hear a sound.
- World War II
- There were plenty of stories of people hiding in basements from the Nazis and not being captured.
- A French POW convinced his guards to let him walk out of the camp several times, every time a couple of weeks in a row to visit his family back in occupied France, if he promised to return, bring along some wine and good food, and keep quiet about about the whole affair. So he did.
- In Germany, an inmate managed to get out of prison by climbing into a cardboard box and getting shipped out. Apparently no-one checked to see all the prisoners working that detail came back or why the package was unusually heavy.
- In 1982, an unhinged man climbed the wall of Buckingham palace. Someone saw him and reported it, but by the time guards came to look, he was gone and they decided he must have left already; they raised no alarm. When he went through a window, the security system alerted a policeman on duty, who assumed it was a malfunction and silenced the alarm twice in a row. Wandering through the halls, he passed a housekeeper, who greeted him. He eventually made it to the Queen's chamber, where she was sleeping unguarded, woke her up, and chatted to her as she tried to get help by two different methods (a button and the phone); nobody came for ten minutes (the person who did eventually show up was a housemaid). As Hollywood writer William Goldman said it, if you would put this in a movie, people probably would throw rotten eggs at the screen for breaking their Suspension of Disbelief. He also got cigarettes upon request. Even better, they only crime he was charged with was stealing a bottle of cheap wine, because, at the time, trespassing was a civil offense rather than a criminal one (this has been changed). The charge was dropped when he was committed to a mental hospital.
- Gilbert Galvan escaped an American prison by waiting in a rec area until the guards left for coffee, then using a pool cue to open the drawer of their desk and fish out the keys. He later went on to be known as Canada's "Phantom Bandit".
- So far, the Obama White House has been crashed three times by uninvited guests. The first and third cases took advantage of a Bavarian Fire Drill, while the second gatecrash was a result of some misguided tour organizers sending the tourists to a White House luncheon instead of on the tour. Of course, that's three incidents that we know about. Who knows how many people have gone in and not gotten caught. Indeed, that can be the trouble with things like this — if someone does wander around the White House and no-one catches them, who is to know that it even happened?
- Mas Selamat bin Kastari, one of the most influential terrorists in Southeast Asia escaped Singapore's most well-guarded prison by going to the toilet, changing quickly, and climbing out the window. When he was recaptured more than a year later, it was revealed that he climbed into the storm drains, went 20+ kilometers north in 3 days, created improvised flotation devices from trash, and swam across from Singapore to Malaysia and met up with other operatives. Apparently, it was so unexpected, that theories ranged from his escape a cover for the fact that he had died in detention, he used black magic to get out, or he was allowed to escape so that he could lead authorities to other terrorists.
- Averted when the Green Bay Packers went to the White House to be congratulated on their Super Bowl Victory in 2011. Linebacker Desmond Bishop lost his photo ID on the plane and was thus denied entry to the White House. Before you say "But he was on national television in the Super Bowl! He was with his team! How could they deny him entry?!!?", remember how often in fiction the "lost my ID" ruse works — and it works in Real Life too, due to this trope — and obviously no place should have better security than than the headquarters. So good job, guards!
- In 1987 a 18 year old West German aviator named Mathias Rust managed to fly straight through several supposedly impregnable layers of Soviet air-defense systems and land his Cessna near the center of Red Square. What made this worse was that he was spotted on several occasions by air defense crews and interceptors, but most of them either assumed he was friendly, thought he had crashed shortly afterwards, or otherwise failed to gain permission to shoot him down. The event ended up irreparably damaging the credibitly of the Soviet military and led to the firing of many senior officers.
- In one regard, he was either brilliant or very lucky: his aircraft was so small that radar registered him as a helicopter. He also lucked out that he passed over Pskov as its local regiment was on maneouvers and said pilots were inexperienced and prone to forgetting the correct identification settings, so the flight controllers classified him and every plane in the area as friendly, and he also passed over Torzhok as a rescue effort was being mounted for an air crash and he was identified as one of the helicopters participating in the rescue.
- The type of aircraft he used, a Cessna 172, is smaller than many military helicopters, and roughly comparable in top speed. It's no surprise that it did not appear urgently threatening to the air defense personnel. That said, Rust has claimed that his intent was to reduce tensions between the East and West, and in a perhaps unintentional way, it succeeded. The firing of various Soviet military officers in the aftermath also had the effect of purging much of the military leadership that was opposed to Gorbachev's planned reforms.
- The guards weren't crazy, simply drunk. Rust unwittingly chose Soviet "Border Guard's Day" as the date of his flight. The one day a year when Guards could get away with drinking on duty...
- Czechoslovakian hairdresser-turned-soldier-turned-Nazi-POW Horace Greasley repeatedly broke out of the POW camp he was transferred to so he could have sex with his previous camp's quarry director's daughter. And then snuck back into his current POW camp as if nothing happened. He did this three times a week for five years. Then the war ended and he was set free.
- October 2012: A BBC film crew working on a UFO documentary violated the security at Area 51. They didn't get far, mainly because the crew knocked on the guard shack on the back gate, after spending about half an hour trying to get attention by dancing for the security cameras on the entrance area. They were then arrested and fined.