A Sitcom plot where the characters are trying to pull off some kind of easy, straightforward operation: throw a surprise party, open a restaurant, or pick someone up at the airport. Either a series of things go wrong; they screw up through their own natural laziness, cheapness, or stubbornness; or one solitary thing goes awry and The Plan falls to pieces.
A phrase often invoked in the formulation of these plans is: "What's the worst that could happen?" or "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?" which, if you are familiar at all with the concepts of Finagle's Law or Tempting Fate, is a sure sign that things are going to go wrong in the worst way, often with a Gilligan Cut to the protagonists running from angry bikers or such.
Contrast with Zany Scheme. When the end goal goes through despite this trope, you have Despite the Plan. When the character expected circumstances to arise and improvised about them, he's playing Xanatos Speed Chess. When the character scraps the initial plan and goes with a new one, the character has decided it's Time for Plan B. When they think the initial plan is the only plan they need, only to find they need to come up with a new plan on the fly, that's Plan B Resolution. Plethora of Mistakes is this trope applied to crime thriller fiction, and involves everything going wrong for the sake of going wrong in order to teach the Aesop that crime doesn't pay. A plan revealed to the audience tends to fail miserably due to the Unspoken Plan Guarantee.
In more serious stories, anything described before the fact as an "in-and-out" operation is almost certain to fall into this trope.
- Chapter 12 of Boarding School Juliet opens with Percia trying to bring food to her sick boyfriend. It ends with her running- while dripping wet and screaming like hell- from dozens of angry schoolgirls chasing her through the hallways.
- Heavy Metal L-Gaim: All that Daba wanted in the first chapter was to deliver a cash card to a stranger. But somehow he got involved in a rebellion against The Empire and a war that spanned five planets.
- Mazinger Z: In episode 46 Dr. Hell had a pretty simple plan: send two Mecha-Mooks to infiltrate into the Institute and plant several nukes in Mazinger-Z's launching dock. Everything explodes, he wins. However that simple plan meets complications due to his Robeasts and his troops running into abandoned babies, suicidal mothers, and at one point they get involved in a manhunt through the woods.
- A lot of the Filler in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch used this, especially to show the character decay of Caren, Noel and Coco.
- Chapter 97 of My Monster Secret starts with Rin doing shopping to make hamburg steaks for dinner. It ends with her, Aizawa, Shiho and Akane defeating the Ox Demon King in a remote mountainous country. Don't ask.
- Asterix And The Golden Sickle: Asterix and Obelix go to Lutetia to buy a new golden sickle for Getafix. They soon become involved in a mystery involving a gang of golden sickle traffickers, and end up being arrested by the local Romans several times.
Asterix: To think we only came for a golden sickle!
- The Dark Horse Comics Crime anthology Noir was full of them, but special mention should go to the final story: "The Bad Night", about a staged robbery that goes mythically wrong.
- A Disney Ducks Comic Universe story about Scrooge McDuck has Scrooge, deprived of his pick-me-up "nutmeg tea", decide to quickly go to the place where the nutmegs grow, grab a bagful of nutmegs and scoot back home again with "no fuss, no muss and no rough stuff". He does get home again, but has to hide the metal collar and chain until he can find someone to cut it off him.
- The Phantom: In the 1947 story arc "Romance", the Phantom goes to buy an engagement ring so he can propose to Diana, which leads, by a series of steps each straightforward in itself, to the Phantom trapped on an abandoned ship that's about to be blown up, and Diana swearing never to speak to him again.
- Jack and the Beanstalk: All Jack's mother wanted him to do was sell the family cow. However, this simple plan turns out to have plenty of unintended gains, namely the contents of a giant's castle.
- A Crown of Stars: The plan to free Shinji and Asukas timeline was relatively simple, even if the goal was a campaign with low to no casualties: sending a massive force to talk the locals into surrendering peacefully. And then they ran into a complication: a jealous, angry and overprotective Rei Ayanami shutting the dimensional gate and cutting them off.
- The Vow: A gang of criminals band together with the intention to kidnap Lady Lianne (the only child of a powerful noble, who's at the time in Gongmen City and courted by Lord Shen), ransom her back to her father for an insanely large price, split the spoils and leave China. They kidnap Lianne in brought daylight, right in front of Shen and his wolf guard while they're in the city. Several of them die while one is captured and forced to reveal their hiding place. Before being rescued, Lianne even tells the bandits' leader how flawed the entire plan is.
- The Totally Amazing Spider-Man: The plot kicks off when Spider-Man arrives in Beverly Hills. Jerry, concerned about Spider-Man's aims, orders the spies to detain him for questioning. Unable to keep up with him naturally, the spies stage a mugging - with Sam playing the victim and Alex and Clover playing the thugs- in an attempt to lure him out. Unfortunately, he proved to be far more formidable than they expected. Clover was stuck in Spidey's web, Alex is sent running for her life, and Sam had to stall for time so Alex could get out of sight.
- Cinder Fall's plan to steal the rest of the Fall Maiden's powers in Stress Relief relies on using the White Fang and Grimm to attack Vale while all the students are away on missions. Not only would roughly 90% of the students be gone, but almost every experienced hunter in Vale or the surrounding area would have also left to escort them. Unfortunately for her, the attack is launched two days early, while everyone is still in Vale, leading to a Curb-Stomp Battle in the opposite direction she'd planned.
- The Coen Brothers have almost made this a trademark of their films, be they comedy or drama:
- The Ladykillers (2004): Attempt to rob a casino, and silencing the only witness.
- Intolerable Cruelty: Some Gold Digger seeks revenge on a lawyer who prevented her from making a killing.
- The Big Lebowski ("The beauty of my plan is... its simplicity"). The meat of the movie comes from the fact that several groups of people have simple plans, and they all run afoul of each other.
- The Hudsucker Proxy: A bunch of shady executives' plot to take over a company after their boss abruptly commits suicide: hire some dope whose bad ideas will lower the company's stock, allowing them to buy it up. But their dope had a pretty good idea.
- The Man Who Wasn't There (2001): A blackmailing scheme gone wrong.
- Blood Simple: Hiring a private detective to kill your philandering wife isn't as easy as they say.
- Fargo is probably their best example: Hire two crooks to kidnap your wife, and get your rich, tight-fisted father-in-law to pay the ransom. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
- Suicide Kings follows a similar plot to Fargo complete with one of these gone wrong.
- Unsurprisingly, A Simple Plan: Three people find a large bag of money in the woods and decide to hide it for a few months in case anyone is looking for it, then split it between them. This ends up in a trail of bodies including two of the three guys who found the money, and at the end of it all, the money is marked anyway, and has to be burnt.
- Ironically enough, the money wasn't marked, but the FBI had just recorded about 1/10 of the serial numbers. Regardless, the money could have avoided being burned had there been a slightly more complex plan in place to spend it, like waiting a few years, spending it in different locations, etc.
- Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle has it right in the title. The titular duo want to go eat dinner at White Castle, but events quickly conspire against them.
- The poster for the 70's classic Dog Day Afternoon even describes the trope as its plot: "The robbery should have taken ten minutes. 4 hours later the bank was like a circus sideshow. 8 hours later, it was the hottest thing on live TV. 12 hours later, it was history."
- Neatly done in Quick Change; the complex, intricate bank robbery that the protagonist and his friends have planned goes off without a hitch. However, what should be the incredibly simple matter of driving to the airport to make the getaway turns into a convoluted, mishap-ridden nightmare.
- Planes, Trains and Automobiles is about a guy who just wants to back home from New York to Chicago for Thanksgiving. A whole fiasco erupts from this.
- Adventures in Babysitting: Chris is babysitting when she gets a call from a friend who is stranded at a city bus station and in need of a ride home. Chris takes the kids (and their tagalong neighbor) along rather than leave them unattended while she's supposed to be babysitting them. Matters quickly fall apart from there.
- The film Inception plays a tune from its official soundtrack as they plan their mission into Fischer's subconscious mind: "A Simple Plan." When they enter the dream and find that Fischer's subconscious mind has been weaponized and attacks the team, the entire mission has to be improvised. Not to mention that Cobb's dead wife is still haunting his own subconscious...
- Plan B: The plan is for Bruno to win back his ex-girlfriend by seducing her new, bisexual boyfriend, causing them to break up. Things start getting complicated when the Faux Yay stops being so fake...
- Shaun of the Dead: Shaun's zombie survival plan.
- In the original Ealing studios The Ladykillers, the mastermind of a plan to rob a bank shipment gets the idea to involve a rather spacey old lady as an Unwitting Pawn. The robbery itself goes fairly smoothly. Getting the money out of London after is where things fall apart.
- Airheads: An aspiring rock band sneaks into a radio station hoping to play their demo tape on the air. But what starts out as mere trespassing turns into a hostage situation. And, like the aforementioned Dog Day Afternoon, it turns into a media frenzy.
- Inverted in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Breaking Jim back out of slavery would be an almost effortless operation for Huck and Tom Sawyer, but Tom insists on doing outlandish things like sneaking tools in through Jim's lunch, trying to dig an entrance hole into the (unguarded and unlocked) slave quarters with pocket knives, and trying to scare the Phelpses into staying inside so they can kidnap Jim without fear of getting caught. All on top of the long process of forcing Jim to keep a prison diary.
- This is even more cruel (and hilarious) than it seems, since Jim had been legally freed by his owners days earlier, and could just walk out at any time. Tom didn't tell him until later because he wanted an adventure.
- Donald E. Westlake likes to use this trope. The Hot Rock and, of course, What's the Worst That Could Happen? are two examples. The Worst is interestingly the one Dortmunder book in which the plan went perfectly.
- Getting the Hrum gold in the Farsala Trilogy. It starts as a plan so simple it could probably be described in less than a sentence and evolves into about a third of Forging The Sword.
- Not at all played for laughs in Gladiator.
- Exceptionally common in the Star Wars Legends, since both the Empire and Republic du jour are generally riven by internal strife and ambitious individuals are all too happy to latch onto any plan more complicated than "go to the next room and get a drink" for their own benefit. The most impressive:
- Wedge's Gamble: Wedge Antilles and his crack pilots-slash-infiltration team are told to bring down Coruscant's planetary shields. They intend to do so by inserting a programming hook in the planetary computer system that will let them simply tell the computer to turn them off. This will be simple, they reckon, because a Rebel sympathizer controls the factory that makes hardware for the system. This plan doesn't go to spec, so Wedge ends up furiously improvising a strategy that uses an orbital mirror satellite, a giant floating construction robot, and a bunch of black-market starfighters. It works.
- Shatterpoint: Mace Windu intends to sneak into the Confederate-held system of Haruun Kal, and find his renegade ex-Padawan, ostensibly in charge of a local partisan movement, who may have gone a little Heart of Darkness on them. Once he finds her, he'll just call in a Republic cruiser that will punch into the system, send down a shuttle, and jump out; no muss, no fuss. This plan goes to hell in the most direct way imaginable when the whole system is a Separatist trap and Depa's Ax-Crazy associates decide they want the war to continue. Mace ends up winning, of course, but not in the way he would prefer.
- Rebel Dream: Perhaps the simplest of them all: all Wedge Antilles (again) has to do is not get killed defending Borleias from the Yuuzhan Vong. ( Well, the Advisory Council would prefer he die, just not right away.) Between his stubborn refusal to listen to a stupid order and his particular brand of tactical genius, he manages to not only hold the system against the unstoppable alien horde for months and withdraw in good order, rather than being overrun, he sets up a quasi-independent resistance movement to take over when or if the Republic collapses and manages to kill one of the top Vong generals in the bargain.
- Renfield in Project Tau, with his plan to help Kata escape. Unfortunately, he combines it with a Too Dumb to Live moment, and it doesn't work out.
- This was the plot of the TV movie that came before the 100 Things to Do Before High School series. CJ convinced her two friends to help her release a raccoon the science teacher had caught. This leads CJ and Fenwick being late to their first class, accidentally destroying the new principal's office that was still being constructed, and missing their entire sixth period class when they hid in CJ's mother's car and go to her house.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Snarkily lampshaded for a new Inhuman recruit:
Lance Hunter: This is how S.H.I.E.L.D. works. You make a plan, plan turns to rubbish, we make a new plan. Oh, just to be crystal clear, this is the part where the plan turns to rubbish.
- When not forming their zany schemes, the study group in Community has come up with some great ones:
Jeff: So, what, to even the score I have to drunk dial her? Isn't that absurdly simplistic? Would it even work?
- Doctor Who:
- Any time the TARDIS lands and the crew has something relaxing or normal planned going to the beach, visiting their family, maybe just picking up some milk will end up with them all running for their lives. Every. Single. Time.
- In "The Doctor's Wife", the TARDIS, temporarily put in a human body, says that she doesn't bring the Doctor to where he wants to go, but where he needs to go.
- By the time of the Eleventh Doctor, however, references start to appear more frequently concerning trips that don't go horribly wrong.
- "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood": The Doctor, trying to avoid a family of short-lived aliens who want to steal his lifeforce and become immortal, comes up with the idea of using a device called a Chameleon Arch to turn himself human and hide out for the few months it will take for his pursuers' lifespans to run out. Between the Family tracking down the Doctor and Martha's location, a psychic teenager who unwittingly steals the Gadget Watch containing the Doctor's Time Lord nature and memories, and a few other factors, things don't go nearly as smoothly as that.
- Any time the TARDIS lands and the crew has something relaxing or normal planned going to the beach, visiting their family, maybe just picking up some milk will end up with them all running for their lives. Every. Single. Time.
- Many an episode of Drake & Josh uses this trope, memorably one where their attempt to deliver a cake to their elderly aunt's wedding leaves them stranded in the middle of nowhere and blowing up the car they borrowed.
- This makes up the premise of the Best. Worst. Weekend. Ever. miniseries. Zed, Argo and Treece's plan is to attend Comic con behind their parents' backs and show their favourite author a homemade closing issue to the comic series he left on a cliffhanger. The involvement of Treece's stepsister, getting blacklisted, a Wild Teen Party, Argo's dog getting lost, and Zed's cybercriminal brother breaking out of juvie leads to one misadventure after another.
- Frequently occurs, and is lampshaded, in Farscape. As Aeryn puts it to John "Your plans never work! Not the way you detail them!" Eventually he admits this when an unspoken plan actually works as planned, "Yeah, it's a first, isn't it?"
- There is even an episode subtitled "A Not So Simple Plan".
- The collapse of "simple plans" was a common plot point in Firefly, although usually due more to bad luck than anything else. This led Mal to gripe in the episode "Safe," upon finding himself in yet another shootout, "Why don't it ever go smooth?"
- He suffers this to the point where it's made into a character trait ("Things Don't Go Smooth") in the Serenity RPG. Mal has the severe version of this trait. Player-made characters can take this drawback as well, giving the Game Master an excuse to ensure that Hilarity Ensues no matter how well the players plan their various hijinks.
- The Flash:
- Lampshaded and Discussed by Captain Cold in the episode "Infantino Street":
- This gets brought up again in Crisis on Earth-X, with an alternate universe Leo Snart named Citizen Cold.
Barry: Well, as a Snart we know used to say: "Make a plan. Execute the plan. Expect the plan to go off the rails. Throw away the plan."
Leo: (Beat) Wow, that is... that is terrible advice. I always have a plan, down to the second.
- This is what Frasier generally does when it's not doing something from the Mistaken for Index. Lampshaded at one point when Martin scoffs at yet another Simple Plan that Niles and Frasier have devised (sharing an office as psychiatrists):
Martin: The book you two tried to write together; that was a bad idea. The restaurant you opened together; that was a bad idea. But this... no, that restaurant was still the dumbest.
- On one Friends episode, the plan is to throw Rachel a birthday party. Things start getting messy when the parents refuse to be in the same room and two parties get planned and then...
- Frequently occurs in Happy Endings, even when it's not due to a Zany Scheme. For example, the season two episode "Party of Six" starts with simply having a birthday dinner and spins progressively out of control when "the curse of Penny's birthday has struck again."
- Virtually every episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia revolves around the gang hatching some sort of plan. Usually involving monetary gain or revenge.
- In Season 3 of Justified a corrupt prison guard and his prison nurse buddy have the great idea to break Dicky Bennett out of prison, have him lead them to the $3 million his late mother hid away and then kill him. They do not count on the fact that they will have to take Dewey Crowe with them or that US Marshal Raylan Givens will suspect them right away. They also do not realize that most of the money is already gone or that the person holding the rest of the money feels honor bound to keep Dickie alive and is much deadlier than they are.
- Robert Quarles plan for Kentucky starts of as this. He comes in from Detroit and fully backed by the Detroit Mob he takes over the Dixi Mafia operations in the state. He then establishes a series of "medical clinics" where crooked doctors issue prescriptions for Oxycontin that is then bought from pharmacies by various local junkies and petty crooks. The buyers get some of the drugs as payment and the lion's share is shipped north where it can be sold for massive profits. He never thought that a local criminal like Boyd Crowder would have the guts to oppose him or that their conflict would bring in US Marshal Raylan Givens who would love to lock everyone involved up for a long time. To counteract all this interference, Quarles is forced to sponsor a crooked election for sheriff and starts cutting deals with other factions in the area. A Villainous Breakdown soon follows.
- In "Over the Mountain", Dewey was supposed to take Wade Messer to a secluded location in the woods and have him dig a hole, under the pretense that Dewey hid money in the ground. After Wade dug a deep hole, Dewey was to shoot him dead and bury the body in the hole. Naturally, Dewey screws it up. Wade's tiny shovel was insufficient for the task, Dewey shot him prematurely, a struggle ensued that resulted in Dewey getting lost and injured, and Wade wandered off before dying out in the open where law enforcement found his body.
- Drew Thompson witnessed up-and-coming mob boss Theo Tonin murder a federal informant and fearing for his life he decided to steal $2 million in drugs from the Detroit Mob and then fake his death. The plan was to recruit a petty criminal as his partner, load the drugs into a plane and fly away. Then Drew plants his ID on his partner and pushes him out of the plane with a faulty parachute. He then parachutes down over some wilderness and while everyone assumes that he is dead, he can get away and start a new life in another coutnry. The first problem he encounters is that he is forced to shoot Theo Tonin during the getaway and Tonin loses an eye as a result. This means that Theo will never let the matter go. Then Drew breaks his legs while landing and has to use his entire stash of drugs to buy protection and shelter from Bo Crowder and Arlo Givens. Once he heals up he has no money and has to stay in Kentucky where he becomes a police officer. However, Arlo kept some of the evidence and decades later tries to use it as a get-out-of-jail-free card. Soon Drew has the FBI, the US Marshals and most of the Detroit Mob looking for him.
- A somewhat common theme in Leverage. Of course there's a reason it takes five of the world's best thieves to pull these cons off. Even the simplest plans have potential to go all to hell for reasons as simple and unpredictable as a mook of the bad guy calling his cousin or as large as someone trying to crash land the plane they're on to run a con.
- In "The Gold Job", Hardison gets the chance to run a con and comes up with a ridiculously complex scheme that's basically a big land deal. However, just as it's about to go through, the marks get tired of all the hoops and quit. Luckily, Nate has a back-up scheme to take them down for supposed insurance fraud. Afterward, Nate tells Hardison that the problem with such large complex plans is that you can never predict exactly how a mark is going to behave. Thus, Nate starts with the "simple and ugly Plan G" that will work when all else fails and moves onto more complex schemes from there. As Nate states, the simplest plans always remain the best.
- Lampshaded to a degree in The Mentalist, a drama. Patrick Jane refers to one of his schemes as being a "simple plan" and Lisbon says that she likes it simple. It's when he starts getting out the costumes and such that she gets worried.
- Subverted in The Middleman, where the bad guys always start their villainous monologues with "You have to admit, my plan was sheer elegance in its simplicity" no matter how ridiculously convoluted it really was. Generally, what went wrong was some minor thing that had little to do with the broader, overly complicated scheme.
- My Name Is Earl: The premise of the show is that Earl has written a list that contains everything bad he has ever done and tries to atone for every misdeed one by one. Whenever Earl needs to complete a list item that seems simple, if it's the focus of the episode, it will be more arduous then it seems, but usually he'll end up doing more good in the process. Take #202- "stole a wallet from a guy in a gas station bathroom". On paper, all Earl would need to do is return the wallet and all the money he took from it, which he does but the money he stole was for the guy 's honeymoon. So Earl decides he needs to fully repay the couple by letting them re-do their honeymoon by taking over the husband's shift at his Burger Fool job for one week. Only problem is, Earl now has suffer working for the Jerkass manager. This leads to Earl socking him in the face after being faced with a cruel boss for a week. This sparks a chain reaction that sends the manager to jail and the stolen wallet guy promoted to manager as the replacement, ultimately helping him way more than just giving back the stolen money.
- Played painfully straight on the My So-Called Life episode "Life of Brian" where the simple plan is to go to the school dance. One kid changes dates, which sets off a chain reaction of people changing theirs, until nobody is happy with what results. Despite sounding comedic, the episode showed what it would be like to actually have to deal with that in real life.
- The MythBusters have often come across myths that, on the surface, seem easy enough to test...and then some factor they hadn't counted on makes it a nightmare.
Adam: You should never expect Plan A to go off without a hitch! Me and Jamie, it's usually Plan D.
- Our Miss Brooks: "The Birthday Bag" sees Miss Brooks' friends try to throw her a surprise birthday party and buy her an alligator skin purse as a gift. Hilarity Ensues.
- Happens often in the series Sanford and Son when not a Zany Scheme. In an example, one episode begins with Lamont bringing in an old Revolutionary War rifle to restore and quickly leaves the title characters wondering if they have accidentally murdered a neighbor.
- Happens all the time in Stargate SG-1, nicely lampshaded in the episode "Off the Grid" after a plan has gone pretty badly wrong:
Jackson: Uhh I have a question: Why would we make the Gate magically disappear BEFORE we had a chance to escape through it?
Worrel: Bad timing?
Jackson: Th-that's got to be the single stupidest thing I've ever heard.
Worrel: Do things always go according to plan in your world, Dr. Jackson?
Jackson: [beat] No. Not usually, no.
- As Arlo Guthrie tells it in "Alice's Restaurant", Arlo tried to do his friend Alice a favor by taking all of her garbage to the dump, but since it was Thanksgiving Day, the dump was closed. He ended up throwing the garbage over a cliff instead, causing him to get arrested for it the following day. However, it ended up becoming a Brick Joke by saving Arlo from being conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War due to his conviction. Arlo finds it outrageous that he's not morally fit enough to "burn women, kids, houses and villages" because he was a litterbug.
- Barenaked Ladies: "Bank Job".
But how do you plan forA bank full of nuns?Well I guess we panickedWe all have taboosAnd they were like zebrasThey had us confused
- The aptly named "It Was Supposed To Be So Easy" by The Streets. The guy has to return a DVD to the video store, withdraw some money at the ATM, give a message to his mother on the phone, and grab the rent money from his house. Simple enough, right? He takes the DVD case back to the store only to discover that he's left the disc at home; he waits at the ATM but his account has insufficient funds; his cell phone battery is dead so he can't call his mum; and the money has disappeared from his living room. He laments:
Today I have achieved absolutely nowtIn just being out of the house, I've lost outIf I wanted to end up with more nowI should have just stayed in bed like I know how
- The RPG Exalted has a dramatic example: as penalty for their actions in overthrowing the Primordials, the Sidereal Exalted, Heaven's bureaucrats, were cursed so that whenever they get together in large numbers to create a plan, it usually goes horribly, horribly wrong. How horribly wrong? Well, seeing as their last great get together resulted in the death of Creation's god-kings (mind you, they kind of deserved it) and could be indirectly blamed for an apocalyptic disease, an invasion by The Fair Folk, the fall of a Golden Age of magic and technology, and untold amounts of Creation's landmass dissolving back into the Wyld, they can only go up from here.
- And that's not even mentioning how the rebellion against said god-kings broke a constellation.
- Fiasco is pretty much "A Simple Plan: The Game". Its tag line is "A game of powerful ambition and poor impulse control".
- This sort of nonsense is de rigueur in Paranoia, but occasionally, you can get a subversion.
- The introduction of the Shadowrun Fourth Edition rulebook has an experienced runner asserting that the scariest words in the world are not "trust me" (since many people in this Crapsack World learn young not to trust others), but "It'll be easy." Then goes on to detail a supposedly easy corporate espionage and sabotage mission that, due to a double-cross by the Johnson's Humanis-connected assistant, ended with two of the narrator's team being fatally shot, as well as the team almost being responsible for the mass murder of a sizable amount of the ork and troll population because of the assistant's poisoning of the stuff that was supposed to go into the rival company's drink to make it taste bad.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: Being a Farce, this play has enough simple plans to qualify for a Gambit Pileup, obviously, none of them work:
- De Guiche plans to marry Roxane to De Valvert to bully her into being The Mistress.
- De Guiche plans to buy off Cyrano with an offering from his uncle, Cardenal Richelieu.
- Christian intends to learn enough of Cyrano to stop Playing Cyrano and woo Roxane himself.
- De Guiche plans to visit Roxane instead of going to war.
- Roxane plans to deceive De Guiche so he will let the Gascon Cadets out of the war by telling him this would be the best Revenge against Cyrano because War Is Glorious.
- De Guiche plans an Uriah Gambit with Christian and a Last Stand for all the Gascon Cadets while he is safe behind lines.
- Christian plans to force Cyrano to tell the truth to Roxane. Even if he loses Roxanes love, his best friend and Roxane can be happy.
- Le Bret and Ragueneau plan to leave Roxane unaware of Cyranos mortal wound when they leave the nunnery to attend him.
- The Playstation game Incredible Crisis revolves around a day in the life of the Tanamatsuri family. The Simple Plan is to get home in time for grandmother Hatsu's birthday party, but the other members of the family get involved in one bizarre misadventure after another. To name just a few: Taneo, the father and a grade-A Salaryman, gets chased around by a giant globe that fell off a statue, and at one point ends up going the wrong way down a busy highway on a stretcher; Etsuko, the mother, gets kidnapped by robbers and eventually ends up piloting a jet fighter into battle against a giant rampaging teddy bear; Tsuyoshi, the son, gets shrunk by weird alien rays, and has to dodge insects while trying to make his way home safely; and Ririka, the daughter, has to protect a tiny UFO while helping it reunite with the "mother" ship.
- Conker's Bad Fur Day
- The whole plot is how Conker's plan of simply going home after a night of drinking doesn't work at all. By the end of it all you get the impression he wished he'd stayed in for the night.
- The real-life development of the game is an example, since the development team started out with the goal of making a generic cute-animal 3D platformer. Quite a lot of delays later, it didn't quite turn out that way.
- Dragon Age: Origins:
- The inital plan to head off the darkspawn is very simple. Cailan leads the main force at the darkspawn horde, Loghain comes around the flank and hits them in the rear as soon as they're fully engaged. Easy, right?
- Loghain's plan is even more simple: He doesn't. And it works perfectly. It's a bit more complicated of course, since the fighting darkspawn plan was also Logain's and had pretty clearly failed before he retreated due to underestimating the enemy numbers (the army is still coming out of the woods, they don't have a flank) making following the original plan a Stupid Sacrifice.
- All of Loghain's plans go this way. He tries to have a rival quietly murdered and it somehow turns into a zombie uprising. He seeks the aid of the Mages, and then his emissary goes nuts and starts a demonic invasion. He sells the poor into slavery, not realizing that he has helped his most hated enemies with a source of cheap but powerful sacrifices. He hires an assassin to take out the heroes, the assassin ends up joining them instead. He tries securing his daughter's rule, and his methods end up leading her to oppose him. He tries pinning the disaster of the battle on the Grey Wardens, and it turns out a few of them not only survived but now they're gunning for him personally.
- The Awakening Expansion has dialogue from Loghain's chief advisor's daughter, who immediately decries her father as an cruel, power-hungry lunatic, implying that his chief advisor thought up every plan, subtly tricked Loghain into believing that he was the one who thought them up, and then hired the worst possible crew to do each task in the worst way ever - all to burn most of Ferelden to ashes so that he could have the largest piece.
- The plan in Mass Effect is simple: fly the Terran Alliance's newest ship to a peaceful colony under cover of it being a test cruise, retrieve the priceless alien artifact that's recently been unearthed there, and have the veteran elite squad member evaluate the hotshot human for potential eligibility into his organization. End result: the colony is attacked by a machine species that hasn't been seen in centuries, the elite agent is killed by a traitor, and a plot by an ancient race of sentient warships to wipe out all intelligent life in the galaxy (again) is uncovered.
- The plan in Neverwinter Nights is incredibly simple. Retrieve the four reagents so that the clerics can assemble a cure for the plague, everyone lives Happily Ever After. Easy, right?
- The plan in Knights of the Old Republic is ridiculously simple. Find Bastila, find a ship, and get off Taris before you are discovered. Easy, right? (Could this possibly be a trend?)
- The main plot of Grim Fandango is the result of two Simple Plans colliding:
- Hector LeMans: Defraud deserving souls of their golden tickets, sell fake tickets to rich people, (un)live in luxury actually keep all the golden tickets to balance out his many crimes and get him to the Ninth Underworld.
- Manuel Calavera: Steal a colleague's work order in order to break a slump and maybe work off his time in the Land of the Dead a little faster. About ten minutes after Calavera's plan is put into action, a chain of events is touched off that completely reshapes the underworld.
- From Borderlands 2 you have the mission Wildlife Preservation. The plan is simple enough: Find Mordecai. Get upgrade to Claptrap. However things really don't go well in the end thanks to Jack kidnapping, doing horrible experiments on, and then killing Mordecai's beloved bird Bloodwing in incredibly cruel fashion.
- In Shadow Warrior (2013), Lo Wang's task is simple — buy an old sword called the Nobitsura Kage from a Yakuza-connected collector named Mizayaki for two million dollars. Things waste no time in going right straight to hell, especially when the demons that also want the sword come calling and invade the place.
- Sluggy Freelance: After a relatively simple plan to steal a Mad Scientist's Displacement Drive Vehicle goes awry and ends up destroying the vehicle and scientist's entire island complex, Torg learns the experience. So, when he decides to try and take down Hereti-Corp he figures the best way is to pretend that they have a Displacement Drive Vehicle, too, try and steal it, and cause so much unintentional pandemonium that it brings the whole company down.
- "I just wanted a Good plan! Torg, that's nigh-foolproof!"
- The tendency for simple plans to go horrible wrong is lampshaded in this Wapsi Square strip. Said simple plan results in being shot at and bringing down a group of smugglers in Cairo.
- Asher of Get Medieval gets a little Genre Savvy (and joins Neithe in Leaning on the Fourth Wall) when planning a breakout attempt, though it may just be his general pessimism combined with sarcasm.
- The plot of Problem Sleuth starts because Problem Sleuth wants to go outside.
- In Schlock Mercenary, Tagon's Toughs are smart enough that if told something should be simple, they immediately start planning for the worst. And not even senior members of the Toughs are allowed to say "What's the worst that could happen?"
- Happens with such frequency in Legostar Galactica that Captain Smith has started viewing it as little more than a mild, entirely routine annoyance, sighing "of course it is" whenever he's informed of some new, bizarre, unpredictable development.
- In Stand Still, Stay Silent, Reynir got himself hired as an unpaid kitchen helper on a merchant ship in hope to be able to get off at the ship's destination, which he turned out to not be allowed to do for safety reasons. He then noticed that the ship was delivering food supplies, assumed that they were going where he wanted to go and hid in one of the crates. These crates were for a military crew exploring the Forbidden Zone and the safety reasons mentioned earlier mean that he's stuck with them until their own safe ride comes to pick them up. In a few weeks.
- Marilith: A frequent and persistent problem. Really an entire page could be dedicated to this, but here's a few of the bigger ones.
- Kidnap the heir to a major corporation, ransom her back to her father, and use the money to finally retire in Argentina. What could go wrong? Well, the subject could lose her arm in a freak accident, forcing you to take more jobs to buy her a new one. And the time this costs you could result in cops, mercenaries in their employ, and a Psycho for Hire who's In Love with Your Carnage all coming after you and her. And that could cause multiple shoot-outs, Mexican stand-offs, and general drama and chaos, culminating in a climactic series of battles where you get sliced with a fire ax, shot in the stomach, attacked by the hostage's father wielding a katana, and ultimately adopt the hostage and flee for your lives, leaving behind the man who loves you before he can spit it out! Hypothetically speaking.
- Rob a bank to quickly solve your financial woes? Would have gone off without a hitch, except Marshall Hunter visits that same bank while they're still there, effectively preventing their retreat and actually intervening when a hostage decides now is the ideal time to commit suicide.
- Contract on an unarmed homeless guy who is nonetheless too sick and twisted to be put into words? Not only was the guy innocent, turns out your employer was actually Valentino, a Psycho for Hire who's In Love with Your Carnage and a firm believer in Join or Die.
- Take out a contract on a teacher who molests her students? Three teenagers have chosen today to become famous by shooting up the school.
- One of Marilith's employers is smart enough to have contingency plans for this, namely Marilith herself purchased as "insurance". Sure enough, the car-bomb fails to kill the target, and while Marilith is more than capable of finishing the job, she has to shoot through quite a lot of people, including the partner of Christi, who goes on to become a persistent thorn in Marilith's side but eventually also teams up for Enemy Mine, so this one actually worked out okay.
- It's simple. Rob the head of the local Russian Mafia; you've literally done this before. Except it results in a Mexican Stand Off, and then the guy has a heart attack right in front of you. And he was poor anyways, because Valentino has been taking over the organized crime so as to better hunt you down. This one also results in an Enemy Mine team up against Big Bad Valentino.
- Rob the Big Bad's armored car. Goes off without a hitch, and the Big Bad even shows some previously unseen Benevolent Boss traits, telling her men not to sacrifice their lives for nothing. Because this is All According to Plan, and she is inside the back of the fucking car, with a machine gun.
- Being written by the same author as Marilith above, it's really no surprise that this shows up in Spinnerette. With all of their powers swapped, Dr. Universe, Greta Gravity, and Spinnerette need to steal one of the CK mines responsible, to study how to reverse the process. Simple enough: last time General Evescroft used one on you for protesting, so protest again, and when he tries to use another one on you grab it and run. It's barely even illegal. Except he quickly realizes something is up, captures all three of them without using a CK mine, and decides it's time to make Universe An Offer You Can't Refuse.
- Homestar Runner: A number of Strong Bad Emails turn out this way. A simple e-mail asking if Strong Bad has ever been on a road trip leads to him and The Cheat being locked in a car all day, and a pretend pizza place made up to meet some girls results in an actual, well-reviewed pizza place.
- Survival of the Fittest has an ongoing subplot about escape that is quickly going in this direction.
- Anika just wanted to get some water for her parents. Then an eagle mistook her toy for lunch.
- Being a Dungeons & Dragons campaign where a few bad die rolls can cause everything to go south, Critical Role has a lot of these.
- Campaign 1, Episode 31. Scanlan is tasked with creating a distraction for the rest of the party. Highlights of the ensuing events, thereafter dubbed "Scanbo", include a spree of triceratops-based vandalism, the demise of numerous guards, a fight with a Goliath on the roof of a burning mansion, and a dramatic leap from a rooftop.
- Much more seriously in Campaign 2, Episode 26. The plan was to ambush a band of slavers (who had kidnapped 3 of their party members) by knocking a tree into the path of their carts, while Nott (the party's Goblin Rogue) sneaks into their caravan and frees the prisoners. Several horrible lockpicking rolls later, combined with the enemy Druid rolling extremely well to resist Beau's Stunning Strike, and the battle quickly turns against the party. And then things go From Bad to Worse... Mollymauk gambles with Blood Maledict on the slavers' boss, and knocks himself unconscious. Helpless and in melee range with the boss, Molly ends up the first permanently killed party member in either campaign. What was a simple plan ends with one PC dead, the rest traumatised, and no prisoners freed.
- One of the most memorable occurred in Campaign 2, Episode 35. The plan? Investigate a shady deal at the docks and interrogate one NPC. A few bad Stealth and Deceptions rolls later, and a fight breaks out, resulting in the party killing the suspicious ship's entire crew. The guards hear and commotion and are on the way, so the party, desperate for an escape route, decides to board the ship, raise anchor, and sail it out of the harbour. That's right, an attempt to talk to one NPC resulted in the party accidentally becoming pirates.
- Played with in Generator Rex. Noah makes a very detailed plan to have the perfect prom night with a girl that's out of his league. He takes into account her friend's hilariously bad luck and invites Rex, knowing that he could survive any accident she may cause by her clumsiness. What he doesn't take into account is that Rex is being harassed by a giant monster bunny that wants him dead. This ends with all of them inside a tank trying to get rid of said bunny while on their way to prom.
- A villainous example appears in the Jem episode "Broadway Magic", in which using a forged letter from "Rio", the Misfits are able to lock Jem in the crown of the Statue of Liberty. However, the Misfits are unaware that Jem's earrings are part of a illusion-creating computer. The show plays this trope straight in many episodes.
- Skysurfer Strike Force. Jack Hollister has a simple plan: go talk to the expert who possibly installed Cybron's AI brain. The guy's in prison, so this should be easy. Right?
- Subverted in an episode of Storm Hawks, where the plan to infiltrate a Cyclonian prison base is (to the audience) simultaneously planned out and executed thanks to Flash Forwards, thereby invoking the spirit of an Unspoken Plan Guarantee.
- "Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the face." —Mike Tyson.
- Paraphrasing Helmuth von Moltke the Elder: "No plan of operation survives contact with the enemy."
- Germany's pre-WWI deployment/'war' plansnote To wit:
- Aufmarsch I - isolated Franco-German war, perhaps with Germany's allies helping her out (Italians attack on Franco-Italian border and both Italy and Austria-Hungary send forces to Germany). France will be on the defensive because she will be grossly outnumbered, so to bring about a (favourable) end to the war Germany (and her allies) will have to attack her. Operational Plan after the deployment of the entire German Army in the west is to launch an offensive through Belgium-Luxembourg with most of the German Army and rely on the Austro-Hungarian and Italian forces to Hold the Line on the (pre-war) Franco-German border. Aufmarsch I West looks less and less likely to be used as strength of Franco-Russian alliance is made clear and Britain aligns herself with France, making Italy unwilling to support Germany. It is scrapped as it becomes clear that an isolated Franco-German war is an impossibility, and that Germany's allies won't help her even if it did happen somehow.
- Aufmarsch II West - War between Franco-Russian Entente and Germany, with Britain maybe assisting the Entente and Germany's allies (Austria-Hungary, Italy so long as Britain doesn't join France) maybe helping her. 80% of German Army in west, 20% in east. France and Russia will attack because they have the larger force, so Germany will be on the defensive in at least the first operation/campaign of the war and execute a counter-offensive against the French offensive when it comes - but instead of pursuing retreating French force, 1/4 of German force in west (20% of total German force) will transfer to east to launch counter-offensive against Russian offensive. Aufmarsch II West becomes the main German deployment plan as Germany's strategic situation worsens in the immediate pre-war years. Aufmarsch II West is implemented in August 1914 note .
- Plan XVII is a 1911 French plan designed to counter Aufmarsch II, in which the French launch an offensive with c.50% of their forces into Luxembourg and Belgium and thereby either meet the Germans coming the other way (if the Germans launch an offensive) or they push through and invade Germany (if the Germans are on the defensive). A Russian offensive into East Prussia is timed to co-incide with the Plan XVII offensive.
- Aufmarsch I Ost - War between Franco-Russian Entente and Germany, with Britain maybe assisting the Entente and Germany's allies (Austria-Hungary, Italy so long as Britain doesn't join France) maybe helping her. 60% of German Army in west, 40% in east. France and Russia will attack because they have the larger force, so Germany will be on the defensive in at least the first operation/campaign of the war and execute a counter-offensive against the Russian offensive when it comes - but instead of pursuing retreating Russian force, 1/2 of German force in east (20% of total German forces) will transfer to west to launch counter-offensive against French offensive. Aufmarsch I Ost becomes a secondary deployment plan as it's feared that the French offensive will succeed if it's not countered more quickly (as in Aufmarsch II West).
- Aufmarsch II Ost - isolated Russo-German war, with France neutral at first but maybe attacking Germany later. If France helps Russia then Britain may join them, and Germany's allies (Austria-Hungary, Italy so long as Britain doesn't join France) might help her in turn. 60% of German Army in west, 40% in east. Russia may launch offensive because she has a superior force (and counts on eventual French involvement), but if she doesn't then German forces will launch offensive instead. After battle(s) against Russian force is/are won German force in east will remain in east and pursue retreating Russian force. German force in west will execute a defence, perhaps including a counter-offensive, without reinforcement. Aufmarsch II Ost becomes a secondary deployment plan as it becomes clear that an isolated Franco-German war is an impossibility and it's feared that the French offensive will succeed if it's not countered with more force, albeit slower (Aufmarsch I Ost), or more quickly and with more force (Aufmarsch II West).