Does the outline for your quest story look as though it'd make a pretty thin book? Well, don't fret; you can get your coveted 300-odd pages without breaking a sweat if you just toss in a few Wacky Wayside Tribes. If the adventuring party is in a great hurry, slap them over a critical passage, or make them hostile. If it's amid a dull journey section, you don't even need to go that far.
A Wacky Wayside Tribe is never integrated into the plotline — it is, instead, an isolated flurry of eccentric action that is frequently three times as annoying as the basic story elements. It could be an angry predator, a natural disaster you'll never hear of again, or a crazy old hermit, but most often, it's a tribe.
Basically, the non-Video Game
, non-Tabletop RPG
version of sidequests
and Random Encounters
A Wacky Wayside Tribe, if well done, can also help flesh out the world and give a sense that there are things going on that don't revolve around the main characters. If poorly done, it can imply the opposite, with the main characters repeatedly solving hundred-year-old mysteries that no one else has managed to solve.
When part of the cast is involved in something like this while everyone else is busy with important stuff, it's Trapped by Mountain Lions
. In anime
, this is often a way to provide padding
when the plot Overtook the Manga
. Even manga isn't immune to this if the story becomes too stretched out over time and, in order to keep releasing chapters while they take the time to choose the course of the series, they need to add a quick storyline that isn't completely relevant to the main plot. If the events are not merely irrelevant but ludicrous, it's a Big Lipped Alligator Moment
. Can be considered a form of Plot Detour
in many circumstances. If the plot consists of nothing but encounters with Wacky Wayside Tribes, you're probably looking at a Random Events Plot
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- The Pokémon anime indulges in this with its Filler episodes.
- Especially notable because 75-90% of the show is filler (depending on the season). The whole plot structure revolved around Wacky Wayside Tribes in the second generation, though the writers have seemed to vary the conflicts more recently.
- Hikkatsu, a manga featuring a kung-fu expert who can (eventually) repair stuff by hitting it really hard. In his quest to find the source of the civilization-battering electric storms, he comes across many of these Tribes; small towns obsessed over concepts. One town has to open everything, from car trunks to popcorn bags to (attempted) women's shirts. Another town is obsessed with digging tunnels, a third is obsessed with zombies. And so on. Provides much plot-worthy things for the hero to hit.
- The OVA of Tales of Eternia had them meet a Wacky Wayside Tribe, presumably set during the two minutes you spend crossing the ocean to get to the center island in the game just before heading to Celestia the first time.
- The Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle: Almost everything you think is plot-relevant turns out to be instead this, and the original plot is abandoned later when the real plot kicks in.
- The infamous Moon-Moon colony of Gundam ZZ. They are Space Amish living in a rogue colony that long ago went into its own orbit, far from any of the colony clusters. They are dedicated primarily to spreading their religion and make for a strange couple of episodes when the Argama visits their colony. Frequently cited by ZZ's detractors as being the low point of the series, making very little sense, not impacting the plot, and just being plain weird.
- One Piece uses Wacky Wayside Islands for the needs of filler but there's also a in-universe explanation. Luffy doesn't want to find One Piece; that would be boring. He's more interested in the journey and the Wacky people he meets and fights on the way.
- Dragon Ball does this twice with groups of orphans. Once on Earth during Gohan's training in the Saiyan Saga, and again Recycled In Space on the journey to Namek just before the Freeza Saga. Though the latter was used to allow the heroes to know about Frieza sooner.
- Shinji and Warhammer 40k manages to make this work well through Chekhov's Gun and not be annoying. Javaal is where Shinji gets an army of Grey Knights. A large group of Macedonians decides to follow him and kick some ass.
Films — Animated
- Those Two Birds Dinky and Boomer and Squeeks the caterpillar in The Fox and the Hound. Aside from helping to get Widow Tweed to save Tod, they contribute nothing to the main story line, and their antics, entertaining though they are, simply stop the film cold.
- The Ice Age films are filled with these. The first film has the Crazy Survivalist dodos and the trip through the ice cave. The second features a literal Wacky Wayside Tribe of mini-sloths who make Sid their "Fire King" and the vultures singing "Food, Glorious Food." And there's Scrat and his acorn.
- Transformers: The Movie (the 1986 one, not the 2007 one) was positively full of these. Wheelie especially. The Quintessons also served no real purpose in the movie, though they were revealed to be the creator of the Transformers and recurring villains in the TV series. The Junkions count too, but they're forgiven because Eric Idle made Wreck-Gar work (And they were generally awesome anyway).
- Expanding the universe in the movie DID make the premise for the following season easier to explain...
- In addition, the third season mostly took place in space and on alien worlds, rather than on Earth the way it had in the first two, so putting things IN SPACE set up this transition.
- The entire middle section of Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure consists of these.
Films — Live-Action
- The Cannibal Island sequence in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. This one is particularly inexplicable, given that the movie is two-and-a-half hours long, leaving one to wonder why the producers thought it needed more padding. The scriptwriters have explained in interviews that the key point is the cannibals' belief that Captain Jack is a deity trapped in human form, which was supposed to prepare the audience for the revelation in the sequel that one of the other characters is a deity trapped in human form. According to the commentary, it was also supposed to address the idea that Jack could escape Davy Jones and the Kraken by simply staying out of the ocean.
- A variation occurs in the James Bond Action Prologue, which is usually a cool action scene at the start. The ones from Goldfinger, Thunderball and Octopussy have no connection to the story whatsoever (unless you count the scar in Thunderball). Some only serve for a introduction (Red Grant and SPECTRE training in From Russia with Love, Scaramanga and his "funhouse" in The Man with the Golden Gun, Henry Gupta - briefly - in Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond getting his license to kill in Casino Royale). The rest give Back Story, though sometimes you only discover after the credits.
- One of the most famous (and successful) uses of this trope are the various "creature encounters" in the Star Wars movies. We didn't really need to see Luke pulled under garbage by a dianoga in the first movie, or the Millennium Falcon almost get swallowed by a space slug in the second, but adventures like these helped establish that it's a big galaxy out there.
- The film Ator l'invincibile 2 (1984) contained a sequence right in the middle involving a tribe of cannibals. Oddly enough, the USA DVD release (Cave Dwellers) was titled after the Wacky Wayside Tribe. This film richly deserved the MST3K treatment it received.
- The Fireys from Labyrinth. (In earlier script drafts, they were given a little more to do by agreeing to help Sarah find the castle, but it turned out they didn't know what that was...)
- The beatniks from the John Waters version of Hairspray are arguably a two-person example. Their one scene is fairly brief and not really any more eccentric than the rest of the movie, but they don't tie into the plot and seem to just be there to briefly satirize a different side of the The Sixties than the rest of the film.
- The Dracula sub-plot in House of Frankenstein. On their way to find Frankenstein's records on reanimating corpses, Dr. Niemann and Daniel happen to stumble upon a traveling road show that has Dracula's skeleton as an exhibit. Niemann removes the stake from Dracula's bones, reviving him, and he persuades Dracula to kill this one guy who had done Niemann wrong. Dracula does this, and meances the victim's family for a while, before getting caught in the sunlight and dying again. Niemann and Daniel continue on their way, and absolutely nothing that happened while Dracula was around is ever referenced again.
- About halfway through John Ford's Western Cheyenne Autumn (1964), there's a 15 minute comedy sequence set in Dodge City, featuring Jimmy Stewart as Wyatt Earp. This segment shows Earp gambling and shooting a violent cowboy, while townspeople panic about the approaching Cheyenne. Obviously meant as comic relief, it's long, self-contained, features none of the main characters and feels jarringly out of place in such a downbeat, serious movie. Unsurprisingly, some theatrical screenings and television airings removed the entire scene.
- In the extended cut of Stripes, John and Russell try to desert during Basic, and somehow end up parachuting into somewhere in South America, before running into a group of rebels, accidentally dumping a bunch of LSD into their stew, almost getting killed, and sneaking off before getting put back on the plane and sent back to Basic.
- The Redwall series is full of these. In Martin the Warrior, the verse roadmap has nothing but Wacky Wayside Tribes, likethe pygmy shrews.
- The Lord of the Rings:
- Tom Bombadil. One of the reasons why the LOTR movies are often considered Adaptation Distillation is because the entire segment involving him was left out. Tolkien managed to do this better than most because Bombadil returned to help Frodo a few chapters later, he was referred to and had his existence acknowledged at the council, and his gift of Barrow-blades proved fruitful against the Witch-king in the third book.
- Ghan-buri-Ghan and the Woses, who do provide a way to get the Rohirrim to Minas Tirith without having to plow through an army of orcs en route — but the whole sequence is similar to the Bombadil section in seemingly coming out of nowhere but being referenced later in the story (emissaries from Gondor go to Ghan-buri-Ghan's forest and proclaim that it shall belong to him and his people forever, in gratitude for their help).
- The trolls and Beorn in The Hobbit. The spiders and elves count too, on a lesser note. One might argue that most of the journey in The Hobbit consists of random encounters with exotic peoples and characters; of them, only Elrond and Gollum have a notable influence on the plot.
- May be justified in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Like in The Hobbit, most of the journey is a series of random encounters, but exploring the distant lands is, in fact, the very goal of Caspian's expedition. The movie version, however, half-heartedly tries to subvert this trope by adding a connecting plot to the encounters.
- A rather unfortunate example in The Courts of Chaos, the fifth novel in The Chronicles of Amber. Corwin is on a quest to deliver a McGuffin while being hounded by his evil brother Brand. However he can't use his magic deck to simply teleport, so he has to reach the place by horse. Despite the book being less than 150 pages, over a half of them involve Corwin being sidetracked by random and irrelevant adventures; including him meeting a talking raven, finding the tree Yggdrasil, having a picnic with a seductive lady and getting his horse stolen by Leprechauns. This also counts as a case of Trapped by Mountain Lions as the book does have a lengthy plot, only Corwin misses most of it.
- Although there is a reason for the shift in focus, as Corwin is simultaneously realizing that he's outgrown his goals and motivations for the entire series and is being tapped for a far more significant role than anything he'd ever aspired to. While it's unfortunate from the context of the single book, for the entire 10-book series (plus whatever Zelazny had been planning to add to that) a journey through allegorical landscapes and some self-exploration are probably more fitting than following the progress of the grand campaign, and Corwin's state of mind as he inscribes a new Pattern has as much of an long-term impact on the setting as the political resolution at the Courts.
- The first half of Witches Abroad. Before the coven gets to the borders of Genua, we have half a book of amusing culture clashes, including some very good (but strictly speaking unnecessary) parodies of Hammer Horror, The Lord of the Rings, and The Wizard of Oz. Collectively, they introduce the reader to the Discworld's Law of Narrative Causality and its manipulation by the book's antagonist, a major plot point.
- The very first book, The Colour of Magic, had the section with the tree and the entire "The Lure of the Wyrms" chapter, but then there was no actual plot (as Pratchett freely admits).
- In book three, Equal Rites, there's Esk's time with the incurably truthful Zoon tribe.
- The Last Continent is a bit of a stylistic throwback to the earlier books, and contains a lot of Rincewind stumbling into various parodies of Australian culture before stumbling back out. Most of these (winning a sheep-shearing contest, inventing Vegemite, encountering spoofs of Mad Max and Priscilla Queen Of The Desert) have no real bearing on the plot, but they collectively contribute to Rincewind becoming a sort of Ecksian folk hero.
- Enid Blyton built lots of her fairy stories on this.
- The first few Spellsinger novels were episodic, but still possessed a plot. Later ones ... not so much. Most obvious in the sixth, which features so many escapes from cannibal tribes that even one of the characters complains about the monotony.
- Congo (that is, the original novel by Michael Crichton) has this right in the end. After the main characters have escaped the killer gorillas. After the Lost City has been destroyed. After they've accepted that the good gorilla will return to live in the jungle. THEN!! this cannibal tribe appears from nowhere after not being a problem through the entire book and attacks them, forcing the good guys to refuge in a crashed airplane and use all the weapons they can find. Not surprising it was left out in The Film of the Book.
- Piers Anthony's Xanth series of books tend to be made up of almost nothing BUT these. It is a common aspect of the books for the main characters, while traveling long distances towards their main goal, to be stopped every couple of pages by some pointless, punnish characters. Sometimes these characters have a small problem, which the main characters tend to solve within one paragraph. Other times, the wayside characters serve no purpose other than introducing themselves and explaining their unique magic ability (many of which are based on readers' mail-in suggestions).
- Condensed into the "comic strips", narrow strips of lands with an abnormally high concentration of puns. It has virtually become a once-per-book event for the characters to pass through one.
- The Plains of Passage, fourth book in Jean M Auel's Earth's Children series,
features a whole lot of this is made entirely of this.
- In Consider Phlebas, the encounter with the nightmarish Eaters (more cannibals) is really just a danger for the protagonist to fight through, contributing only marginally to character development and not at all to the overall plot.
- In the Strontium Dog "Max Bubba" storyline, Johnny and his Vikings are at one point waylaid by a group of man-eating trolls who kill a few redshirts, but are never mentioned after escaping.
- Quidditch throughout the Harry Potter series. More so as time goes on, which may explain its diminishing frequency. It's telling that the actual games being played are among the first things the later movie adaptations ditched.
- The classes as well. In the first four or so books, much attention is paid to what Harry and his friends are doing or studying in each class. As time passed, focus was shifted to only classes and teachers relevant to the overall plot.
- The Oz stories are entirely comprised of these sorts of adventures, with most of the stories featuring traveling characters "discovering" new, slightly dangerous parts of Oz and having to navigate around the wild animals / monsters / cannibals / etc.
- This goes back to the first book and the Dainty China Country. A city surrounded by a wall that only exists to lengthen the journey from Point A to Point B. The instant they leave the city it's never spoken of again.
- Don Quixote: The last chapters of the First Part are dedicated to solving a Romantic Plot Tumor, reading a Novel Within A Novel named The Ill-Advised Curiosity and to hearing the tale of the Captive Captain, leaving Don Quixote as a mere spectator in his own book. In the Second Part Cervantes makes an Author's Saving Throw when Don Quixote opines:
- Much of Huckleberry Finn.
- Count and Countess is a serious and grim story, but Vlad Tepes' background as a child soldier is occasionally interspersed with anecdotes of two Turkish bandits who initiate a furious rivalry with Vlad and Istvan Bathory. It's played completely for comedic effect and probably to give the reader a breather from all the beatings, torture, and mercy killings Vlad is forced to experience.
- In the second book of the second Warrior Cats arc, the protagonists are heading home after a long journey, but get abducted by the Tribe of Rushing Water who want them to fight a mountain lion as per a prophecy.
- Older Than Feudalism: The bulk of The Odyssey is Odysseus and his men encountering Wacky Wayside Tribes during their journey home.
- The plot of the Polish children's series Koziolek Matolek mostly consists of the protagonist finding himself forced into one very brief adventure after another, sometimes halfway across the globe.
- The Power of Five: Several of the villains who impede the collective progress of the Five in Oblivion aren't even working for the Old Ones; they're just taking advantage of the chaos they cause. Examples include the Sheik who tries to marry Scarlett, the slave-drivers who capture Matt and Lohan, and the priest who tries to kill Pedro.
- The Dark Ones in Murderess. Their primary function in the book is to create a firm alliance between Lu and Hallwad and Aucasis.
- The Magic: The Gathering novel Mercadian Masques is an unfortunate example of this, as it takes up nearly the entire book. After escaping Rath, while trying to get to their homeworld Dominaria, the Weatherlight crashes on Mercadia, where the crew gets swept up in the battle between the Cho-Arrim rebels and the Mercadian overlords. Toward the end of the book, connections between Mercadia and Rath/Phyrexia are revealed. Even that isn't as significant as it sounds, as Volrath taunts the heroes by revealing that the Phyrexian warfleet they just destroyed is just a tiny fraction of the invading army.
- "Stranger in a Strange Land", a.k.a. the Jack's Tattoos episode of LOST. Though most episodes are relevant to the overall plot of the series, this one can be skipped entirely without really missing anything. It's also almost universally considered to be the worst episode of the series. In fact, the only character introduced in this episode was later confirmed by Word of God to have died off screen... in an explosion that happened on screen... somehow.
- "Black Market" episode of Battlestar Galactica (aka "Film Noir Apollo") where we are introduced to the seamy underbelly of crime in the fleet. This not only introduces a prostitute with a kid that Apollo has apparently been seeing for a while (with no previous mention) but also a may-or-may-not-have-been-pregnant girlfriend back on Caprica (with no previous mention). The episode was considered a failure by everyone and most of the plot points were never spoken of again.
- Doctor Who:
- The serial "The Keys of Marinus" is entirely made of this - the characters have to collect Plot Coupons from various locations on the planet, each of which has a different culture and threat. There's a Lotus-Eater Machine world that only Barbara can see through, a murder investigation world where the Doctor is a lawyer and has to use The Perry Mason Method to save Ian after he picked up the knife, an ice world where they have to fight ancient guardians and so on.
- Another Terry Nation serial, "The Chase", is like this - the Doctor is being followed by Daleks who have constructed their own TARDIS, and occasionally make pit-stops. When the Daleks first catch up to them on a desert planet, the setting and plot fit, but part 3 in particular is just two comedy setpieces (tourists on top of the Empire State Building, and people on the Marie Celeste) stuck together, neither of which change anything about the Doctor's predicament - we just see the TARDIS crew first poke their heads out, chat to people and leave, followed by the Daleks showing up.
- The serial The Mind Robber starts with a Bottle Episode where the Tardis materializes in a white void containing aggressive robots. As soon as the characters escape, these robots have no bearing on the plot of the rest of the serial.
- The otherwise brilliant "Genesis of the Daleks" has a laughable sequence where the Doctor and Harry battle a genetically engineered land clam that grabbed Harry's leg when he stepped on it. It comes out of nowhere, has no bearing on the gritty and tense plot about warfare and mad scientists, doesn't make a lot of sense and was clearly tossed in to stretch the episode out another couple of minutes.
- "Lamia" of Merlin, the only filler episode of the otherwise tightly-plotted series 4, in which the knights investigate a strange illness in an outlying village, get brainwashed by the titular Lamia, and are lured back to her keep where she plans to pick them off one by one. Merlin and Guinevere manage to keep them alive until Arthur shows up and defeats the Eldritch Horror by stabbing it in the back. It adds nothing to the Story Arc or Character Development and is generally considered the worst episode of the entire show.
- In the big picture of Dino Attack RPG, villains such as Anti-Kotua and Dino Aliens play little part in the overall story and just served as momentary threats.
- In the Fallout: New Vegas DLC Dead Money, we have the Ghost People. While there is an explanation as to why they are there and they most certainly aren't wacky, they don't serve any plot importance and are mainly there to give the player something to fight.
- Commonplace in the Grandia series.
- Though most villages are benign, there are some seriously weird examples in the first game, such as Laine where the horned giantesses do all the work while mature males turn into bovines, and Gumbo, where every year, the villagers sacrifice two lovers to the volcano and, because of this, nobody in the village becomes a couple in fear of being sacrificed. When Justin and Feena arrive in Gumbo the village chief mistakes them for a couple and rolls out the red carpet for them.
- 8-Bit Theater had four of these, most of which had nothing to do with the source material. Doesn't stop them from being pretty darn funny, though:
- First there's a journey to the arctic (for a reason revealed after it happened) which only served to introduce a group of doom cultists which returned later. Though this was at least based on the Ice Cave quest for the floater/levistone in the original Final Fantasy I.
- Then the Light Warriors take over a nameless town through force after getting stuck on the Air Orb quest.
- Later, a particularly bizarre one in the last dungeon: Black Mage decides to leave the Light Warriors and ends up the leader of the Dark Warriors while Drizz'l joins the Light Warriors. When the two teams confront each other the Other Warriors show up, and the sheer lack of space leads the following 36 strips to be about reorganizing the three parties.
- And finally, one occurred during the final battle. Chaos gave the Light Warriors 24 hours to level up in order to stand a chance. They spent it kidnapping babies, murdering and beating people up, getting beat up, robbing the true Light Warriors of their ultra weapons which 3/4 of the protagonists cannot use, discussing bubble gum, buying
snow cones stubes, speeding up time, selling said ultra weapons, and then something about a porpoise disguised as a shark using the remainder of those. None of this ended up being relevant for the end boss's eventual defeat.
- They weren't even the ones who defeated Chaos.
- The Order of the Stick had a gang of bandits which the order encounters, deals with, then goes back on their quest. A second use of this trope is more recent when half of the order encountered a tribe of orcs on an island (albeit some minor plot points were involved, the orc tribe was not pertinent to the story).
- However, Word of God itself states that both these sequences were essential to character development of main characters (first Roy, then Elan).
- Looking for Group Every village. Every single one.
- In the Futurama: Bender's Game, the "stuck in a fantasy RPG" plot that all of the trailers, advertisements, and box art depict turns out to be a side-story to the main plot (uniting the two crystals to render all dark matter inert as fuel) that suddenly sprung up from the B-plot right before the climax, and all of one event affects the last ten minutes of the movie (though it does admittedly continue the other B-plot about Leela). It takes up approximately 32 of the film's 88 minute length.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender has the episode "The Great Divide", featuring a literal wacky wayside tribe- or rather, two of them locked in a never-ending Cold War. Unlike a great deal of the seemingly unrelated events in season 1 it is never brought up again and is widely regarded as the worst episode in the entire series.