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Chain of Deals

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"He traded sand for skins, skins for gold, gold for life. In the end, he traded life for sand."

Alice needs something from Bob, but Bob wants Alice to get him/her something from Carol, who wants something from Denise, etc. etc. etc.

In a comedy, the chain either collapses or is rendered moot at the end. One common way of this happening is that the item the character at the end of the chain received breaks or is otherwise unsatisfactory, and the character decides to take his original bartered-away item back. The next character decides that, if he doesn't get what he wants, he'll take his original item back as well, and so on and so forth all the way back up the chain. An alternative to this is that character Z wants what character A originally needed, thus closing character A off from the loop.

This is common enough in fairy tales to have its own Aarne-Thompson type number (550). The best-known variants are "Ivan Tsarevitch and the Grey Wolf" and "The Golden Bird", both of which follow the same pattern: The protagonist is tasked (by a wolf in the first story, a fox in the second) to steal a bird from a castle. He gets caught, but the king of the castle offers to give him the bird if he'll steal a horse from the second castle. He gets caught again, and sent to fetch a princess from a third castle in exchange for the horse. In the end, with the help of the wolf/fox, he manages to keep all three.

In video games, this can be an extension ("extension" being the key word) of a Fetch Quest, as once you've fetched (or otherwise acquired) the first item, you just have to "fetch" the NPCs willing to trade for it.

See also Fence Painting, Plot Coupon, Sidequest Sidestory, Linked List Clue Methodology and Match Maker Quest. Not to be confused with Chain of People.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One of the many, many gadgets Doraemon has is a straw that enables a Chain of Deals to give the wielder what they want.
  • The One Piece mini-arc Hatchan's Sea-Floor Stroll starts out with one of these.
  • In the events of Hyouka's school culture festival, Oreki is given a broken pen from his sister, which (after many swaps and turns involving a bunch of random objects, and eventually helping the club win a contest) turns into something that provided the key information to solve the mystery of the arc.
  • Seigi no Mikata has Sumiko wanting to go on vacation. The whole charade begins with a new employee asking her to reserve a seat for the flower viewing and gives her a branch of cherry blossoms. On her way home, a woman asks her to lend her the branch to show to her bed-ridden relative — Sumiko gives her the branch and receives a bag full of organic vegetables. She leaves the vegetables with a colleague of hers, receiving tickets to a play for helping her colleague to get her picky kids to eat vegetables. When trying to cash the ticket in, she's approached by men who want to buy the ticket off of her for a famous woman to view the play and the woman gives her a rare, limited edition bag. Said bag later gets given to the vice president of Sumiko's company because a friend of hers wanted to buy such a bag, but it was sold out and gives Sumiko tickets and a reservation for a 10-Day Luxury Trip abroad.
  • An episode of Kiniro Mosaic has Alice doing this due to reading Straw Millionaire (see below). She starts with couple of dolls which she trades with Isami for a picture of Aya and Yoko, Aya herself takes the picture and gives her an animal book, Alice gives the book to Kuzehashi after which Karasuma gives her a bunny hood, Yoko takes the hood and gives Alice tap water, what Alice gives it to Karen who thanks her by giving her an 10,000 yen ring. She feels bad for getting such a valuable item so cheaply and "trades" it with Isami for Shinobu.
  • An episode of The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. has Saiki forget his wallet, leaving him unable to pay a 980 yen bill. Since his Apport Power has a 10% leeway in what he can receive from a trade, he uses it multiple times to exchange his 500 yen socks for a 1000 yen note...which leads him with more problems that he needs to solve as he inadvertently gets Kaido and his dad in trouble, making him comment he should have just washed dishes.

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: Occurs in a couple of Carl Barks comics, in particular when Donald Duck's nephews are involved, who seem to be quite good at this. Maharajah Donald in particular contains two instances of this:
    • The story starts out with the nephews cleaning Donald's garage under the pretense that they'll get to keep anything Donald doesn't want, of which the only item in that category turns out to be a stub pencil. They trade it to a nerdy pig for a ball of string, then swap that with a knife from a kite-flying kid, followed by exchanging the knife for a silver belt buckle. "Some hours later", they've worked their way up to a camera, which they exchange for a pearl, which winds up getting the eye of a rich man working on a necklace for his wife who trades them the pearl for a round-trip steamship ticket to India.
    • Later, towards the end of the comic, Donald is set to be fed to the royal tigers the following morning. The nephews, searching for a way to free him, happen across another old stub of a pencil and begin exclaiming that they're rich. And rich they become, as they trade that for a good luck charm, then that for a minah bird, then that for a pair of binoculars. By "Early dawn!" they've worked from there up to 500 pounds of cat food, which they throw over the wall of the tiger pit to feed the tigers, thus making them not hungry anymore when Donald gets thrown in.

    Fairy Tales 
  • Older Than Print: The Japanese legend of the straw millionaire is this trope played completely straight. A poor peasant prays to the goddess of mercy for relief from his miserable life. She tells him to travel west with the first thing he picks up off the ground on leaving the temple, which turns out to be a piece of straw. He trades through his travels until fortunate circumstances lead to him being married to a millionaire's daughter. One unique difference, however, is that the tale generally has most if not all trades actually consist of the peasant freely giving what he has to someone in need without expectations of payment, but receiving items as tokens of gratitude.
  • The Brothers Grimm:
    • In one fairy-tale, Hans trades all the way up to marrying a Princess.
    • In another fairy-tale, Hans trades all the way down to nothing (but is still happy, because the last thing he traded for was a freaking huge millstone that did nothing but weigh him down).
    • "Death of the Little Hen": The Hen starts choking on a nut, so her husband, the Rooster, rushes off to the well to get her some water. The well will only give him some water if he brings it a nearby bride's red silk shawl. The bride will only part with the shawl if the Rooster recovers her wreath, which is caught in a tree. By the time the Rooster completes the quests and makes it back to the Hen with the water, she's already choked to death.
  • There is a Czech fairy-tale "About the Little Rooster and the Little Hen". The Little Hen and the Little Rooster go searching for nuts (strawberries in another version) together, and the Little Rooster suggests they share everything they find. The Little Hen does share her nut, but the Little Rooster gets greedy and eats a whole nut by himself. He chokes on it and sends the Little Hen for water. The longest chain has the Little Hen asking the Sky to give dew to a Meadow, then the Meadow will give grass to a Cow, then the Cow will give cream to a Malster, then the Malster will give draff to a Sow, then the Sow will give bristles to a Shoemaker, then the Shoemaker will give shoes to a Seamstress, then the Seamstress will give a headscarf to a Well, and then the Well will give water to her and she will give the water to her Little Rooster. The Sky has mercy on her and gives the Meadow dew. Poor Little Hen only takes a beakful of water from the Well. In one version, she comes too late and the Little Rooster dies; in the more commonly known version, she gives him water and he jumps on his legs, healthy, and crows happily.
  • In a Russian fairy tale a rooster choked on a bean. His hen hurried to the housewife asking for some butter to lube rooster's throat, but the woman needed some milk from the cow, who needed the farmer to cut some grass for her, but the farmer needed a scythe from the blacksmith, so the hen ran to the smith, got a scythe and unwound the sequence. Naturally, cynical Russians spoofed the story, so when the hen reaches the blacksmith...
    Hen: Oh, good blacksmith, please give me a scythe. Our farmer will cut some grass for the cow, who will give milk, which the housewife shall churn into butter that I will lube rooster's throat with for he choked on a bean.
    Blacksmith: Why sure, I can give you a scythe, but I also have some butter, wouldn't it be easier if I just give it to you?
    Hen: Yeah? And fuck up such a cool quest?!
  • The Old Woman and the Pig, wherein the old woman implores a whole sequence to do something to the person before them to get the pig to jump over the stile. The last one does so, and the whole cascade ensues.
    Old Woman: Cat, kill rat! Rat won't gnaw rope, rope won't hang butcher, butcher won't kill ox, ox won't drink water, water won't put out fire, fire won't burn stick, stick won't beat dog, dog won't bite pig, pig won't jump over the stile, and I shan't get home tonight!
  • Inverted in several stories, with each succeeding item being worth less than the one traded away:
    • A Scandinavian fairy tale about a man who bets someone that his wife loves him no matter what, and to prove it he has the other man listen by the door while he relates to his wife how he didn't take the cow to the market this morning, but traded it for a horse, which he then traded for a goat, and so on until he finally tells her that he traded a rooster for a meal since he was hungry, so essentially he gave the cow away with nothing to show for it.
    • In the tale of "Mr Vinegar", the titular character's house is destroyed and he and his wife are left with nothing but the door. By chance, Mr Vinegar is able to recover forty guineas when he drives off a group of thieves, but when he goes to market the next day, while he initially succeeds in buying a cow, he then trades the cow for bagpipes that he can't play, the bagpipes for gloves because his hands are cold, and then the gloves for a stick because he's tired. As Mr Vinegar returns to his wife, a parrot mocks him for making a series of bad deals, and when he tosses the stick at the bird he is forced to return with nothing, earning a serious beating from his wife.
    • In Hans Christian Andersen's "What the Goodman Does is Always Right", a man trades a horse for a cow, the cow for a sheep, the sheep for a goose, the goose for a chicken, and finally the chicken for a sack of shrivelled apples. Two Englishmen who witness these trades say that the man's wife will give him no end of grief for it, and the man says that no, she'll hug him and declare that what he does is always right. The Englishmen offer to bet him a hundred weight of gold on the matter and he says no, only a bushel is enough, since he has only a bushel of apples to wager against them. They all return to the house, and the man recounts his trades; at each step this wife declares that it was a wonderful trade and gives her reasons. In the end, she laughs with delight at the sack of shrivelled apples because she had gone to borrow a handful of herbs from the schoolmistress and been told "Lend?" I don't have anything to lend you. I couldn't even lend you a shrivelled apple!" and now the wife could lend her "...ten, or a whole sack-full! It makes me laugh to think it." The Englishmen cheerfully pay the bet, with their original offer of a hundredweight of gold.

    Fan Works 
  • In Fate Revelation Online, Asuna and her friends end up trapped in one of these, using the travel time to chat about the quest logic and boys. They try to explain the concept to Asuna using the example of getting spark plugs to repair a car and building a series of deals for that. Soon they're confusing which step in the example came where and wish they hadn't taken it to begin with. The girls eventually realize it's a Gift of the Magi Plot but end up failing it due to Zolgen eating the wife.
    • Liz is telling the story to Shirou later on, who ends up thinking they were trying to fix Merlin's car.
  • The Pokémon: The Series Peggy Sue fic Ashes of the Past features this. After being stuck in the Kalos region and unable to help Ash and friends with both Shamouti and Greenfield, Gary Oak resolves to reteach his Alakazam Teleport to avoid missing out on being able to help again, resulting in this trope. The full chain is thus: he needs to borrow Professor Oak's Dragonite, because a man in Geosenge City will give him a fossil for seeing a fully evolved Dragon-type. That fossil can be regenerated into an Anorith, which can be traded for a Liepard, that for a Swoobat, that for a Clefairy, and that for a Gyarados. Showing a Gyarados to Marie in Camphrier Town will get him a letter that he can give to Jacques in Parfum Palace, earning him a Farfetch'd, which he can trade for a Beartic, which he can trade for a Furfrou — and a shiny one, at that. He can then eventually convince a stylist in Luminose City to give the Furfrou a stylish haircut, which he can show to the Gym Leader, Valerie, to get a Focus Sash, which he can trade in Anistar City for a Silk Sash, which he can give to a girl in Luminose for a Pokémon that can dance, which he can then show to someone in Courmarine City for a Heart Scale, which he can then give the Move Relearner to reteach Alakazam Teleport. Got all that? Now, listen to this: when he talks to Professor Oak to get the Dragonite, he learns that he could have borrowed Misty's Gyarados or Ash's Totodile (who can dance), and the professor not only knows someone who has a Clefairy, but has in his possession a Focus Sash, a Silk Sash, twenty Heart Scales, and a TM for Teleport. Gary is understandably frustrated, but since he went through the trouble of building the list, he borrows Dragonite and Gyarados, leaving him with an Anorith, a shiny Furfrou, and a Teleporting Alakazam.
  • Much of the comedy in To Get Away From It All comes from Fuyuhiko, of all people, undertaking one of these. To get a car, he makes a bet with Kazuichi hinging on which of them can get a date first. To get a date, Fuyuhiko has to find makeup, a scarf, a dress, and a wig for Touko so she will give him advice. To get the scarf from Gundam, he has to convince Ibuki and Yamada to switch rooms. The trope is justified (being on a school trip, Fuyuhiko can't simply buy the required items) and lampshaded.
    Chiaki: I don't want to initiate another sidequest for you, Kuzuryuu-san.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Pirates of the Caribbean films tend to enjoy these types of deals and counter deals: In At World's End, Will Turner needs the Black Pearl to rescue his father, but Sao Feng promises it to Beckett; Beckett wants Jack Sparrow's compass, which Will eventually barters with Beckett, though Davy Jones' condition is the murder of Calypso; but the pirates want Calypso alive, and Barbossa wants her released, though Sao Feng thinks he's already captured her... while Jack swans through it all messing up everyone's chains looking for immortality... which he (sort of) had before the pirates came to rescue him because Barbossa needed — oh, you get the point.
  • In the movie The Comrades Of Summer, the Russian baseball team needs a new backstop. One of the players steals the coaches Walkman and goes through a series of trades in this style. In the final trade he gets a new backstop and two new Walkmans.
  • The American Astronaut has Sam, who must return the late king of Venus to his family in Earth, to do so, he must provide Venus with a new king; so he will give the owner of Jupiter a woman and he will give in return The Boy Who Saw A Breast so he can be the new Venusian king. The woman for the Jupiter ruler in turn, is a clone of Eddy, the owner of the Ceres Crossroads who wanted a cat.
  • Marcello Marcello turns this ad infinitum, considering it is supposed to be a Romantic Comedy.
  • A minor bit in Death Grip has Mark describe how he set up a stable cycle of pills, soap, and money at the group home he was at, the chain only ending because one of the people trading pills for soap actually needed those pills and died as a result.

  • The 1980s children's novel The Seventeenth Swap is about a boy who wants to buy a special pair of boots for his crippled friend, but can't afford them. What he does have is a rare stamp that he trades to a stamp collector, and sixteen swaps later, he's able to get the boots.
  • Orca follows this trope, as Vlad has to fulfill a series of deals in order to obtain a cure for a friend.
  • Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's children's book The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish has the protagonist trade his father for two goldfish, then have to unravel the chain that resulted afterwards to get his dad back.
  • John tries such a chain in Me and My Little Brain after talking to a man who could start with a fifty-cent pocketknife and trade up to a twenty-dollar cow. He manages about nine or ten trades easily, but the chain collapses because he never considered what he would want out of the whole deal. He accepts a piglet as payment in the final trade, but since he can't keep it at home or afford to board it elsewhere, the other boy offers to take it back.
  • In Henry Reed's Big Show, Henry goes to visit an auction, and starting out with some fireplace tools that turn out to be valuable to another bidder who missed them, he parlays the two dollar bid on the tools through to another item and another, until he ends up getting an item and two dollars for his item, finally ending up with two items that the owner bid $40 apiece, a lot of money to Henry. By the time he's finished he's essentially traded things so that he ends up getting something worth $100, which cost him nothing because he got the original $2 back during one of the trades.
  • One Fine Day, an old children's book in which a fox gets his tail hacked off for trying to steal a woman's goods; in order to get it back he has to give her a sewing needle, leading to a chain of deals.
  • This is how the Deveels in Aspirin's Myth Adventures series make their fortunes. The graphic novel even contains a visual representation of a chain of deals that begins with a coat hanger and concludes with a giant ruby.
  • In the Star Wars Legends, this is the species hat of the Squibs. The more complex and outrageous the deal, the more prestigious it is.
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is about the chain of deals that will result if you do what the title says.
  • Francis Spufford's Alternate History novel Red Plenty has a Soviet black marketeer whose entire business is built on these kind of arrangements.
  • In one of the Jennings books, Jennings sends off for a sheet of free stamps from a catalogue, hands them round to his friends, and then discovers they were only free "on approval" and so has to get them back. Unfortunately, his friends have already traded them for numerous other possessions, which they can't demand back because those have been traded for other possessions, and so on.
  • In Tai Pan, Dirk Struan and Jeff Cooper manage to set one up. Impressive since they are the only ones involved.
    Cooper: ...and Venetian glass. Exquisite!
    Struan: Made in Birmingham. New method. I can sell you them for ten cents each.
    Cooper: Ten thousand at six cents each.
    Struan: Ten. Brock'll charge you twelve.
    Cooper: Fifteen thousand at seven cents each.
    Struan: Deal... if you promise to only import from Struan and place another order for at least thirty thousand within a year.
    Cooper: Deal... if you agree to take a shipment of cotton from Charleston to London on the return trip.
    Struan: How many tons?
    Cooper: Three hundred. Standard contract and payment.
    Struan: Deal... if you will act as a broker for us in this year's tea auctions, if we need one.
  • In the Shel Silverstein poem Smart, a boy trades a dollar his father gave him for two quarters, then three dimes, then four nickels, and finally five pennies. He thinks he made a great chain of deals because he has a bigger number of coins to count at the end, but his father knows better.
  • In Gautrek's Saga, Ref receives a gold ring from King Gautrek for giving him a whetstone to throw after his hawk. By presenting the gold ring to King Aella of England, he receives a ship with cargo and two pet dogs with collars of gold in return; by presenting the dogs to King Hrolf Kraki of Denmark he gets another ship and an armour and helmet. He then gives the armour to the warlord King Olaf who in exchange lends Ref his army so Ref can blackmail Gautrek to give him his daughter in marriage. This works because every king wants to surpass the generosity of the others, and especially Gautrek's.
  • A Simple Survey: In one short story, the narrator had dropped a 100 yen coin, which another person found. The second person used it to bet on a horse race, and won, getting a hundred times the money back. They then used this in pachinko, getting even more money, but a robber stole it all. Then a random bystander intervened, causing the money (in an attache case) to fall down a slope. Yet another person picked it up and used it for day trading, gaining an immense fortune, and donated half of this to children in a poor country. This then somehow led to oil being discovered in that country, lifting it out of poverty.
  • A variant of this occurs in one Sesame Street picture book where Ernie tells Bert to wear a pot on his head and when Bert asks him why on earth he would want to wear one, explains that he broke his piggy bank so he had to put its change in the cookie jar, then put the cookies in the milk bottle, then the milk in the flower pot, then the flower in a kangaroo's pouch, then the kangaroo's baby in a bird's nest... His account of this chain of "moving things from one place to another" goes on for quite a while, until it finally concludes with him admitting that he put the goldfish in Bert's cowboy hat. When Bert demands to know how he's going to be able to play cowboy without his hat, Ernie simply places the pot back on Bert's head and says, "Giddyap, cowboy!"
  • Alvin's Swap Shop has the eponymous main character take up ownership of a "swap shop", starting with a "trained ant" and moving up to having the entire shop full from trading.
  • Second Chance Cat Mysteries: In book 1, Sarah Grayson explains that she got her house this way, over the course of a few years. She cleaned out a barn, which had an old Volkswagen beetle (which hadn't been driven in twenty-five years) in it; the owner said if she could get it out, it was hers. She did, then got her stepbrother to fix it up a bit, traded it for an old MG, traded that for a camper van that she lived in for six months, traded that for a one-room cabin that she and her college roommate lived in for their last year of college, and finally used the cabin as a down payment on her house.
  • Gordon Korman's book The D Minus Poems Of Jeremy Bloom has Jeremy do this in one of his poems, trading away his telescope, but then winding up trading his new prize for something else, over and over, until he finally learns the guy he'd originally traded the telescope to had swapped it for something, and the telescope's new owner is willing to trade it for Jeremy's latest possession. So in the end, Jeremy gets his telescope back and everyone's happy.
  • In The Discworld Atlas, Dolly "Diamond Dol" Bodkin, the source of the Atlas's information on The Great Outdoors, arrived in the area with a mule and some sacks of rice, and quickly found that all the isolated groups that had settled in the area wanted something one of the others had, eventually ending up with some very nice furs which she used to found the Haddock Creek Trading Company.
  • Winnie the Pooh: In a storybook where Pooh and the gang reenact various fairytales, the third chapter which adapts The Rooster and the Mouse has Pooh break his favorite honey pot and asks Christopher Robin for some paste to fix it; this soon sends he and Piglet into a sequence of deals to obtain specific things should they have their request fufilled: Christopher Robin asks for a bunch of carrots from Rabbit, who wants a loaf of bread from Kanga, who wants wood for her fire from Eeyore, who wants a drink of water from the bubbling stream.
  • The Mystic Archives of Dantalian has a story like this, starting with a red paper clip, and ending with a teddy bear.
  • The Seven Geases by Clark Ashton Smith is about the magical version of this.

    Live-Action TV 
  • M*A*S*H:
    • The plot of the episode "For Want of a Boot". Hawkeye needs a new pair of boots. Supply sergeant Zale will send in the requisition form if Hawkeye can arrange for a dentist to fix his teeth. The camp dentist Captain Futterman won't do the work unless Hawkeye gets him a three day pass to Tokyo. Before Colonel Blake will issue the pass, he wants Major Houlihan to stop complaining to the Army brass about him. Margaret agrees to not send in a negative report on Colonel Blake if Hawkeye will throw a birthday party (including a birthday cake) for Major Burns. Corporal "Radar" O'Reilly will get the cake if Hawkeye can get Nurse Murphy to go out with him. Nurse Murphy agrees to do so in return for a hair dryer. Corporal Klinger wants a Section Eight discharge (which must be signed by four officers) for his hair dryer. Unfortunately Hawkeye can't get Major Burns to sign, so in turn each person in the chain refuses to cooperate, causing the deal to collapse.
    • "The Price of Tomato Juice". Radar discovers that Colonel Potter loves tomato juice. Requisitions officer Major Burns refuses to order any unless he gets a pair of nylons. Corporal Klinger has a pair, but won't give them up unless he gets a two day leave in Tokyo. Colonel Potter agrees to give Klinger leave, but the commanding general in Tokyo wants Major Margaret Houlihan to go to Tokyo to be with him. Luckily the Major is entirely willing to cooperate.
      • And then it turns out Col. Potter had forgotten that he was allergic to tomato juice so the whole chain was for nothing.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, this is the B-plots of the first-season episode "Progress", notable for containing the first mention of self-sealing stem bolts, and the fifth-season episode "In the Cards". In the seventh-season episode "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River", we learn that such chains are a tenet of Ferengi philosophy — the "Great Material Continuum".
    Nog: There are millions upon millions of worlds in the universe, each one filled with too much of one thing, and not enough of another. And the Great Continuum flows through them all like a mighty river, from "have" to "want" and back again! And if we navigate the Continuum with skill and grace, our ship will be filled with everything our hearts desire!
    • This example is an unusual instance of this trope being played for laughs and not ending in disaster, even though Nog using O'Brien's access codes puts the chief in serious danger of being arrested, court-martialed, or murdered by Martok at various points in the episode.
  • Stargate SG-1 had one of these in the episode "The Ties that Bind"... which also featured Daniel Jackson as the Butt-Monkey. Daniel and Vala needed to recover an item Vala stole from a former lover so he would reveal how to sever the bond left behind by the bracelets. Doing this involves a chain with other people: the vendor she sold the item to wants the item he traded for it, an ex-smuggler at the monastery she sold that item to wants his old shuttle back, and the Lucian Alliance that has the shuttle isn't going to part with it so they have to steal it. Predictably, even when they finally get all the items back to their rightful owners, the bracelets' owner reveals that he doesn't know how to sever the connection but he thinks it will wear off...eventually.
  • Francis in the Malcolm in the Middle episode "Reese Drives" starts one of these in an attempt to fix a hole in the roof of the lodge where he works, agreeing to make exchanges between just about all the loggers in the community. The problem for Francis is that it's a chain of promised deals, and he keeps making grander and grander promises to try to ground out the chain at something he can manage. He keeps going unsuccessfully until they find out it's rapidly becoming a complete sham and kick the crap out of him.
  • An episode of Grey's Anatomy features a chain of kidney donations, where patient A's relative will donate to patient B, patient B's relative to patient C, etc. The chain almost falls apart at a number of occasions.
  • An episode of New Amsterdam (2018) features a similar kidney chain which also threatens to fall apart repeatedly.
  • Happens in an episode of Dark Angel as a side note rather than a plot point. Apparently this sort of thing is common given the setting.
  • Rain attempts to pull one off in order to obtain hot concert tickets (Ron has backstage passes and wants a date with Chelsea, Chelsea wants an appointment with an exclusive stylist which Mallory has, Mallory wants someone to produce a demo tape which Hal can do, Hal will work for food...) in the Naturally, Sadie episode "Whose Line Is It Anyway?".
  • An Episode of Breaker High, Sean and Jimmy need kitchen access from the chef to bake a pizza, who will only give them the key in exchange for a manicure from Ashley in exchange for phone minutes from Alex in exchange for Denise repairing his shorts in exchange for some Dramamine from Max in exchange for Max's Boombox from Captain Ballard in exchange for a written note from Max forged by Tamira in exchange for a picture of Max from Cassidy, who gives it to Sean "for the school yearbook" and takes it back when she realizes what it's really for, causing Sean to continually try shoddy alternatives as the chain falls apart.
  • Al from Married... with Children did this using a barter system to get a recliner. He unfortunately has to undo it to get back the shoes (the ones he usually sells and what he started the system with) when he finds that his boss is coming for an inspection.
  • In The Office episode "Garage Sale", Dwight attempts to trade up to "the finest item" at the warehouse Garage Sale via one of these, starting with a single red thumbtack. This is a Shout-Out to the "One Red Paperclip" project (see Real Life, below).
    • Amazingly, he's able to work his way up to a telescope, which he ultimately swaps with Jim for a packet of "miracle legumes".
  • On The Unusuals, the B-plot of the episode "One Man Band" involves Casey having to do one favor after another for her fellow cops (each of which involves having to do a new favor for someone else) so she can arrange for a friend of a friend to be sprung on a minor charge. In the end, she does get him out...just in time to find out that he was actually guilty of the hit and run one of the other detective is investigating, which he can now destroy the evidence of. She fixes the situation by going to the person who requested the original favor: her father, the richest man in the city. He calls in his own favors to get her new evidence which the cops can use to arrest the guilty person.
  • In Eddie Izzard's three-part series Mongrel Nation, there was a scene where Izzard demonstrated the barter system by buying lunch. Result: this trope.
  • In the Frasier two-part episode "Semi-Decent Proposal/A Passing Fancy", Frasier wants to go out with a woman named Claire, but is afraid he'll screw things up. He asks Claire's friend Lana to set the two of them up, which she agrees to in exchange for him tutoring her son Kirby to a B- in History. Kirby however, refuses to make an effort, so Frasier promises Kirby that Roz will be his junior prom date if he gets a B (and keeps it a secret from Lana). Frasier then has to get Roz front row seats to a Bruce Springsteen concert in exchange for her cooperation. Naturally, this being Frasier, all the parties involved run into each other at the same restaurant, Lana mistakes Roz for a hooker, and chaos ensues. But after the chain has been unraveled and everyone has stopped yelling, in a surprising turn for a sitcom (where these kinds of incidents usually end up in No Sympathy) everyone just winds up laughing at the ridiculousness rather than staying mad at each other.
  • In Green Acres episode "Water, Water Everywhere", Mr. Douglas runs out of water and finds it is because someone dug a new well. Every time someone in the episode digs a new well, they take water from someone else's well.
  • The Law & Order episode "Kid Pro Quo": A rich pornographer wanted his kid in a prestigious private school, but was bumped out by a minority girl with better entrance test scores. The pornographer contacts a friend of his in the cement business, who gives a big price break on cement to a building developer who basically gives the headmaster of the school his apartment (which was going Co-Op, but the headmaster didn't have the money to exercise his legal right to first refusal) for free, who in turn bumps the girl for the porno guy's kid. The girl's parents complain to the Head of Admissions (who personally okay-ed the admission). She threatens to raise a public fuss if the decision isn't reversed, leading to her becoming the Victim of the Week.
  • The premise of the A&E reality show Barter Kings, where the two hosts each pick a starting item, go on their own chain of deals, and then reconvene at the end to compare who ended up with the higher value final item.
  • Leverage: Sophie has to run one of these in Congress to get a vote for a bill in "The Gimme a K Street Job", using a series of different aliases and regional accents.
    Nate: Sophie, where are you?
    Sophie: Trying to improve the air quality standards in Massachusetts.
    Nate: For corn subsidies?
    Sophie: No. To get me the fishery concessions that I then trade for logging rights, that get me the redistricting deal that gets me the grant funding that gets me the solar subsidies that finally gets me the bloody stinking corn subsidies. I don't know how anything gets done around here.
  • An Important Things with Demetri Martin sketch portrays a particularly long and redundant chain of deals when a woman goes into labour on a plane.
  • An episode of Zoey 101 titled "The Favor Chain" centers around this. Zoey wants a ride to the book store to meet her favorite author, and when she asks her dorm advisor, Coco, to do it, Coco agrees if Zoey can get Micheal to cook his grandmother's ravioli recipe. Micheal will do it if Stacey will finish their school project by herself while he cooks. Zoey convinces Stacey to finish the project if Zoey can get her a date with Logan. Logan (reluctantly) agrees to go on a date with Stacey if Zoey gets back his class ring he lost in a bet with Dustin. Dustin will give the ring back if Zoey convinces Lola to be his assistant in his magic show. Lola, who's looking after a teacher's baby, agrees to do it if Zoey can find someone else to look after the baby. Zoey gets Chase to do it if Zoey can get a group of comic book nerds to stop trying to befriend him. The nerds agree to leave Chase alone if they can have a computer software that Quinn invented. But when Quinn can't hold her end of the deal because Mark accidentally destroyed her software, the whole chain of favors falls apart. In the end, Zoey stills gets Coco to drive her.
  • Discovery Channel has a series called Alaskan Bush People. One episode features a needs for a generator. The deal chain involves a box of DVDs, a truckload of firewood, and some fish before the generator is brought home to illuminate the cabin.
  • In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "A Hen in the Wolf House", Raina's plan involves one of these — in exchange for her not revealing that Simmons is a The Mole within HYDRA, Coulson will hand over Skye, whom she will deliver to Skye's father in exchange for the Obelisk, which she will deliver to Daniel Whitehall in exchange for him not torturing her to death. Things don't go as planned.
  • In the Madam Secretary episode "You Say You Want a Revolution", Secretary McCord and her staff must bargain with various people, from members of Congress to Cuban officials to a fugitive revolutionary in Cuba, in order to lift an embargo on Cuba. Each deal leads to a more complex deal, and the embargo is lifted.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: In season 2 episode 9 "Vote for Kennedy, Vote for Kennedy," Susie must play speed networking in the Stage Deli between different patrons who have connections with the media networks in order to secure Midge a spot on a big telethon. She's going so fast that at least twice, she ends up trying to negotiate with someone who's not remotely involved in the entertainment business.
  • On My Name Is Earl, during the Prison Arc, Earl meets a man named Glen, who was on his list (before it got confiscated). The thing Glen wants most is to earn all his remaining Camden Scout merit badges. In order to do that, Earl has to make deals with the leaders of the prison gangs. All of them end up forgiving Earl of the resulting debts, because as a result of getting Glen the badges (and getting him paroled), they aren't being subjected to lockdowns.

  • The song "There's a Hole in My Bucket" features a similar situation regarding items needed to fix said bucket. It ends up looping indefinitely:
    • A bucket is required, but there's a hole in it. A straw is needed to fix the bucket, but the straw is too long. An axe is needed to cut the straw, but it's too blunt. A stone is required to sharpen the axe, but it's too dry. Water is needed to wet the stone, but it needs to be carried somehow. A bucket is needed to carry the water, but there's a hole in the bucket...
  • "Cat & Mouse", a children's song by Mike Jackson and Ian Blake, has the mouse try to do a chain of deals to recover her tail after the cat steals it. She finally gets to the crow, who offers her a feather in exchange for a piglet from the sow... who flatly refuses.
    Sow: I know you miss your tail, but think how much I'd miss me baby.

    Print Comics 

  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Bartering With Chief Thundercloud", Miss Brooks sets up a chain of deals to get a new coat. Unfortunately, Chief Thundercloud cuts in and ruins her scheme . . . that is, until it turns out the patient and longsuffering Mrs. Thundercloud demands the chief get her a housecoat from Miss Brooks.
    Chief Thundercloud: Squaw, be quiet!
  • Cabin Pressure: Douglas runs his smuggling operation this way. He started with a cheese sandwich and within months has traded his way up to goods worth 500 euros.
  • One episode of the children's show Jungle Jam and Friends had Millard the monkey constantly trading away what he had, never satisfied, until he finally winds up with nothing but a stick. The the stick saves his life when he falls down a well and it catches on the walls. Then the stick breaks.

  • This is kind of the plot of the musical 13.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A couple Paranoia missions sort of work like this, requiring the PCs to submit an approved form A, which they can't get until another department approves a form B, which they can't get until another department approves a form C... and in some cases, they circle back around to needing an approved form A, at which point they need to do something treasonous (forgery, bribery, blackmail...) to break the loop. Sometimes a bureaucrat indicates that a cash bribe would cost more than the PCs have, but there is this one specific item he hasn't been able to get his hands on, or this one specific citizen he hasn't been able to take out, etc.
  • In 7th Sea, the Vendel (Dutch) have a periodic competition where contestants put into a money pot and each get a small item like a pillow, sword, bag of flour, etc. All contestants have one day to do chains of deals, and whoever has the most profitable item at the end of the day gets the pot.

    Video Games 
  • Several of the The Legend of Zelda games, starting with Link's Awakening, include an item-trading quest of some sort:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening: It starts with the Yoshi doll in the Trendy Game (which you need ten rupees to play). A few places, it's actually required to proceed further in the game — you at the very least need to go through six of the fourteen items in the chain, the bananas (number four) so monkeys will build a bridge for you, and then the honeycomb (number six) to give to the chef in Animal Village, who will tell you how to wake up a walrus blocking your path into the nearby desert. You don't strictly need to complete the chain, but doing so gives you the magnifying glass, allowing you to read the last book in the library, which includes the path you need to follow in the final dungeon. If you know the secret in advance, the lens isn't required.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has two, one in the past and the other in the future.
      • In the past, it starts right after Link shows Zelda's letter to the Kakariko guard protecting the entrance to Death Mountain. After the guard is convinced that Link is allowed by the Royal Family to go to the mountains, he asks him to bring a Keaton Mask to him as a present for his son. From there, Link has to receive a mask from the Happy Mask Shop in Market, sell it to someone and then give payment to the Mask Salesman so he can receive the following mask and repeat the process. After four successful sales, you'll gain access to the full stock of masks; seven of the eight are purely cosmetic, but the last one, the Mask of Truth, allows you to hear hints from the Gossip Stones.
      • The trading sequence from the future is more traditional in terms of gameplay. It starts with a Chicken Egg used to wake up a long-dormant Talon once it hatches, and continues through most of Hyrule by trading items one after another. Some of the deliveries are also timed (for example, the Odd Mushroom must be given away in three minutes or else it will spoil). The final reward is the powerful Biggoron's Sword.
    • The one from Majora's Mask doubles as Chekhov's Boomerang. In your first three days, you must get the Moon's Tear and give it to the Deku salesman in South Clock Town so you can use his flower to reach the Clock Tower. You can do this again in the next 3-day cycles, but instead of using the flower, you can give the town flower deed to another Deku salesman at the swamp to get the swamp flower's deed. And then you can trade that for another deed on the mountains. And that one for another deed at the ocean. And finally, that one gets you a flower at Ikana Canyon and 200 rupees. Interestingly, it's not the final reward of the chain that you want so much as it's what you get along the way: each of the five flowers lets you fly to an otherwise out-of-reach Piece of Heart to increase your health.
    • The Oracle games have one each to get the Level-2 sword (or Level-3 sword if you already have the Level-2 sword in a linked game). Unlike Link's Awakening, this quest is totally optional. It's also possible to avoid it entirely in Seasons. In Ages the chain of deals is to get the broken sword so it can be repaired, but in Seasons the final deal gets you a phonograph that encourages a Deku scrub to tell you how to find the sword in The Lost Woods. Thus you can look the trick up online and avoid having to trade anything. Also in Ages you have to complete another (short) chain to acquire the two keys for the sixth dungeon on rolling ridge.
    • In The Wind Waker, the resident trading sequence is a bit different, in that you're bartering various decorative items between Zunari's shop and the three Traveling Merchants, and every trade requires Rupees as well. But you don't need to barter every item to get the key rewards, which are a Piece of Heart from one of the Merchants and Magic Armor from Zunari.
    • Phantom Hourglass has one that spans through all four quadrants of the World of the Ocean King, and involves all characters that travel in ships (except Jolene). It ends in Molida Island, where Link receives a scroll that teaches him the Great Spin Attack.
  • The fan-made game The Legend of Zelda and the Lampshade of No Real Significance has this as the entire plot.
  • The Phantom Menace has the player engage in a series of trades to get enough cash to pay Watto in Mos Eisley.
  • Suikoden has a classic example, where recruiting a particular member of the 108 Stars of Destiny requires you to run through a long chain in order to get soap for a washing-woman who's run out. When you actually succeed, it turns out that she'd just discovered that she wasn't out of soap after all, but in acknowledgment of the trouble you went through to get her soap, she joins you anyway.
  • Used in Golden Sun: The Lost Age, where you help a penguin cross a stream and get started in a trading sequence that takes you through every little island on the map, eventually unlocking an area with a bonus boss.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses features the "Catherine's Request" and "Shamir's Request" sidequests. They each want something called a "two-toned whetstone". There is little hint on how to obtain it, but when you finish speaking with them, you may notice a Tome of Crestological Mysteries nearby on the ground. If you give this to Hanneman, he will give you the Tome of Comely Saints, which you have to give to Manuela in exchange for the Fire Amulet, which you give to Cyril, so on and so forth... until you end up with one two-toned whetstone, the only one in the entire game. Choose wisely which questgiver you give it to, since in addition to the standard reward(200 renown, the Whetstone and the two Black Sand Steel), you get a Silver Sword if you give it to Catherine and a Silver Bow if you give it to Shamir, along with approval points for the person who gets it.
  • In Pokémon games that let you trade with people online, you can do this kind of trade with real-life players all over the world - with enough careful thought about what people might be willing to trade. In about a dozen trades, you can exchange a level 6 Magikarp for a level 100 Mewtwo. (Eventually the GTS managed to get filled with people offering low-level common Pokemon for level-100 legendaries, and the other way around.)
  • An old Japanese legend tells of a man who started off with a single piece of straw, and traded up until he was rich. This was referenced in two video games:
    • In Shadow Hearts: Covenant, where a sidequest starts off with a man telling the player this story and giving them a straw. Eventually, the player can trade this to get the Infinity +1 Sword for one of the characters. To be fair, it's a pretty, yet magical, steel fan, unless the player makes a wrong trade and ends up with worthless junk (or a small fortune in cash).
    • The legend is referenced and inverted in The Story of Saiunkoku, where a character starts off with money for dinner ingredients, but ends up going through a chain ending in a single piece of straw.
  • In Bug Fables Vi wants to get red paint for her sister Jaune, and must complete a large chain of deals to acquire it.
  • The Wind Road has the quest to Find the Cure! for your poisoned monk friend. You'll need to seek the village doctor, and when you find him the doctor tells you he needs the scales of a rare silver-scaled fish. So you need to find the only fisherman in town skilled enough to procure said fish, but then the fisherman tells you the fish can only be lured by pork. Off to the butcher you go, then, but the butcher asks for you to save his protégé who's abducted by bandits, which you can't turn down due to Chronic Hero Syndrome. Luckily saving the protégé is the last part of the quest, but still.
  • Animal Crossing:
    • The games occasionally force you to go on a variant of this, in which an animal wants to get an item back from another one who borrowed it... but then you go there and discover that that animal lent the item to someone else. You have to keep following the item until you get it and can bring it back to its owner. It can get really weird when half the village is sharing the same handkerchief.
    • Wild World had a particularly egregious example of this combined with some Guide Dang It! in how players could obtain the Golden Axe. By growing a red turnip (which on its own can be infuriating as their seeds can only be purchased before noon on Sundays and require at least 5 days of very precise gardening to grow sufficiently), and trading it to a hungry NPC who can appear randomly any weekday, players have a 50/50 chance to receive a turban. Then, this must be traded to a different NPC who can also randomly appear on any weekday, to have a 50/50 chance at receiving a massage chair. Then, this chair must be given to the town mayor, who will only appear during holidays and selected events, who will then give you a scallop. Finally, you need to wait for another random daily NPC to appear to give the scallop to, and there is once again a 50/50 chance he will give you the Golden Axe. Sure it took you several real-world weeks (unless you resorted to Time Travel) but at least your axe will never break again.
  • A quest in Kingdom of Loathing has you getting caught in one of these while trying to get some stolen comic books back for the Gnomish Gnomads. Not only is the quest optional, the reward is rather underwhelming: the Gnomitronic Hyperspatial Demodulizer, a combat item that does a handful of damage, but gives you a brief boost to all stats if you use it to finish off an enemy. When you finally complete the chain of deals, the quest-giver starts to claim that you'll need to complete another chain of deals to get the Demodulizer's batteries, to which you respond by yanking on his ear until he hands you the batteries himself. The quest also refers to one of the Real Life examples: the only item you actually retrieve yourself is the big red paperclip in the Haiku Dungeon.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Before you even reach the first of the four Fiends of Chaos, you end up partaking in what is effectively a chain of deals. Unlike most cases, however, not all the trades are deliberate; the members of the sequence are an army of Chekhov's Gunmen.
      • The treasure vaults in Castle Cornelia have been bound with the mystic key.
      • Matoya the witch is blind; the crystal eye that gives her vision has recently been stolen.
      • Upon acquiring a ship from Bikke the pirate, you discover that the inland sea is completely contained.
      • Nerrick the dwarf is working on creating a canal, but needs nitro powder; another dwarf in Mount Durergar mentions that there is nitro powder in Cornelia.
      • The prince of Elfheim is victim to a cursed slumber placed by Astos, king of the Dark Elves; another elf in the castle mentions that Matoya is capable of curing the affliction.
      • The king of the Western Keep seeks the Crown hidden in the Marsh Cave nearby. Upon delivering it to him, he reveals himself as Astos, and claims that he can become true elf king with the mystic power of the Crown in combination with... the crystal eye he pilfered from Matoya.
      • Upon defeating Astos and delivering the crystal eye to Matoya, she gives you a jolt tonic in thanks. Upon administering the jolt tonic to the elf prince, he recognizes the Warriors of Light and passes on the mystic key. Upon opening the treasure vault in Castle Cornelia, the Warriors of Light discover a store of nitro powder. Upon handing the nitro powder to Nerrick, he tells you to get your ass out of the blast zone.
      • The Crown also serves a later purpose; the Citadel of Trials, which must be cleared for the mid-game class change, requires proof of valor in order to enter, and the Crown is proof enough.
    • In the Dawn of Souls remake of the game, there's a separate Chain of Deals puzzle that involves trading things between a bunch of dwarves in order to progress in a dungeon.
  • Final Fantasy IX
    • The last four of the Friendly Monsters would request the gem that a previous FM had rewarded to the playernote . However, these gems can still be obtained through other methods.
    • Some of the Mognet requests sees Zidane delivering a letter from one Moogle, who then asks to have them deliver another.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has one in the Level 30 Arcanist quest, set up by your guildmate K'lyhia to get you onto a slaver's ship without arousing the captain's suspicion. Fortunately, all the people involved are in Eastern La Noscea, specifically the Costa del Sol half of the zone. You deliver a message to a fisherman, who gives you a herring to give to a cook. The cook gives you an eel pie, which you can give to Costa del Sol's owner Gegeruju for a hefty purse of gil. His handmaid gives you another note instructing you to give the purse to a dancer, who happily gives you her used undergarment, along with a satchel full of K'lyhia's arcanist gear. The undergarment is given to a trader for a bottle of wine, which you pour for the sailors on shore; the drink is good enough that they drag you back to the ship thinking you can provide them with more to sell for good coin - and coming along on the same rowboat is K'lyhia, who has gotten the sailors' attention by performing as a dancer. While you're getting rowed out, K'lyhia takes the satchel and gears up so she can start flinging spells as soon as she hits the deck, putting her dancer's outfit into the satchel in the process. After defeating Doesmaga, his escape is cut short by the Yellowjacket lawmen of Limsa... as notified by the fisherman, who is a Yellowjacket himself. Afterwards, you deliver the satchel, now containing the dancer's outfit, to your guildmaster, who will deliver it to its proper owner later.
  • All the Mega Man Battle Network games have NPCs who want to trade BattleChips with you. Most of the trades are standalone, but in games 3 and 6, you can make several successive trades to obtain a powerful chip. You can screw the chain up in 6 by dumping one of the in-between chips (DublShot C) in the trader; it's almost impossible to get another one in C code. This sounds like a hard mistake to make — who puts their last one of something in the trader? — but the BN6 boards at GameFAQs get more threads asking about this than anything else.
  • Ogre Battle has at least one of these in the series. The original SNES game, Episode IV, March of the Black Queen had several. The first you see is the powerful Ring of Undead, held by a wizard early in the game who would trade it for a Lexicon of Undead. And then there is the Diaspola chain. You start with some pirates with a copy of The Saga who are looking for a Map, which is in town with a man who is looking for Amatsu that can be found in the trade shop of neighboring town who only buys Furs which an underhanded sneak has and will part ways with if you give him all you money or return his stolen goblet held by bandits who want to hear a Foul Tome you received from a previous stage. Each of these items is worth progressively more than the previous.
  • The desert monkey cave in EarthBound (1994) is basically a Puzzle Chain of Deals. Each door (which usually come in pairs) is guarded by a monkey, who asks for a food item, and on the other side is another pair of doors, as well as chests with food items. There's some lampshading thrown in ("amongst all these doors..."). Thankfully it's funny. Some players still consider it the most frustrating part of the game, mostly because every room looks like every other room and one item turns into something else (thus rendering it useless) after too much time passes. Fortunately, the player's guide (which was originally packaged with the game) eliminated most of the frustration by providing maps. It's also possible to easily get through the dungeon if you have the right food items in advance.
  • Secret of Evermore's Nobilia market blatantly uses this, though it's entirely optional. It's even pretty complex, with multiple traders giving the same item for different exchanges, but the rewards you can get through it are items that permanently boost your abilities, so it's worth your time and resources.
  • Densetsu no Stafy 3 involves one of these as part of a level. In order to acquire the deed to a cave full of treasure, you have to get Jungle Manjuu from a food seller, trade it to a hungry treasure-hunting girl for a shovel, trade the shovel to a pair of lovers for a Bear-san backpack, and finally give the backpack to the cave's owner so that he'll be willing to sell you the deed to the treasure cave.
  • In Dragon Nest, a dishonest merchant dares you to trade rotten apple for gold to get your debt removed. You go and give the apple to an arc then trade it with some mud, then you trade the medical mud for some crystal shards from a sorceress, then you trade the shards for gold.
  • Romancing SaGa involved a large trade quest kicked off when Strom (Water Elemental Lord) demands the "Raincloud Armlet" in exchange for a captive princess. It's in the possession of Adyllis (Earth Elemental Lord), who will only give it up if you give him the Cyclone Shoes, which you can only get by trading the Ignigarde Helmet to Avi (Wind Elemental Lord) by acquiring the Ice Sword for Pyrix (Fire Elemental Lord) in which you must plunk down 20,000 gold or by killing a recruitable character. At any point in the chain, you can decide to brute-force the whole thing and just beat the crap out of the dragon, though and you get an awesome shield as a Item Drop. However that does have some repercussions, by killing Strom you cannot get the optimal amount of jewels for doing the quest normally, are unable to do his Ecology Quest and also getting the chance to fight his Corrupted Form; Slask (Item Drop is the Chaosbringer; A powerful 2 Handed Axe that gives an Intellect boost). This also bars you from exploring his temple later, meaning that you can't get the items inside — including the Water Spirit, which is required for another quest with fantastic rewards. Also there is a trading ability for you to use in which you can trade items with monsters; so a mini chain is possible; Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer indeed.
  • After finding the wind-up key in the crashed airship in Alundra 2, player must talk to certain characters in certain locations, trading items until last one in the chain gives the Infinity +1 Sword.
  • RuneScape:
    • There is an infuriating quest of this type called One Small Favour. By the time your character is halfway through building the very long chain of trades, he/she starts lampshading the ridiculousness of the whole thing. In the end, the original quest-giver doesn't seem to think getting him the original favor was such a big deal as to warrant a reward until your character goes off on him. This quest involves trading favours through twenty steps, culminating in fixing a gnome's runway lights after basically trekking in a complete path around from Port Sarim through almost every other area on the map and ending up on the other side of the world, and then going back. Then the ungrateful bastard who gave you the quest doesn't even give you a reward until you explain what you had to go through for some goddamn logs.
    • There's also one part of the Fremmenik Trials quest. You end up talking to basically everyone in the entire village until you talk to someone who just wants 5000 gold. Still better than the other in that you never have to leave the village, though.
    • The 20th Anniversary had an event for Week 1 which included temporary quests that homage some of the game's most iconic quests. While fetching milk for a redo of the Chef's Assistant quest (the first and easiest quest in the game), they find out that they need to get a bucket...from the questgiver of One Small Favor. Thankfully for the player and player character's sanity, the chain is only four people long this time.
  • One of the subquests in Wonder Boy in Monster Land is this; start with a letter and finish with either a solution to the final dungeon (very handy - that place is a non-logical maze) or a trinket that will take off about a third of the final boss's health instantly (even more handy - if you're properly kitted out, the final boss isn't difficult to kill, making running out of time the biggest problem).
  • In Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, you can buy fireworks for 500 Coins(half of the cap of 999) from a merchant in Moleville, with the number you purchase determining which fireworks go off in the ending credits. You can then trade them to a child for a Shiny Stone, which opens the door to superboss Culex in Monster Town. You can then trade the Shiny Stone to another child for a Carbo Cookie. If you give the Carbo Cookie to another girl, she'll get off the bucket she's sitting on, allowing you to go down the Midas River again.
  • Paper Mario:
    • A rather extensive example occurs in Paper Mario 64, where you deliver letters and get letters in return with the help of Parakarry. While there are letters that are one-and-done, there's also one that starts a chain of 14 letters that you must deliver to NPCs from Chapter 1 to Chapter 7, and completing the sidequest nets you the Lucky Day badge, an item that greatly increases evasion.
    • In Super Paper Mario, Merlee wants a crystal ball from Merluvlee, who in turn wants a training machine (actually a DS) from Bestovius, who in turn wants a mysterious DVD (implied to be porn) from Watchitt, who wants an autograph from Merlumina, who wants to go to sleep. Eventually, her long speeches bore you to sleep, causing her to get sleepy, leading to you completing the chain. Merlee repays you with a free charm and a key that allows you to unlock the Pixl Piccolo.
    • Similar side-quests also happen in the first two games, both of them involving the aforementioned "secret DVD" (originally a tape). My, what lazy censors.
  • Browser-based MMORPG Travians includes several of these, and finally throws in a Lampshade Hanging:
    Tombo: Oh, you're up to your strange swapping deals again?
  • The old game Hacker required you to send a robot around the world trading items to obtain pieces of a secret document, while figuring out how to avoid the security checks on the system you were "connected to".
  • Planescape: Torment: You want information on Ravel? OK, you just need to talk to Ecco, except she won't talk to to you at all, so maybe you should talk to Dolores who doesn't want to talk to you unless you get something from Merriman, who wants to forget, so you need to get a Stygian shard, which you can't pick up without a very special cup that you can get by curing a wizard-reject's alcoholism. Oh, yeah. You have to figure out half of these on your own too.
  • In the Age of Empires II, Mongol campaign, the first scenario involves you riding around trying to coax several different tribes to join you (except one, which is stated as being 'without honor' for no apparent reason). Most of these tribes ask you to do something for them in exchange, often something you can't do until a different tribe joins you. For example, one tribe wants you to bring them a relic, and only monks can carry relics, so you have to get the tribe that gives you monks to join first.
  • Dark Cloud has one of these. The chain begins with a pink lollipop and ends with the single most powerful weapon upgrade attachment in the game.
  • Jay's Journey has one spanning most of the game, most (but not all) of which is required to complete the game. Jay sees this in progress and is more than happy to make bad deals, because he knows it'll all work out in the end. (He gets a bit annoyed when NPCs are slow to give rewards, or when one NPC tries to steal the trade-item-of-the-minute, however.) All of the items have an identical description: "Some trade item".
  • Breath of Fire IV has the Ball treasures, that are needed for the Master Marlok. It doesn't matter at what order you trade with these specific NPCs, they would just upgrade your metal for the next one in the sequence.
  • Clockwork Calamity In Mushroom World: This is a huge part of the game's premise, with getting important non-mushroom items primarily being obtained by trading them items that certain characters want, and said items may be held only by other characters that want something else. All the important quest items can only be obtained by said trades. In-universe, it's how the denizens of Mushroom World get things from each other, but played with given the fact that they do use mushrooms as a form of Weird Currency (Known as "Shroom Mony", or SM).
  • Dungeon Siege II has a chain quest that spans virtually the entire campaign.
  • Dr. Doom does this behind the scenes in Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and you spend the entire game trying to catch up.
  • One of these shows up in Final Fantasy Tactics A2; you're not doing the Chain of Deals, rather you're one of the people in it. You get to see the guy royally screw it up: The step is adamantite for a vial of silver liquid... and silver liquid melts adamantite on contact. Poor sap forgot to wash his hands.
  • Russian quest game Last Year's Snow Was Falling had a subversion of that. Once you understood the 5-step chain of deals and tried to grab the starting item, you were carried away to the next location.
  • In Dubloon, you must trade items on Stern Island to get the map location of East Sea Serpent.
  • Due to the introduction of player-to-player trading, Team Fortress 2 can have thousands of people simultaneously attempting various self-invented chain-trades. In order to get a certain hat for your friend, you have to go to someone else who has that hat, and who wants some other hat that you can get from another friend, etc.
    • Some players have done Red Stapler trading sequences, often managing to climb from a crate to something incredibly valuable.
    • There is actually a whole theoretical model built upon this: Various players do things called "Scrap Banking". For Scrap Banking, the Banker pays 1 scrap for any 2 weapons. In the crafting system, 2 weapons can be turned into 1 scrap if they are from the same class, so in theory the Banker is not losing any "revenue". He then sells the Weapons for 1 scrap each, effectively doubling his scraps with each pass. Any unsold items are crafted into scraps, combined with the others and re-"banked" into more weapons. Rinse and repeat. The problem with this, however, is that any player that can trade (those who have gotten a full version of the game) knows the values of expensive weapons, and would attempt to sell them on their own. The only weapons they'd scrap bank are ones everyone already has, or are widely abundant. This means that very rarely will this work, and if it works, it's only going to net you a very, very low net gain for the effort you put in.
    • With the introduction of Steam Trading, you can now potentially trade up from a lowly, common crate all the way up to a $60 game like Deus Ex, provided you get lucky enough and find the right buyers.
  • Edutainment Game Spanish for the Real World has one activity where the player is given a basket of fruit and a list of (different) fruits s/he is supposed to get, and must trade with the various people at the market for them, leading to this trope. (For example, you have an apple and need to get an orange. However, the person who has an orange only wants a banana, so first you have to trade with the person who has a banana, who wants two lemons, so first you have to trade with the person who has lemons...)
  • The game Darksiders and its sequel features a continuous array of deals that propels the story.
  • The Spirit game, Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron: Forever Free features one near the end. In exchange for a horse's freedom, someone wants a wheel to fix their cart, the blacksmith who has a wheel wants a blanket from Little Creek, Little Creek in turn wants an axe to chop wood with...and said axe can then be stolen taken from Snakefinger.
  • This can happen between three or more players in Heroes of Newerth's and other Defense of the Ancients clones' Single Draft mode where every player is given a choice from three random heroes that can be swapped between other players in your team.
  • In the first series of .hack, one of the least favorite side-quests was to help someone with their trading service, which quickly went horribly wrong because nobody can do an even trade, and one more item had to be fetched in order to even start the chain of deals. Everyone lampshades how irritating this is.
  • An obscure point-and-click adventure entitled The Day the World Broke has a doozy of a chain. To get Carbine the half-Lizard, half-camera (all the non-human characters are half-animal, half-machine) to stop standing in the path of an element valve, which is causing chaos across Earth's surface, you need to fix his lens. The only place to get a lens is the Glass Works, where Carbine doesn't have the best reputation. That's a moot point, though, as the Glass Works is too busy filling orders for new glassware for Lugnut the bartender. So you need to get a note from Lugnut, who'll give it to you in exchange for getting rival bartender Decanter to part with rare bottle of sludge. In order to get that, Decanter wants a recording of a song his mother used to sing him, which requires an instrument that's notoriously difficult to find but fortunately is in the hands of one of Lugnut's customers, Ratchet, who will trade it to you for another instrument which actually doesn't exist, so you need to enlist the help of Phlange, who will help you make something that could pass for it, but in order to get Phlange to help you, you have to get her to stop standing in a different element valve. To get her to do this, you have to call Julius and Bud at Mission Control, who will finally convince her to leave, allowing you to get her help to make the instrument to trade for the other instrument to trade for the recording to trade for the sludge to trade for the note to trade for the lens. Whew.
  • Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures, using randomly generated puzzles, often ends up setting up several Fetch Quests in a row. Bring a Demon Mask to the amateur archaeologist so that he will give you the Obsidian Knife, which you'll give to a native who'll give you a Headdress, which you'll give to a tourist in exchange for a Jaguar Statue, which you'll give to another native in exchange for a rope, which—finally—will be used in an environmental puzzle instead.
  • The Last Story has one that starts with a lunch bag (mandatorily received after a main mission), and concludes with receiving a rare katana in a subterranean prison.
  • In MARDEK Chapter 3, you can find a rare fruit in an underground desert. Giving the fruit to a reptilian shopkeeper gets you Special Ointment, giving that Ointment to a bald priest gets you Hair Tonic, giving that Tonic to a different priest gets you a Romance Novel, giving that Novel to the Princess of an Air Temple grants you a Cake, giving that Cake to a hermit hiding deep in a volcano gets you a random key, that random key opens a random chest in the Earth Temple, that tiny random chest hides a gigantic red dragon, beating that dragon gets you its scales, you can take those scales to a reptilian blacksmith who'll forge you the Infinity +1 Sword for your reptilian party member. There's no way you'd ever figure this out without the Mardek Wiki or Official Walkthrough.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic parodies the way this trope is often played in RPG sidequests: upon arriving to Dromund Kaas City as an Imperial character, you are directed by an Imperial Intelligence operative to say a code phrase to another agent on the other end of the city, who then asks you to deliver a gambling chip to a third agent elsewhere, who tasks you with finding a specific droid... Ultimately, the entire wild goose chaise proves to be a ploy by the Intelligence to get the attention of the Republican spies in a bid to lure them out of hiding.
  • Robopon has the Fetch Quest to get Golden Sunny/Silver C-Cell, which plays out like this.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mass Effect 2 hangs a lampshade on this trope when Shepard is told that Mordin needs a favor before he can be recruited.
      Shepard: Just once I'd like to ask someone for help and hear them say, "Sure! Let's go right now! No strings attached."
    • Mass Effect 3:
      • You need to unify the main Council races to fight the Reapers. The turians aren't able to come unless the krogan help out with the vicious fighting on the turian homeworld, since the krogan are the most powerful ground-fighting force the galaxy has ever seen. The problem is that the krogan hate the turians and the salarians for hitting them with a sterility plague 1500 years ago, and have their own problems with the Reapers, although less of one; they refuse to come unless they get the genophage cured and ideally the Reaper scouts are dealt with. Thankfully, the salarians can be coerced into handing over the closest thing to a cure they have, although unless you sabotage the dispersal they'll sulk and refuse to commit to the mutual defence pact unless one of your friends saves their Councillor from assassins - and if you do sabotage the dispersal, you risk losing a lot of krogan support if the truth comes out.
      • The sidequest "Aria: Blue Suns" if you take the diplomatic route. Track down some artifacts for a weapons dealer, the dealer agrees to do business with Citadel Security, C-Sec agrees to stop hassling the Blue Suns, the Blue Suns agree to join Aria's army. The other option is much quicker: kill the C-Sec officer.
  • Child of Light has a rather short one where a mouse merchant challenges Aurora to "turn an apple into gold". It involves passing an apple to a teacher to obtain his shovel, passing the shovel to a digger for a lantern, then passing the lantern to a mouse miner to obtain the gold.
  • The Shantae games use these in spades, with later entries having a few of them required to progress in the game. Many of them are pretty comedic in nature; for example, at one point in Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, to continue the main story, you need to find a Light Shard. There's a wizard hiding away in Mermaid Falls that has one, but he won't give it to you unless you give him candy. How do we get candy? First you have to go Tassel Town and use your Elephant Stomp ability to dig up ancient remains for a "geneology guy" at the bottom of the tower. Once you give him the remains, he... sneezes on you and gets you sick, complete with Item Get! jingle. Now you need to head back to Scuttle Town and see a doctor for a quick check-up. And naturally, for being a good patient, he gives you a lollipop.
  • Sands of Destruction features a couple:
    • When you visit the Sky Gaol for the second time, several of the prisoners ask you to pass letters and packages between then (why none of them ask you to go find the guard with the keys is never mentioned). Completing the chain nets you a few good items.
    • Talking to certain beastwomen in various towns around the world will have them comment on Morte's good fashion sense and gift her with a gaudy piece of armor. When you find the next woman, she'll take the last piece from your inventory and give you a new one more outlandish than the last.
  • Go Vacation has one in the Mountain Resort as its overworld sidequest. The King of Shanghar wants to find his crown, and the only clue he has to its whereabouts is a pin. You trade the pin up through the people of the resort, grabbing yarn, a bag, a coin, and a jewel among other things until you finally find the crown.
  • Appears in the Game Boy Color RPG of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, starting with a Chudley Cannons jersey (which you have to buy in the brief window that you're in Diagon Alley) and ending with a dragon skin cloak.
  • The Mulan Animated Storybook computer game has a minigame in which one of five soldiers takes one of Mulan's belongings, and offers to trade it for something else. In order to retrieve the item, the player must grab an object from the tent of extra supplies, make an exchange with whichever one of the five offers to make a trade for it, exchange the item received from him for something held by one of the other four soldiers, and proceed until he/she can make a successful trade for whatever Mulan lost. The missing item, the offers the other soldiers make, and the first object the player receives can differ with each play-through.
  • Mimicry Man has this as its entire plot: you play as a Mimic who gets items from characters by showing them another item they like/want and then attacking them and you must somehow move all the way up from herbs obtained from slimes to the fabled Solar Sword to lure in the Hero and defeat him for your Dark Lord.
  • The online RPG Realm of the Mad God doesn’t have any tradable money. Instead, stat-increasing potions are used as currency: Speed, Vitality and Dexterity are the lowest value, Defense and Attack are worth around twice as much (with Def often used as a universal currency), Mana twice as much as that, and Life three times as much again. The Ring of Decades is worth around 8-9 Life due to no longer dropping from enemies, and is usually used for compact storage of value (since players have very limited inventory space by default), or for trading for top-tier equipment, as well as other rare items like character skins.
  • The Closer: Game of the Year Edition has one in the form of exchanging various brands of sodas with other NPCs, starting with giving a Tab you found in Zizek's apartment to one of your fellow Yankees players in exchange for the Dr. Pepper they didn't want. In the end, it's played for comedy when the last person on the chain calls you out for expecting something for all your hard work getting them a Coca-Cola, and you get an achievement for it. An Xbox achievement for a game that's not part of the Xbox game library.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, a Hoo in Wakeport asks for the Bros' help in finding an engagement gift, giving them the plush Zeekeeper he had second thoughts about using. You can then trade the plush for a fruit, the fruit for a Yoshi egg, the Yoshi egg for a picture of Princess Peach, the picture for a rare guidebook, the guidebook for a picture of Queen Bean, and the picture for a Toad's lost camera. The Toad doesn't have anything to give you, but says he saw a bird bury something that looked interesting, which turns out to be an antique ring; the perfect engagement gift. In return for this, the Hoo gives you a whole bunch of stuff.
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps has the "Hand to Hand" trading quest, which starts with receiving a treasure map from a Moki and ends with the reveal of all of the game's collectibles on the world map.
  • Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! has the infamous pencil mission. In the Mystic Marsh level, to obtain an orb from the Professor, Spyro has to find his missing pencil, and the only thing the Professor has on him to help is an egg. Using unprompted observation, the player has to locate several out-of-place details in the level in order to trade off items, starting with the egg, then a seed, then a rubber duck, then a turnip, and finally a coin, whereupon the pencil can be retreived and returned.
  • The first Shepherd's Crossing game has this as its core mechanic. You run a small farm, starting with nothing but Grass, and you must barter your way up through the town's markets until you're able to trade for the town's famous sheep. There's even a flowchart that shows you what you trade for what. The sequel does this in a downplayed fashion: You now use money, but you must successfully raise and sell one animal or crop before you unlock the next one at the market.
  • After clearing Puyo Pop (2001) for the second time, one is thrust onto you, prompting another playthrough of the game in reverse stage order. Upon clearing Dark Prince Castle...
    • ...Carbuncle finds a Dubious Book. The book originally belonged to Witch...
    • ...who gives you the Flame Expander after snatching the book out of Arle's hands. Witch got it by mistake, and it turns out...
    • ...the Flame Expander was meant for Draco. Upon delivering it to her, she gives you the Nohoho Rucksack...
    • ...which, unsurprisingly is Nohoho's. He takes back his rucksack and gives you the Scale Pendant...
    • ...which belongs to Serilly. She gives Arle the Goddess Rune in return, which opens up the extra stage, Trial Labyrinth.
  • In Yakuza and the Kiwami remake, there is the substory named "Quid Pro Quo" ("Pay it Forward" in Kiwami). First you give a drunk some alcohol, and he gives you a tattered coat in exchange. Then you give the coat to a freezing homeless man at a park, who gives you a pair of glasses. You then can give the glasses to a salaryman near strip club Asia who needs them to see the show, and he will provide super-stron adhesive tape developed by his company. You can then give this to a homeless man in West Park aka Purgatory so he can use it to repair his tent. The man recognizes the tape since he used to work at the same company as the salaryman, and gives Kiryu a steel briefcase he found. Kiryu finally can give the steel briefcase, which apparently contains an important prototype, to the panicked salaryman who lost it in a back alley, and he will gift Kiryu his expensive Swiss watch you can sell.
  • The Yakuza 2 substory "Rags to Riches": you first encounter an amateur hip-hop artist who gives you a sample of his beats. When you admit to him that it's terrible, he gives up on the dream and gives you a CD with his samples. Then you encounter a writer who's looking for something that captures today's downtrodden youth. He gets inspired by the CD and gives you his fountain pen. Then a girl who is a fan of the writer runs up to you and asks to trade the pen for her boots. Then you overhear a women who had her scarf taken by a homekess man, and you trade him the pair of boots to cover his bare feet for the scarf. Finally, you return the scarf to the woman for a Swiss watch, which you can sell for a large sum of money.
  • In the "Tricks of the Trade" substory in Yakuza 4, Akiyama challenges his downtrodden "apprentice" Shiobara to turn a single cigarette into an object worth more money than Akiyama can in a few hours. Akiyama trades his cigarette to a nearby gangster for some stomach medicine, which he gives to a nearby old man for some concert tickets, which he gives to a CEO for a business card, which he gives to a businessman for a fancy watch. Shiobara also manages to get a fancy watch out of his cigarette, but it's worth less than Akiyama's, so he fails the challenge. However, the whole story brings Shiobara out of his slump, allowing him to start anew again.
  • One of the first side missions in Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is a contest between Teddie and Zen on who gets to bring an item that Rei wanted, with only a pair of chopsticks apiece to barter with, with the additional caveat that they can only trade up to three times. Elizabeth, the one who organized the contest, explicitly mentions The Straw Millionaire as inspiration.
  • One of the loading screen comics for Princess Connect! Re:Dive has Ilya grabbing a piece of straw and planning to use it for a chain of deals, ending with world domination.
  • Prodigal has two:
    • The first quest is started when you speak to Tara at the Crocasino, and she'll ask you to get some birth records from the library for her. You go to the library and are told you must get an overdue book from Lynn in exchange for the records, and from there, you'll be directed to another NPC, and another, and so on until finally someone doesn't ask for something in return. Then you have to go back through everyone again. The reward at the end is only 10 Gold... and a pair of boots that let you move faster.
    • In the second quest, visiting each NPC to find out what they want before you can get it thankfully isn't required, and it's possible to have the item they're after the first time you talk to them. It takes place mostly within the Colorless Void, but starts in Vann's Point where you find a lost shipment in the warehouse that was meant for Tess. There's also one item you have to take to an NPC in Vann's Point, and the only hint at this is easily missable and forgettable. Your reward for completing this quest is another pair of boots, this time giving you a change to take no damage from attacks, as well as making you immune to floor spikes.
  • Star Trek Online: A rather bizarre impromptu chain of Deals with the Devil happens in the mission "Leap of Faith". First, former Klingon Chancellor L'Rell is revealed to have sold her soul to Molor (Klingon Satan) in exchange for him releasing her lover Voq, who ended up in Gre'thor (Klingon Hell) due to dying in a dishonorable way. Because the protagonists need L'Rell's soul in the present day, J'Ula offers herself to Molor in L'Rell's place, but he refuses it because the soul of a Chancellor is far more valuable than the soul of an ultranationalist terrorist nobody but Adet'pa likes. So then former Chancellor Gowron, who has been wandering in Koth (Klingon Purgatory) since he died due to the dishonorable acts of his ancestor Aakar (The Starscream of the storyline) steps up in her place, and Molor accepts. And then Molor agrees to release Gowron to enter Sto-vo-kor (Klingon Valhalla) if the protagonists kill Aakar and current Chancellor J'mpok so he can claim their souls instead. Whew!

    Visual Novels 
  • The Eden of Grisaia has an example where the person making the deals has not the slightest idea what she's doing because she's just following the directions of a dopey sounding computer. In the morning, with a thousand yen Michiru buys thousands of discarded cellphones. She has the rare metal stripped out and sells those and then uses the money to go up increasingly complicated chains often involving being flown around to separate countries and trading boats or beers for people. Very late at night, she returns home with no clue where she's been all day, only knowing that she's had a growth on her initial funds of at least 10000%.
  • In Family Project, Chunhua gets a free piece of candy on the street as an advertisement and gives it to Tsukasa. Tsukasa trades it for a pack of cigarettes. He gives the cigarettes to a guy on the street and gets a 5000 yen gift certificate. He uses that to pay Masumi's debt at some store or another, and she gives him thirty lottery tickets, enough for three tries at a game. Chunhua tries three times and eventually gets a personal computer worth 300,000 yen. Lampshaded.

  • Parodied here by 8-Bit Theater.
  • An early Skin Horse storyline ("Borrowers") featured an increasingly absurd chain as main character Tip tried to deal with an increasingly bizarre string of escaped/lost sentient lab experiments living in their facility's basement and had problems with their neighbors. It proved to have some consequences, since he ended up screwing up the whole chain of deals his boss was used to dealing with - which resulted in her having to find out if the new leadership down in the basement is amenable to talking with the folks upstairs. Lampshaded at several points during the whole chain.
  • Slightly Damned provides its take on these.
  • Featured in Gold Coin Comics, starting here, where it begins with a crappy belated birthday card.
  • Awkward Zombie lampshades the ridiculousness of Zelda examples here, imagining a chain of deals that proves to collapse in on itself because the last person wants the very thing Link went questing for in the first place.
  • When it happens with the patients in Awful Hospital, the traded items ranged from bleeding skulls to malaria.

    Web Original 

    Web Video 
  • Jet Lag: The Game: Invoked in season four, where Ben and Adam were prompted to buy an inexpensive ring at a pawn shop so they could resell it at another pawn shop for half the purchase price.

    Western Animation 
  • The Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Who, What, Where, Ed!" featured a chain that started with Eddy trying to get a chicken egg from Rolf, who wanted sawdust they had to borrow from Kevin, who wanted paint they had to borrow from Jimmy, who wanted clams they had to borrow from Johnny, and so on, driving Eddy closer and closer to insanity (as well as Lampshade Hanging) with every turn. The chain goes to Jimmy twice, they're forced to get something different from Johnny than he first asked because they couldn't get it from the Kankers, and eventually stretches back to Rolf. And while the Eds finally resolve the chain by trading Rolf Ed's yo-yo, Ed breaks the egg the second they get it because he thought he needed to set the chicken inside free. As a result, this whole fetch-quest was All for Nothing.
  • In one of the "Lord Bravery" segments of Freakazoid!, Lord Bravery is given a Cease-and-Desist order on his name, as it was first used by a bakery. As it turns out, the bakery resorted to Lord Bravery because the name the owner wanted to use was already taken. The owner offers to give Lord Bravery back his name if the owners of the business with the name she wants will give it to her. This leads to a ridiculously long chain of businesses with ludicrously inappropriate names that ends only with the discovery of a shop owner who is quite happy with his business' name, since he has the same name, causing the chain to collapse. And forcing Lord Bravery to change his monicker to Lord Smoked Meats And Fishes, making people respect him even less than they did before.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • This was also the basis for the short Leghorn Swoggled, with Henry Hawk making a long string of deals in order to catch Foghorn Leghorn. After making a bunch of deals (dog wants a bone, cat knows where to get a bone but wants a fish, mouse knows where to get fish but wants cheese) he remarks "I wonder what the cheese will want?"
    • Also happens in Dime to Retire, where Daffy runs a scam in the hotel Porky is staying at. First, he let a mouse into Porky's room, which drove Porky nuts by eating a piece of celery, prompting him to have Daffy bring in a cat to chase it off for a mere $5, only for the cat to refuse to let him sleep on his bed, thus Daffy brought a dog to scare it away for $10, only for the boxer (after hearing a bell, courtesy of Daffy) to start punching Porky, after which Daffy charged $26 to bring in a lion to get rid of it, which naturally tried to eat Porky, then for another $72, Daffy used an elephant to drive out the lion, however, the elephant then took up most of the room, so for $666, Daffy released the mouse back into Porky's room to scare it off, leaving Porky with the celery-eating mouse all over again.
  • The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Juniper Lee": June manages to successfully complete a Chain to un-spell a few monsters. The last of those "deals" involved winning a wrestling match.
  • In an episode of Recess the gang arrange a Chain to enable Mikey to achieve his dream of becoming a crossing guard. The chain works perfectly and Mikey is able to enjoy his new job. The next day, he announced to his friends that he quit due to the number of problems he suffered as a guard.
  • Parodied on 2 Stupid Dogs. An off the hook payphone tells the dogs to get a quarter, so they go to a change machine, but they need to get a dollar. This leads them on a quest to get larger and larger sums of money, each of which is eventually traded in for a smaller amount right down to the quarter. Which is then used to phone the larger dog, in prison with a $10,000 bail.
  • Chowder goes through a Chain to retrieve his lost hat, but accidentally gives the hat away in the process, requiring an undoing of the chain... and a redoing... and another redoing... and it's all done to a certain song. (Lampshaded at the fourth stop, when a giant says "I'm beginning to see a pattern here...")
  • In an episode of House of Mouse, after accidentally spending the rent money on cheese, Mickey is in desperate need of $50. Merlin will give Mickey $50 in exchange for a sword for Arthur, The Headless Horseman will give Mickey a sword in exchange for a pumpkin to use as a head, Cinderella will give Mickey a pumpkin in exchange for an alternate ride home, Aladdin will give Cinderella a carpet ride home if he can get a rose for Jasmine, Beast will give Mickey an enchanted rose in exchange for a book for Belle, and Yen Sid is in no mood at all to share his books, scaring Mickey off and throwing the whole chain apart.
  • Garfield and Friends had this occur in the U.S. Acres segment "Goody-Go-Round". The episode had Orson wanting to get Bo a record player. Booker has one but wants a skateboard. After failing to hit Roy's three practical jokes, one of which involved super-hot chewing gum, Orson convinces Roy to part with his skateboard in exchange for a pie. Lanolin is willing to give up her pie for a stepladder. Wade is more than happy to get rid of his stepladder, but Orson insists on giving him something... specifically, the spicy chewing gum he got from Roy. When Wade realizes how horrible the gum is, he takes back his ladder, causing the whole chain to temporarily reverse. Orson finally restores order, while Wade gets revenge on Roy by tricking him into chewing his own gum and gets to eat the pie instead, happily noting to the viewers that "Everybody got what they wanted. Or what they deserved."
  • The Jimmy Two-Shoes episode "The Collectors" sees Jimmy going through one when he accidentally throws Beezy's chewed gum collection away via turning it into a giant balloon. Unfortunately, it ends up in the hands of the Weavil Chief, who wants a "My Little Gremlin Astronaut" from Lucius, who wants his girlfriend Jez to come to a dance with him, but Jez wants a giant diamond that the Schwartzentiger owns the keys to, and he'll hand the keys over for one of Molotov's ray guns, but Molotov needs a toy for his children, specifically Dr. Scientist's electric ball, but Dr. Scientist wants a mustard sandwich from Chef Garbage, who is out of mustard, which means Jimmy needs some of Beezy's mustard (another thing Beezy collects).
  • In Dave the Barbarian, Candy owes a huge debt to a troll, who agrees to cancel it if they can collect the money that Chuckles owes him instead. Chuckles doesn't have it, but says the Queen of the Mole People owes him money. She, meanwhile, has a debt from the original troll. In the end, Candy just has the troll write a check; they pass it around until it gets back to the troll, thus settling all the debts. Then they sing a song about an egg named Steve.
  • In Futurama, the Robot Devil accidentally trades his awesome robotic hands for Fry's stupid human ones, allowing Fry to become a musician and impress Leela. Since Fry won't trade back, the Devil goes through a chain of dealsnote  until he gets Leela's hand in marriage, which Fry is willing to trade for.
    Robot Devil: Ah! My ridiculously circuitous plan is a quarter of the way complete!
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Tri-State Treasure: Boot of Secrets", while at a swap-meet Candace tries to get an extremely rare Ducky Momo antique which is very expensive. The seller will only trade for another antique found at the swap-meet and what follows is Candace doing an extremely long chain of trading with very bizarre sounding items. Despite her efforts, she still doesn't get the antique due to Doofenshmirtz's De-Age-Inator making the antique she was going to trade for it look too new.
  • In the The Penguins of Madagascar episode, "Operation: Good Deed", Mason's back gets injured by a bucket and he needs a massage. King Julien will let the Penguins borrow Maurice, who gives excellent massages, if they can get him a flamingo feather for his crown, Pinky will give them one of her feathers in exchange for some peanuts, Burt will give them his peanuts in exchange for some hay, Roy will give them his hay if they can get Bada and Bing to stop throwing their banana peels into his habitat, and Bada and Bing will stop throwing their banana peels if they can get them a pizza.
  • Baloo and Kit invoked one in an episode of TaleSpin where they flew odd cargoes around the world, opting to always turn down the offered cash at his destination and instead trade it for another odd cargo. Much to the disbelief of Kit, as the refused cash offers keep getting larger, and it was his money that started the chain (with the promise of getting double the money back). The final cargo they pick up is seemingly worthless, but upon returning to their point of origin, they learn that it's actually a very rare and valuable commodity and they net a small fortune selling it. Unfortunately, a pair of gangsters they annoyed at the start of the episode then show up, and in the panic to escape, they lose all but double the original money they started with.
  • Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy's portion of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "Trade Ya" features Rainbow Dash going through such a chain to get a first edition book she wants to complete her set. The trade includes Rainbow Dash trading her lucky horseshoe for a crystal chalice; the crystal chalice for an antique chicken statue; the antique chicken statue for a Discord lamp; the Discord lamp for an Orthrus; and finally, the Orthrus, along with Fluttershy as a trainer, for the Daring Do first edition book.
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie was parodied in an episode of Robot Chicken, with completely ridiculous circumstances and consequences like the mouse becoming a vampire from drinking too much milk and somehow developing a taste for human blood, turning the family into vampire servants who in turn vampirize the rest of the town, leading to the National Guard coming in and also being turned into vampires, leading to the town, then the whole United States, and then the entire world getting nuked. It all ends up being a woman rationalizing to her son why she stabbed her husband to death.
  • An episode of The Simpsons has Lisa go on a "take your child to work" day with Homer, but come lunch time she has nothing to eat. Homer starts a series of trades with the last morsel of his own lunch to put together an elaborate salad and place setting for her.
  • An episode of Hercules: The Animated Series has Phil's island sunk once Poseidon is annoyed at the loud Bacchanal being thrown there. Herc and Hermes go to Poseidon hoping he can restore the island before Phil comes back from a convention. Poseidon's condition is getting eye lotion from the monster Argus. Who wants a love arrow from Cupid. Who wants some water from the Pool of Forgetfulness to get one of Aphrodite's songs out of his head. Pain and Panic can give the water in return for fireproof shorts, who Hermes knows that Hephaestus can forge as he owes him a favor. And Hephaestus is... giving a lecture at Phil's convention! Herc is found, and flies back with Phil as Hermes goes through the chain, and thankfully he ends just as Herc arrives, preventing him from finding sea instead of an island.
  • In the first episode of Star Wars Resistance, Kaz is signed up to a race at the Colossus against his will, and if he doesn't compete, he'll get thrown off the platform to almost certain death. In order to compete, he has to obtain parts for the Fireball, the only vehicle available; in order to get the parts, he has to fetch lunch for the acquisitions team, as he has no money; in order to get the lunch (and placate the stand's owner, who has a grudge against him), he offers to put the stand's logo on the Fireball to advertise it.

    Real Life 
  • The impracticality of this in large-scale societies is one of the major reasons (the others being transportability and storability — if one item in the chain is a fifty-pound sack of grain, getting it to the next person in the chain could be difficult) for introducing currency, as opposed to relying on barter for trade. With barter, you have to find someone who both has something you want and wants something you have in order to make a trade (for example, the shovel-maker may need a new pair of shoes, but the shoemaker doesn't need a shovel), while with currency you only have to do the former because you know almost everyone will want currency. And even if you do find the proper chain, this can also take a great deal of time — a chain of deals with X people in it takes 2X-1 steps to perform (X-1 arrangements for future trades plus X trades), while just paying for something is a one step transaction.
  • In the residential housing market, many sale contracts are conditional on the buyer's current home being sold. This means a situation can arise where the sale of a home is dependent on the sale of another home, which is dependent on the sale of another home, etc. making for a very long chain of held-up contracts. When the last seller finds a buyer who is not tied to selling a current home, the entire chain of contracts goes through very quickly thereafter.
  • Apartment swaps in the USSR were a combination of both of the above. Most people lived in state-owned apartments, and the only way to move to a different neighborhood was to swap apartments with someone else. Of course, this gave rise to situations where someone wants to move from neighborhood A to neighborhood B, and at neighborhood B there is an apartment available for swap but its current tenant wants to move to neighborhood C. To deal with such situations, there arose agencies that built long chains of swaps.
  • As documented on One Red Paperclip, in the course of one year (July 2005 to July 2006) Kyle MacDonald negotiated a chain that started with a single red paperclip and ended up with a house — in only fourteen trades! And now he's putting the house up for trade. Someone get this man the Infinity +1 Sword. Incidentally, he borrowed the paperclip back. To bend into an engagement ring to propose to his wife. For the compressed summary of his deals, he traded the paperclip for a fish pen for a doorknob for a barbecue for a generator for an 'instant party' package for a snowmobile for a trip to Yahk for a cube van for a recording contract for a year in Phoenix for an afternoon with Alice Cooper for a KISS snow globe for a movie rolenote  for a house.
  • Inspired by the above, TikTok user Demi Skipper traded a bobby pin up to a house worth $80,000.
  • Daisy chain for kidney donors. Someone in need with of a kidney may have a friend willing to donate to him, but who isn't compatible. So the healthy friend signs up to donate a kidney to anyone that needs it if his sick friend receives a kidney. The result can be a complicated Chain of Deals (all thankfully arranged by sophisticated computer algorithms) in which multiple pairs of friends (recipient and incompatible donor) trade kidneys with other pairs until everyone receives a healthy kidney. The longest such daisy chain of such chain involved 11 people receiving kidneys, all from one non-directed donor offering his kidney to whoever needed it starting the chain. In case anyone is interested they can sign up to be start their own chain of kidney deals (and officially become badass) here.
  • Without getting into specifics, players of any kind of Collectible Card Game (or, indeed, collectible anything-that-comes-randomly-blind-packed game) have likely committed to a three-or-more-way trade in order to get that last card for their precious deck/army/complete expansion set. One of the more entertaining chains is Jonathan Medina's "Pack to Power" chain, wherein he used the contents of a single Magic: The Gathering booster pack to eventually trade for one of the Power Nine, basically the most powerful and expensive cards in the game.
  • Interestingly, electrical power systems are often protected by a chain-of-deals-like system. In interlocking, you must satisfy certain conditions in order to operate an item of equipment (disconnectors, earth switches, access gates etc.) which involves following prescribed sequences of opening/closing switches to obtain keys to access other sequences to obtain another key that opens the shutter to the hand crank you need to operate the item of equipment you were interested in the first place. For added super-bonus fun, on offshore windfarms certain steps entail sailing between individual turbines, key clutched in hand. The reason for this intentional complexity is to ensure that all equipment is made safe before anyone gets anywhere near it, and that there is no danger of damaging the main grid.
  • Medieval Trade tended to be an extremely complex chain of IOUs spreading from India to Europe and beyond, known in English as bills of exchange. They're the ancestors of modern checks, and could involve money, but as often as not they just directly involved traders swapping goods.
  • Certain stores offer perks for money spent, such as discounts on fuel from their branded stations. Some will apply this to gift cards and even point out in their commercials that you can use this as a way of getting bonuses on items that you ultimately purchase somewhere else. Naturally, there will be a limit to what stores they offer gift cards for, but if one of those stores happens to carry the gift cards for another store...
  • Hermit crabs will actually form up in a nice orderly line when an empty shell is found in order from smallest to largest, and will all "trade-up" as each crab ahead of them vacates their shell for a larger one.
  • Thanks in no small part to the Obstructive Bureaucrats in Washington, DC, some units in the US Military often have to go through such a thing to just get supplies they need but the bean counters won't let them have directly. This involves one unit contacting another about a part they need for a vehicle or other piece of equipment that broke down, and this ends up with the Quartermaster having to go through a long chain from one unit to another to get the part. On the plus side, this does give the logisticians a lot of practice of moving equipment where it's needed. However, this means that units are sometimes ill-prepared for when they actually go into combat, and the casualties that result. If it weren't for chains like this, many more soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan could've been killed due to a lack body armor for the troops and armor kits for the vehicles.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Trading Sequence, Trading String, Barter Chain, Straw Millionaire


Trading quest (excerpt)

In order to obtain YMS' piece of Te Fiti's heart, Schaff must embark on a long trading quest with other YouTubers.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / ChainOfDeals

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