A character comes up with a ridiculously elaborate plot that is so meticulously planned out that it can't possibly fail...
But it will. So why didn't they come up with a simpler plan?
There's a simple explanation. This character has a Complexity Addiction. They're addicted to coming up with complex schemes, such as the Gambit Roulette. They simply can't help but make an overdone, overblown plan.
Maybe they're insane. Maybe they're bored. Maybe they view it as being artistic. Maybe they're really smart and want people to see how smart they are. Maybe simple plans aren't as amusing or as evil or are just too boring for them. Maybe they consider their enemies worthy opponents and that only an equally worthy plan should be used to defeat them. Maybe they don't even know the reason. It's Funny, or it's Dramatic, or it's Cool; that's all that matters.
Expect a smarter character to point out the existence of a simpler solution, often something along the lines of "Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?" These characters frequently suffer from Bond Villain Stupidity. May overlap with Villain Ball.
See also A Simple Plan, where a very simple plan should have worked, but goes horribly awry. Contrast Combat Pragmatist. See also Didn't See That Coming and Cutting the Knot. Additionally, see Rube Goldberg Device for machinery built by people with a Complexity Addiction. Compare Overcomplicated Menu Order for a similar situation, but with food/drink.
- Aizen has an infamously bad case of this, considering he's shown to be strong enough to just take whatever he wants through his combination of brute force and a Story-Breaker Power. During the Soul Society arc, he has a very complicated plan to obtain the MacGuffin, including: killing and impersonating the governing body, faking his own death, making his right hand man one of two prime suspects, faking his own autopsy, bribing 3 of the 4 guardians of Soul Society, end engineering a public execution. When that (inevitably) fails, he simply walks up and takes it. Why didn't he do that in the first place? Addictions are a strong force to be reckoned with. Later "justified" as he reveals his goal during that arc wasn't just to acquire the Hogyoku (which he already knew Rukia had), but to set up an extreme training regime to groom Ichigo into a suitable opponent through which he could further strengthen himself, by forcing Ichigo to fight battles no one could've predicted happening, let alone know Ichigo would walk away from alive, including one where he would have died if not for Hanataro making sure Ichigo fully recovered.
- The Hueco Mundo arc is where he really succumbs to it. While Aizen has an ability that could let him easily defeat the entire Gotei 13, he builds up an army of Arrancar, hollowfies Tousen and makes war with Soul Society, where he more or less deliberately gets on his side everyone but Gin killed for no real reason, including attempting to kill his last living general himself. Aside from it being more complex than simply single-handedly killing everyone with his overwhelmingly unfair powers personally. More idiotically, the only point his army could possibly serve, beyond intimidating Soul Society, is to be used as cannon fodder against Squad 0, the only real threat to Aizen's plan at this point. And he didn't even bother seeing if they'd be of any help. Aizen doesn't seem to care, and thus made the creation of the Arrancar army completely pointless. "Justified" in that the army itself was just a smokescreen to buy time for the Hogyoku, which Aizen thinks will make him invincible, to truly awaken, though the only schedule he was operating on was his own. Wonderweiss, the one integral Arrancar, was in truth the specifically-designed trump card against Genryusai Yamamoto. A portion of the army once again served as additional training for his envisioned punching bag Ichigo.
- When she first uses Resurrección, Harribel displays the necessary speed and power to get around Hitsugaya's defenses with her sword, and could end the fight at literally any point. Instead, she spends the entire rest of the fight playing tug of war with her water powers and his ice powers, evidently attempting to set up some sort of super attack. Actually justified in that he was one of the generals who cared less about the success of Aizen's army than Aizen himself.
- Zommari had a case that rivaled Aizen's. Instead of just using his body and mind-controlling powers to kill Byakuya and everybody else in minutes, he insists on toying with him, twisting the knife and explaining every aspect of his powers in tiny, minute detail, giving Byakuya more than enough information and time to overcome them and turn things around. Byakuya even keeps pointing out that he could probably just kill him at any point. Byakuya does sacrifice his arm when Zommari aims his power at the Captain's head, though Byakuya allows him to keep taking control of body parts and slicing the tendons for no apparent reason but being too arrogant to use Bankai until he's out of limbs.
- Mazinger Z: In episode 39 The Dragon Baron Ashura captured The Hero Kouji and Mazinger-Z and gave him the "join-us-or-die" choice. After Kouji's predictable answer, Ashura sentenced him to death, and instead of shooting him, Ashura's Mooks started a bunch of giant power saws and drills to cut Mazinger-Z to pieces (it must be mentioned that Dr. Hell and Count Brocken were waching the scene and Brocken told he would just shoot him).
- Naruto: Several antagonists are fond of taking roundabout paths despite being capable of achieving their goal much more easily with less effort:
- Uchiha Madara's Moon's Eye Plan to "save" the world involves dragging everyone into an endless illusion, which requires him to capture nine tailed beasts. The only person who could stand in his way is the First Hokage of Konoha village, Senju Hashirama. However, Madara can effortlessly defeat all the other villages, and take control of their tailed beasts. In fact, with his fearsome reputation, he could even get the tailed beasts by just asking. With these tailed beasts on his side, he could tilt the scales in his favour in the fight with Hashirama, and thus take the last tailed beast who was in Hashirama's possession. Instead, he challenges Hashirama straight away with only one tailed beast (albeit the strongest of them), and gets killed, but not before biting off some of Hashirama's flesh. He gets himself resurrected with a technique he had set up in advance in case this happened, goes into hiding, then implants Hashirama's cells into his wounds, which eventually activates his Rinnegan. Unfortunately, by the time the Rinnegan activates he's already an old man and thus in no shape to fulfill his plan. To compensate, he sneakily implants the Rinnegan into the eyes of Nagato, an orphan boy from the Rain village. He then sets up an incident which causes another young boy (who later takes the alias Tobi) to lose half of his body, then takes him in, and heals his body using the above-mentioned Hashirama's cells. He follows this with another setup which triggers the young boy's Start of Darkness, which convinces him of the Moon's Eye Plan. Then, Madara dies again after telling him to recruit Nagato, then capture those nine tailed beasts, following which Nagato would use the above-mentioned Rinnegan to resurrect Madara again, who would then set the Moon's Eye Plan in motion.
- Tobi plans to carry out the aforesaid Moon's Eye Plan for his own ends, with no intention of ever bringing Madara back. It would thus make sense for him to capture the nine tailed beasts by himself, which he was capable of doing within months. His wood release powers, derived from Hashirama's cells, give him top-class offensive and defensive abilities. His sharingan makes him intangible and allows him to teleport himself and others into his pocket dimension. These powers make it very difficult for him to be defeated in battle, and even if he is pushed into a corner, he could teleport out of the battlefield and try again under more favourable circumstances. Instead, he spends 17 years setting up the Akatsuki, with much less capable subordinates, sends them to capture the tailed beasts, and then starts a world war to capture the last two his subordinates couldn't get.
- In the Konoha invasion arc, Orochimaru has caught Sarutobi by surprise, grabbed hold of him and placed a kunai against his neck. Rather than kill him right then, he backs off, makes a speech about what it feels like to fight against your own teacher, and then summons the souls of the previous Hokages (who were Sarutobi's teachers) so that Sarutobi could experience what he just talked about.
- In the Pain's assault arc, Nagato/Pain invades Konoha to search for Naruto. He eventually pins down Naruto after having flattened Konoha earlier. There's nothing else left for him to achieve, but rather than simply return with the captured Naruto, he presses one of Naruto's Berserk Button which causes the Kyuubi inside him to go on a full rampage. Word of God says he did this mostly to "test" his powers against the Kyuubi.
- Ramen Fighter Miki:
- Miki as The Bully and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, displays this when at episode 3A when she insists on fighting the Worthy Opponent when she could easily avoid it. In episode 5B, she insists on beating Ohta to use him as a stepping stone to escape a well, when Ohta has a rope and Miki could just let him rescue her, but she simply handwaves it.
- Kankuro's plans to defeat Miki always had to involve some kind of duel.
- This blog argues that this was Mercurymon's Fatal Flaw in Digimon Frontier, stating that ultimately his plans were "all too cute, more focused on the spectacle of his victory than seeking out the most certain path to it".
- Transformers: Super-God Masterforce: In a Henshin Hero series, Hydra chooses that rather than attacking his enemies while they're regular, vulnerable humans, he'll instead create overly-elaborate scenarios (pretending to be a photographer and kidnapping Lightfoot's father; pretending to be a film director, hiring a film crew, setting up a shot in the middle of a desert and convincing Ginrai to take part) before attacking his foes, or tag-teaming them with his brother, which actually worked the first time they did it (until he decided to just up and leave). But the absolute worst example he came up with was in episode 21, where he decides to kidnap every single doctor in the world, which would apparently cause everyone to realise how fragile they were, and make the entire human race loose the will to live.
- Pokémon Adventures: Mask Of Ice, the Big Bad of the Gold, Silver and Crystal arc, lives and breaths this one. He wants to capture a Celebi, which only shows up at a specific time at the Illex Forest Shrine, and can only be caught by the GS Ball, which can only be made with feathers taken from Ho-Oh and Lugia. Apparently just soliciting the help of a trainer or an expert, like Professor Oak, never occurred to him, since he sets out on a ridiculously circuitous plan that involves kidnapping children, levelling Ecruteak, imprisoning the Legendary Beasts, attacking places all across Johto, and antagonising the Gym Leaders of Kanto and Johto.
- In Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV The Empire's entire invasion plan in a nutshell. 1st, they offered a peace treaty. 2nd they kidnapped Lunafeya. 3rd, lure her bodyguard there, kill the bodyguard, and leave bodyguard's body in the dump. 4th, hoping the body will be discovered before the invason. 5th, Hoping someone make a connection as weirdness of her dying place is not her assigned mission place. Then predicting the Kingsglaives will rescue Lunafreya will know where to look. Then place Daemons in the fleets' cargo. Then make sure subverted Kingsglaive members to be included in rescue attempt. Then place their emperor, acting chancellor, and empire's most competent and senior ruling members in the heart of enemy capital, now with renewed hostility. Finally, start the invasion and plan of stealing crystal. Seeing Emperor Aldercapt and Izunia are back to their homes safely is very dumb luck at their part as step number 4 and 5 work at all. They should have invaded right away as now their words are less trustworthy then before as they broke their promise of peace.
- Characters have an odd habit of trying to string together some crazy strategy to win, rather than just using their strongest cards to stomp face. A good example is Harald in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, who tries to bring out three Aesir and then trigger Gjallerhorn to banish them all after three turns and deal an insane amount of damage. Predictably, Yusei sabotages the activation such that Gjallerhorn does 0 damage and the Aesir are banished for nothing. Had he just ignored Gjallerhorn and left the Aesir on the field, he would have won handily.
- This is more deliberately done with Leo/Rua, who (especially early on) loves to wrangle together crazy combos to pull off a fairly impressive field. However, this usually ends up wasting all his resources and leaving him with a field that's nowhere near as invincible as he thinks it is, and many of his strategies seem to be made under the assumption that the opponent won't do anything to stop him.
- Played for Laughs in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War. The entire premise of the series is that lead characters Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane deeply love each other for all the right reasons, but refuse to reveal their feelings out of pride and fear that the first to confess will be considered 'weak'. Thus, these two teen genius behave like utter morons when it comes to interacting with each other, as they both concoct a series of ever-complicated plans to force the other to confess, like checking the weather report, coming to class on foot instead of by car or bike, then pretend they don't have an umbrella when it rains so that the other person will offer to share one to walk home together with (see, they can't offer first because that would show affection and weakness), then when neither can reveal they have their own umbrella, they begin manipulating the other to admit they have one. Yes, it is that petty and idiotic. Kaguya is the long-term planner, Shirogane is faster on his feet, but both are constantly foiled by their friends who show up in the midst of their mind games and break their plans with a simple solution, like offering a spare umbrella.
- Later on, Iino also succumbs to similar convoluted thinking, after repeatedly stumbling onto Kaguya and Miyuki in compromising positions and letting her own imagination run wild.
- A Certain Magical Index: Aleister Crowley's series-spanning plans are unbelievably convoluted, with dozens of interconnected schemes going on at once. However, it turns out this is Justified: Crowley had been cursed such that he will always fail in his endeavors, so he has to set up Xanatos Gambits in which the failure of any individual plan will further the success of all the others, resulting in an ultimate scenario in which failure is impossible, built on the failures that came before it.
- Batman villains have this like it's contagious.
- Justified for The Joker, who creates these elaborate plots to see if they'll ever kill his nemesis, but they never work. He wants to kill his enemy with a bang, not a simple gunshot (even though he has resorted to a gun before).
- Harley Quinn once even asked him outright, "Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?"
- The Batman Adventures: The Joker's tendency to this is lampshaded in Mad Love, with him reacting angrily when Harley suggests skipping the elaborate deathtraps and just shooting Batman. At the end, after Harley manages to capture Batman by herself, the Joker comes close to letting Batman go just because he doesn't have a death trap ready that lives up to his artistic standards. Then he decides that having Batman at his mercy is an opportunity not to be passed up, and maybe he'll give this "just shoot Batman" idea a go after all. It doesn't work out well for him.
- The Riddler, despite "going straight" for a while, eventually got back into the habit. The Cluemaster, on the other hand, managed to kick the clue-leaving compulsion, and became a (comparatively) more cunning villain. Riddler tried to do normal crimes at one point, but was caught because he was leaving riddles... that he never actually intended to leave and was terrified after discovering he'd left. This convinced him he was actually mentally ill and needed professional help. This is something of a Fatal Flaw for old Eddie - if he just went for straightforward criminal plots, he'd be pretty successful, but his obsession is not with gaining wealth but with decisively outdoing Batman, and what better way to prove you're better than winning with a handicap?
- Deconstructed in Knightfall. Part of the reason Batman works himself to exhaustion to capture all of the Arkham escapees is because he assumes some or all are in on Bane's plans. While this would be true of most of Batman's villains, Bats never suspects that Bane's just using them all as red herrings to wear Batman down. Had Bruce prioritized neutralizing Bane early instead of undermining an assumed plan, it's less likely Batman would have lost in that confrontation.
- Spider-Man: The entire The Clone Saga in all of its insane permutations was finally revealed to have been masterminded by Norman Osborn (who had been faking his own death for years, to boot), for the simple purpose of driving Peter nuts.
- Super-villain Black Flame has a serious trouble with this. In Adventure Comics #400, Supergirl is at her mercy: trapped in a locked room, unconscious and sprinkled with Green Kryptonite. Black Flame orders her hired guns to hurry up and bring Supergirl to a Death Trap before the Kryptonite kills her because she doesn't "want her go that easily". Supergirl survives Black Flame's elaborate death trap but she is immobilized and rendered unconscious. So Black Flame kills her? Nope. She sets another death trap up and waits for Supergirl to come around.
- In Supergirl Volume 2 #20, Parasite manages to knock Supergirl out. Instead of killing her right away, he puts her in a complex death trap.
- In Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #30, Superman adopts Jimmy as his son for a 30-day trial. During this period, they visit the Fortress of Solitude, where Superman shows Jimmy his mural of a solar system he created, in which the inhabitants named various parts after him (such as "Superman's asteroid", "Superman's planet", ect.). After that, Superman leaves Jimmy be while he checks his "electronic oracle". The oracle predicts that on the day the trial adoption expires, "Superman will destroy his own son!" Now, Superman has two options: A) tell Jimmy the bad news and revoke the adoption to protect him, or B) consider that the oracle has problems with homonyms and conclude that it may be referring to the sun in the aforementioned solar system. What Superman decides on is option C) treat Jimmy like crap without explaining why until Jimmy backs out of the trial.
- In Who Took the Super out of Superman?, an alien organization is hired to destroy Earth. So they send an agent to Earth, under orders of watching Superman discreetly for thirty years and then turning him into a human bomb via psychological warfare, alien devices and villain summoning. Ultimately his overly complex gambit fails, and they have run out of time to fulfill their contract.
- The Silver Age Superman had a severe Complexity Addiction. Thus, he was always setting up elaborate hoaxes involving robot duplicates, fake newspaper headlines, and Batman wearing a Clark Kent mask, all to trick the aliens secretly preparing to attack Earth.
- In the Crucible story arc, Korstus needs to get rid of Preceptor Lys Amata in order to take over the titular hero academy; but instead of shooting her off when he catches her alone and completely unawares, Korstus knocks her out and gets her placed in stasis because he wants her "to witness the destruction of all that she's built."
- Two for the Death of One: When Syrene absorbs the power of the Runestone of Merlin, she becomes powerful enough to transform Satanis into a bug and crush him beneath her boot. However, she wants to kill him painfully after making him feel powerless; so she toys with him, gloats, and then summons a rain of meteors.
Syrene: "Do you know the utter joy of total power? I could turn you into protoplasmic slime if I so wished! But I believe watching you painfully die will be far more satisfying."
- In The Killers Of Krypton:
- Harry Hokum has captured a depowered Supergirl, who refuses defiantly to speak, and he orders his men to take her to a cell to be tortured and dissected later instead of killing her quickly on the spot. Kara takes advantage of it to plan her escape.
- Later, the Omega Men have broken into Hokum's stronghold, and he plans to let them flee after they have rescued clones posing as their captive comrades. One of his minions suggests to simply nuke them, and Hokum admits it sounds tempting, but he will stick to his plan.
- Daredevil's enemy Bullseye could probably kill people just fine with a regular gun, but he prefers to use different kinds of items with his incredible aiming skills. When he was posing as Hawkeye in Dark Avengers, he wasn't too happy with Norman Osborn limiting him to only using a bow and arrow. A mini-series starring Bullseye goes into detail about this. He was ecstatic when he finally killed Elektra and is constantly looking for a way to get the same rush, with no success. He keeps on taking assignments harder and more impossible than the last simply for the thrill of it.
- Every protagonist Jim Starlin has written in the Marvel Comics pre-Annihilation cosmic narrative, whether they were Thanos, Adam Warlock, the Magus or the Goddess, used incredibly byzantine plans, often with a relatively mundane goal in mind (in The Infinity Gauntlet, for example, Warlock's strategy was aimed at getting Thanos to raise his hand at a specific moment so the Silver Surfer could attempt to snatch the Gauntlet from him). The justification is that these characters are all contending with opponents who are master planners themselves and often possess some kind of super-ESP which would alert them to any simple scheme.
- In The Avengers #169, multimillionaire Jason Beere learns he is dying, and out of It's All About Me decides the rest of the world should die with him. He comes up with a plan involving about sixteen individual steps, including wiring a world-destroying Neutron Bomb to his failing heart, donning power armor to attack the Avengers, and planting fake bomb plans to have them go on wild goose chases around the world to assemble a taunting message. The plan fails somewhere around step ten when Iron Man puts him in Tony Stark's old life support chest unit. Beere could have accomplished his goal with a two-step plan: 1) acquire world-destroying bomb, 2) detonate bomb.
- Doctor Doom from Fantastic Four is notorious for this. To the extent that more often than not it seems as if any given scheme was carried out by somebody that was Actually a Doombot and Doom himself almost appears to be in multiple places at the same time. Generally this does little to improve the overall results of his many conspiracies beyond giving the heroes (and sometimes other villains) a good workout.
- At one point in Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, we see a stand-up comic routine by Skullcruncher that's heavily steeped in this. In prior stories, when the war was ongoing, Megatron had created a detailed multi-phase procedure for infiltrating and conquering worlds, including producing a small team of Super Soldiers to make the sixth and final phase (essentially a Godzilla Threshold) possible. Skullcruncher spends the whole routine mocking it. Why set up a detailed arrangement when the only important steps seem to be the first two and the sixth ("infiltrate and gather info", "try to subvert the populace without revealing yourself", and "declare open war and kill everything"), to the point where nobody in the audience could name what Phase 3 was? Why create the Nigh-Invulnerable Phase Sixer units and hold them in reserve for taking specific planets rather than just pulling them all together and making them crush the Autobots? He ultimately concludes that Megatron's recent HeelFace Turn is because he is putting his infiltration protocol into practice... and he's not likely to reveal himself anytime soon, because even he can't remember what Phase 3 was.
- Wonder Woman Vol 1: When the Nazi spy Rudolph Hessenpfeffer has Steve Trevor at his mercy at gunpoint he aims the gun at the unstable roof above Trevor's head instead of shooting him to bury him alive instead. Wonder Woman is able to dig Steve out and rescue him almost immediately thereafter, though the commotion does allow Hessenpfeffer to escape.
- Calvin and Hobbes: As members of the secret club "G.R.O.S.S." (Get Rid Of Slimy GirlS), Calvin and Hobbes often come up with schemes to annoy and/or terrorize their neighbor Susie. One day, Calvin devises a scheme that involves writing a message in code which Susie will believe was written by Calvin for Hobbes, and "accidentally" letting Susie discover and read the note, which says that Calvin doesn't want Susie to go behind their house at noon. Calvin thinks this will naturally draw her to the back of his house at noon, at which point he and Hobbes can hit her with water balloons. Hobbes asks why they don't just hit her with water balloons right where she's sitting now. Calvin replies, "You're a good officer, Hobbes. But let's face it, you don't have an executive mind." Hobbes still thinks his idea sort of makes sense.
- The original appearance of the Rube Goldberg Device was in newspaper comics, in which a hugely complicated and often ridiculous device was built to accomplish some mundane function, e.g., ringing a doorbell by having a button release a cat that chases a mouse along a track, which generates a breeze which pushes on a series of fans which rings the bell.
- Jason of FoxTrot may be a genius -he put a toy rocket into low-Earth orbit once- but he tends to go for the massively complex ideas rather than simple ones.
- Jason spends hours vainly trying to get past a monstrous creature in a computer game, dying each time no matter what offense he tries. Paige ends up passing the level by just walking right by the guy.
Jason: Look at him! He's huge! He's strong! He's sitting on a pile of skulls! How are you not supposed to fight him?
Paige: What is your IQ again?
- Another strip shows Jason sketching out elaborate plans to catapult himself and his friend Marcus into Paige's bedroom through the window so they can spray her with squirt guns. The plan fails when Paige closes her window, prompting a panicked Jason and Marcus to try and stop the catapult while older brother Peter looks on and snarks "From such smarts, such stupidity."
- Jason spends hours vainly trying to get past a monstrous creature in a computer game, dying each time no matter what offense he tries. Paige ends up passing the level by just walking right by the guy.
- In A Force of Four, Mars wants Wonder Woman, her daughter Fury and Power Girl dead. So that he builds a coliseum and forces them into a gladiatorial battle with his own champions instead of merely blasting them into oblivion.
- Lampshaded in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series:
Andy: Say, Calvin, is there any reason why they didn't just shoot you dead with their ray guns, right then and there and save the trouble of thinking up of another elaborate plan that's sure to fail?
Calvin: Rupert always wants stuff to be complicated.
- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality:
- Makes a cameo appearance, in actual drug form. Called Bahl's Stupifecation, it is a narcotic that has the side effect of bringing about idiotically complex and impractical plans in Dark Wizards with Slytherin tendencies. The example presented in the narration is suspiciously similar to Voldemort's plan from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
- Lucius Malfoy warns his son that any plan that requires more than three things to happen will never work; however, since only an idiot makes things as complicated as possible, the real limit is two. This lecture he did as a Take That! to an In-Universe Expy of Death Note, because he noticed that Draco wanted to borrow inspiration from it for his rivalry with Harry.
- Voldemort seems to have a bad case of this, with many bizarre plots similar to the ones in canon. Harry has difficulty understanding how someone so stupid could be an actual threat. This is because Voldemort was a game to Tom Riddle, just practice for the real villain he planned to play later. He tells Harry that while essential plans should be simple and perfect (eg; apparate in front of your target and hit them with the Killing Curse), nonessential plans can be as complicated as you want, since by definition they're not important. This has the side benefit of giving you a reputation for succeeding through blind luck rather than skill.
- In the same story Dumbledore has a reputation for not only using incredibly convoluted plots, but for also launching fake plots with no actual goals. The reason behind this is he's actually deliberately triggering either-or prophecies and rarely understands the actual string of events himself, so he made sure they weren't out of character.
- Lucius Malfoy in Child of the Storm. While he isn't defeated through any misstep of his own, it is noted as the defining trait of the Malfoy house, and often trips them up when doing something simple would be much more effective.
- The Neglectful Precursors in Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover pretty much brought the events of the three galaxies featured about through this trope combined with internal religious conflicts. More details can be found on the Neglectful Precursors page.
- Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act I: During the first few chapters, Apoch and Astreal go through elaborate schemes to test the group's power, and ultimately brainwash Rason and Dark, in order to be free of their master Ghaldin; the brainwashing attempt backfires when the sisters' inexperience with brainwashing spells allows Ghaldin to take control of all four of them. When all is said and done and Ghaldin is killed by Inner Moka, Tsukune flat-out tells the sisters that he and his friends would have helped them willingly from the start if they had simply asked.
- The Rise of Darth Vulcan: The Princesses eventually realize, with the aid of Diamond Tiara (who spent time as his prisoner) that this is a defining trait of the titular Villain Protagonist. It's not enough for him to simply carry out a plan and beat his enemies — he has to do it in such a way that his enemies are made to look like utter idiots compared to him, in order to justify his opinion of them.
- In How I Learned to Love the Wild Horse, Brittany informs WOOHP of the Nerima Wrecking Crew and cites that she believes them to be a terrorist organization with Ranma as their leader. Ranma has recently moved to Beverly Hills and enrolled in the same school as the girls, so Jerry has them put him under surveillance to learn his motives for coming to America. It's later revealed that Brittany was helping Ranma get away from Nerima and he was going to be hired as a martial arts instructor for WOOHP but the organization doesn't usually do bodyguard details so she instead told them he was a terrorist leader. Why she couldn't tell the truth and ask for an exception is never explained.
- In the Doctor Who fic Déjà vu, a corrupt Time Lord attempts to manipulate history to return Gallifrey to its old isolationist policy by capturing the Doctors and using their neural energy to power his equipment to rewrite the timelines, but he is so determined to get the energy he needs that he not only captures the first five Doctors, but also sends the Sixth to Tenth Doctors into the Death Zone as an additional distraction even when (from his perspective) the Ninth and Tenth Doctors are still in the future and it required extra energy to include them in his plan.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl story The Vampire of Steel, Buffy and Supergirl have been captured by a mob of vampires. Yet Vladislav doesn't still want to kill them because he needs a sacrifice to open a portal and summon some kind of Lovecraftian horror. When one of his underlyings is about to just shoot them, Vladislav goes mad.
All I want to know is what this setup is all about, said Supergirl. If were going to be the main course for this vampire or whatever youre going to be hosting, just call me curious.
Call you dead, said the guy with the bucket, and drew a .38.
Vladislav slapped his hand, then slapped his face. How many times do I got to tell you? How many times? How many?
No more, boss, no more, pleaded the vamp. I understand. I understand. I swear on my fathers coffin.
The fangfather buried his hands in his underlings turtleneck. I dont really have time for this aggravation, Lester. You got me?
I said we dont shoot the women, and we dont shoot the women. We need them for later. Got that?
- A variant occurs in The RWBY Loops; Ozpin is stated to be addicted to conspiracy. This generally results in keeping secrets past a point where it would be useful and revealing things via convoluted methods or only after being confronted directly. Most of the other loopers find this habit annoying and frustrating.
- Half the cast in The Real Us. There is a complicated list of what the Weasleys are and aren't allowed to know (for example, they can know that Sirius is a good guy, but must believe Snape is going to betray them). Harry would rather set up a complicated network of spells (or at least, have the school staff do it for him) than not take his secret girlfriend to the Yule Ball.
- Professor Arc: Cinder Fall, a woman who spends her all her time scheming, assumes that Jaune has his own brilliant plan to serve his own ends, and in vain tries to figure it out. Not that he's simply at some kid blundering and bluffing his way out of trouble. Jaune more or less goes along with this, because he knows what would happen if Cinder saw him as not worth her time.
- During their climatic final fight in Kara of Rokyn, Lex Luthor bitterly ponders he had over one month to kill Superman quickly, but everything he did was dumping him in a pod and syphoning his power off.
He kicked out angrily at Superman, dislodging him, and damned himself for not killing him during the month and days he had him helpless, damned himself for trying to eke the last bit of power from his body for its usefulness.
- The Mountain's Range: Kevan Lannister/Alejandro Fernandez spent years as his brother Tywin's faithful right hand, obeying orders without question and giving helpful advice, in order to manipulate Tywin into eventually doing himself in. Then he arranged to have his nephews Jaime and Tyrion murdered during the war against the Others (succeeding only with the former). During that time, he also caused the deaths of several other people, including two fellow SIs and several prominent nobles during the Pentoshi Bloodbath. He caused all this death and destruction, potentially destabilizing Westeros and nearly descending it back into Civil War right when the Others were on their doorstep and threatening all of humanity...so he could be Lord Paramount of the Westerlands. Considering the amount of effort he put into reaching that goal, if he really wanted it that badly he could've just killed Tywin before he had any kids — as the second son of Tytos he would've been next-in-line. Sure, his foreknowledge would've been useless afterwards, but it's obvious that he would've been smart enough to get around it. The only real reason he could've had for not doing that in the first place is this.
- Anchor Foal: Downplayed. Celestia's plan is actually pretty straightforward (get Fluttershy to start a family so that Discord chooses to stay nice towards them after her death in memory of their friendship) and the method chosen isn't complicated so much as a bit roundabout in getting the desired result. But it does get pointed out there are simpler methods to use that would sidestep several of the problems that are inherent to Celestia's chosen method. This is justified however because Celestia's plan accounts for issues the simpler methods do not. (Namely that Fluttershy getting a mate to have a foal with is meant to ensure she has help as a parent because she's busy enough with her animals)
- Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum: Within a week of completing the First Task, Harry knows what the Second Task is and has a reasonable solution in the Bubblehead Charm. Hermione insists on finding another more complicated way, insisting Harry's solution is a "baseline". Several characters point out how unnecessary it is and when they manage to get some gillyweed, Harry forces Hermione to test it along side him (but without the smell and taste cancelling potions) as punishmnent.
- Hermione in Princess of the Blacks insists she and Jen use the notoriously complicated Fidelus charm for their Arithmancy project rather than something much simpler because she "refuses to turn in a decent project rather than an exceptional one".
- Spark to Spark, Dust to Dust: Starscream's plan to overthrow Megatron has over four hundred and thirty-seven distinct phases.
- When Worlds Collide: Chris makes plans unnecessarily convoluted.
Chris: First, we'll get a hundred crocodiles, and then some cut-up logs. We'll have the campers log roll all the way across the lake, and then, the team with the most survivors will win invincibility. It's brilliant, brilliant, BRILLIANT!"
Chef: Um, couldn't we just do a cheap event that doesn't really involve any death that might lead to lawsuits?
- Here There Be Monsters: Doctor Sivana could have killed the Marvel Family as soon as their minions knocked them out; instead, he got them shackled to metal slabs and bathed by a paralysis beam because he wanted to make a show of it. He wanted to broadcast the execution, wait until the Marvels were awakened to gloat about his victory and the means through which it was achieved, and then killing them. He needed to taste every minute of it. Ultimately, he took so long that Captain Marvel found a way out of his predicament. Then Marvel pointed out that Sivana could have won this time if he had not spent so long gloating.
- A Decent Self-Insert, Probably: Tempest has a tendency to make unnecessarily complicated plans on the spur of the moment. She even resists Marco's suggestion to just ask Demyx what he's doing specifically because it's simple and to the point.
- A Very Kara Christmas, the main character discovers two of her schoolmates have found her wig and figured out she has a secret. She has three options to deal with that situation: first, coming clean about her secret identity; second, letting Superman brainwash them; third, learning how to make costumes and carve wood, buying raw materials -paid with freshly-mined gold and squeezed diamonds-, making a bunch of Christmas decorations in a single night, and then showing them Kate and Jennifer to convince them that she was preparing a Christmas surprise for their schoolmates, and she was wearing one of her wigs in order to see if it was convincing enough.
- A Mighty Demon Slayer Grooms Some Ponies: For Tirek's plan to succeed, he needed to wait for the rainbow bridge to open again, take the elements to Earth to subvert their power to have a superweapon ready, unleash Hell on Earth in Equestria and hope his mother actually shows up, all the while posing as the good guy so no heroes thwart him before he is ready. As it turned out, it took 5000 years for the bridge to re-open. Any sensible person would probably abandon the plan after a couple centuries, but Tirek really wanted his revenge. The sheer absurdity of this is one of the big reasons that this chapter was officially removed.
- Yzma from the The Emperor's New Groove (and the Spin-Off series The Emperor's New School) has an affinity for making complex plans to destroy Kuzco, which never work. Kronk lampshades this at least once.
Yzma: How shall I do it? Ooh, I know. I'll turn him into a flea, a harmless little flea. And then I'll put that flea in a box, and then I'll put that box inside of another box, and then I'll mail that box to myself. And when it arrives, AH HA HA HA, I'LL SMASH IT WITH A HAMMER!
- In the theatrical Recess: School's Out film, the Mad Scientist Dr. Philium Benedict builds a tractor beam in order to move the moon. His evil plan goes something like this:
- Use a tractor beam to move the moon.
- This will change the seasons, making it winter all year long.
- With summer gone, schools will eliminate summer vacation.
- Children will spend more time in class, becoming better-testing students.
- People will be so grateful to him, they will elect him President of the United States.
- Ignoring the fact that the whole thing is just a really roundabout way of getting into the highest political office in the country, there are just so many things wrong with that plan that it warps past funny and goes into tragic. The first step alone would have apocalyptically catastrophic consequences. TJ flat out tells Benedict that removing summer won't remove summer vacation, but Benedict just replies, "I can try."
- In the Tim Conway/Don Knotts movie The Private Eyes, a witness to the Morley murder calls the title characters to Morley Manor, then arranges for every single person in the Manor other than the killer to appear to be murdered, in order to trick the murderer into confessing in front of two police officers. Why he couldn't just go to the police and tell them who the murderer was never brought up. Then again, Lord Morley never could get anything right.
- Austin Powers spoofs this trope as it commonly appears in spy films. Dr. Evil is notorious for making his plans to kill the titular character exceedingly complicated:
- Near the start of the first movie, Number Two kept trying to convince Dr. Evil that their best option was to Cut Lex Luthor a Check, which Dr. Evil roundly objected to. His reasoning was that, while Dr. Evil was cryogenically frozen until such a time that his plans could come to fruition, Number Two had to lay the groundwork to finance those plans, by building a legitimate business empire worth far more than Dr. Evil would initially demand in his schemes. They would've actually made more money, legitimately, by not doing anything different at all.
- In the first movie, Dr. Evil leans hard into Bond Villain Stupidity as he has Austin and Vanessa standing on a platform suspended over a pool of water with mutated, enraged sea bass ready to eat them, in a secluded room with the door closed and one easily defeated guard stationed there. Dr. Evil's son, Scott, is usually the one who calls him out on these things and states much easier ways to kill Austin. But what made this an addiction in this instance was his insistence that the aquatic threat be "sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads", when any other threat could've done the job easier.
- In the second film, Dr Evil uses a time machine to steal Austin's mojo (rendering him impotent) rather than (as Scott suggests) simply shooting Austin at a time they know Austin will be occupied. Furthermore, when Dr Evil has Austin at his mercy, he has him and his partner Felicity placed in a room with slowly retracting floors over a pit of lava. Much like the first film, one inept guard is stationed there.
- In the third film, Goldmember has Austin's father Nigel at his mercy, but much like Dr Evil, he fails to kill Nigel outright. Instead, he leaves him to die on a smelter. As is typical, the plan fails.
- In The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne needs to get some information from a hotel receptionist, but he's afraid that the police will come after him or his girlfriend the moment any of them step inside. Therefore he comes up with a complicated plan of action, involving her entering, counting the number of steps she takes from the entrance, counting how many civilians, guards, etc. there are, and him then calling her via the lobby phone to plan further ahead. This is explained via Jason's voice-over as we see her doing this. As she looks at the telephone, the camera cuts to Jason outside, dialing the number. No answer. He hangs up in a hurry and prepares to go in, only to find her standing right behind him with the papers in hand.
Jason: You just asked for it?
- Present in Captain America: The Winter Soldier with the HYDRA plan to assassinate Nick Fury. The Winter Soldier has a weapon capable of destroying the armored car, yet the plan consists of first attacking him with a posse of fake policemen and a battering ram before hoping the car will drive down a random street where the Winter Soldier is waiting for him. Subverted later when they actually do just shoot him.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron both plays it straight and subverts it.
- Scarlet Witch shows shades of this as she and her brother Quicksilver's primary motivation for joining up with Ultron is revenge on Tony Stark for creating the bombs that destroyed their home and killed their parents when they were children. However, she passes up an opportunity to kill him in the first 15 minutes of the film when she manages to catch him out of his armor and enthrall him with her Psychic Powers. At that point they could have just snapped his neck or something (which Quicksilver lampshades) but instead she chooses to let him take Loki's Scepter and leave, hoping it will corrupt and destroy him and the other Avengers. This is despite the fact that she already has as good a chance to kill Tony as she's ever going to get, and her vendetta is with him personally, not the Avengers as a whole.
- On the other hand Ultron earns the distinction of being the first major villain in the MCU who tries to use the most simple, effective and straightforward solution first (stealing the nuclear codes and using the nukes to destroy humanity) and only resorts to the more "colorful" overly complicated methods because that plan keeps getting thwarted.
- The comedy Without a Clue imagines that Watson is the true genius and Sherlock Holmes just an actor hired for good publicity. A kidnap victim leaves behind a mysterious set of numbers and both Watson and Holmes spend hours going through a variety of obscure clues, jumps in logic and more to finally figure out that the victim is leaving behind a roundabout way of finding his location (the numbers, when turned into a chapter and verse in the missing man's favorite book of the Bible, reduce to a passage that includes the name of an obscure play that has only been performed in one theater in London in the recent past). When he's finally rescued, the victim is happy they saw the numbers...which were simply the address of the theater he was being held prisoner in.
- This is Schultz's fatal flaw in Django Unchained. Schultz develops this crazy plan to have him and Django impersonate slave traders looking to buy a slave prize-fighter, and get Django's wife Broomhilda thrown into the bargain. Then Candie, the guy they're dealing with, figures it out thanks to his Hypercompetent Sidekick, and forces them to pay the exorbitant full amount for just Broomhilda at gunpoint, telling them point-blank that he would've sold her to them for cheap if they'd come to him honest. Finally, after Candie keeps rubbing his victory in Schultz's face, Schultz can't take it anymore and shoots Candie point-blank. Naturally, Candie's guards blow Schultz away.
- Howard, the gambling addict of Uncut Gems, has multiple opportunities to square his debts... or to concoct even riskier bets by screwing over everyone around him, including his own family. He takes the latter option every single time.
- The James Bond villains are bad enough to name a whole separate trope — for instance, instead of simply killing Bond they beat him up and leave him in a somewhat easily escapable cell, leave him in the middle of an alligator farm, and shoot a mook that failed them instead.
- Star Wars:
- Heroic example in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace: Qui-Gon's ridiculously complicated plan to get the hyperdrive replacement needed to repair Amidala's ship from Watto. Watto is apparently the only vendor in Mos Espa who has the part they need, but he won't take Qui-Gon's Republic credits because they're worthless on Tatooine, and Watto is immune to the Jedi Mind Trick. So Qui-Gon hatches an elaborate plan involving tricking Watto into gambling the part in an upcoming Pod Race and then entering Watto's nine-year-old slave Anakin into the race and having him win it for him. Even though the movie makes it pretty clear Qui-Gon's Force powers meant he knew Anakin would win, you'd think there might have been an easier (and less dangerous) way. Like finding someone willing to exchange credits for a local currency, or trading their current ship for a less valuable but functional one. Or just book passage on a transport, or with a smuggler or something. Give them all the money he has now (a trader or a smuggler would have use for Republic credits, unlike a planet-bound merchant like Watto), and promise them a reward from the Jedi council when they arrive at Coruscant.note Or seeing if the Republic has something similar to Western Union and asking the Council to wire them money in a form cashable in local currency.
- Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi develops a frankly ridiculous plan due to Skewed Priorities, leaking schematics of the Death Star II and putting himself personally at risk in order to trap the Rebels and methodically destroy them with the Death Star II. This is highlighted by the fact that, per Vader, Imperial Intelligence knew where the Rebels were assembling their fleet. A strike right then and there by a couple dozen battle squadrons from the local sector fleet could have crippled the Rebellion. But Palpy was more interested in seducing Luke to the Dark Side than in winning a military victory, and kept pursuing his overcomplicated plan even after it became apparent the Rebels were not playing ball. Lampshaded in the spin-off novel Shadows of the Empire Darth Vader thinks Palpatine's Evil Plan is outright stupid (though naturally, he keeps it to himself).
- Due to his Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, Palpatine becomes the architect of his own downfall. First, he manipulates Galen Marek to draw out rebels in the senate, inadvertently creating the Rebel Alliance, then he disbands the senate in Episode 4, giving him a civil war and no Death Star to fight it with, and in Dark Empire he dies AGAIN because he thinks he can successfully manipulate Luke.
- Palpatine takes this trope Up to Eleven in The Rise of Skywalker. Having survived his death in Return of the Jedi by transferring his spirit to a cloned body using his master's "unnatural" dark side teachings, he finds that his clone bodies are unstable and very quickly degrade, making him full on Dark Lord on Life Support. His plan to amend this? Reveal his survival to the galaxy after over 30 years of having been thought dead to lure out Kylo Ren, now the Supreme Leader of the First Order, convince him to seek out and kill Rey, his granddaughter, banking on Kylo pretending to play along and wanting to turn her to the dark side instead, and also counting on Rey learning that he is her grandfather luring her to him, so that he can have her embrace the dark side and strike him down, which would complete a ritual that would allow him to transfer his spirit into her younger, uncrippled body. Never mind that within the first five minutes of the film, Kylo, a young man already fully immersed in the dark side and the powerful grandson of Anakin Skywalker, was willing and prepared to kill Palpatine as it was.
- The plan to rescue Han from Jabba the Hutt at the beginning of Jedi is also ridiculously complex, to the point where there is still considerable debate among fans as to what the original plan was, and how much was planned and how much was improvised, or if there were possibly several different plans going on at once. First Lando infiltrates the palace as a guard, then Luke sends the droids to Jabba as a "gift", then Leia arrives disguised as a bounty hunter with Chewie as her prisoner, then Leia frees Han from the carbonite but is discovered and taken captive, then Luke arrives and attempts to negotiate only to be forced to fight the rancor, then Jabba gets mad and sentences everyone to death, then they're taken to the Sarlacc Pit, then they kill everyone and go home. One wonders why any step besides that last one was necessary. Luke does seem to want to give Jabba the opportunity to resolve things peacefully, but that still makes everything that happened before Luke arrived pointless.
- Vader probably suffered from this as well in The Empire Strikes Back. Rather than sabotaging the Millennium Falcon's hyperdrive and waiting for Luke to be picked up by his friends, then trying to capture the Falcon, he could have just sent a shuttle down to the underside of Cloud City to capture Luke directly.
- In Now You See Me, the Four Horsemen's plans are insanely overcomplicated, given the simplicity of their true goals. This is part of the idea, though; the motive wasn't just simple robbery, but to make sure the ones being robbed knew who did it and couldn't prove how.
- The villains from Jack Reacher, who explain it as "We make it messy now so it won't be messy later." To explain, they overcomplicate their plan to do Serial Killings, Specific Target with a sniper and letting an ex-Marine with a prior history of killing sprees take the fall by 1) leaving behind an Orgy of Evidence, 2) have their Detective Mole find every single clue they left behind and thus accelerate the investigation and make it iron-clad (and thus have Reacher question why such absurd thoroughness), 3) use a sniping spot that would leave behind lots of evidence, when they knew that their Fall Guy was ex-military and would not have used it, 4) attempt to strong-arm and kill anybody who asks too many questions even if the questions probably won't lead anywhere if they just lay low. All of this together leads to Reacher to find out that it was a set-up, and when they come gunning for him, a Roaring Rampage of Revenge ensues.
- Mafia hitwoman Salino of The Sting is pretty much this trope (even though she's supposed to be Lonnegan's top assassin and his immediate choice to send after Hooker when he escapes his regular Mooks a second time, even if his advisor thinks it's overkill). She goes to Chicago, becomes a waitress, pretty much waits for Hooker to come to her instead of looking for him, waits a long time to act (much longer than it would considerably take to confirm that it's him), becoming an apparent Love Interest... and, on the day of the titular "sting", she gets shot by a gunman hired to protect Hooker before she can draw the silenced gun on her purse.
- The villains in Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy tend to exhibit this. The Joker definitely wins though, every step of his plan involves incredibly complicated plans and reliance on things he can't possibly know. He somehow knows exactly how much time it will take Batman to save Harvey Dent and that the police will be too slow to save Rachel. If Batman was a minute slower or the police had a car in the area then the Joker's "ace in the hole" wouldn't exist anymore.
- Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin steals several massive (roughly the size of a fist) diamonds to power a freeze-ray that he then takes to the local observatory so as to freeze all of Gotham in order to ransom the city to fund his research for a cure to Mac Gregor's Syndrome. Why he doesn't fence the diamonds, or patent his cure to Stage One Mac Gregor Syndrome, or even sell his freeze ray to fund his research is never explained.
- This is the Dude and Walter's major mistake in The Big Lebowski. They keep assuming that there has to be some big conspiracy/mystery to explain all these odd events and clues they're encountering, when in reality there's totally normal and sensible explanations for all of them. The toe, the creepy Nihilists, Jackie Treehorn, Bunny's disappearance, the mysterious car following the Dude, the essay... they're all just random events with simple, non-criminal causes. The only mystery to be uncovered is a minor scam the Big Lebowski is running to bilk some money out of his own charity, and there's nothing for the Dude and Walter do about that other than tell Maude.
- Walter deliberately tries to avoid this during the "handoff" scene, preferring to beat Bunny's location out of her kidnappers instead of paying them the demanded ransom. Turns out there is no handoff. The kidnappers want them to simply drop the money off. Walter doesn't take the news well.
- Professor Fate from The Great Race spends the entire race cheating to get ahead. At the end of the movie, when the protagonist throws the titular Great Race in order to win over his love interest, Fate celebrates the victory. But shortly after, Fate lapses into a huge tantrum because, even though he wanted to win, he wanted to win on his terms (i.e, by cheating like he was being paid for it). He even goes so far as to scream "YOU CHEATED!" in the hero's face during all this.
- Inside Man: One of the running plotlines is the police trying to find out what the bank robbers want, since their plan is so confusing and convoluted that it's impossible to tell. This turns out to be the point; by confusing everyone, they were able to slip out among the hostages after stealing something that wasn't supposed to exist. That being said, they still overcomplicated things a bit. They wanted to make money and expose a war criminal who collaborated with the Nazis. They could have done either one easily, but doing both at the same time required the complex plan.
Russel: I'm no saint. I did it for the money. But what's the point of having money if you can't look yourself in the mirror?
- Journey into Fear: The Nazis, Muller and Banat. They concoct an elaborate stylish murder plot involving a stage magic show, rather than just dragging Graham into an alley and shooting him; then they go to all the trouble of smuggling him off the boat rather than, say, whacking him over the head and chucking him overboard.
- The Nice Guys: The plan Amelia developed to expose her mother's corruption (and thus her connection to the Detroit automobile business and its anti-environmental corruption) is so absurd that the protagonists have a pretty hard time wrapping their heads around it when first explained to them: create a Porn with Plot and have the "plot" be a tell-all expose. She explains that the film's producer told her that the fact All Men Are Perverts will ensure nation-wide distribution and thus a large audience, but our heroes counter that this exact same fact may mean they won't care about the message.
- The Osterman Weekend (1983). A CIA agent finds that his own organisation is behind the murder of his wife, so his plan of revenge involves: create a phony Soviet spy network called Omega, faking evidence that will convince a TV producer known to be critical of the CIA that his friends are members of Omega, wiring up his home with video equipment to gather evidence for this non-existent conspiracy, staging an attempted kidnapping of the producer's wife and son so they'll be brought to the house for their protection, Mind Screwing everyone so they start to turn on each other, trying to kill the producer (whom he needs for his Evil Plan) and murdering his friends, kidnapping his wife and son for real so he can force the producer to confront the head of the CIA in a live interview about the murder of his wife. Why he never just went to the producer with his accusations, or just kidnapped his wife and son from the outset, is unexplained.
- Ace Ventura: Ray Finkle's scheme is to get back at the Miami Dolphins, and Dan Marino in specific, for putting the laces on the ball facing the wrong way when Finkle tried a game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl but missed, making Finkle the laughingstock of the sports world. You would think that a man driven insane would just shoot Marino or something equally simple. Instead, Finkle spends a long time building a fake identity, infiltrating the Miami police department, and escalating in the ranks until he becomes the Mole in Charge of the investigation that will ensue from his crimes. That done, Finkle has to get the resources for both the theft of the Dolphins' mascot Snowflake and the kidnapping of Marino himself during the next Super Bowl that the Dolphins make it to, all so Marino can see the Dolphins lose, humiliating his team and making him watch before killing him. And this is without counting the whole thing about getting a sex change to assume the identity of "Lois Einhorn," a hiker that Finkle killed and made disappear, all to throw people even further off the trail.
- Tango & Cash: Big Bad Perret's plan to frame the titular Cowboy Cop duo for murder of a federal agent is absurdly complicated and it's lampshaded as such by the other crime lords that hear it when he proposes it. Perret's response is that it's needed to make sure that Tango and Cash don't end up becoming martyrs amongst the other cops, which would happen if they are just killed like the other crime lords want. Because of this point, they end up agreeing for the moment. But when the titular duo manages to escape prison the crime lords tell Perret that they believe his plan didn't work and are going to send assassins to find them, and Perret belts out a borderline-whiny Big "NO!" in response that shuts them up and they never do it.
- Snakes on a Plane: The titular animal rampage is a crime boss' plan to kill a witness that leaves people In-Universe to be utterly puzzled because it is just completely and utterly insane, just barely justifiable by it being Crazy Enough to Work. The crime boss shuts up a goon that tries to question it by roaring that he has run out of other options (and even then that sounds pretty flimsy).
- There's a story that, during the filming of North By Northwest, someone on set asked Alfred Hitchcock why the now-famous crop duster scene was necessary. Since Roger Thornhill doesn't suspect at all that his planned meeting is a trap, it would be just as effective and far simpler for the villains to just hire someone to walk up to Thornhill and shoot him—rather than trying to gun him down with a crop duster biplane. Reportedly, Hitchcock's only answer was something to the effect of "Let's hope the audience doesn't ask that."
- In Knives Out:
- This is one of Harlan's Fatal Flaw. He would rather concoct an elaborate complex cover-up to protect Marta than allow her to simply call an ambulance for what they both believed was a fatal morphine overdose.
- Detective Blanc is so wrapped up with trying to figure out who had anonymously hired him that he does not confront Marta right away, though he was suspicious of her from the very beginning. Instead, he would use Marta to try to ferret out more answers. In the long run, this ends up being the right call as Marta is innocent and it would lead to the actual murderer being caught.
- The murderer. If Ransom hadn't anonymously paid Blanc to investigate Harlan's "murder" in order to get Marta arrested, the cops would have ruled it a suicide and the family would contest the will regardless. It was by their own actions that allowed for Blanc to solve the case.
- Trebla the Terrific from Super Minion. His heist plans are so complicated that each minion he hires has a separate tens-of-pages document listing their part of the plan and the contingencies they are to use depending on what happens.
- Harry Potter:
- Voldemort's biggest flaw (besides underestimating The Power of Love) is wanting everything he does to be as epic to as possible, regardless of practicality. Several characters lampshade this weakness.
- In Goblet of Fire, Voldemort sends a Mole to Hogwarts to kidnap Harry so as to use his blood in Voldemort's resurrection ritual. They do this by taking a full year to build the mole's false identity, force Harry to participate in the Triwizard Tournament against his will, rig the tournament to let him win, and enchant the trophy to teleport him to the ritual site. The mole apparently does not think to use his trusted position of authority to whack Harry over the head, shove him into his magic chest, and smuggle him out of Hogwarts in the first week of class. Or to make any random object into his office into a Portkey, invite Harry in, and arrange for him to touch it.
- It's even pointed out that given Voldemort's status as the Evil Overlord of the Wizarding world, he could use any random Witch's or Wizard's blood for the ritual (it simply requires "blood of the enemy"... who outside of Voldemort's followers is not his enemy?), but no, Voldemort is obsessed with it being Harry, since he wants Harry's magical protection from his mother's sacrifice in his blood. There's also the problem that the ritual only requires Harry's blood, not his presence -Voldemort's agent could have gotten that in the first week. A visit to the Mole's office, a scratch on anything in the office (There is the whole "forcibly taken" thing, but that could be gotten around by arranging for Harry to get in a fight in which he picks up some cuts and scratches), gathering the blood, a memory charm, and using the ability of the human memory to rewrite itself to compensate for the minimal amount of time lost -bam. Voldemort can then go after Harry at his leisure, without anyone but his followers being aware he's alive!
- Harry only survives through books 4 on because the revived Voldemort demands a grandiose and wand-induced death. When Voldemort actually kills Harry in Book 7, it doesn't stick. Voldemort actually tries to kill Harry as soon as he sees him near the end of Book 5 when he shows up unexpectedly after Harry had thwarted the Death Eaters' plan. Luckily for Harry, Dumbledore intervenes just in time. When, in Book 6, the Death Eaters actually have Harry at their mercy, Snape stops them by reminding them that Voldemort wouldn't want somebody else to kill him. Though, admittedly, Snape has other reasons for what he does. Furthermore, Voldemort, who is an adult with a supernaturally powerful body, insists on killing Harry, a physically ordinary teenager, via magic, which is repeatedly shown to be ineffective. Had he instead decided to try killing Harry by stabbing, clubbing, or simply using his bare hands, he'd have almost certainly succeeded due to not having any obscure, never-before-mentioned laws of magic blowing up in his face.
- Voldemort's ego prevents him from using inconspicuous objects as his horcruxes or storing them in random places so no one will ever find them (such as making one of his Horcruxes a single grain of sand in a desert). No, he has to, for example, use his grandfather's ring and hide it in his grandfather's shack. So, people who know things about him, such as Dumbledore and Harry, can reason out what the horcruxes are and where to search for them. These are the objects on which his obsessed-over immortality hinges.
- One is discovered in book 6 to be stored near his childhood orphanage in a cavern that can only be opened with a blood sacrifice, across a lake that can only be safely crossed with a magical boat that can hold a maximum of one adult human, at the bottom of a basin full of a torture potion. Since he provides the boat, that particular piece of his soul can be stolen by anyone with a bit of obscure trivia about Voldemort's youth and a judicious choice of partner — Dumbledore takes Harry, who at 16 isn't quite an adult yet, and Regulus Black takes a house elf, which Voldemort had forgotten to ward against. Dumbledore is immensely disappointed that Voldemort's grandiosity and sadism overrode his common sense: he made the defenses degrading and horrific at the expense of making them actually lethal.
- In a Played for Laughs example, Oliver Wood's various incredibly-elaborate Quidditch play plans, which tend to take multiple magical diagrams to explain.
- Voldemort's biggest flaw (besides underestimating The Power of Love) is wanting everything he does to be as epic to as possible, regardless of practicality. Several characters lampshade this weakness.
- This seems to be the generally accepted MO for the Yendi (a cultural group whose hat is being scheming and secretive) in novels set in Dragaera. For example, in the novel Yendi, the Sorceress in Green arranges for Vlad's rival Laris to try to take over Vlad's territory in an obviously clumsy manner so that Vlad is on his guard when Cawti and Norathar try to kill him so that Vlad's allies in House Dragon will kill Norathar in a way that dishonors them all so that the next Dragon Emperor or Empress will be a person inclined to make the Sorceress's friend Sethra the Younger Dragon Warlord. In the event that the assassination fails (which it does), the deliberate clumsiness of the previous attacks causes Norathar to find out that Laris set her up so that Norathar will kill him in a manner that dishonors her, which would also take her out of the line of succession. This secondary plan also fails.
- A major aspect of the White Court of vampires in The Dresden Files is that they don't operate with simple, straightforward plans. In the White Court, approval and influence is based partially on the way one maneuvers against one's opponents, both within the Court and outside of it. A White Court vampire could simply have an enemy gunned down, but that would be met with serious disapproval and a loss of respect and grace, while taking that foe down via The Plan is viewed with admiration. It's institutional Complexity Addiction. Another, equally important reason, is that they work in and around human society far more than many other supernatural beings in the Dresdenverse. Hiring a gunman to shoot your rival can be easily traced back to you. Subtly goading another rival into a conflict with the first so he hires the gunman insulates you from the consequences far better. White Court culture has grown up around this principle, with the most respected actions being those that "everyone knows" you were responsible for, but nobody can connect you to with any sort of actual evidence. They also apply this to supernatural beings stronger than themselves.
- In P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories, Jeeves has quite a habit of this and it almost never fails, being stuffed with the grey matter. In Right Ho, Jeeves Bertie informs Jeeves that his plan, viz dressing Gussie Fink-Nottle up as the devil and sending him to a fancy dress party to romance a girl, is far too elaborate to ever work. In fact, Gussie forgets the address of the house it's held at and botches the whole thing. Even so this says more about Gussie than about the complexity of the plan.
- Tom Sawyer's plan for freeing Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn might be the Ur-Example. They could have simply swiped the keys to his shackles and sneaked off in the middle of the night, but Tom insists on sawing the leg off Jim's bed that the shackle is attached to and making a rope ladder just to leave behind as a clue and all manner of other silly things, just because that's how prisoners in the books he's read escape. He insists doing it the easy way "just ain't proper." Justified because Tom knows full well that Jim was already legally freed in the Widow Douglas' will. He just wants to play a fun game.
- In the Miller's tale of The Canterbury Tales, a young woman and a young man are in love, but the woman is married to an old man. She and the young man, instead of just meeting up during the day in a secluded spot, decide to trick the woman's husband into thinking there's a flood coming, sit on the roof in tin tubs, scare the husband into closing his eyes/passing out for the entire night, then go into the house for a little love-making. The complexity ends up paying off— when the husband comes to again, he's hollering that the flood is coming, and all his neighbors think he's nuts, making him permanently discredited. Yes, this trope is Older Than Steam.
- The Assassin's Guild in Discworld simply hates coming across as...inelegant. It's part of the job description, after all; a man with a crossbow killing someone for money is just a thug if he doesn't do it with class. This is the reason Sam Vimes is able to foil repeated assassination attempts from the Guild. They always attack him at home or the office, never out in the street ("What, like some common murderer?"), and they always wear full black, which, while cool, is fairly impractical for nighttime stealth (as anyone trained in camo knows, mottled grays or dark greens are better, while dark blue is most useful at night; black just outlines you). Vimes' home and office are riddled with cunning booby traps, the butler is a Battle Butler and Vimes himself has no compunctions about fighting dirty. This is also why Jonathan Teatime is a Deliberately Bad Example of an assassin his kills dont have class but rather slasher-villain levels of unbridled psychosis.
- In Somtow Sucharitkul's Inquestor stories, Inquestors play a very complicated "game" called makrugh in which the object is mainly to maneuver your opponents—basically, every other Inquestor—into losing face. Since this is pretty subjective, it tends to result in "You lost."/"Oh, but did I?" type conversations.
- In Ozma of Oz (And the film adaption Return to Oz), rather than wipe out the heroes with his unbeatable armies or magic, the Nome King makes them play a guessing game to rescue his victims; players must guess which ornaments are actually transformed people. Run out of guesses and be transformed. As long as you guess correctly, you get endless guesses. The King's steward even points out how stupid this is, especially in that he color-coded the victims. The Nome King insists that it's more fun this way, and even brags about how he's going to transform the heroes. Ironically, the discussion is overheard by Billina the hen, who uses the information to great effect.
- This is used as a Batman Gambit in the Kim Newman short story "A Shambles in Belgravia", one of the Professor Moriarty stories collected in The Hound of the D'Urbervilles. Irene Adler approaches Professor Moriarty to steal some 'intimate' blackmail photographs of herself from the Ruritanian embassy. Rather than just use a skilled cat burglar, Moriarty stirs up political trouble so there's a demonstration outside the embassy when the time comes to do the theft. It turns out that Irene is working for the head of the Ruritanian secret police who was in danger of losing his job because the country was so peaceful, but Moriarty has now fixed that.
- In the children's series The Peterkin Papers, the Peterkins are all extremely intelligent, even brilliant—but without a lick of common sense. Whenever a problem presents itself with a simple solution and a complex solution, they'll go for the complex one, and the simple one will never even occur to them. Without the common-sense of their neighbor, the Old Lady from Philadelphia, there's no telling how much trouble they'd get into!
- Discussed but averted in Tom Clancy's Without Remorse. When Kelly/Clark comes up with a relatively simple plan to get a special ops team into North Vietnam and the generals and admirals keep wanting to "spice it up", he specifically points out that the more complex the plan, the more things you need to go right, and the more difficult it gets for it to go according to plan. He draws deliberate parallels to the Song Tay raid (which actually happened in real life) and how the plan was almost thuggishly simple yet extremely effective. note
- How the Marquis Got His Coat Back: The Elephant thinks it's a good idea to chain the Marquis to a pole in a room filling with water and leave the room.
- In Twilight, the Cullens end up with three (later two) vampires wanting to kill Bella. Instead of simply mobbing the vampires the instant they know of their murderous intentions (Edward knew instantly, as he could read minds) or keeping Bella and her father together and putting her under constant surveillance so they could kill the vampires when they attacked (there were seven Cullens to keep a look out, one of whom could see the future and another of whom could read minds, all against two vampires, since the third defected), they decide to split themselves up so that Esme, Rosalie, Edward, Emmett, and Carlisle go on a wild goose chase after one of the vampires while Alice and Jasper take Bella first to her home in Phoenix after telling the vamps that want to kill her that that's where she's going and then plan to take her to other major cities.
- Hush, Hush:
- In the first book, Patch has this going on pretty badly as well. He was stalking Nora for an unspecified amount of time before planning to kill her, which caused him to fall in love with her. Why he didn't just kill her the instant he found her (with his powers and the fact that she's not that smart, it wouldn't have been hard) is never explained.
- In Crescendo, all Rixon has to do to accomplish his goals is to kill Nora. So naturally he spins it out across the entire book, making her hallucinate her dead father, knocking her out with a drugged card and chasing her through an empty library, trying to drive her off the road, attempting to turn her against Patch, and giving her a bogus spell to have him banished to Hell. The only reason given for him doing this is basically "It Amused Me".
- The Sharpe series gives us a heroic (or at least anti-heroic) example: Sharpe several times has his nemesis Obadiah Hakeswill at his mercy, but leaves him to be eaten by tigers, trampled by an elephant, or bitten by poisonous snakes instead of a well-deserved bullet to the head.
- Opportunistic Bastard par excellence Petyr Baelish shows signs of such an addiction in A Song of Ice and Fire, telling his would-be protégé that he will even make moves that are against his best interests for no other reason than to confuse his enemies as to his true goals. He manages to make this work by never blinking when his plans are thrown into disarray, but adapting smoothly and working up new plans to turn the unforeseen circumstances to his advantage. It helps that half of his plans boil down to "sow chaos and then present actual goal as solution to whoever ends up on top so they just hand it to you".
- Prince Nahrmahn of Emerald is a highly intelligent man and one of the best schemers in the Safehold series. While he works for the betterment of his people, he is at least equally motivated by his love of "The Great Game" of international politics. After he makes a HeelFace Turn, the Empire of Charis turns this trait to its advantage by making him the Empire's chief spymaster, where he gains a reputation as their best analyst.
- The assassins in State of Fear prefer to kill their targets by pressing a live Pacific blue ringed octopus to them, so that they're paralyzed by the octopus's venom.
- In Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian seems to have some sort of aversion to simply calling the police about people threatening him. Instead, he sets up needlessly complicated methods of protection, that include making Ana be watched by a bodyguard on his payroll at all times and literally forcing her (he picks her up and starts carrying her away while they're in the middle of the street) to move in with him.
- In The Beast Within: A Tale Of... Beauty's Prince, to bring about the Beast's downfall, the witches seem to think the best way to go about things is to make Belle homesick and hope that the Beast thinks to give her the mirror as she lives, then tell Gaston to have her father committed by introducing him to their friend the asylum owner, then anticipating Belle revealing the Beast to everyone, then expect Gaston to go kill him. Apparently all that was a better plan than casting an enchantment on Belle (they use magic to make her miss her father, so it's not like they couldn't do that) or even having the asylum owner forcibly commit her directly. Keep in mind that the last petal falls from the rose that very evening, so really they would have succeeded in making the curse permanent simply by having Belle spend the night tending to her father!
- Gentleman Bastard: Conman Locke Lamora admits that he's completely unsatisfied with simple, safe and reliable schemes. He always dreams up big and grand designs that might earn a fortune or might burn down a whole neighborhood. Sabetha bristles under the fact that she earns about as much as Locke over the long term, but his plans are so complex, ambitious and ingenious that he gets all the attention from their master.
- The Spirit Thief: Eli loves to make his schemes as ridiculous and complicated as possible, which trips him up several times when he thinks his opponents love theatrics as much as he does. Justified partly by his desire to earn a bounty of one million standards, which requires him to be very flashy and audacious.
- The Thinking Machine: This is the only thing that can explain the incredibly convoluted plan the criminal comes up with in "The Fatal Cipher". It actually relies on the fact that Van Dusen is a deductive genius to stand any chance of succeeding.
- In The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Poirot notes that the killers would have gotten away with their plot to murder a wealthy old woman by putting bromide in her medication so that the strychnine in it would precipitate at the bottom and be taken as the final fatal dose if they had just laid low after doing that instead of trying to make it look like one of them was framed by another party and relying on "double jeopardy" rules to bail them out.
- A reviewer of Sword of Truth pointed this out:
When you're dealing with a woman who can magically enslave people with a touch, who do you send?
A) Four men with swords, so she'll enslave one and they'll fight each other.
B) One guy with a crossbow.
- Accord of Worm is a supervillain with the power to solve a problem more quickly the more complex it is. In order to hold his interest, most of his plans tend to involve needlessly-complicated death traps. He also has a twenty-three-year plan to end world hunger that no one will listen to.
- Psych: Many criminals come up with very elaborate schemes to kill the people they want dead. Although the end result is a mystery that leaves many of the cops stumped and the main detectives boggled for a few minutes, there are too many places for something to go wrong, which will ultimately lead to the clue that indicts them.
- Shawn even lampshades this in one episode.
"First, you tried to make him fail a drug test, then you tried to trade him off to other teams, and when those didn't work you tried to kill him...I guess just injuring him would have been, what, too Tonya Harding-ish for you?"
- Possibly the case with recurring character Yang, as a symptom of her insanity. As a serial-killer her over-complex puzzles and riddles defeated every detective that tried to catch her, Shawn being the first one smart enough to win, except it was actually her father who was performing the killings. But even in subsequent appearances where she is really trying to help Shawn catch her partner Yin, she still phrases her help in vague riddles and hints, rather than just telling him who Yin is. The one time he asks her to do exactly that, she becomes angry and insists that "that's not the way I work."
- Shawn even lampshades this in one episode.
- Monk: "Mr. Monk and the Sleeping Suspect" is one particular case: Brian Babbage successfully kills his sister Amanda while he himself is in a coma for several months. How did he do it? With a bomb that was stuck to the inside of a mailbox with a special type of glue that would hold out for a few months, meaning it would be delivered on a time release, after which it would go off when it finally got into the deliveree's hands. The possibility of it being delivered to the wrong address, of the victim moving, or of the bomb detonating too early or not at all, doesn't seem to occur to Brian.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
- Victoria Hand in "The Hub". She sends Ward and Fitz on a mission to disarm a weapon that has fallen into terrorist hands, with the promise that they will be extracted afterward before S.H.I.E.L.D.'s takeover of the facility. In truth, however, there is no extraction plan and Ward and Fitz are likely going to their deaths. When Coulson confronts her about this, she merely states that they couldn't spare the resources. In the end, Coulson decides to go against her orders and take the rest of his team to rescue Ward and Fitz. Hand then reveals that she intended for him to do this all along... which begs the question of why she didn't just order Coulson to extract Ward and Fitz in the first place, since that's apparently what she wanted and (at least as far as the viewers are aware) it's not like Coulson and the others were really doing anything at the Hub to begin with. Heads into Gambit Roulette territory when you consider that Coulson wouldn't have even found out there was no extraction plan if Simmons and Skye hadn't also violated their orders and hacked into Hand's classified mission plans.
- In a later episode, Hand reveals that she's been evaluating Coulson to determine whether he Came Back Wrong, so the events of "The Hub" might have been a Secret Test of Character (though still an overly-complex one).
- Everyone in 'Allo 'Allo! has this, with every plan from Michelle or the Commandant having at least three steps too many. Stand out has to go to Herr Flick's plans though, at least Michelle and the Commandant are usually trying to be discreet seeing as how they are breaking the law. Herr Flick just likes to plot things.
- In Angel Jasmine's plan while possessing Cordelia gives the impression of being massively over-complicated. Apparently, she felt the need to unleash the Beast, make Connor think he was responsible for the apocalypse, have sex with him, blot out the sun, bring back Angelus, release him to generate even more chaos and possibly kill the Beast, which serves her, then give birth. Alternatively, she could have had sex with Connor, told Angel, "I need some time to think", and left the city for a month or two.
- One possible justification for this is that actually required the deaths the Beast caused to bring her forth, and that Jasmine lacked full control in the early days. This would also explain why "Cordelia" had a nightmare (which the audience saw her having inside her own head) about a monstrous unknown demon—that works for her and she told to show up.
- In one episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon develops a game of three-person chess, then starts adding new pieces, new abilities... it quickly spirals out of control. Naturally, the gang loves it.
Leonard: When is my pawn allowed to use the golf cart?
Sheldon: When it's done charging. Or you land on the time machine... obviously.
Leonard: Oh...oh! Beekeeper to king twelve, I capture pope and release the swarm. Checkmate on Sheldon!
- Burn Notice: The organization that burns Michael has a really complex recruitment process involving burning spies and then doing all manner of things to force them to cooperate and do their dirty work. Surely they could have just found some operatives they could tempt with money?
- As it turns out, the guy running the show is a psychologist with access to classified dossiers on agents. Which means that he can profile them to see if they're a good fit. Needless to say, with Michael it eventually backfired horribly.
- Michael gets accused pretty often of this by his friends, a few of the victims of the week he's helping and several enemies — they all ask why the hell he doesn't just shoots whatever is the problem? The answer varies, but often comes down to either Michael not wanting to draw (more) police attention, wanting to keep whatever is still left of his conscience clean, wanting to be thorough in the destruction of whatever is the threat of the week (and/or it having way more guns), wanting to obtain information on who burned him that he won't get if the other guy's dead, or a combination of the above.
- Presenter Tim Shaw has this in his CarSOS show during the segment he returns restored cars back to their owners. He always goes for the most convoluted scheme, complete with cheesy disguises and fake personae, possible; once even including a full pipe band in order to disguise a car's unique engine note. His co-presenter Fuzz Townshend lampshades it as Tim just liking to dress up and being frustrated Pantomime dame.
- Some of the UnSubs of Criminal Minds are pathologically stylish. The one that comes to mind first would be the Fisher King, who, for some reason, decided to send the protagonists on a King Arthur-themed scavenger hunt to catch him and save his victim, who was also his daughter.
- The CSI Franchise has this in spades. The first few episodes of the original show tend to have fairly straightforward crimes. But as the show went on, just watching Crime Scene Investigators find the same kind of evidence to solve crime would get routine, so the crimes got more complex, with Red Herring, Patsies, and more convoluted methods of murder that would leave less direct evidence behind. By the later season of the original show and its spin offs, CSI: Miami & Series/CSINY, basically every murderer on the show has a Complexity Addiction worthy of your average Batman villain. The same effect is common amongst other Police Procedural shows, with the aforementioned Criminal Minds having a similar thing. Later seasons criminals have far more complex delusions and psychosis and commit far more complex crimes than the early season criminals.
- One episode of CSI: Cyber involved a man who wanted to murder the witnesses whose evidence had put his father in prison. The obvious solution was, or course, to become one of the most skilled players of an online first person shooter, use his hacking skills to remove inventory items from accounts of some of the other top players (who had to be adolescents living in the same city), befriend these players by gifting them replacement gear (hacked from yet more players), spend hours a day playing with them to gain their trust and then use them to unwittingly courier disguised firearms that he had ordered from the deep web and hide them in appropriate locations so that he could later retrieve the guns in order to shoot his targets. The point of all this was apparently so that the firearms would be untraceable but that is hardly the only challenging aspect of planning a murder and given the insane complexity of the plan it is difficult to believe that he couldn't have got hold of the illegal guns some other way (plus of course the cyber team are able to track him down anyway).
- In particular for CSI: Cyber however, the necessity of a "Cyber" element for the crimesnote can lead to this - often the criminals could just as well do their business using conventional means, and their insistence on performing some sort of cyber crime as part of their schemes leads to this trope and their downfall.
- Justified on Deception (2018) as illusionist Cameron explains to the FBI that most illusions (and crimes inspired by them) tend to be ridiculously complex just for the hell of it in order to hide the truth from the audience.
- A Russian mobster makes people think they're on a fake reality TV show as a scheme to eliminate people who would try to defect from his organization.
- Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: Dirk and Todd complain that Dirk's employer designed a needlessly complicated and dangerous verification system of death traps to give them the clues they need.
- Doctor Who:
- This has been a main character trait of The Master from the very beginning, and was especially true of the Anthony Ainley incarnation - as the Rani once stated, "he'd get dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line!" This is an intentional character flaw; Terrance Dicks says the joke with the classic-era Master is that he's "the man so intelligent that he can't see the simple things staring him in the face." This usually tends to blow up in their face.
- Styggron in "The Android Invasion" might have actually conquered Earth had he just sprayed the planet with the impossibly deadly poison that would certainly have killed every Human on Earth, rather than spend so much of his time dicking around with robot doubles, Gaslighting spacemen, and building hyper-realistic training simulations where the pubs are kept fully stocked up with ale but every day on the calendar reads the same date.
- It's a commonly pointed-out plot hole in "The Brain of Morbius" that Solon's plan to give Brain in a Jar Morbius a new body is far more complicated than it needs to be. Much of the plot is driven by his intention to cut off the Doctor's "magnificent" head and use it as the final piece of the Frankenstein's Monster body that he built for Morbius to live in. It would have been a lot more straightforward just to put Morbius into the Doctor's body or even Condo's. This was mostly a holdover from earlier drafts of the script in which Condo was absent and Solon was a robot stitching together bodies from downed spaceships with no understanding of how they looked together and the Plot Hole was big enough that Terrance Dicks wanted his name taken off the script. The production subtitles on the DVD suggest that, as someone who already spent a lot of time on the mishmash body, Solon may be experiencing "the same logic blind spot that engulfs someone when they are trying to assemble a flatpack wardrobe in that they would rather spend time and effort hammering in new bits, cutting off useless parts and searching for non-existent screws so that they can actually get the darn thing installed than start afresh with something far more suitable for the purpose intended".
- The Doctor themself occasionally falls prey to the disease. More than one companion has had to point them in the direction of the simple approach when they've started going a little too tangential in their solutions than is tolerable (or safe ... or sane).
- In "The Day of The Doctor" three of the Doctor's regenerations work together to figure out a way to use the Sonic Screwdriver to get through a wooden door, the solution involving a centuries long time-loop to get the calculations done. None of them thought to check that the door was locked first.
- The Silence's plan to kill the Doctor was extremely complicated. Apparently they were controlling humanity and manipulating the space race to get a space suit which their assassin would be in while killing the Doctor. This despite the fact that they are capable of time travel and seem to have a base in the 52nd century. However, there is a reason: they want the Doctor's death to stick, and so need to arrange for the right place, to be able to make it a fixed point in time, and the right assassin.
- Happens on almost every episode of Eureka as the super-scientists go through complex ideas to solve a major problem. It's non-scientist Carter who comes up with the solution so obvious and simple, it never occurs to the geniuses.
- What screws over the Big Bad of the first season of The Good Place: Michael, the architect of the Good Place. He was so excited to build a Bad Place. But instead of building a normal Bad Place and filling it with mundane torture implements like fire and bears and "butt spiders" like his fellow demons, he had an idea: a Bad Place whose inhabitants would unknowingly torture each other with their personality flaws while thinking they are in the Good Place. But to pull off such a grand plan, he had to give the humans living there free will and maintain the illusion, which ultimately ruins the plan when the humans figure out on their own that they are in the Bad Place.
- One contestant in the sixth season of The Great British Baking Show suffered from this. Even after the judges repeatedly criticized her on the grounds that she tried to do too much and it ended up sinking her bakes, even knowing and saying herself that this was an issue, she couldn't seem to stop herself from trying to do the most elaborate bakes she could think up.
- Barney on How I Met Your Mother puts way too much thought and effort into just about everything. When he wants to see whether he or Ted is the better The Casanova he plans to have them compete in a sexual decathalon in a neutral city with a panel of international judges. When he wants to get revenge on Marshall, he spends months developing an exploding meatball sub to prank him with and uses elaborate and expensive means to fake a terminal illness so that Marshall will eat the exploding sub in accordance with Barney's last wishes. That's not even getting into the ridiculous Batman Gambits he uses to seduce women.
- The entire episode "The Playbook" is the explanation of one long scam on Barney's part to pick up a woman he hadn't even met yet when it started. It involves a scuba suit, website design, the Empire State building, seducing two other women along the way (one of whom he knew was a plant trying to scam him), at least two false identities, and feigned emotional vulnerability.
- And, the short-arc plan "The Robin", where he had to eliminate Robin's current boyfriend, enlist her office frenemy, use a Batman Gambit on the rest of the gang, and finally get Robin positioned, just so he could ask her if she'd marry him. The final step: "Hope she says yes."
- The Invisible Man: Arnaud is addicted to devising complex schemes for getting the invisibility gland out of Darien. In one episode, Darien actually asks Arnaud why he hasn't just shot him or cut the gland out?
- This is Nate Ford's shtick in Leverage. Numerous characters have pointed out that he's addicted to running increasingly complex cons.
- Although unlike most of the other characters here, he is sufficiently skilled that his plans usually work. This is helped by his extremely skilled associates.
- In a season four episode, Hardison proves himself vulnerable to this, failing to complete a con because the marks began to suspect that the rigmarole was too extensive. Nate explains that he's able to be addicted to complexity because he begins from Plan G, the "ugly plan" that'll probably end up working even when everything else doesn't and that the other Plans help advancing.
- MacGyver (1985): Karl, the bad guy in "Deadly Silents", seems to suffer from this; concocting several elaborate death traps to kill Mac and Pinky, even as his partner keeps urging to just shoot him.
- Macs Arch-Enemy Murdoch has a very big love for placing Mac inside of a Death Trap where he will have enough time to find a way to get out through MacGyvering. Even in one episode where he truly goes Ax-Crazy and chases Max through some woods with a flamethrower and he decides to wire Macs car with a bomb just in case he tries to run away in it, he still decides to wire it so a little flag with the message Bye, bye, time to fry will deploy whenever someone turns the key and take two whole minutes after that to go boom, which is plenty of time for Mac to kick a window open and get out alongside the Girl of the Week.
- Morgana from Merlin has this to the point of Villain Ballnote . Best summed up by this quote from the "Lancelot du Lac" recap page. Oddly enough, in this episode it actually works to heartbreaking effect.
Recap: Kill King Arthur? Nah, that's way too simple! Her plan involves soul coins, zombies, mind control, magical bracelets and perfect timing. It can't go wrong!
- On Monty Python's Flying Circus, there is a sketch in which a group of gangsters plan complex intricate schemes to do perfectly legal and mundane tasks such as buying a watch from a store and withdrawing money from a bank. Only one of them questions why they are putting so much effort into doing legal acts.
- On New Girl Schmitt and Ceecee are helping Winston with what they think is a proposal to their girlfriend. They're surprised when he doesn't as Winston explains he has a "28-point plan" for the proposal.
- Winston enlists Jess' help cutting the list down and she starts tossing out items like erotic skywriting, the Los Angeles Children's Choir and a bobcat costume.
- During a stint of unemployment, Ben of Parks and Recreation invents a game called "Cones of Dunshire", but when he attempts to explain the rules to Leslie, he realizes that it is far too complicated and fears that It Will Never Catch On. The game's complexity is exactly what endears it to the employees of an accounting firm that offers him a job. Much later it catches on more widely (although not among the cast), and the fact that he's the creator is what convinces a tech company to invest heavily in the town.
- SOP for pretty much every Power Rangers villain. They almost invariably utterly outclass all of the Rangers put together, and could easily wipe them out on Day 1, but choose to go through a whole process of summoning a monster, sending it out, waiting for the Rangers to beat it, making it grow, then complain about not being able to beat those pesky Rangers. Repeat as necessary.
- Happens a lot on Riverdale as both the bad guys and the kids can come up with frankly ridiculous and insane plots in various ways.
- The entire "Gargoyle King" storyline is the prime example.
- Edgar runs an operation on a farm that's basically to harvest people for organs and sell them on the black market? Does he simply kidnap these people and operate on them? Oh, no. First, he sends his wife, Evelyn, to pose as his 17 year old daughter (the woman is actually 26) to sway troubled high schoolers into joining. Then, he hypnotizes them into thinking they're seeing a source of pain (from Cheryl's dead brother to Betty's "dark persona") to make them loyal to him. He then convinces them that the only way to "cut away their pain" is via a "ceremony" that's actually the surgery. Betty basically lampshades how this whole thing is so outrageously complex that no one would ever suspect it's happening.
- A minor plot point in the season 2 finale of Sherlock: In an aversion of Hollywood Hacking, Sherlock is so convinced that Moriarty actually made a program that can hack into anything that he never once considers the possibility that Moriarty simply bribed the right people to open the right doors and set off the right alarms at the proper times to make it look like he had developed such a program. Moriarty is legitimately disappointed in Holmes for not figuring this out, and calls him out on it.
Moriarty: That's your problem: you always want everything to be clever.
- In Series 3, Sherlock claims that this in turn was all part of an elaborate Batman Gambit cooked up by him and Mycroft to bring down Moriarty and his organization. If that was really Sherlock.
- Played for laughs in "The Hounds of Baskerville" as John rants on how Sherlock ruined a game of Cluedo (the British version of Clue) because he kept insisting the killer was Mr. Black...the murder victim.
John: Because it's not actually possible for the victim to have done it, Sherlock, that's why!
Sherlock: But it was the only possible solution...
John: It's not in the rules!
Sherlock: Then the rules are wrong!
- While the Goa'uld of Stargate SG-1 attempted to be this, they came off as just a bunch of Large Hams what were Too Dumb to Live. Ba'al, on the other hand, actually had this. In the DVD movie Stargate Continuum, he had the means to crush the Earth to dust a hundred times over, but he wanted to conquer the Earth by inviting the US President to tea. When the other Go'auld simply wanted to bomb the planet, he mocked their lack of style, saying "You're all so stuck in your ways." You could seriously sometimes forget that you're not supposed to root for him. Justified twofold: one, Ba'al retains memories of the original timeline where Earth is way more trouble than it's worth to the Goa'uld, and two, in the original timeline he spent about a year living as a human and sort of got to like it.
- Discussed in the Supergirl (2015) episode "Medusa", regarding the Luthor family.
Alex: Why did Lillian Luthor take your blood? I mean, why not just kill you?
Kara: I... think she has something a little more nefarious planned.
Winn: Ah yes, those Luthors do love an epic criminal scheme.
- The Terror in The Tick (2016) loves needlessly complicated schemes. To quote Superian: "His plans make no sense."
- A geopolitical version of this is critiqued in The West Wing episode "A Good Day". Over the course of the episode Kate comes to realise that the various military and political wonks in the White House Situation Room, including herself, are so used to dealing with crises that they've gotten themselves locked into a near-perpetual crisis mode that leads them to over-complicate every situation to at times truly ridiculous and even dangerous ends. Case in point: a couple of hunters accidentally crossing the border and finding themselves in a stand-off with Canadian police almost becomes a war between the United States and Canada because everyone involved reacts as if this is a major international incident requiring a military build-up, sabre-rattling, complex back-door diplomatic negotiations and lots of serious complex stratagems instead of just a couple of schmucks who got lost and bumbled their way into Canada. Kate eventually resolves the situation by... falsely telling the hunters that hunting season is over and if they don't knock it off and surrender themselves they'll lose their hunting licenses.
- The entire first season plot of Star Trek: Picard and all the assorted murders, terrorist acts, and other crimes carried out by the Zhat Vash (which included actions that had previously ended up creating the entirely new Kelvin timeline) could have been avoided if the Romulans had simply told others about what they'd discovered instead of falling into their cultural obsession of secrecy and and subterfuge.
- Quoth Peter Sinfield, one-time lyricist for King Crimson:
"We had an Ethos in Crimson...we just refused to play anything that sounded anything like a Tin Pan Alley record. If it sounded at all popular, it was out. So it had to be complicated, it had to be more expansive chords, it had to have strange influences. If it sounded, like, too simple, we'd make it more complicated, we'd play it in 7/8 or 5/8, just to show off."
- The premise of the Johnny Cash song "One Piece at a Time"...An automotive factory worker conspires with a friend an elaborate plan to steal an expensive sports car by sneaking the necessary parts off of the assembly line one at a time, spread out over multiple years and putting them together at home. Things become extra complicated when he realizes he didn't factor in the changes in car designs across successive model years.
- Warhammer, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000: Tzeentch, being essentially a god of Magnificent Bastards, acts almost exclusively through Gambit Roulettes, even when a more straightforward solution might be possible. Many of his plans appear to be in direct conflict with each other, and it's been suggested that he doesn't actually have an ultimate goal. In fact, a popular fan theory is that Tzeentch has a LITERAL complexity addiction. If he ever wins, that is to say becomes the utterly dominant Chaos power and overruns reality, then there will be no more schemes for him to enact. Which will mean he ceases to exist at the very instant of his victory. That's why so many of his goals are in opposition to each other — he cannot afford to ever actually win, but nor can he cease trying to. Mind you, he does seem to enjoy it, as well...
- Before the Horus Heresy, Primarch Roboute Guilliman criticised Primarch Alpharius of the Alpha Legion for this — Alpharius' elaborate plans may in narrow terms have been highly successful, thoroughly crushing all opposition with limited losses for his legion, but they were also wasteful in time and resources (not helped by Alpharius' tendency to sometimes take counter-productive actions like warning enemies and giving them time to fortify solely to make his victories look more impressive).
- Alpharius' overly complicated plots also extends to his Legion. In the wake of the Horus Heresy, the remnants of the Alpha Legion have kept up their guerrilla war against the Imperium of Man, with many of their tactics boiling down to absurdly complex long-term plots which are so labyrinthine that it can take them centuries to see any resuls. However, said results are often devastating, such as infecting the inhabitants of a Space Marine chapter's recruiting planet with a long-term memetic virus that causes half the chapter to suddenly turn traitor with no warning a century later.
- Exalted's Infernals suffer from Torment, which punishes them if they don't obey their (literally) Hellish masters. In order to appease them, they can perform Acts of Villainy that pander to their patrons' urges. Intentionally leaving clues to attract heroes to oppose you, setting up a fiendish death trap and gloating about your plans before leaving them for dead are all acceptable. Better still, you are rewarded whether or not you are successful; thus, rebellious Infernals can intentionally set themselves up to fail, in order to escape punishment for not doing their jobs.
- Tinker gnomes in Dungeons & Dragons's Dragonlance and Spelljammer settings have this. It's most obvious in the Rube Goldberg Devices they're (in)famous for, but they're perfectly capable of falling in love with just about any "brilliant" idea or scheme at a moment's notice as well. (Some examples of their naming conventions would seem to indicate that their brains may indeed run a mile a minute — they'd have to just to cope with all the information they try to put into a "proper" name — they just do so without bothering to stop for common sense along the way.)
- A lot of Collectible Card Game players focused on the creative deck-building side of the game are motivated by a desire to see their convoluted deck concept or some Awesome, but Impractical card actually win something, even if picking up a tried-and-true cookie-cutter meta deck would have a higher success rate. Lampshaded by one such Magic: The Gathering card:
Laboratory Maniac: His mind whirled with grand plans, never thinking of what might happen if he were to succeed.
- In Magic, such people are called "Johnnies" or "Jennies", and they're viewed as one of the three main player psychographics (the others being Timmies/Tammies, who play for the experience of casting big creatures and entertaining spells, and Spikes, who play for tactical satisfaction and the joy of winning).
- There's a little bit of a complexity epidemic in Rocket Age, as many villains won't simply shoot the heroes, they'll tie them under a Rocket Engine, unleash mutant collared peccaries, or thrown into an arena. There's even one instance of a group of fanatical but otherwise perfectly sensible Soviet agents putting a hostage on a furnace's conveyor belt. A certain degree of justification exists in that the whole game runs on Indiana Jones-style Pulp sensitivities.
- The Discworld Role-Playing Game enforces this trope by offering dark lord characters their own Code of Honour disadvantage — which includes the rule "Use overcomplicated death-traps and ornate, flared, barbed, and smokeblackened blades". Note that, on the Discworld, Narrative Causality ensures that villains who act this way are generally guaranteed to survive their many defeats, in an equally stereotyped way — and the game supports this too.
- Cleopatra from Antony and Cleopatra, she can't simply say something straight to your face or ask you for something, she'll make sure to manipulate your emotions and thoughts to get what she wants, even when it's completely unnecessary or even counterproductive.
- BIONICLE: Makuta's original plan failed. So he came with something even more complicated that required thousands of years of precise timing, careful execution, reliance on his opponents doing exactly what he expected them to do in trying to foil his schemes, and even his own potential death. Some of his allies seriously complain about the over-complexity, wanting to simply use brute force instead, and a running joke among the Brotherhood was that he had back-up plans in place for his breakfast. Heck, Makuta himself even seemed aware of his addiction, as at several points he admitted to having "schemes within schemes" that would tear apart his enemies' minds if they tried to seriously decipher them (this is, in fact, Not Hyperbole-look at Zaktan). And it WORKED, with no one the wiser until he literally came out and revealed it.
- The board game Mouse Trap, where the Rube Goldberg mechanism for catching the mice was so complicated that it rarely if ever worked.
- As the 1990's commercial describes the proceedings:
Just turn the crank
And snap the plank
And boot the ball right down the shoot.
Now watch it roll
And hit the pole
Knock the ball in the rub-a-dub tub
Which flips the man
Into the pan.
The trap is set
Here comes the net!
Mouse Trap—I guarantee!
It's the craziest trap you'll ever see.
- As the 1990's commercial describes the proceedings:
- There's an urban legend that NASA spent a decade and twelve billion dollars (or whatever) developing a ballpoint pen that could write in zero-g... while the Russians just used a pencil. The truth, for the record, is that pencils were used by both until it was realised snapped pencil tips floating around in space capsules were a hazard, so a guy called Paul C. Fisher spent his own money to develop a "space pen" and offered it to NASA.
- This is why Conspiracy Theories fall apart under Fridge Logic, because the conspiracies are needlessly complicated to accomplish their goals. John F. Kennedy couldn't have just been shot by a nut with a sniper rifle in an empty building, it had to be a massive coordinated effort between the Soviet Union, the Mafia, Cuba, and the military-industrial complex. A secret, incredibly powerful group with enough power to rule the world would rather waste time and resources hiding in the shadows and trying to look nondescript instead of just brute-forcing their rule. The moon landing was faked and everyone involved kept it a secret even though the technology was available.
- Sonic the Hedgehog:
- Sonic Labyrinth a game where Sonic has to solve puzzle mazes by collecting keys. The catch is Sonic has lost his super speed with the exception of his spin dash ability, at the hands of his nemesis Dr. Eggman. According to the manual scenario Eggman snuck into Sonic's house while Sonic was sleeping and stole his Sneakers to send him on this crazy quest.
- It's a general Acceptable Break from Reality for villains to have large winding fortresses instead of just blocking the hero with a wall or having them fall into lava, but special mention must go to Sonic Spinball, in which Robotnik builds a "Pinball Defense System" to stop his nemesis who is well known for curling into a ball.
- Mephiles's plan from Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) could have ended so early if he just killed Elise, thereby releasing Iblis, but he had to overblow the whole plot, making the entire plan completely useless. He had plenty of other options, too:
- He could even have just cut up a few onions in front of her.
- He could have skipped the manipulation altogether and just merge with the clearly unleashed Iblis in Silver's time period. It's not like Iblis is being subtle and hard to find.
- Even what he ends up doing, killing Sonic, would have been fine. Given the ease of which it was done, and that he only does it because his more complicated plan failed spectacularly, you have to wonder why he didn't just do that in the first place.
- The Lich King in World of Warcraft has a truly epic case of this. He comes up with a plan to transform your player into one of his 10/25 (depending on dungeon mode) greatest generals by allowing you to train up by killing off any number of already competent servants, including his 10 most powerful minions you can only kill when outnumbering them at least 9 to 1, then slaughter your way up to his inner sanctum and nearly kill him, before he kills you and raises you as undead. Alternatively, his plan could have gone something like this: Lord Marrowgar....okay I made you too big to ever leave the room, stay where you are. Drakuru, who I didn't kill like an idiot, send out your super-trolls. Deathwhisper rally the cultists! Saurfang lead the troops! Putridus release your plagues! Unleash the Darkfallen! The other 8 billion of you...Charge! I mean seriously, those idiots are still killing each other even though the sole reason you're here is to fight a guy who reanimates the dead.
- This turns out to be explained by what remains of Arthas' humanity deliberately holding him back. If the Scourge were left to their own devices (possibly still under the control of Ner'zhul) then they would wipe out the living. Possibly the ridiculous plan is a way to justify his inaction. No, I'm not holding back. My plan just relies on bringing me to the brink of destruction.
- Also worth noting from the above, Arthas' intervention appears to be in the Lich King's subconscious. Meaning in his rational mind, the Lich King actually thought having 10/25 mortals farm his strongest generals and almost kill him, only to be killed and raised to serve him seemed like a good idea, and one that would have worked if he had the foresight to kill Tirion Fordring at the start of the fight as he easily could have.
- This turns out to be explained by what remains of Arthas' humanity deliberately holding him back. If the Scourge were left to their own devices (possibly still under the control of Ner'zhul) then they would wipe out the living. Possibly the ridiculous plan is a way to justify his inaction. No, I'm not holding back. My plan just relies on bringing me to the brink of destruction.
- Dwarf Fortress players in general love this trope. Why dispose of garbage by throwing it in a trash dump outside when you can reduce it to ash in magma or hurl it into the bottomless pits of Hell? Why use a few cage traps when you can build a pressurized-magma Wave-Motion Gun? As for dealing with captured enemies... throwing them into a cavern or off of a tower is the simple way of dealing with them, but gladiatorial combat and deranged death traps are extremely popular as well.
- With any feature, intended or not, someone will find a way to weaponize it. Ignite artifacts to make incendiary booby-traps? Making drawbridge catapults to fire captive goblins at the next raiding party? Wait, let's drive a few dwarves berserk so they'll have to be slain and will come back as violently vengeful ghosts, which we can turn against our enemies! Or we could set up an elaborate gate-and-lever system (make sure you label the levers so you know where everything ends up) to both keep Noble politics interesting and the population of killer carp well fed!
- How about we start messing with the game files? Like increasing the body temperature of the common cat to create a trap based on cats breeding to a critical mass and the ensuring temperature rise wiping whole sections of the fortress of life/flammable material? How about making elephants breed faster with a higher body temperature and making that cat nuke into a medieval ICBM? Even better—let's use strengthened doors and an invasion from Hell to flush the fortress of pesky kobold thieves!
- In Superman for the Nintendo 64, Lex Luthor captures Superman and puts him into a virtual reality environment, challenging him with tasks such as flying through rings. Given the quality of the game, he may have been going for a Fate Worse than Death angle here.
- Professor Layton, in the series named after him, when given responsibility over something, will want to do it in a time-consuming and convoluted way. This is most notable in the hamster he has to get into shape for Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, where Layton collects seemingly random junk to put in the critter's cage. Layton also likes to explain things to Luke in the most confusing way possible. It's a good thing Luke is almost as good at deciphering messages as Layton. The villains aren't much better - in particular, Descole's convoluted schemes to find The Azran sites before Layton, and protect them from Targent. Especially his plan in Eternal Diva.
- People who play Aurora live by this trope, with the game being so complex any lesser person will go mad from frustration.
- General Viggo from Fur Fighters opens the game by gassing the Fur Fighter village, knocking them all out cold with sleeping gas. He then kidnaps the children as hostages and transforms the spouses into mutant monsters to guard key locations. The reason for not killing the titular heroes who are currently helpless? Because that always went badly in the past. By the end of the game he decides to stop with all the clever plans and just use brute force.
- There's one particular scenario in Ride to Hell: Retribution involving the player having to get past an electric fence. The solution, instead of just crashing through it with a vehicle or cutting the power nearby, is to go kill a bunch of truckers, steal their fuel truck, kill a bunch of cops when they come to stop you, drive out of your way to a nearby power plant, kill everyone there and crash the truck into the power plant to destroy both, before returning to climb the un-electrified fence.
- The Antagonist Title character in Batman: Arkham Knight has a chance to kill the other title character upon first meeting him, but chooses instead to tell the guards to leave him alive, so he can make him suffer. Somewhat justified in that he's working with Scarecrow, who wants to destroy Batman's legacy, which killing him would make more difficult.
- The PS2 FPS game Daemon Summoner has a stealth level which requires you to sneak on board a ship, and despite it being close to your starting position and only having one guard, you have to take the most roundabout and out of the way path imaginable to get on board the ship by sneaking through a warehouse, up a ridiculously long staircase and over the roof.
- One complaint levied against Shadow of Destiny is that the ways the main character avoids death seem like an excuse to abuse time travel. A video game magazine cited one scenario: the main character, Eike, is standing next to a tree when he is killed by an assailant who was using the tree to hide. Because of the circumstances of the game, he can move through time to prevent his own death. His solution? Go back to when the seed was first planted and prevent the tree from growing, thus rendering his assassin's mode of concealment moot. The solution the magazine proposed? Just not stand next to the friggin' tree.
- The Secret World: Justified with one of the main factions, the Dragon. Since they are students of Chaos Theory, in many cases the only point of their plans is to test their models. So they will set some ridiculously complex plot into motion just to see if it works. If it doesn't, they still get to gather data, and they'll be sure to do better next time.
- Pierce of the Saints Row series is fond of devising needlessly convoluted plans that are always ignored in favour of the Boss's preferred method of "barge in and spray bullets until everything is dead". His loyalty mission in Saints Row IV is about finally going along with one of his plans for once.
- In the alternate reality spin-off game Agents of Mayhem, Pierce ended up in charge of the Vice Kings and it's shown that his complicated plans actually did work exactly as intended, allowing him to eventually perform a bloodless takeover of all of Stillwater's criminal element before being recruited into MAYHEM.
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the infamous "Supply Lines..." mission has Zero send CJ to humiliate his rival Berkeley by assassinating his couriers using a miniature plane that regarded as That One Level due to being very hard to maneuver, quite fragile and overall impractical for the task instead of a more conventional method like personally gunning them down, like what CJ has been doing for the entire game. In fact, Zero could very easily ask CJ to get rid of Berkeley, but he would rather prefer to prove his superior intellect instead.
- Kingdom Hearts: Arc Villain Master Xehanort could give some villains a run for their money in terms of Kudzu Plot plans. According to Dream Drop Distance, everything in the previous games has somehow been All According to Plan via secret, heretofore unmentioned powers that overlap Assimilation Plot with Stable Time Loop, all for the sake of recreating the Keyblade War, just to see what would happen. Xehanort even went as far as to cause his own Start of Darkness. Given that other, more-straightforward methods to accomplish this have been demonstrated in a couple Kingdom Hearts games, one wonders why Xehanort didn't just look for them instead of working so feverishly on taking the harder option.
- Mystery Case Files series. Charles and Alistair just love their complicated plans and even more complicated locks. Charles is probably worse; while Alistair can just cut to the chase when needed, in Mystery Case Files Escape From Ravenhearst, the whole game is Charles showing a very warped version of his life (which was bad enough to begin with), in order to lure the Master Detective to participate as the "bride" in a bogus wedding scene. That's not even getting into using the Detective's necessary-to-survive actions to fuel the restoration of his "true loves" (yeah right) and daughters, so he can use them in further nefarious and complex schemes. Charles is flat nuts.
- A running theme in the Uncharted series are characters noting how ridiculously convoluted the various puzzles and traps they keep running into are when a simple gate would have done just as well. From statues that have to be lined up in just the right way to complex "water/cross wheel", the complexity of these has characters openly saying something like "can't they just leave a sign behind?"
- In fact, the two puzzles in the first two games could be so complex that for the third and fourth entry, the developers allowed the option of players being given the solution or just skip the entire puzzle.
- Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time: Penelope could've gotten her billions of dollars from Bentley's designs legitimately if she had just remained patient with him and continued to play nice with Sly and Murray. Instead, her lust for money and power drives her to defect to Le Paradox and work on erasing the Cooper family from history, and disposing of Murray and his van, all so she could keep Bentley to herself, and force him into designing weapons. It comes crashing down hard when they find out, and dismiss Penelope as an unredeemable monster.
- Duke Nukem Forever's notoriously protracted development time was a meta example of this trope. 3D Realms developer George Broussard insisted that the game be as up-to-date and state-of-the-art as possible, which meant constantly adding in new features to keep up with the ever-evolving FPS scene. Ironically, once the game finally came out, a common criticism was that it had dated itself despite the Take That! shots at other FPS games.
- Many of the murderers in Ace Attorney are either too paranoid, prideful, or just plain crazy to pull off a simple murder. Then again, simple murders are often covered up by the strategic destruction/removal of evidence or witnesses seeing things and coming to the wrong conclusions which often leads to the case itself taking on this trope, even if the murder was as simple as a spur of the moment shooting.
- Florent L'Belle, the second culprit of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies, concocted a ridiculously over-engineered plot that involved blackmail, a village merger, a Locked Room Mystery, and impersonation, all just to steal a valuable object to pay off his debt, when he literally has his own personal line of cosmetics that he refuses to sell despite the numerous offers which would almost certainly let him pay off his debt.
Apollo: (Yeesh, Rube Goldberg machines have less elaborate setups than L'Belle's scheme...)
- This also applies to Manfred von Karma's revenge for Gregory Edgeworth getting him a penalty on his "perfect" trial record: he shoots Gregory, takes on his son as a protege and raises him to be the very sort of attorney Gregory hated, then entices Yanni Yogi to help him murder someone else to frame Miles Edgeworth for it, banking on the idea that being caught up in a case so close to his father's murder would cause Edgeworth to confess to Gregory's killing (which von Karma knew Edgeworth mistakenly believed he did) and lead to Edeworth's imprisonment. That's quite some Disproportionate Retribution.
- Lampshaded in the fourth game:
Ema Skye: Why can't we have a normal, straightforward killing once in awhile in this country!?
Apollo: (I'll... pretend I didn't hear that)
- Florent L'Belle, the second culprit of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies, concocted a ridiculously over-engineered plot that involved blackmail, a village merger, a Locked Room Mystery, and impersonation, all just to steal a valuable object to pay off his debt, when he literally has his own personal line of cosmetics that he refuses to sell despite the numerous offers which would almost certainly let him pay off his debt.
- Similarly to Ace Attorney, the murderers in the Danganronpa series are all desperate to win the Deadly Game and save themselves to the point where they make their murders insanely complicated and ultimately leave behind a ton of evidence in spite of the fact that none of their peers have basic forensic equipment. Ironically, the ones that were shown to have just whacked their victims on the head without any precautions or plans were among the closest to getting away with it.
- Gilgamesh in Fate/stay night shows up, effortlessly kills Caster, deflects Ilya's best attack, and sneers at everyone, but declines to kill them because he thinks Shirou's house is too shabby for a battle. He also refuses to kill Shirou and Tohsaka later because the house is burning down, which might make his clothes dirty. Gasp! He acts like this throughout the game and only goes straight for a kill in Heavens Feel because he's pissed about someone taking away his stuff (as in, Sakura is eating the townspeople). Oh, and it doesn't work, clearly because he discarded his style. Nevertheless, he's the most dangerous Servant around. He is repeatedly stated to be the strongest servant (he has copies of all the legendary weapons the others yield plus unique ones), and is only defeated because he failed to use his full strength off the bat due to wanting to toy with opponents or not considering them worthy of his exertion.
- Beatrice's bio in Umineko: When They Cry comments that she has a problem with this. She gets so focused on the means to her ends, that she sometimes forgets the ends themselves. This is also a reference to how Beatrice's magic works in the setting - Beatrice and Kinzo describe magic as a kind of gamble, with a high-risk, high-reward system in place. Beatrice's plans are so convoluted to try and ensure that high reward, but it has the disadvantage of distracting her from her goals if she gets too into it.
- Girl Genius:
- This is an affliction common to Sparks, whose enthusiasm for pushing the boundaries of science and creating amazing contraptions can sometimes blind them to the obvious. Just so.
- Similarly if you ask a Spark to make a coffee machine, you end up with this.
- They're so obsessed with building or improving new and crazy machines just to make them more complex, some even work in their sleep. The affliction is also part of their ego. Providing a Mundane Solution to a problem will get you, at the very least, a severe glare for having spoiled the fun.
- Airman Higgs lampshades it here.
Alex Higgs: "I've seen this over and over! Damfool Sparks who think they've got to send a full-scale army of giant, singing rosebushes or it isn't romantic enough! Don't make everything so complicated!"
- Also lampshaded by Queen Albia here:
Albia: (to Agatha) "Ridiculous machinations to accomplish nonsense easily done otherwise through ordinary means— How like a young Spark. You are extremely amusing."
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, as a result of her time in the forest, Antimony developed a case of this.
Antimony: I suppose this calls for... an even more convoluted scheme!
- Homestuck: Vriska loves to brag about her many "irons in the fire", but she doesn't appear to care if any of these schemes actually conflict; as long as she's got another pie to stick a finger in, she's as happy as a clam that's never heard of chowder.
- Her elaborate courtship of Tavros included abusing him physically and mentally, crippling him, taking advantage of his childhood fantasies, teaming up with him, mocking him, giving him a flying car, trying to force him to kill her and killing him when he fails, all in order to toughen him up and spark either red or black romantic feelings because she thought it was fated because of Mindfang's journals. Instead, he just got confused and very frightened of her. She'd have had better results by just being nice to him—it worked on John.
- Rose tends to attribute a complicated motivation to those around her when a simpler one may be much more accurate and as more obvious. For instance, she thinks her mother's smothering affection and similar interests are affected in order to subtly mock and belittle her in an endless passive-aggressive battle of wits. Dave correctly guesses that Mom Lalonde's really just overly affectionate and happens to have the same interests as Rose.
- Caliborn takes this Up to Eleven. Pretty much anything he does will be done the most needlessly-convoluted and time-consuming manner possible. Multiple characters point out his tendency to do things in ways that would mind-numb anyone else into a Rage Quit.
- This is one of the ways he's contrasted with his future self, Lord English; whereas Caliborn wastes his time and skill on pointlessly complex schemes, English has grown up enough to understand that he can just blast his way through anyone that tries to stop him. He still goes through a lengthy process to enter new universes, but only because he has to follow Sburb's rules. Plus he's immortal and a time-traveler, so it's not a big problem for him.
- John succumbs to this with his sylladex later in the story. After having spent most of the comic screwing around with his stupidly impractical, near-useless inventory system that forces him to constantly rearrange things, he obtains an array sylladex, which is simple, easy-to-use, and has loads more space. John responds to this by combining the two systems, making the whole thing even more hideously impractical just to make things more challenging.
- The Order of the Stick:
- Nale has this as his standard modus operandi to the point where all of his plans are regularly described as "needlessly complicated" by other characters. Case in point. He apparently inherited this from his mother (even though she didn't raise him). Even his class (multiclass Fighter/Thief/Sorcerer specializing in enchantment spells) is the same as a Bard (his twin brother Elan's class) but more complicated.
- His father, General Tarquin, has a long-running scheme to rule the Western continent by acting as an Evil Chancellor to one of the assorted petty kingdoms in the land while his friends manipulate two other kingdoms, occasionally letting them fall and moving onto another one. But he only resorted to that plan after straightforward military force failed. Later, he writes off one of Nale's plans as "having too many moving parts."
- Xykon is the opposite of this trope, having a simplicity addiction. He sees no point in creating elaborate plans or strategies when he can simply bombard an enemy with high-level spells or a target with thousands upon thousands of Hobgoblin soldiers. In Xykon's case, it's not just a matter of laziness. To him, not needing plans or strategies to defeat his enemies is the ultimate expression of power. He also has a extreme disdain for uppity wizards who treat sorcerers such as himself as magical imbeciles. Thus the above simplicity addiction is one of his ways to continually reject the wizard's way of life by succeeding with only the minimal of planning and intelligence. That's not to say his plans are stupid by any means. By creatively using a single spell he manages to destroy a very large chunk of the Sapphire Guard who are guarding the throne room. He also spends a significant amount of time crafting or acquiring magical items to make his chosen tactics more effective and cover his weaknesses.
Xykon: Planning doesn't matter. Strategy doesn't matter. Only two things matter: force in as great a concentration as you can manage, and style. And in a pinch, style can slide. In any battle, there's always a level of force against which no tactics can succeed.
- Thog lays this accusation at Roy's feet during their arena fight. Roy has to use cross-class skills, specialized feats, and complicated schemes to use his best ability (intelligence) in combat; Thog can do the same by just hitting things.
- Tales of the Questor:
- The Fae, at least the Unseleighe Fae, trend toward this. Princeling Dolan had an ongoing political scheme that involved the Racconans, the Duke, the Wild Hunt, a minor plague, an unpayable debt and the daughters of a rival Fae Princeling and had been unfolding for over a century. As Sam put it, "(The Unseleighe Fae) think like a corkscrew."
- The Brotherhood of Beither are possible candidates as well. It currently appears that they used political intrigue and influence through the Archivist's Guild and the Expansionist Party to remove political rivals from power by dissolving their rival's constituency by destroying the town of Freeman Downs through a loophole in an unfulfilled contract... Only for Freeman Downs' new questor to unexpectedly fulfill the contract with what practically amounts to an indefinite exile.
- The fae of Roommates are no better. For example a simple installment of the custody battle between the Erlkönig and his ex Jadis involved Blood Magic, Shadow Archetypes, a magical mercenary doppelgänger, a cursed ring, an elaborate Dream Within a Dream Lotus-Eater Machine, wrapped in several layers of symbolism, including planting ideas hundreds of years before, etc.... they both have a terminal case. (They are also incredibly hammy and have the power to intentionally invoke several "Rule Of..." tropes.) Speaking of the Erlkönig. He is one of the few, who bother with human disguises. But it has really obvious flawsnote which either means he is leaving clues so this trope, or the proof that he is really bad at disguises.
- Chaos in El Goonish Shive actually deliberately makes her plans unnecessarily complex and unreliable, largely because the alternative is too boring for her. In fact, it's easy to argue the actual goal of her plans is to fail, and her nominal goals are chosen not so much because she wants to achieve them is to give the greatest degree of freedom for the consequences of her plans failing.
- Immortals, of which chaos is a part of, generally have to resort to such plans because they are bound to ironclad rules to only empower and guide mortals, though Pandora (Chaos' first chosen name) is one of worst in that regard.
- Voltaire, another immortal did have the simpler plans A and B, he enacted planc CM (AKA Complicated Mess) in desperation, though it turned out he didnt need it because something else did it for him and it was even easier to do then his first two plans, and now he is stuck executing a overly complex plan he doesn't need because he cannot stop it.
- Voldemort's tendency toward this kind of thing in Harry Potter is parodied in Sluggy Freelance in the story "Torg Potter and the Giblets with Fiber". Millard Stoop (a parody of Voldemort) originally planned to curse the infant Torg Potter with a combination of curses that would make it into something small and forgetful that would constantly pee itself and spread the common cold to others. Yes, he was going to do this to a baby. Also, the plot of the whole chapter is an elaborate Batman Gambit just like in the original (Goblet of Fire) to obtain some of Torg's blood... which starts with obtaining some of Torg's blood in order to enter him into the Try-Gizzard Tournament.
- xkcd brings in someone with one of these for "Workflow". Configuring your system to interpret "hold spacebar" as "control" is reasonable. Making this configuration depend on a bug that overheats your computer is, in the admin's own words, horrifying.
- In the climax of Concession it turns out that what Joel thought was a carefully planned out Xanatos Gambit, had too many loose ends. And it was all for naught, he believed that he needed to do all that to gather enough spiritual energy to overwhelm his older brother's powers, when his brother had no powers whatsoever.
- The team in Sturgeon's Law have a problem with something as simple as checking in to a hotel.
- In League of Super Redundant Heroes, Smug Super Asstronomous got cursed by Maroon Jackdaw to have the head of a donkey. Rather than apologize and promise to stop hitting on her and the other superheroines at the Bar of Justice, he goes back in time, finds an un-cursed version of himself, clones him, has his mind transferred to the clone and comes back to the present.
Asstronomous: What? Maroon Jackdaw was being completely unreasonable!
- Darths & Droids: Jango Fett wants to kill Obi-Wan for murdering his partner. To that end, he comes up with a plot involving a clone army, to tear down the entirety of the Jedi Order, the Republic, everything Obi-Wan loves and cares about... and then he will kill him. His son even asks Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? It's because Jango's a Card-Carrying Villain, and he wants Obi-Wan to suffer.
- 8-Bit Theater:
- This is one of many, many reasons that Red Mage's "fractactical genius" never does him any good. Because he is delusional and believes he is in an RPG-Mechanics Verse, he seeks out elaborate plans in order to score more XP, generally leading to him and/or the others getting maimed.
- This, combined with abject stupidity, is why the Dark Warriors never accomplish anything. At one point, D'rizzl proposes summoning up huge monsters to murder the Light Warriors in their sleep, and it eventually degenerates to the point where Vilbert wants to summon a huge rat creature, kill it, and put it into the Light Warriors' food, while Bikke is proposing bringing the building about in order to fire a broadside.
D'rizzl: You do this every time. The plan is simple. Why do you seek idiotic complications?
- Justified with Sam Starfall in Freefall. Sqid culture esteems the Lovable Rogue and other forms of daring scoundrel, and Sam is in many ways an exemplary Sqid, so his first concern when hatching a plan is less "how well will this work" and more "would this make a good story to tell once I've pulled it off through my brilliance, cunning and skill". In this strip he's disappointed that the guards are offsite and he can just walk away instead of needing to use the needlessly complex plan he came up with involving coffee pots, paper and hot glue guns.
- The Evil Overlord List, item #85:
I will not use any plan in which the final step is horribly complicated, e.g. "Align the 12 Stones of Power on the sacred altar then activate the medallion at the moment of total eclipse." Instead it will be more along the lines of "Push the button."
- The eponymous Dr. Horrible of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog feels that "killing is beneath him", and, as a result, uses non-lethal weapons such as the freeze ray. At first, anyway...
- Tom Collins in Demo Reel doesn't just kidnap Donnie, hold him hostage and force Rebecca and Tacoma to give up the show that way, instead he has his associates dump him in the woods, which results in the rest of SWAG leaving in disgust, Tom going through Sanity Slippage and ends up with a beatdown from Rebecca, Donnie and Karl.
- Gavin Free of Achievement Hunter has this problem sometimes, going for grandiose or flashy gimmicks when it would be better to do something simple. This is most evident in the group's various Let's Plays of the Worms series, where a well-known running gag is him using the grappling hook or jetpack to drop bombs on people which more often than not causes the death of his own worm instead when he panics and lets go at the wrong time. A more recent example would be in one of their Let's Plays of the Terrorist Hunt mode of Rainbow Six: Vegas, where he continually uses breach charges on doors just because it's cool instead of just opening them. The last time this happens he ends up killing a teammate.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Evil Chancellor Long Feng has secretly ruled Ba Sing Se for years by suppressing all knowledge of the Fire Nation's war against the rest of the world. When the Avatar shows up, he finds himself in a position where he can't simply silence the Avatar and can't accept the Avatar's help without admitting the war is real. Instead, he has them followed constantly, captures Appa, then tries to get them to leave by lying about Appa's whereabouts. Had he just taken their intel but refused their help, then given them Appa, he wouldn't have been deposed at the end of the season.
- Slater from Archer seems to suffer from this: In "Pocket Listing" he needs to scan the handprints, retinas, cell phones and flash drives of a visiting prince while he is in New York. So he comes up with a ridiculously over complicated plan that involves luring the Prince and his bodyguards to Cheryl's mansion, having her pose as the listing agent while the rest of the gang pose as servants, having Ray use a laxative to separate the prince from his bodyguards, separating the prince from his incredibly overbearing mother, then drugging the prince with a dart gun and scanning all of this in the roughly sixty seconds that it will take for the drug to wear off... Even though it would probably be infinitely easier to simply break into his room while he is sleeping and scan all the electronic equipment and then drug the prince and scan his retinas and handprints.
- Lampshaded twice in the episode, first by Lana ("Why are your plans always so complicated? You're like Wile E. Coyote with access to Predator Drones.") and later by Archer ("It had everything but a sign for free bird-seed.").
- At the end of Season 6, it's implied that Slater's been exploiting this trope in order to sabotage the gang so that the CIA could fire them for incompetence.
- DuckTales (2017): Flintheart Glomgold frequently suffers from this with a majority of his schemes. His scheme to take down Mark Beaks (which also had an extra plan to betray Scrooge) involved a billionaire's party on a yacht, a swimming pool full of sharks, a fake holiday involving carrots and an active volcano. The season 2 finale also had him coming up with such a scheme to help Scrooge beat General Lunaris after all of Scrooge's plans fail. The scheme involves sharks dressed in parkas, Beakley dressed as a kid, Launchpad dressed as a rock, a giant slingshot, and Scrooge dressed as Santa Claus (whom Scrooge hates). The hilarious thing about this overly complicated scheme is that it actually works thanks to Lunaris seeing it as nothing but a distraction due to how stupid it appeared.
- "The Ballad of Duke Baloney" reveals he suffered from this even as a kid: in a flashback to when he was a humble shoeshine boy (then going by his birth name of "Duke Baloney") he tells Scrooge about his plan to save up all his shoe shining earnings, then buy a coal mine, turn all the coal into diamonds, create a diamond point for a large drill, and finally drill through the ground for gold to sell for a fortune. Scrooge asks why he wouldn't just sell the diamonds, to which a confused Duke asks what he's supposed to use for the drill if he does.
- The scams in Ed, Edd n Eddy are this. The Eds are shown to have amazing talent in setting up services, but Eddy continuously insists on cutting corners with flashy scams that ultimately make the kids want to have a refund. It would be easy if they just set up an honest business, especially with all that technology Edd makes from junk. Case in point, any success they had is from a scam that's pretty straightforward while Jimmy succeeded on his first try with a trampoline.
- The Simpsons:
- "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes" (during a parody of The Prisoner (1967)):
Number 2: I'll be blunt. Your web page has stumbled upon our secret plan.
Homer: That's impossible. All my stories are bullplop. Bullplop!
Number 2: Don't be cute. I'm referring to the flu shot exposé. You see, we're the ones loading them with mind-controlling additives.
Homer: But why?
Number 2: To drive people into a frenzy of shopping. That's why flu shots are given just before Christmas.
Homer: Of course. It's so simple. Wait, no it's not. It's needlessly complicated.
Number 2: Yes, it is.
- Subverted in another episode when Sideshow Bob's brother Cecil is about to kill Bart by throwing him off a hydroelectric dam:
Cecil: At last, I'm going to do what Bob never could: KILL Bart Simpson!
Bart: By throwing me off a dam? Isn't that a little crude for a genius like you?
Cecil: Ooh, I suppose it is. Eh. If anyone asks, I'll lie!
- Speaking of Sideshow Bob, there was that time he rigged the Springfield Mayoral Election by stuffing the ballots (even though his opponent was guaranteed to lose anyway), and when he tried to kill Bart and Krusty with one stone by kidnapping the former, hypnotizing him, rigging him with explosives with triggers on his palms and having him try to hug the latter during what was supposed to be his final show.
- On another occasion, Sideshow Bob has Bart trapped in a coffin which is slowly being transported on a conveyor belt towards a crematorium furnace. That said, when the Simpsons arrive to rescue Bart, Sideshow Bob switches the lever from Gloating Speed to Kill Him Already! to speed up the conveyor belt. This isnt after managing to exploit his addiction in order to fake his death by attracting the Simpsons to a Death Trap, then being convinced to trigger it so it will go off in his face, and wiring it so it will be a non-fatal explosion. It still involved a Gambit Roulette with an ad for a BBQ joint made in a way the family would find irresistible.
- Yet on another occasion, Sideshow Bob decided to steal a nuclear bomb and threaten to detonate it unless television stopped broadcasting in Springfield. He busted this plan by picking a 1950s vintage bomb that was no longer operative, purely because of its "retro" value and despite the fact there were plenty of modern bombs at his disposal. Then he tried to kill Bart and Krusty in a murder-suicide... using the 1903 Wright Flyer.
- In a Treehouse of Horror story, Homer learns that Moe has an emerald. He tries to get it by tricking Marge into marrying Moe then killing Moe and marrying Marge to get the emerald. Homer says that the plan's best part is its simplicity.
- Another subversion: When the Simpsons refuse to sell the Obviously Evil Mr. Burns their puppies, he takes it with such suspicious grace that they're sure he's coming up with some fiendish scheme to get them... Cut to Burns just stealing the pups at that very moment while their backs are turned.
Smithers: Honestly sir, you just don't put the effort into your schemes that you used to.
- "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes" (during a parody of The Prisoner (1967)):
- In an episode of Underdog, Simon barSinister's plan to take over the city was thwarted because he couldn't reach a vital piece of equipment due to the Thanksgiving Day Parade blocking the street. Fortunately, he has a time machine. How does he use it? Option A: Go back in time to that morning, cross the street before the parade starts. Option B: Go back in time one day, tell his troops the attack is postponed until Friday, when the parade won't be blocking the street. Option C: Go back in time one week, and move the device to the other side of the street, so the parade won't be an issue. What he comes up with is Option D: Go back several hundred years and sabotage the formation of Plymouth Plantation so that Thanksgiving Day never happens, and therefore the Thanksgiving Day Parade will not exist to keep him from crossing the street. He opted to try to alter centuries of history, possibly creating a Butterfly Effect that would cause the city he wanted to conquer to never exist in the first place, just to remove a temporary traffic obstacle.
- Perennial Hanna-Barbera villain Dick Dastardly is the king of this trope. In his first appearance on Wacky Races he would always come up with elaborate plans to cheat his way to victory. Here's the kicker: he didn't need to do this at all. His car was several times faster than anyone else's. He could have won every race legitimately with ease, and in fact, each race begins with him surging to a huge lead. But he always stops in order to set up traps, which invariably end up backfiring and costing him the race. This pattern of behavior would carry on to all of his many other appearances: no matter who he's going up against, Dastardly's complexity addiction is his greatest enemy. He even refuses to win legitimately: he's such a Card-Carrying Villain that he can't stand to win if he didn't cheat while doing so.
- Another fine example was when Dastardly was given his own spinoff series. It revolved around him concocting ridiculously complex plans and inventing insane flying machines, all to catch a pigeon.
- Also, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop kept seeing the titular character captured and put into overly ridiculous deathtraps. Granted the guy responsible wants to inherit her fortune and is probably trying to make it look like an accident (hence the reason he doesn't just shoot her), but some of them just get outright absurd, and after putting her in whatever trap he just runs off rather than sticking around and making sure it works.
- Lampshaded by Penelope (after having been captured and informed how the latest death trap will work): "That's not very diabolical." (after having been told the elaborate way it will be triggered) "Now THAT'S diabolical!"
- A heroic example: In The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, Tom Chan will often suggest needlessly elaborate plans such as deploying a series of mirrors to examine a statue (when Anne can just climb the tree and look through a pair of binoculars) or catapulting them over a wall (when the gate's open). Mostly Played for Laughs.
- On Phineas and Ferb, Dr. Doofenshmirtz will regularly plot to do something needlessly complicated rather than something much simpler, like steal Big Ben rather than go to the store and buy a new watch. It's often lampshaded.
- Phineas and Ferb are prone to this as well. For example, in "Picture This", Ferb has left his skateboard in England:
Phineas: I know! We could create a highly-intricate and sophisticated machine that will transport any object from anywhere on the globe to our backyard!
Dad: Well, why don't you just build a new skateboard?
[Phineas and Ferb stare at him in silence]
Phineas: Hmm, yeahhh, I don't think so.
Ferb: If it's all the same with you, Father, we're going to build the machine.
- For Phineas and Ferb, it's literally an addiction—Phineas goes into withdrawal when they're forced to climb a mountain the normal way, with no crazy inventions, in "Bully Bromance Break-up". Ferb holds up a little better, but that doesn't mean he likes it.
Ferb: If we hadn't been able to invent something soon, I was going to scream.
- Candace too. In the Christmas special, she decides that to make sure she gets Jeremy the perfect gift, she's going to trick him into writing a letter to Santa and then read it; she laughs and calls Phineas ridiculous when he suggests she just ask Jeremy what he wants.
- Phineas and Ferb are prone to this as well. For example, in "Picture This", Ferb has left his skateboard in England:
- Most Scooby-Doo villains succumb to this, and every episode ends with either them or the members of Mystery Inc. giving detailed explanations of how they were pulling off what they were doing, and why.
- In the Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated episode "Mystery Solvers Club State Finals": the villain (revealed to be The Funky Phantom, of all people), goes into excruciating detail about how he carried out his plot, which turns out to be an overly-complicated way of getting rid of his team so he can stop being a sidekick. This could be justified by the fact that the whole episode is just a fever dream Scooby's having, but still...
- In the following episode, the Villain of the Week's plan is even more complicated, and more pointless. The Gang lampshades this.
- The reason why is generally something along the lines of "scare everyone else away so I can do what I want in the area," often involving treasure. Simply buying them off would work just as well, and would not attract people with an interest in ghosts.
- In the Mystery Incorporated incarnation the fact that everyone's plans involve costumes and monsters is overall lampshaded/explained by the fact that Mystery Cove is famous for hauntings, and the overall plot involves cursed treasure (that would be a very strange curse). Everyone just uses monsters because everyone acts as if monsters are real until the reveal. The townsfolk, lead by the money grubbing mayor, never think to prove the monsters are real, they just try to make money off of them, justified by their tourist economy/haunted history. The whole thing is not always complexity addiction, sometimes it is a reasonable way to take advantage of everyone's unreasonable behavior. Though unless they are hiding something there is almost always an easier way.
- Also in Mystery Incorporated, Fred has an obvious addiction, setting up Rube Goldberg devices to capture villains on the regular. While Playedfor Laughs, Mystery Incorporated showcases this far more than other incarnations of Fred.
- Kim Possible:
Shego: Okay, let's get Operation Too-Complicated-to-Actually-Work started!
- Dr. Drakken suffers from this. His sidekick, Only Sane Woman Shego, lampshades this repeatedly.
- The Affably Evil Señor Senior, Senior insists on sticking to the code of classic villainy on principle, even if it lets Kim get away and foil his crimes. Then again, considering that for him, this is an elaborate retirement hobby, it entirely fits that he's more interested in having fun and challenging himself by playing by the rules than actually succeeding. Notably, the one time it wasn't a hobby but an attempt to steal back his fortune after he was cheated out of it he went for a simple plan (use his extreme sport abilities to steal everything back piece by piece while pretending to be poor) that nearly succeeded. When Kim was about to catch him, his son Señor Senior, Junior succeeded with another simple plan: claim the bounty placed on his father by the guy who cheated them out of their fortune and then hire a lawyer to take everything back.
- Spongebob Squarepants: This is pretty much Plankton's signature flaw when attempting to steal the Krabby Patty secret formula. From all his ridiculous schemes backfiring on him due to poorly timed planning, his robot wife Karen manages to swipe a Patty easily on her first try solo, just by ordering one (due to Krabs' cashier, Squidward being too apathetic about his job to care).
- American Dad!:
- Down to the Gary Oldman accent:
Barry: You're not in any position to be calling the shots Steven; I'm the one holding the gun.
Steve: Sure, you could kill me with your gun... but are you willing to try something much more elaborate and unnecessary?
- Roger also demonstrates this in the season seven finale "Toy Whorey." He goes through several elaborate plans to try to get a bottle of Rain Duck wine from Greg and Terry, such as using an elaborate Rube Goldberg Device to cut the power in the Smith house and then just wait for the two to notice the blackout and come check on them. Eventually, Francine gets sick of waiting, goes straight to their house, bitch-slaps them with a spatula, and simply takes the wine.
- An earlier episode had Roger enacting a scheme to steal a $10 pair of gloves, which involved buying a $700 necklace. His alter ego lampshades this, but Roger tells him to shut up.
- In one episode, in order to get into a local baseball stadium that he was banned from, Stan, rather than simply sneak or break in decides to: move to Cuba, become discovered by a baseball agent, get smuggled into the US, join a minor league team, get picked up by the New York Yankees, become addicted to steroids, get caught, get dropped by the Yankees and then get picked up by the team that plays in the stadium late in the draft.
- Down to the Gary Oldman accent:
- Dr. Two Brains from WordGirl has a really bad case of this. In one episode, he tries to build a ray to transform gold into cheese. (Two Brains really likes cheese.) But the ray doesn't work right. Instead of changing gold into cheese, it changes gold into potato salad. So Two Brains invents a ray to turn potato salad into cheese. Then he and his henchmen steal gold, to turn into potato salad, to turn into cheese. Granted the plan did briefly work in his favor since Word Girl originally couldn't believe the cheese-loving doctor would steal gold when he would usually just steal cheese.
Word Girl: Doesn't that seen a little unnecessarily difficult? I mean, why not steal potato salad instead of gold? Or use the gold to buy the potato salad? Or why not just steal cheese in the first place?
Dr. Two Brains: Well, when you put it like that it seems really obvious... b-but I had my reasons!
- In the episode "Vocab-Bee," The Butcher has a bout of this and hatches a perfect plan to rob a bank that involves a giant bowl of chili, a hippopotamus, a skywriter, a tightrope walker, polar bears, a garbage trunk, a trampoline,a french poodle, circus clowns, and a giant parakeet. It takes all day to set up and is foiled in seconds.
- Batman: The Animated Series:
- There's a memorable episode, adapted to a comic, where Harley Quinn manages to make one of the Joker's theme schemes to kill Batman work. However, Batman manages to foil the improved and foolproof scheme by getting Harley to phone Joker to come see his death and impress him...but the Joker's huge ego would not let anyone but him kill Bats, this in spite of it being a worthy death. Just goes to show that stylish evil can and does work...but pride'll get ya every time.
- The Clock King even surpasses the Riddler as an addict to overly complicated schemes, but he exhibited this even before becoming a supervillain. As Temple Fugate, he has a chain pocketwatch, a wristwatch, and at his office he has a grandfather clock and another clock at his desks.
- In The Fairly OddParents episode "Back to the Norm", Crocker joins forces with Norm the Genie to defeat Timmy Turner. Rather than follow Norm's simple advice to, say, wish Timmy be sent to Mars, Crocker keeps coming up with a number of elaborate booby traps which keep backfiring onto Crocker himself.
- In Regular Show's "Steak Me Amadeus", the Capicola Gang's plan for revenge on the park workers is printing fake Amadeus dollars (coupons to buy steaks at "Steak Me Amadeus") and sell them to Pops who would give them to the rest of the workers. When they want more cheap steaks, they would set up a meeting to exchange more Amadeus dollars and then ambush them. Their whole plan is dependent on the gang's desire for affordable steaks and apparently they didn't bother to take in account that if the park workers use these counterfeit coupons they would get trouble with the police and get arrested and won't have the chance to meet them. Rigby lampshades it:
Rigby: Dude, that's really weird.
Capicola Gang Leader: Well, it worked, didn't it?
- Pretty much every plan come up with by the Legion of Doom in Challenge Of The SuperFriends. This was probably due to there being thirteen members and wanting everyone to seem like a participating member. It didn't help that the show's version of The Riddler had no purpose but to tip off the heroes how to beat the current scheme.
- In Wakfu, Qilby the Traitor tried to accomplish his goals with a rather complex plan that really wasn't necessary. Adamai even points out that Qilby could have used the Eliacube to retrieve his sister's Dofus without relying on Yugo. He claims that he couldn't do it on his own because he was no match for the Dragon Phaeris. A claim that rings hollow when he and Phaeris actually fight and he proves to be an even match. In the end, Yugo calls out the villain on devising a needlessly complicated scheme when he could have easily defeated the heroes from the very beginning and claims that he did this because he can't bring himself to actually kill his fellow Eliatropes or the Dragons. Deep down, Qilby just wanted to convince them to join him so they could all be friends again.
- In the season 2 premiere of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, it's made very clear that if Discord wanted to disable the Elements of Harmony, the only stuff that can beat him, all he has to do is swiftly touch each of the mane six to invert their personalities and make them unfriendly to one another. But that would be too boring for him, so he decides to lure them into a hedge maze, divide them with hedge walls, give them lectures on how how the elements they bear are either weaknesses or hyprocritical, THEN hypnotize them to make them unfriendly with one another.
- The episode "Applejack's Day Off", shows Applejack has gotten to be this way with some of her chores, reflexively doing things to circumvent problems she fixed a while ago. Due to wanting to follow Applejack's instruction list to the letter, Twilight and Spike don't even manage to finish feeding the pigs by the time she and Rarity get back from their hour at the spa.
- In the Gravity Falls episode "Double Dipper", Dipper lays out an elaborate plan (which later gets more elaborate, with the help of his clones) to ask Wendy to dance because he's too nervous to simply ask her like Mabel suggests. Her tone gives the impression that this is a regular thing for Dipper.
- Lampshaded in Futurama by Robot Devil: "Ah, my ridiculously-circuitous plan is one-quarter complete!" The plan is a Chain of Deals that started by taking Bender's ass-plate in exchange for a horn nose. Bender uses the horn nose to deafen Leela, whom the Robot Devil offers a pair of robotic ears to so she can hear Fry's Holophonor opera. She agrees on the condition of giving him her hand in marriage, which allows the Robot Devil to negotiate the return of his own hands from Fry, who had won them in a game with the Robot Devil. Hilariously, a later episode reveals that going through this was unnecessary anyway, the Robot Devil has multiple replacement bodies anyway, therefore he could have switched out Fry's hands for one of the ones from the extra bodies easily enough.
- Leonardo Leonardo suffers from this in the pilot of Clerks: The Animated Series; he's got a 63-step plan that starts with building the Quicker Stop across the street from the original Quick Stop, followed by a series of increasingly ridiculous solutions to increasingly unlikely or pointless problems that the previous step might cause ("What will he do for eggs after his army of gorillas kill all the chickens?" "Next step: Robot Chickens."). The final step ends with a pleasure dome launching into space and nuking the Earth from orbit.
- In Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century, Dodgers explains to the Space Cadet his route for finding Planet X, a convoluted path even he finds too confusing, judging from his reaction when the Cadet seems to understand it. Cadet suggests instead that they follow a series of planets that have been conveniently alphabetized.
- This is MC Pee Pants' MO in Aqua Teen Hunger Force. His very first evil scheme is to release a rap single to get people eat tons of candy before instructing them to visit a warehouse and use their hyperactive sugar rush to power a giant drill to bore into the center of the earth, releasing demons onto the surface to partake in a diet pill pyramid scheme. They get never any less overly complicated than that.
- A running gag in Les Shadoks is the title characters' ridiculous and nonsensical so-called "proverbs". Among one of the most popular is: "Pourquoi faire simple quand on peut faire compliqué?", which is a parody of the French counterpart to "Why make it complicated when it can be easy?" Guess what it means? "Why make it easy when it can be complicated?"
- Study the planning of the Imperial Japanese Navy in World War II—especially at Midway, but any operational plan they put out. Marvel at the widely-spread, mutually-unsupportive forces they apparently tossed onto the map at random. Overthinking plagued the Japanese at nearly every level during the war. After it became plain that the Zero fighter plane was becoming outclassed, the Japanese realized they needed a replacement. Japanese scientists and engineers indulged in over 40 different prototypes, each as implausible as the last and taken immediately back to the drawing board as soon as a newfangled improvement occurred. In the interim, the aging Zeros and their pilots were cut to ribbons by Hellcats and Corsairs.
- The military-industrial complex of every sufficiently large participant in the war had many instances of this trope up until considerably late in the war. Only those which happened to have better percentages of competent teams and officers and/or enough resources to afford countless costly mistakes managed to pull ahead.
- The celebrated admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in particular had a reputation for making plans that were elegant, yet still complex. Often, he pressured his superiors into accepting the plans by threatening to resign.
- The Night Battle phase of their Decisive Battle plan, though, takes the cake, involving the coordination of four separate cruiser-destroyer groups into a simultaneous attack from four directions nearly 60 miles apart against the American battle fleet. At night.
- George Washington had a problem with this. He was at his best when he was forced to improvise and think on his feet, at his worst when he had time to come up with cumbersome, overly-elaborate battle plans. It made him a better tactical general than strategic general.
- Tony Hawk mentioned in The Bones Brigade An Autobiography that he wanted to do as many tricky skateboard manoeuvres as he could, despite being criticised for it. The most prominent example being the evolution of his McTwist: First he did a McTwist, then moved on to one foot McTwist, then body varial McTwist, until it ended in an ollie McTwist, as in doing a McTwist with no hands grabbing the board!
- This is all too common among large corporations and institutions which have been using computers ever since the days of punch-cards, and which have often expanded to take in new and subsidiary companies which have brought their own legacy systems as part of the package. Instead of being sensible and rationalising things with a brand new system addressing the new needs of the company from the bottom up, it is common to see patch after patch applied and makeshift remedies introduced, in order to take fifty years worth of overlapping and often incompatible systems and make them work. One major British bank which is prone to regular collapses of its automated banking systems and its ATM network is notorious for this and its IT systems are a model of Byzantine complexity and Heath-Robinson makeshifts. Similarly, a major telecommunications company in Britain has internal IT systems which are fiendishly overcomplex to use, anything other than user-friendly, temperamental, and prone to frequent embarrasing crashes.
- In a very dark example, the Zodiac Killer's reign of terror was marked by complex mathematical riddles, obscure clues to his identity mailed to the police, and endless hidden messages. His victims were selected by how they met mathematical patterns and geometric patterns drawn on the map instead of, for instance, personal bias or true hatred. The trail of death was the Zodiac's way of proving his mental superiority, so the complexity was more important to him than the murders themselves.
- In his autobiography, former Delta Force operator Eric Haney noted this to be something of an occupational hazard for special operations, particularly with regard to plans originating from outside the community. In one example, Haney was called to the Pentagon to be briefed on a plan for to swim ashore from a submarine, covertly infiltrate a Middle Eastern city... all to deliver replacement communications gear to the US embassy there. Haney instead opted to fly there openly as an official courier, with the comm gear in a diplomatic pouch.
- In his classic 1975 book, The Mythical Man-Month, computer scientist Fred Brooks called this tendency in software design the "second-system effect," where programmers want to add extra features they wanted in the first version but didn't have the time for. This tends to cause slow, bloated, over-engineered software. It's such a common problem that it has led to the term "feature creep" to describe such software.
- The German Navy had a real problem with this in World War II due to the lack of experienced engineers and the domination of the design bureaus by fleet officers. The fire control systems for the Scharnhorst class, for example, were so hideously overcomplex the ships couldn't fire their guns until 22,000 yards of useless wiring was removed. See this article for more detail.