Follow TV Tropes

Deck The Tree With False Blossoms

Go To

Deceiving your enemies into believing you have an army (Formerly Gideon Ploy)

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
crazysamaritan on Feb 11th 2019 at 9:28:54 AM
Last Edited By:
Benthelame on Feb 15th 2019 at 9:48:44 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Sent back to TLP as per TRS.


"When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, 'For the LORD and for Gideon.'"
Book of Judges 7:18

The characters are outnumbered, but use deception to fool their enemies into believing the reverse. Disguise, decoys, clever acting, and even magical ability can be used to artificially create a larger force.

See Also The Thirty-Six Stratagems (a list of several tricks/tactics, this is #29) and Backup Bluff (where you don't have time to create the illusion and try just lying to the enemy's face).


Examples:

    Film 
  • The Substitute 2: School's Out: Thomasson and one of his mercenary friends intimidate a gang by walking right up to them and rigging a device to point multiple Laser Sights at their chests, claiming them to be a whole group of snipers.

    Literature 
  • Beau Geste: The initial assault on a fort is beaten off, but after each new attack, there are fewer defenders. Markoff props up the corpses at their posts to make it look as if there are still plenty of soldiers left.
  • Discworld's Soul Music: Death joins the Klatchian Foreign Legion. After the D'regs charge and kill most of the defenders, Death sets their corpses up to fire back. When the D'regs return, they're aware of the trick and charge the defenses anyway. However, when Death gives the order to fire, corpses actually shoot the D'reg warriors.
  • Artemis Fowl's The Time Paradox: Artemis tricks Minerva by hacking into the security cameras and simulating armed forces, including a tank.
  • The Guns of the South: Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, during a parley, tries to convince a time-traveling enemy soldier to surrender. The enemy laughs, knowing that General Forest would become famous for deceptions, but he responds "I used tricks when I was weak; I ain't weak now."
  • Keith Laumer's The Glory Game: A single Hull ship lands on a frontier planet, so Commodore Dalton sets up energy rifles on hills surrounding the ship. Once he disables the ship, he tricks the crew into surrendering by making them think they're surrounded by troops. Another character calls this "the Fort Zinderneuf ploy".
  • Warrior Cats's The Battles Of The Clans: Dustpaw shares a story about how he helped prevent an invasion from ShadowClan by using something known as ThunderClan's "Lightning Strike" technique. Because he and his patrol were outnumbered, his idea was for each of them to continuously attack and shock the invaders before immediately disappearing again and repeating the cycle. Each time he and his patrol attacked, they would refer to each other by new names, tricking the confused ShadowClan invaders into thinking that they were being attacked by all of ThunderClan, instead of just a patrol of three.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Burn Notice: Micheal sometimes needs to fool a target into thinking that he's part of a large and far-reaching secret agency, so he asks Team Weston to take various cued actions that inflate their apparent size. One occasion has Sam Axe using various fake accents as he calls in from "guards". Another occasion has the Team hire a bunch of actors who leave at a specific cue to make their target feel abandoned.
  • NCIS: Los Angeles: After G is captured by a militia, the rest of the team use enough radio signals and gunfire to pretend like the entire militia is surrounded by a sizable military force. The militia leaders aren't quite buying it, until a couple of F-22's buzz the clearing (thanks to Hettie calling in a favor from the Air Force).
  • The Swamp Fox: Marion outsmarted a squad of Redcoats by having Oscar using the pack horses on a wooden bridge to sound like backup and getting his soldiers to move after every shot fired, making it seem like every tree in the forest held an America militiaman.

     Religion & Mythology 
  • The Bible features this in the Book of Judges: Gideon leads an army, aided by some holy PSYOP support from God, with only 300 Israelite warriors (God made Gideon send the rest home) against the Midianites (who are described as having wall-to-wall camels). The Israelites snuck up to the camp, then each of them broke a clay jar to reveal a torch, shouted, and blew horns to make the sleeping Midianites think they were only the torch-bearers of a much larger army. The Midianites got so freaked out they started killing each other as they tried to escape.

    • A similar instance occurs in Second Kings chapter seven. In it, four lepers run up to the Aramean camp, feeling that it would be better than just sitting around and waiting to die. However, they find the camp empty because the Lord made the footsteps of the lepers sound like chariots to the ears of the Arameans. Consequently they believed that Israel hired the king of the Hittites and the Egyptians to fight them and promptly fled to avoid death.
    2 Kings 7:3-7
    3 Now four men who were lepers were at the entrance of the [city] gate; and they said to one another, Why should we sit here until we die? 4 If we say, We will enter the city then the famine is in the city and we will die there; and if we sit still here, we will also die. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Arameans (Syrians). If they let us live, we will live; and if they kill us, we will only die. 5 So they got up at twilight to go to the Aramean camp. But when they came to the edge of the camp, there was no one there. 6 For the Lord had caused the Aramean army to hear the sound of chariots, and the sound of horses, the sound of a great army. They had said to one another, The king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come [and fight] against us.7 So the Arameans set out and fled during the twilight, and left their tents, horses, and donkeys, even left the camp just as it was, and fled for their lives.

    Real Life 
  • World War II:
    • The Ghost Army was part of the Allied powers' Psychological warfare division. It consisted of battalions of inflatable decoys, wooden cutouts of tanks, sound-effects records of warships and submarines played through loudspeakers, fake radio chatter referring to nonexistent troops, and having the same battalion march several times through town wearing the uniforms of different armies (pretending to be French, then American, then British soldiers). All of these deceptions contributed to disguising their actual numbers from the Axis powers.
    • Canadian sniper Leo Major did this single-handedly, convincing the German soldiers in the Dutch town of Zwolle that they were surrounded. He backed it up by running through the streets, firing his gun, setting off grenades, and burning down the local headquarters of the Gestapo. It worked.
  • During The American Civil War, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest would have his men turn logs into "cannons", march them within view of the enemy, but in an endless loop so it appeared as if several units were following the same straight line.
  • Using fake cannons is such a common tactic that it actually has a name: a Quaker Gun, named for the famous pacifists. Painted logs, posts, and even broomsticks (to simulate tail guns on B-25 bombers) have been been documented as stand ins for real guns to confound the enemy since at least the American Revolution.
  • It's said that the Portuguese castle of Monção. under siege by Castilians in 1369 and about to run out of food, used the very last of their flour to bake bread which they proceeded to throw off of the ramparts toward the enemy troops, telling them "We have plenty; if you need any more, just let us know." Unwilling to continue the prolonged battle, the Spanish troops gave up and retreated.
  • Chinese emperor Yangdi inspired the name for the 29th stratagem from The Thirty-Six Stratagems. He wished to impress foreign visitors with China's economic strength, so in the winter he ordered people to tie silk flowers onto the bare trees, making it seem as if the capital Loyang was powerful enough to make trees bloom during winter.

Feedback: 23 replies

Feb 11th 2019 at 11:51:11 AM

I get what the title is going for, but it's not all that illustrative of the trope. (Neither was Gideon Ploy, though...)

Feb 11th 2019 at 12:50:50 PM

Anyway, example:

  • Warrior Cats: In The Battles Of The Clans field guide, Dustpaw shares a story about how he helped prevent an invasion from ShadowClan by using something known as ThunderClan's "Lightning Strike" technique. Because he and his patrol were outnumbered, his idea was for each of them to continuously attack and shock the invaders before immediately disappearing again and repeating the cycle. Each time he and his patrol would refer to each other by the names of different Clan members, tricking the confused ShadowClan invaders into thinking that they were being attacked by all of ThunderClan, instead of just a patrol of three.

Feb 11th 2019 at 1:09:24 PM

Current title needs replacing, it's worse than Gideon Ploy which communicated the trope pretty quickly to those who spent much time in Sunday school (though it was definitely suffering from Trope Namer Syndrome). Of the proposed titles I like Battalion Bluff & Bigger Battalion Bluff.

Feb 11th 2019 at 1:17:37 PM

Ideally the difference to Backup Bluff comes out in the title. Not seeing it yet.

Feb 11th 2019 at 1:48:32 PM

I chose the draft title because it is from the 36 stratagems, which makes the concept discoverable by people who aren't looking for tvtropes specifically. I encourage more naming suggestions, but I'm leery of any called "bluff" because we already has Backup Bluff and I don't want people getting confused. The name should have some indication that artifice is being employed to help promote a distinction between the two tropes.

Feb 11th 2019 at 1:28:42 PM

Needs A Better Name. "Gideon Ploy" is Trope Namer Syndrome. I took "Deck the Tree with False Blossoms" literally. I think it's time for a title crowner.

Feb 11th 2019 at 1:42:08 PM

^^ Hmm... I see your point.

Feb 11th 2019 at 1:48:59 PM

^^ The name is a literal example. Don't make a crowner on the first day of a draft. Really, if just picking a new name was all that this needed, it would've been handled in TRS. The draft needs suggestions for the name, examples, and description. It's maybe 50% complete. Maybe in a week we'll need a crowner, but not yet.

Feb 11th 2019 at 1:59:44 PM

The Bible has a similar instance in Second Kings chapter seven. In it, four lepers run up to the Aramean camp, feeling that it would be better than just sitting around and waiting to die. However, they find the camp empty because the Lord made the footsteps of the lepers sound like chariots to the ears of the Arameans. Consequently they believed that Israel hired the king of the Hittites and the Egyptians to fight them and promptly fled to avoid death.

2 Kings 7:3-7

3 Now four men who were lepers were at the entrance of the [citys] gate; and they said to one another, Why should we sit here until we die? 4 If we say, We will enter the citythen the famine is in the city and we will die there; and if we sit still here, we will also die. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Arameans (Syrians). If they let us live, we will live; and if they kill us, we will only die. 5 So they got up at twilight to go to the Aramean camp. But when they came to the edge of the camp, there was no one there. 6 For the Lord had caused the Aramean army to hear the sound of chariots, and the sound of horses, the sound of a great army. They had said to one another, The king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come [and fight] against us. 7 So the Arameans set out and fled during the twilight, and left their tents, horses, and donkeys, even left the camp just as it was, and fled for their lives.

Feb 11th 2019 at 1:52:48 PM

^^ No it's not, it's a metaphor. We aren't literally talking about putting fake blossoms in a tree.

Feb 11th 2019 at 2:27:27 PM

Added a Religion and Mythology folder for religious examples and any other entries akin to either one.

Feb 11th 2019 at 7:29:58 PM

I added a Real Life example but have no idea how to make the diacritical marks show up properly. It's supposed to be Mono.

Feb 11th 2019 at 7:48:08 PM

  • Judge Dee: In one story, the judge finds that the city he's newly posted to has been taken over by a crimelord. As he doesn't have the muscle to oust him and his underlings, the judge gets his men to fake an army by outfitting one of them in pots and pans, marching around and calling out orders, scaring off the mooks so the judge can arrest the crimelord. It backfires afterwards when the citizens think there really is a battalion nearby and figure the judge can just call on them for help against a possible invasion (and interpret his statement that there never was a battalion as orders to not discuss it with civilians).
  • The Three Musketeers: Athos uses the corpses of soldiers killed in a recent battle to men the walls of a fort, distracting the enemy long enough to escape.
  • In the first Tintin story (based on extremely biased research), Tintin encounters a Soviet official guiding foreign visitors and showing off a factory working full-time. Tintin gets a closer look and sees that the "factory" consists of a single wall, a guy burning wood and another beating sheet metal with a hammer to create the illusion of productivity.
  • Potemkin villages were allegedly built by Grigor Potemkin to keep Empress Catherine entirely misinformed about the state of her country: as soon as she'd passed by a village full of cheering peasants, the village would be disassembled and rebuilt further along the Empress' route.

Feb 11th 2019 at 11:07:08 PM

When Rommel's Afrika Korps first arrived in Tripoli in 1941, he ordered the newly arrived Germans to parade through the city in front of the cheering crowds. Aware of the small size of the German force compared to the victorious British armies - who had just defeated the bulk of Italian forces in Africa - he marched his men and tanks round a circular route and ordered them to follow the same nose-to-tail procession six or seven times. Thus observers saw a German army six or seven times larger than it actually was. Rommel also ensured propaganda film of his arrival was "captured" by the British, who fell for the deception and went on the defensive.

Feb 12th 2019 at 12:19:45 AM

Just took out some weird looking "A's" that appeared all over for some reason.

Edit: They came back, so I edited again.

Feb 12th 2019 at 1:13:56 AM

The only way someone will know what this trope is about from the name is if they're already very familiar with The Thirty Six Stratagems, which is not going to be true of most tropers. It would be all right as a redirect, which would make it easier to find.

Trope Namer Syndrome, Needs A Better Name.

Feb 12th 2019 at 3:48:38 AM

I do not understand the title.

Feb 12th 2019 at 7:14:14 AM

@eroock I don't see what the problem is with Bigger Battalion Bluff sounding similar to Backup Bluff. There are hosts of tropes that end with "Gambit," and those titles are accurate because they are all gambits. This trope is a type of bluff, and there's no reason to say we can't describe it accurately because there's another trope with Bluff in the title. Is it the alliteration?

The fact is that they are very similar tropes. If anything someone might mistake Backup Bluff for this trope based on its title, but I can't imagine anyone thinking Bigger Battalion Bluff meant Backup Bluff.

Feb 15th 2019 at 9:48:44 AM

^ Your reasoning has convinced me, now I'm starting to prefer Bigger Battalion Bluff.

Top