Needs Help: Plot Armor

Deadlock Clock: 5th Jan 2014 11:59:00 PM
Total posts: [14]
Plot Armor is one of the fairly few terms very widely used recognized outside this website. Looking at the page and examples, it's also a very unclear term we're doing a poor job with.

The cause of this is that, as it is, Plot Armor is defined as quasi-amalgam of two different phenomena that are superficially similar enough to confuse.

Bob survives a certain death situation through contrived circumstances or 'luck.' This is the definition most content on TV Tropes seems to use.

Bob cannot die because of 'reasons.' Significance to the plot, importance to the franchise, favored fan character, the work is a prequel to something Bob appears in. This is the definition the Laconic Page uses. It's also the definition the name strongly implies.

Although parallels exist, these two definitions are not at all the same. Minor characters with little to no bearing on the plot can and have survived circumstances they should have died. (Meeting definition #1 and not #2.) And there are plenty characters 'necessary' to the plot throughout fiction who have never survived a certain death scenario through contrivance. (Meeting definition #2 and not #1.)

In particular, very close attention needs to be given to video game plot armor examples. Looking at the current examples, almost all of them need to be scrapped. We need to be clear on phenomena that arises from writing and phenomena that inevitably arises from the construction of a game (E.g. Not every character can be killed be the player.)

2 SeptimusHeap28th Nov 2013 10:42:35 AM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
To me, both definitions are "character survives damage for story reasons", with the first simply including a handwave or something on top of that.
No, you can't have those separately. One must necessarily flow from the other. The character must survive mortal danger because dying would ruin the plot.

If a throwaway character survives certain death for some other reason, that's some other trope. And being too important to die is just meaningless if the character was never in danger of dying in the first place. You don't have Plot Armor if you don't need Plot Armor.
I agree - this can be "These circumstances would normally kill someone, but this character survives because the plot requires him to," but it cannot just be "Artistic License — Mortality"
5 theAdeptRogue28th Nov 2013 04:59:00 PM , Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
But the two definitions the OP established is not very distinct, in my opinion. Basically, the first one seem to refer to the In-Universe explanation why a character could survive conditions that would otherwise kill him, while the second one is the reason why the creators cannot kill said character.
Even if we agree that Plot Armor is "A character must survive mortal danger because dying would ruin the plot," it needs serious clean up. First, to remove any examples of a character surviving in a contrived way who has very little bearing on the plot. Secondly, to remove examples of characters who must survive from a meta standpoint but who never face certain death situations and survive.

The description is clearly not doing it's job, because I've seen countless examples of "Character X cannot be killed - therefore plot armor," particularly, as I've said, concerning video games.

edited 29th Nov '13 1:57:14 PM by David7204

Dragon Writer
Mind if I bullet point those for emphasis?

  • Remove any examples of a character surviving in a contrived way who has very little bearing on the plot to begin with.
  • Remove examples of characters who must (from a meta standpoint) survive but who never face certain death situations and inexplicably survive.
Yeah, the trope is "the character can't die because the story would die with them." That generally only stands out when they're in a circumstance where they should have died, in the same way that somebody having a Healing Factor is something we can't know unless they're put in a situation that shows it off. But someone surviving something that should have killed them is not itself the trope.

But frankly, I'm surprised we have straight examples on this page at all — it's more or less a Universal Trope. Even aversions are covered by other tropes — Decoy Protagonist, Killed Off for Real, Anyone Can Die. Why not restrict it to lampshadings, discussions, subversions and justifications?
9 LentilSandEater2nd Dec 2013 01:15:03 AM from England , Relationship Status: Falling within your bell curve
Enter the void
I have to admit i like 'artistic license - mortality' jus for the comedy value.
Yeah I've been here a while. And it's only got better.
10 SeptimusHeap2nd Dec 2013 01:36:50 AM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
As a redirect?
11 Willbyr2nd Jan 2014 07:14:25 AM from North Little Rock, AR , Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
Clock is set.
Terracotta Soldier Man
Yeah, the trope is "the character can't die because the story would die with them."

I'm guessing that means Plot Armor is a subtrope of the Anthropic Principle, then?

(Not trying to criticize; just making an observation.)
Editor of Posts
That seems pretty correct to me.
In uffish thought
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Total posts: 14