Most of us like to think that our decisions have some influence on our lives. We think we are in control, but sometimes, there's the sneaking suspicion that an influence doesn't like us, or maybe it does like us, but only in an abusive way. Their destiny is to be the universe's Butt-Monkey to an extreme degree until the day they die. These characters don't just suspect; they know.
For some strange reason, they find their lives governed by events and rules that defy coincidence and logical explanation. They might figure out some of the "rules", like the what and the where, but the how and the why is a complete mystery.
The nature of such a situation allows a certain flexibility to writers, as they don't have to think too hard about why this is happening or if the character's belief in their situation is correct, allowing them to focus on the immediate story.
Often includes a Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter. May overlap with Powers That Be, but a real confirmation or sign is not necessary. All that is necessary is the belief that a specific entity or group is working on the character. It may also overlap Can't Get Away with Nuthin', if the character interprets the situation as an active, immutable force on them personally, rather than "how the world works" for everyone. If there's more than one cosmic entity and the other one guides another character into antagonizing the first, it's a Cosmic Chess Game. If the cosmic entity is incomprehensible and it brought a grand scale horror upon the universe, it's a Cosmic Horror Story.
Compare Born Unlucky, Weirdness Magnet and No Fourth Wall. May be caused by a Truman Show Plot. Played for Laughs with The Chew Toy. For a more subjective version, see Designated Monkey. If the character arguably deserves mistreatment by the universe, they might be the victim of Laser-Guided Karma, Contrived Coincidence, an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, or a Jerkass Woobie.
- Tenchi Muyo! GXP: Seina Yamada. He has a quantified "bad luck field" that means that his life is constantly peppered with accidents, misfortune, and other nastiness. Considering the power and age of the Jurai royal family, he can be considered Seto's personal plaything.
- Kokoro Connect: A cosmic entity possesses the body of their teacher and flat out tells them that it plans to experiment with them.
- Welcome to the N.H.K.: While he lives in a painfully mundane world, this is the mental illness of the main character: he thinks he is the target of this type of cosmic conspiracy.
- Haruhi Suzumiya:
- The title character causes this trope for her entire circle of friends, but for Mikuru Asahina most of all. You know the universe hates you when getting groped by God is one of your lesser problems.
- The cast of Haré+Guu were in a strange place metaphysically already, but then the god-like Guu shows an interest in them and it gets much weirder.
- Ah! My Goddess
- Keiichi Morisato starts this way by being born under an unlucky star (the Star of Misfortune). Even after getting a goddess for a girlfriend, his luck is still remarkably poor; it's just that Belldandy is now around to smooth out the worst parts.
- This was stretched into a plot point about a thermodynamic-like Conservation of Happiness, where any unnatural attempt to shift luck is dangerous because it has to go to or leave somewhere else.
- "Urd", "Skuld" and "Verdandi" are the names of the Three Norse Goddesses of fate.
- Moroboshi Ataru of Urusei Yatsura was born on the second unluckiest day in the Japanese calendar: The thirteenth of Aprilnote , the fourth month of the year, as well as the day remembering the death of Bhudda. His name means "hit by a shooting star", which would take phenomenally bad luck.
- Used several ways in Xxx HO Li C:
- Watanuki is a Weirdness Magnet, as his blood is delicious to supernatural creatures and thus draws them to him, much to his displeasure. Doumeki is the opposite of this, as his exorcism/purification powers are so strong his mere presence is a deterrent to the types of creepies that plague Watanuki. Pity Watanuki claims so strenuously he HATES Doumeki... All of this is eventually justified. Turns out the supernatural creatures are attracted to him because he's subconsciously suicidal for remarkably spoilerific reasons, which attracts them like a lightbulb attracts moths.
- Himawari turns everyone she touches or looks at towards very bad luck; she's never directly affected, and she herself isn't supernatural. Being associated (or even seen) with her has caused: a girl who liked her to commit suicide, a compulsive liar to get hit by a bus, her grandmother to die, her teacher to get stabbed, her neighbor's house to burn down, a kekkai to be broken during a ritual, a college student to discover (and eventually be killed by) a monkey paw, and Watanuki to fall out of a window and require two trades to save his life and he still loses movement in his finger. No one can say why she's like this, and wish-granting sorceress Yuuko tells Watanuki that the only thing that can take away her curse is by trading all the happiness she will ever feel. Himawari unconsciously exerts her effect on others (minus her own parents, her pet bird, which is from another dimension, and Doumeki, who wouldn't care anyway).
- In Princess Tutu everyone but Drosselmeyer is a Cosmic Plaything. Drosselmeyer is the writer that happens to be pulling the strings.
- In A Certain Magical Index, Touma's power to negate supernatural/magical effects also negates his luck. He's definitely Blessed with Suck with that one.
- Code Geass:
- The universe hates Lelouch so much that he has to "convince" God just to get a Bittersweet Ending... which he doesn't even live long enough to experience. On a meta note, the writing staff of Code Geass has often proclaimed their love for the show's protagonist Lelouch...and then they smack him with Diabolus ex Machina after Diabolus ex Machina, causing everyone connected to him to suffer, including Shirley (loses father, goes through severe emotional torment, dies), Euphemia (accidentally mind controlled, reputation destroyed, killed), and C.C. (loses powers and memories up to the age of 10). They insist that they do this out of affection, wanting Lelouch to learn An Aesop about appreciating what you have in life; the Japanese fandom responded by coining the term "Lulu Quality" to refer to such treatment.
- Suzaku has his share too. Seeing his father was about to drive Japan into a war they couldn't winnote , he decides to kill him to stop the war and save lives. This haunts him as he grows up and he becomes very suicidal for it. Then he meets Euphemia, who is revealed to be a princess of Britannia, and they quickly fell in love, which leads to him stopping being suicidal and forming a plan to make the world a better place. But on the day this plan was initiated (the creation of SAZ) she gets ordered by Lelouch (although accidentally) to kill all the Japanese people present. After the massacre Lelouch kills her, sending Suzaku into despair. The last nail was the F.R.E.I.J.A. incident which was caused due to his "live" geass being activated and making him fire a nuclear weapon killing millions of people. In the end one can argue that he didn't get a happy ending because Susaku Kururugui is now a dead man and he is trapped into the Zero persona.
- In Ranma ½ Ranma Saotome ends in such hilarious situations that he could only be part of a cosmic joke.
- Berserk: In this world, is the destiny of mankind controlled by some transcendental entity or law? Is it like the hand of God hovering above? At least it is true that man has no control, even over his own will.
- As if the Eldritch Abomination Godhand (which can warp reality if needed) weren't enough, a chapter removed from the main storyline states that The Idea of Evil, aka God, is the sole driving force behind every single horrible event in the series. He is very good at that, because in the manga there's like at least 10 horrible events each chapter, ranging from an absurdly huge amount of explicit rape to misery beyond belief. He might not be a case of God Is Evil though, since he sadly needs evil to exist. The really sad thing is that the Idea of Evil was subconsciously created by humans, for humans. Humanity as a whole doesn't want to admit that their suffering has no greater meaning or that they have no one to blame for it but themselves. The Godhand, the Idea of Evil, and the very concept of "destiny" they embody is just an excuse for humanity to deny responsibility for themselves.
- Death Note: Despite dismissing the possibility that Kira is a god early on, L repeatedly ponders the possibility that he is this. He's right: the plot was kicked off because Ryuk got bored.
- Rave Master: It is genuinely one of the founding rules of the universe that the Raregroove bloodline be screwed over in each generation. It also pits them against the Symphonias and the Raregrooves are always destined to lose. Just read the series if you don't get it.
- Hayate the Combat Butler: Hayate isn't quite sure why the universe hates him so much, but he knows it's true. His friends know it's true. His poor luck is so infamous that Wataru is able to successfully gamble by betting on the exact opposite of what Hayate would pick. A major contributing factor can be his tendency to say the wrong thing at the right moment to get him brutally assaulted. This may actually come from Athena giving him a 'lesson' which 'his body never forgot (hint: it involved swords and it wasn't fun) after neglecting to tell her about his kiss with Izumi when he left the castle. Since then his compulsive habit to be stupidly honest overrides his sense of self preservation.
- Poor Pedro of Excel Saga ends up a Cosmic Plaything. After getting killed early in the series, he's revived and spends several episodes as the boy toy for the Great Will of the Macrocosm. Cue a few of his many Big Nos.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, everyone except Kyubey is this. Come Rebellion, however, Kyubey becomes this under Akuma Homura's new rules, while everyone else loses this status. Payback's a bitch, ain't it?
- Mitsuo in Daily Lives of High School Boys, who eventually had all other Butt Monkeys' mishaps misattributed to him; even one of those "other Butt Monkeys" sincerely believed it was Mitsuo, not him, who did it.
- Miyuki in Smile Pretty Cure! for the entirety of episode 13.
- The entire main cast of One Piece, a.k.a. the Straw Hat Pirates. It almost seems like having a sad past is an actual requirement to join the crew. From staying alone on an empty ship for 50 years, to seeing their idol sacrifice their ability to fight to save them, to having their most significant person die (three of them lost their mothers before their very eyes, one saw the death of his adoptive father from a distance, one learned the rival that drove him so hard to train died in an accident, and one saw his mentor condemned to death, and the latter two were at least partially due to their actions), every character has had his/her own share of trauma. But perhaps by having this and other things in common, they find themselves bonding together as True Companions.
- Tomoko from No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!. The world obviously hates her.
- Good God, Naruto. When Naruto was a minute old. Not a year, a MINUTE old, he was threatened by Obito TWICE. The result of the attack made Naruto an orphan, a social pariah to the adults with the added bonus of the Nine-Tailed Fox, Kurama sealed inside of him. Probably due to the fact he never had any real training and said monster inside of him messing with his energy, he performed horribly in school, causing no one respect to him. Just when he made friends, his best friend goes crazy and tries to kill him. Just when you think things couldn't get worse, we learn that there are 10 hyper powerful ninja after him. And if he tries to use the Fox's powers, he slowly weakens the seal and causes enough damage to himself that he loses years off his lifespan and is a danger to everyone around him.
- The majority of the villains qualify too. Most are are people who started out good until various unfortunate events drove them past their Despair Event Horizon.
- It turns out that all of the misery the world has suffered since the Sage of Six Path's time can be traced back to Black Zetsu.,
- The universe of Neon Genesis Evangelion seems to have it out for Shinji Ikari. Even in the reboots of the series, every time things begin to look up for this poor kid, or he tries to do anything heroic or badass, something always happens to smack him right back down and push him into another Heroic B.S.O.D. if not worse.
- Kaneki Ken from Tokyo Ghoul, even stating that if someone were to write a story with him as a protagonist, it would be a tragedy. He's absolutely correct in this assessment, with his entire life being nothing but a progression of tragic events starting from his early childhood. His father died before he could remember, and his mother worked herself to death trying to support her ungrateful, greedy sister. His aunt repaid this kindness by abusing Kaneki once he was taken in by her family, and by the time he starts college, Hide is literally the only person in his life that cares about him. It seems like he's finally getting a break when the cute girl at the coffee shop agrees to go out with him, but she ends their date by trying to eat him and he's only saved when she's crushed by several tons of steel bars. He soon finds out the doctor gave him an unconventional organ transplant, turning him into a Half-Human Hybrid with a Horror Hunger. And it just keeps getting worse after that. As of the finale of the first series, his Love Interest has rejected him after a massive "Reason You Suck" Speech, his attempt to rescue his mentor and friends ended in utter failure, he may have eaten his best friend after finally reconciling with him, his Worthy Opponent is mortally wounded by his Super-Powered Evil Side, and he ends up on the receiving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle from Arima. It is left ambiguous whether he was captured or merely died a meaningless death. What is worse, it is then revealed all his misfortune in the series was the result of a massive prank by a gang of Ghoul pranksters, with two of his greatest allies turning out to be members. They've been manipulating and stringing him along the whole time for their own amusement, and laugh over his apparent death. It isn't an exaggeration to state that the universe hates him.
- Fairy Tail: "The Black Wizard" Zeref, the Big Bad of the series. Simply for the crime of studying taboo magic in order to bring his dead little brother back to life, one of the Jerkass Gods, Ankhseram, cursed him with (almost) Complete Immortality and an "Instant Death" Radius. If he valued life, everything around him would die; if he didn't value life, he could control his powers but he would probably end up killing people anyway. To top it off, it was a curse of contradictions, causing him to suffer a Split Personality that made him suffer severe mood swings. He went into a complete downward spiral, always suffering, never finding relief in death. What finally broke him was Mavis. She suffered the same curse he had, and being the only one to understand his pain, suggested they give Eternal Love a shot. Her kindness and empathy caused him to fall in love with her, and they kissed. However, since the curse is that of contradictions, and because Ankhseram seems to revel in his pain, his love for her broke her curse and she died, cruelly and tragically destroying the only shred of happiness he's had in his entire life. One really can't blame him for snapping after that.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V: It's protagonist Yuya, fits here. Yuya starts the series as a serious Stepford Smiler due to being bullied for 3 years of his life because of his disappeared dad and it only gets worse from there. Yuya is forced to see a brutal interdimensional war using dueling as it center, which completely contradicts his belief that dueling should only be used for fun. He struggles to find an answer as one of his friends is proven to be The Mole, he discovers he has 2 Identical Stranger(and 1 more that he hasn't met yet) which ends with one of them dying and fusing with him which results in a Super-Powered Evil Side that he struggle to control that makes him break his ideals. When he finally gets a hold of all that, he learns his best friend, Yuzu is missing causing due to the war. He travels across dimensions to find her only to end up in a city where compassion is nearly dead and he ends up breaking his own ideals to survive.
- The titular character of Im Great Priest Imhotep suffers this to an incredible extent. First of, he suffered from Parental Abandonment twice and his incredible genius only helps in making him feel all the lonelier through the majority of his childhood. One day, he becomes friends with Djoser, the incredibly idealistic Princely Young Man, marking the first time Im ever formed a friendship. Sadly, it was not meant to last as Djoser was born with "the soul of the sun" within him. This meant it was Djoser's turn to be sacrificed for the sake of the world, as the ritual to keep the dark forces of hell at bay can only be conducted by sacrificing a heart of a person born with "the soul of the sun", a rite that has to be carried out once every few centuries. Stuck in a Sadistic Choice between letting his friend be sacrificed or the Legions of Hell razing the world, Imhotep tried to Take a Third Option and destroy the miasma by using a high-degree spell that is basically Cessation of Existence weaponized. However, The Order seen it coming from miles away and use a shapeshifter to surprise both Djoser and Imhotep. When Imhotep finally menages to free himself from his prison, he desperately tries and fails to save Djoser. Instead, he is presented to a lovely shot of Djoser's pierced torso (at the sight which he vomited), as Djoser questions Im Was It All a Lie?. Djoser than declares his desire to destroy the gods who made a fate like his possible in the first place using the magai, malevolent creatures who mimic the gods in appearance and abilities. After a fierce battle, Imhotep succeeds in defeating him, but the magai are already scattered around the world, bringing death and misery wherever they go. As punishment, Im was imprisoned for the next 3000 years until he was released, only to discover that Djoser still ain't dead and that rather than dealing with the magai, Ennead brought him back for the (primary) purpose of killing his best friend - again. To rub salt on the wound, wherever he goes, Im ends up frequently receiving a lot of hate from almost whoever he meets in the Amen Priest Association and others who know of the magai, as many of them have lost their loved ones because of the magai. Thankfully, some characters, such as Hinome, Anubis and later on Harugo seem determined to help him overcome his misery, much to Imhotep's surprise and joy.
- Sukasuka: Willem Kmetsch is without a doubt one of the most unfortunate light novel protagonists in history. After promising to return home to his adopted family, he was frozen in time for 500 years. Upon awakening he discovers that the rest of mankind was wiped out by the 17 Beasts shortly after he was frozen. The last living human is then forced to live in a world where humanity is reviled for their alledged role in the beasts’ emergence. Fortunately he has a chance encounter with a young fairy named Chtholly and the two eventually fall in love. He also manages to find himself a new family, similar to the one from his past life. Unfortunately, Chtholly is a literal Tyke Bomb with an extremely short lifespan and she dies despite Willem’s best efforts. Around this time Willem also discovers that the monsters that destroyed all life on the surface were originally human, meaning that his old friends and family have been the cause of so much suffering in the present. Things only spiral downward from there. He ends up being forced to relive the destruction of his old hometown by an Eldritch Abomination seeking to break his mind. The creature as it turns out was none other than Willem’s Childhood Friend, who had never stopped waiting for him to return home. Willem can only apologize for never coming home as he performs a Mercy Kill on the unfortunate beast. To make matters worse the Eldritch Abomination inhabiting her decides to use him as it’s new vessel and he begins turning into a beast himself. The process is only stopped by advanced magic which seals away all of his memories, preventing him from ever seeing his new family again, lest the seal on the beast weaken. Willem tries to live a normal, if amnesiac, life with this reprieve. However, events conspire to present Willem with a choice between letting those he once cared about suffer a Fate Worse than Death or completely give in to his inner beast. Willem chooses to unleash the monster inside of him and thus turn himself into the series’ final antagonist; allowing himself to be killed in a Suicide by Cop scenario. Fortunately, he’s Not Quite Dead and is able to return sometime later. The amount of suffering he goes through makes the ending all the more satisfying.
- Re:Zero: Subaru just can't catch a break
- Hellblazer's has two kinds of inversion. John Constantine uses karma to be in the right place at the right time, for instance when he needs to slip onto an air plane without being seen. Yet his life is frequently made miserable by tragedy striking those close to him.
- In The DCU, Animal Man is a combination of this and the Meta Guy; he realizes that he's a fictional character, at the whims of his writers. However, this awareness decreases and increases over time (naturally, due to the aforementioned whims).
- Charles Brigman from PS238 has officially become a Cosmic Plaything.
- Whether it be in video games or comic books, Spider-Man is Marvel's ultimate Cosmic Plaything.
- Deadpool doesn't really mind being a Cosmic Plaything so much when it's Death wanting to use him as a boytoy. He's not so happy however, when it's Thanos making him immortal so that he can't steal his girlfriend.
- Deadman's actions generally revolve around the whim of some higher being, whether it's Rama Kushna or the White Lantern Entity.
- The title character of Nodwick is referred to by the gods as a "destiny sponge". The more he suffers, the less others have to. This makes him sort of a martyr, who then gets resurrected so he can be martyred again, who gets resurrected again so that he can be martyred a third time, and so on, and so on.
- Calamity James is a character in The Beano whose main trait is his extreme unluckiness. James knows how unlucky he is but is unable to stop it, and whatever he does is doomed to end in disaster.
- Cyclops has the worst of luck among the X Men. It's like his secondary power.
- The titular character of Squee! would simply not be himself if he weren't suffering every second of his existence. Of course, this is a bit Darker and Edgier in that Squee is six years old.
- To elaborate: Squee is the son of a druggie Mom and a Dad who actively despises him (and sometimes just watches his birth video in reverse), the neighbor of a homicidal maniac, the best friend of - literally - The Antichrist, the repeat victim of bullies and alien abductions, and ultimately winds up committed to a Bedlam House. Not to mention that he's haunted by a ghost and something in his teddy bear.
- Then there's DC Comics' Pariah.
- Diabolik has the Grey Ravens: whenever their plans come close to fruition, Diabolik shows up from nowhere, kills as many of them he can find, robs them blind and generally beheads their organization. Given they're extremely unsympathetic Western Terrorists of fascist leanings, we Call It Karma.
- Inverted in Bruce Almighty, in which the titular character treats everyone else this way after being given the power of God. Even if he likes you, he's still going to screw with you, albeit in ways that might be fun. note And if you've made him mad...well, "God help you" doesn't exactly cover it. note
- In a funny way the whole plot is set in motion with Bruce believing he's one himself- that God likes toying with him "Like a mean kid with a magnifying glass" and that he just wants to 'burn his feelers off and watch him squirm'
- Larry Gopnik of A Serious Man. It is based on the Book of Job after all.
- The trailer for Vamp! contained the following litany of the protagonist's experiences that evening:
"Tonight, I was nearly hung. I got into a fight with a psychotic albino. I ate a cockroach, my best friend disappeared, and just now I was almost assassinated by a runaway elevator. I've had a bad day!"
- When Jack Slater, the titular Last Action Hero, finally confronts the actor who plays him (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in the real world, he gives the actor a long, angry rant about how Schwarzenegger ruined Slater's life by putting him through hell. It might have been entertaining to the audience, but having his son die, having his marriage ruined, and being subjected to gunfight after gunfight after gunfight was less than fun for the fictional character.
Jack: "Let us push his son off the building. You will have eternal nightmares, but you are fictional, so who cares?"
- In Italy this kind of character is known as "The Fantozzi", after the protagonist of his namesake books and film series. He's so unlucky that when his 1870 incarnation in Rome finally found a patron in a cardinal and got his own apartment in the city's walls, the Royal Italian Army blew a hole in his dining room and conquered the Papal States, thus making him lose his patron and replacing him with someone that despised Fantozzi.
- Deconstructed with Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo of Star Wars. As various supplemental material reveals, he's been through hell his entire life, and it's been disastrous on his mental and emotional health. From being stalked by Snoke since infant-hood, to being traumatized and almost killed as a toddler, to being emotionally neglected by his parents, to almost being killed by his uncle, Kylo went through so much crap it led to his turn to the dark side and Psychopathic Manchild mindset. And that's just before the movies start.
- Raymond Jardine from A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag considers himself this. Sean, initially skeptical of and frustrated by Raymond's attitude, comes to realize that Raymond really does have terrible luck.
- Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein takes "Job" to a new level; you could rename the trope after this book.
- Standard for the Tortall Universe books by Tamora Pierce.
- Alanna is chosen by the Great Mother Goddess in Song of the Lioness.
- Daine is watched over by the Badger God in The Immortals and has an unusual strength in wild magic. Later she discovers that it's because she's a half-goddess herself and winds up in the Divine Realms. Later, when she's pregnant, the kid starts shapeshifting in utero.
- Keladry eventually becomes the titular Protector of the Small thanks to the Chamber of the Ordeal, who points her towards a necromancer and says "fix this." Then she gets orders to run a refugee camp, which gives her a good deal of anxiety about being able to complete her quest. When said necromancer attacks her camp and abducts its children en masse, she realizes that's the opportunity he Chamber predicted.
- In Daughter of the Lioness, Kyprioth arranges events to have Aly captured by slave-takers and sold to a very specific family in the Copper Isles to fulfill The Prophecy (that he came up with) and defeat Mithros and the Goddess. She takes it in stride and with a good deal of snark.
- Beka Cooper of Provost's Dog is a chosen of the Black God. It actually helps her quite a lot in her police work—hearing ghosts is useful for solving murders, and the "dust spinners" let her hear conversations that happened several hours before. The Black God is also the kindest god, so she doesn't mind being his instrument.
- The idea is alluded to by Tris in her Circle Opens book while she's trying to comfort a grieving child. She says it's much nicer to think that the gods are giving you hardships to make you stronger than it happening for no reason at all.
- Rincewind from the Discworld series is knowingly favored of The Lady (that is, of Luck), resulting in an amazing capacity for survival... but also what he calls "preemptive karma;" if it even looks as if something good will happen to him in the future, his karma will ensure that something bad happens immediately, and continues happening so the good things never come around. It doesn't help that being the Lady's favored puts you on the top of Fate's most-hated list. A side-effect of the conflict between Luck and Fate is that even Death himself does not know when Rincewind is going to die.
The only reason that the last statement is true is because of this: Due to the machinations of the Lady, and counter-machinations of Fate, Rincewind has been bounced through time and space so often, the most impressive fact of his life is that he has yet to run into himself. Finding the start, let alone end, of a life like that is damnably hard, even for Death. (Although Rincewind would be (dis)pleased to learn that Death has taken such a personal interest in him that his lifetimer is kept on Death's desk, much as a butterfly collector would keep an interesting specimen. The shape is akin to what you might expect if a drunken glassblower went about making a normal egg-timer, and had a continuous case of hiccups.)
So, when the wizards bring him back and make him comfortable, it scares him more than anything. Because things only stop going wrong when Fate is lining up an even bigger punch. But this seems to have come to an end as of The Last Hero where he accepts the fact he will be on the mission to save the world but clearly states he isn't volunteering. He simply knows by some machination of him hiding he would end up on the ship, or someone would remember his relationship with the people dooming the world and would be forced to join the mission. So he is just cutting out the middle part and getting on board but isn't volunteering for the mission.
- Much of Michael Moorcock's work, and all his Eternal Champion stories, are focused on this concept. The Champion labors, usually unknowingly, toward a balance between the opposing forces of Chaos and Law. Ultimately, the Champions actually destroy the Balance, sort-of, creating a supposed world free of destiny, where people have free will. At least, that was the version in the Count Brass books. The most famous Champion is Elric, who is dedicated to a god of Chaos, carries an intelligent sword that doesn't always do as he wishes, and generally is the focus of all the higher-up manipulations. In Stormbringer he gets missives from Fate every so often, telling him to just do stuff, including killing a dead god.
- Túrin from The Silmarillion (Children of Húrin). Morgoth cursed his entire family. Actually, Tolkien claimed it wasn't precisely a curse, since Morgoth was the source of all evil in the world anyhow.
"Sit now there, and look out upon the lands where evil and despair shall come upon those whom thou lovest. Thou hast dared to mock me, and to question the power of Melkor, Master of the Fates of Arda. Therefore with my eyes thou shalt see, and with my ears thou shalt hear, and never shalt thou move from this place until all is fulfilled unto its bitter end."
- Stanley Yelnats of Holes, thanks to his no-good, dirty-rotten, pig-stealing great-great-grandfather.
- Cazaril, the hero of The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. A god using you as a tool isn't nearly as fun as it sounds.
- Then there's Ista, heroine of the sequel Paladin of Souls, who knows she's a tool of the gods, and resents it deeply.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Arthur Dent is the epitome of this trope, being laughed at as an absurdity by the man who once knew all the truth in the universe, having his home (both house and planet) destroyed by Bureaucrats, having his girlfriend blip out of existence for no reason, accidentally killing the same man in each of his reincarnations, the list goes on.
- You think Arthur's got it bad? Consider Agrajag, who is the "same man" referred to above.
- "Oh, that's just perfectly normal paranoia. Everyone in the universe has that."
- Also Rob McKenna, the trucker who was a rain god and had absolutely no idea? All he knew was that he constantly had a literal raincloud over his head. And had catalogued two hundred and thirty-one separate types of rain. The clouds loved him and want to be near him, but he didn't see it that way.
- His status as a rain attractor was recognized internationally, as several nations and major airports paid him to stay away at all times.
- Subversion: Dolorous Edd in A Song of Ice and Fire constantly complains that he is one, but compared to what's happened to the other characters in the story he's actually better off...
- Oedipus Rex makes this Older Than Feudalism. In fact, the gods seem to have randomly picked him out specifically to be their toy: after hearing Apollo's Oracle prophesy that Oedipus would kill him, his father Laius nails his baby son's feet together and leaves him to die on a mountain. Luckily (?) for Oedipus, he's found and brought up in Corinth, where rumours begin to spread that he's a bastard. He goes to the Oracle for proof and hears that he'll kill his father and marry his mother. Not knowing he's adopted, he decides to do the decent thing and run as far as possible in the other direction...whereupon he unwittingly kills Laius and marries the Queen, Jocasta. And just when everything seems to be going well for him, a plague starts up in Thebes. He tries to fix it...by going to the Oracle, who tell him to find Laius's murderer. To cut a long story short, he does. Jocasta hangs herself, Oedipus stabs his own eyes out with the pins from her brooches, then becomes a beggar. And all apparently because the gods were bored. To be fair, the reason usually given for Oedipus' downfall is that by running away after hearing the prophecy, he was "defying the gods" and had to be punished. It's a requirement for tragedies that the "Tragic Hero" deserves it, which often leads to rather extreme punishments for their perceived crimes, such as Oedipus' case.
- Actually it was because Oedipus's father captured a prince who then killed himself rather then be a slave. (And he wasn't just any old slave to Laius; read "underage gay sex object".) The prince's father then cursed Laius to be killed by his own son. The "marry his mother" part is entirely the result of gods' jerkassness though.
- Oedipus wasn't the only member of the House of Thebes to be fate's plaything. When the founder of the House Cadmus slew Ares' pet dragon, he was later honored by the gods and married Ares' daughter Harmonia. One of the wedding gifts was a necklace that granted eternal beauty to the wearer but also carried a curse. Said necklace was passed down through the family and brought tragedy to Cadmus' descendants. Nearly every member of the family suffered unfortunate ends. This includes Actaeon, turned into a stag by Artemis and torn apart by his dogs for accidently peeping at her, Semele, mother of Dioynsus who burst into flames from seeing Zeus' true form, Pentheus, who banned the worship of Dioynsus in town but was torn to shreds by his worshippers including his mother and aunts in a fit of madness caused by the worship, Creon (Oedipus' uncle)'s son Haemon, either killed by the Sphinx or killed himself after Antigone killed herself, and Oedipus' four children, his two sons killed each other in battle over rule of the city, the aforementioned Antigone, who defied the law by trying to bury her traitor brother, and was put in jail then committed suicide, and Ismene, either just forgotten about or killed by a warrior.
- The house of Atreus was pretty bad as well in the The Oresteia. Tantalus killed and cooked his own son, Pelops, to please the gods and might have stolen some of their property. He was sentenced to Tartarus. His son, when put back together, was missing his shoulder blade, so had to be replaced with ivory. Pelops got his wife in a chariot race, with the help of a servant sabotaging the chariot of his master. Pelops didn't fufill his end of the bargin and killed the servant. The servant then laid the curse on the family. Pelop's sister, Niobe, bragged of her 14 children, and all of them were killed by Artemis and Apollo, since she insulted their mother Leto. Niobe was then turned into a rock. Atreus and Thyestes are sons of Pelops. They killed their half-brother in an attempt to get the throne, but were banished for it. Atreus' wife was cheating on him with Thyestes, and they had a struggle for the throne until Atreus found out the infidelity. Atreus killed his nephews and cooked and served them to his brother as revenge. Thysestes then, on advice from the oracle, had sex with his daughter to produce another male heir. The son/grandson Aegisthus was abandoned by his mother and was raised by Atreus. The truth was revealed later, and Aegisthus killed Atreus. Atreus had children before he died, including Agememnon and Menelaus. Menelaus was the husband of Helen of Troy, and her kidnapping by Paris caused The Trojan War. Agememnon's wife cheated on him with Aegisthus and she killed Agmemnon on his return from war, and their son, Orestes, killed her with help of Elektra, his sister.
- Classical literature in general seems to be like this. For another example, take The Aeneid: Aeneas, after a giant storm scatters and damages his fleet, pulls into the newly founded city of Carthage. The beautiful queen of Carthage, Dido, rapidly falls in love with him, and everything seems hunky-dory, with his tiny band of Trojans being accepted into civil society. However, the gods send a messenger telling him to go to Italy already, twit. Naturally, he complies, but Dido is driven mad by his abandonment of her and commits suicide, lighting an eternal enmity between Carthage and Rome. This all results from the conflicting schemes of Jupiter, Venus and Juno.
- The Aeneid was written between 29 and 19 BC, and is as much a political publication as an entertainment one (Aeneas founding Rome was an attempt to justify the invasion of Greece). Romans were good at these sorts of stories.
- Malazan Book of the Fallen:
- In Gardens of the Moon, Ganoes Paran suffers one misfortune after another, as the gods squabble over him constantly. The universe has a perverse sense of humour, however, and in later books he ends up as the guy setting the rules for said gods.
- Toc the Younger never seems to catch a break—in his first appearance alone, he loses an eye and is tossed into the Warren of Chaos to die. In each subsequent appearance, something catastrophic happens to him, and all of it Played for Drama. Only with his last appearance does something go his way.
- The series is quite fond of those, as Midnight Tides introduces the reader to Udinaas, who starts out quite content with life. It could be worse, anyway. Needless to say, it doesn't last. He gets caught up in one plan gone horribly wrong after another, with gods and those that fancy themselves as such poking around in his brain and life like it's cheese.
- House of Chains introduces Trull Sengar who has to watch his entire people, family and life get destroyed and turned upside down, only to then get kicked around and used by the Powers That Be. He knows it and cannot even do anything against it. At the end he even dies because a god can't help himself but nudge fate as is his nature and Trull gets stabbed by a thug while standing above the corpse of his dead brother.
- There is also Icarium Lifestealer, a Cosmic Plaything gone horribly wrong. The gods and other powers tried to break him and make him a weapon they could wield at will, but he snapped and now they have to make sure he never, ever loses his temper.
- FitzChivalry Farseer of Robin Hobb's Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies. Described as Fool's "Catalyst," which means he exists largely to Screw Destiny. As Fool puts it, the world is like a wheel caught in a circular rut, and will follow that rut, digging itself in deeper; only a White Prophet like the Fool can see this course of fate, and more importantly, where a wedge — the Catalyst — can be placed to pop that wheel out of that rut and onto a new path. Coincidentally, and to stretch the metaphor a little further, that means the wedge gets run over by the wheel. Hard. And repeatedly, if the first attempt didn't work, making it worse as the rut gets deeper. Fitz definitely has the worst time overall of anyone in the series, getting at best a Bittersweet Ending at the end of Farseer, though he just manages to scrape something better out of Tawny Man, which Tastes Like Diabetes.
- K.J. Parker's The Scavenger Trilogy. Poldarn: events are possibly being manipulated by the god of the same name to teach him a lesson. Out of jealous love or for revenge.
- Eugenides of Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series is one of these. The eponymous Thief, he is named for - and protected by - the God of Thieves, and is generally jerked around by the gods to serve their ends. Sometimes he finds it frustrating, other times he is more pragmatic about it; as he says himself, "If I am the pawn of the gods, it is because they know me so well, not because they make my mind up for me."
- Deconstructed in Thirsty. It blows having your entire life written by a sadistic Eldritch Abomination
- The basic premise of the children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
- Randolph Carter from H.P. Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is this. It turns out the city Carter had been searching for the whole time was actually just jumbled up memories of Boston.
- Labyrinths of Echo got "being a rather blunt tool of the fate" as almost the defining quality of the series' protagonist. He interacts with magic in abnormal ways half of the time and constantly happens to fall into situations where he sees as the only sane thing to do something ranging from outlandish to considered impossible even theoretically by anyone more competent. He's beaten with this to the point that in the second book of eight they already had such a dialogue:
Juffin: ...How do you do, Sir Max?Max: Normally, perhaps. (shrugs in bewilderment) Just now gave an order of extermination of a whole people... and helped two lovebirds to reunite. Nice, isn't?Juffin: Yup, not bad. Normal workdays of a normal Arbiter... You don't plan to make a tragedy out of this, right?
- By the later books of Galaxy of Fear, each of the three main characters is wholly aware that anywhere and everywhere they go, they are going to find themselves in danger that can't be solved easily, no matter how innocent their current surroundings are. Zak and Hoole even lampshade it.
- In Pact, this is explicitly the result of accumulating karmic debt-the universe acts to right the balance by making things difficult for you in any way that it can, in the most inconvenient of ways. Sufficiently talented Karma Houdinis, however, can evade the universe's backlash and survive long enough to bear children unto whom they pass the debt. Blake Thorburn is the heir to one such line, and as a result he's forced into increasingly chaotic situations as the universe applies itself to righting his karmic balance.
- The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden's being manipulated and shoved around by multiple god-like entities for their own occasionally overlapping, still mostly unrevealed agendas. The fairy Queen Mab and his godmother Leanansidhe have overlapping-but-not-quite endgames, his mother gave birth to him for a specific reason, the angel Uriel chose him as a champion and probably has a specific goal in mind for him, occasionally Odin will manipulate him for his own means. Harry's been born with unique powers and is hinted at having a special destiny so any powerful enough supernatural entity that he attracts the attention of wants to hijack or use that.
- Shadow in American Gods, more directly than usual. The book starts with him being released from prison a few days early! Because his wife was killed in a car accident. Along with his best friend, who he was also counting on to hire him. Because they were committing adultery in a moving car. He quickly gets hired by Mr. Wednesday, who drags him around the country recruiting gods for a Resource War over belief, and more of the gods than not decide to make him their new Butt-Monkey. Finally things settle down briefly, only for the kobold of the town where he's staying to more or less metaphysically dox him, landing him in jail again. Then in very quick succession, he sees Mr. Wednesday get shot, finds out his old cellmate Low Key is working for the opposition, and volunteers for the vigil only to discover it consists of hanging on the World Tree for nine days and nights with no food or water, which kills him. He goes through afterlife judgment by Anubis and chooses no afterlife at all—he just wants to stop existing entirely. But he can't even manage that because the Old Gods vs. New Gods war is still on and it turns out it was a two-man con by Loki and Wednesday to gain power for themselves at the expense of all other gods. Oh, and Wednesday is also his father. After all this is over, he goes and nearly gets himself killed twice, first by the kobold and then by Czernobog, neither of which actually kills him. And then the Icelandic Odin wants to chat with him on his vacation in Reykjavik.
- The Stormlight Archive: Kaladin. His entire life has been one crisis to the next, from normal childhood problems with parental expectations, to running afoul of a noble who tried to squeeze his father for everything he had, to following his brother to war, to losing his brother to war, to watching his entire squad die, to being branded a slave, and then being tossed into a job that is nothing but a succession of literal and explicit suicide missions. It gets to the point that he is convinced that someone or something must be toying with him. An important part of his characterization is learning to accept that he can save people if he tries, but he still can't save everyone.
- The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign: The main character Kyousuke is very much a literal example of this trope. In the past, he managed to make the White Queen, an all-powerful Eldritch Abomination, fall in love with him. Due to her killing countless people and causing the current state of the world, he now wants nothing to do with her. However, she will do anything and everything to get him back, including inflicting all manner of suffering on him.
- Boy Meets World: Cory had an interesting take on why he couldn't get away with things.
- Turned on its head in B & B's B'n B when Cory gets caught up in Shawns scheme to turn Feeny's house into a Bed and Breakfast for the weekend while he's away. In this instance Cory actually wants to get caught because he believes he should because thats how things in his world should work, but he thinks the universe is determined that they get away with it and after catching break after break as Feeny returns.
- Chuck sometimes thinks this. With the amount of bad luck he has, it's hard to blame him. His best friend got him kicked out of Stanford, then sent him top secret government files that put his life in danger countless times. Then did the second part again.
Chuck: This place has it in for me.
- The Drew Carey Show: While not a central premise, Drew once famously theorized on-show, "I always get screwed by the system. That's my place in the universe. I'm the system's bitch."
- One episode revealed that the source of Drew's misfortunes might not be so cosmic after all, as he discovers several men from his work have formed a conspiracy to make his life miserable. Apart from that, there was always Mimi…
- Early Edition: The main character receives a cat and tomorrow's newspaper for no known reason.
- Eastenders: Ronnie Mitchell. Her life was one horrible event after another, and just as it seemed like she was finally getting a happy ending after so much abuse, she drowned trying to save her sister.
- Game of Thrones: Stannis Baratheon to the Red God. Melisandre stated that her visions told her that Stannis was the Prince Who Was Promised and she genuinely did believe he met the conditions as per her visions. Stannis initially doubted this himself but sponsored her out of hope for some measure to create loyalty among his small group of supporters, but gradually came to believe that it was his destiny to protect the North from the White Walkers and liberate Winterfell. In the end, it turned out that Melisandre was terribly mistaken. It would be Jon Snow's destiny instead. Another example is the fact that when young Shireen was affected by grayscale, Stannis went out of his way to save her life and did the best he could to give her a normal and happy childhood. In the end, he was made to believe that he had to sacrifice and undo one of the few noble and good actions of his life.
- My Name Is Earl: The entire premise of the show.
- Joan of Arcadia: This is precisely how Joan sees her relationship with God. She would be thrilled if He stopped popping in into her life for rarely-explained reasons. For proof, two of the six WMG spectulate that the 'God' of the show is some kind of trickster.
- Quantum Leap: In later seasons, Sam theorizes strongly why he keeps appearing in situations he must correct for the better.
- Lampshaded a bit — in one episode, Sam has to make it rain to fix his host's life. He can't just randomly make it rain... So in a Crowning Moment of Awesome, he calls God out on it:
Sam: I don't know who's runnin' this show. I don't know why I was chosen. I bounce around from place to place. I do everything I'm supposed to do, at least the best way I can, but I don't know how to do this one. I mean, you gotta help me. I figure you owe me, for a couple of times, anyway. You make it rain. You hear me? You make it rain!
- In the series finale, a bartender that is heavily implied to be God in human form shows Sam that he's done a lot of good. Sam then realizes that the reason he hasn't been able to leap back home is because he doesn't really want to stop helping people. God wasn't the one responsible for Sam's situation. Sam was always the master of his own fate.
- Lampshaded a bit — in one episode, Sam has to make it rain to fix his host's life. He can't just randomly make it rain... So in a Crowning Moment of Awesome, he calls God out on it:
- Strange Luck: The central character, named Chance, appears to be at the center of a vortex of extreme improbability both good and bad, beginning by being the sole survivor of a freak plane crash as a baby.
- Wonderfalls has "Heroine as a Cosmic Plaything" as a main theme. As Jaye whiningly describes her situation, "I don't have a choice. I'm a puppet. The universe sticks its hand up my butt, and if I don't dance, people get hurt."
- The X-Files episode "The Goldberg Variations" has a man with incredible luck, but he's aware that for him to benefit from it someone else has to suffer. When he picks a winning scratchcard, he says it's too much for his purpose. Despite his warnings, someone else is happy to take it, and is immediately run over by a bus.
- Married... with Children's Al Bundy sometimes addresses God in the context of being a Cosmic Plaything, usually in a sarcastic way whenever God seems to be inflicting misery on him for fun or tearfully asking just why God is picking on him in particular when nothing seems to be going right. He attributes this to The Bundy Curse. Supposedly, it only affects male Bundys, but it appears to have the ability to rub off onto family, friends, and passers-by when it's narratively convenient.
- Journeyman: This show owed a great debt to Quantum Leap, and it's no surprise that Dan Vasser is also a Cosmic Plaything.
- Definitely Seinfeld. Few episodes passed by without one of the characters getting involved in some sort of misfortune, ultimately insulting someone and ruining something. The very last episodes looks back on all of the misfortunes they've caused themselves.
- Sam and Dean Winchester on Supernatural have literally been brought into being for the sole purpose of being playthings for Heaven and Hell. Every single event that has happened in their lives has been orchestrated so that they would release Lucifer from Hell and start the Apocalypse. This knowledge has taken a toll on the brothers, especially Dean, whose jokes and banter with his brother and friend Castiel hide the fact that he is "dead inside", as Famine described him. This is so prevalent that the trope was cruelly played for laughs in the season three episode "Mystery Spot", where Dean is killed over 100 times in a "Groundhog Day" Loop caused by a Trickster who is later revealed to be Gabriel, one of the archangels.
- From Doctor Who, Rory Williams definitely. It really seems like the universe just wants him to roll over and die. But it enjoys screwing with him too much to allow him to do that. First, his girlfriend/fiancée/wife runs off with another man. Later, he has died at least once, debatably twice, had his stag party ruined by the man with whom his fiancée ran off, was erased from existence, turned to plastic, had his fiancée forget him, shot his fiancée against his will, then guarded said fiancée for almost 2000 years. He then dies another three times. Then his wife gets kidnapped. And then their daughter is stolen and becomes a psychopath. On the other hand, all this cosmic torture turned him into a grade-a badass capable of facing down and intimidating a battalion of Cybermen without flinching.
- A casual viewer could be forgiven for assuming that the writers had some kind of deep-rooted sadistic hatred for the Doctor. And they might be right.
- Perhaps the Doctor himself, arguably being led around the universe by the TARDIS against his will.
The Doctor: You never take me where I want to go.The TARDIS: No, but I always took you where you needed to go.The Doctor: You did.
- In the classic series, the Doctor would get very annoyed whenever the Time Lords would send him off on some mission to avoid publicly interfering in the affairs of other planets.
- In "The Curse of Fenric", it's revealed that Ace was just a pawn in a game between the Doctor and Fenric.
- Often Played for Laughs at the start of an episode, where the Doctor hops out of the TARDIS and says something along the lines of "VIVA LAS VEGAS!" to the inside of a submarine.
- Babylon 5: Londo Mollari claims that he is this on a couple occasions. In one episode in the fifth season, he comments that he would have thought that the universe would say "Well, we've had our little fun with Londo Mollari" and moved on to torturing someone else by now. Of course, he tends to ignore the fact that many of the bad things that occur to him are the direct result of his own decisions, and a lot of things he complains about affect more people that just him.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Xander Harris is used so often in this fashion that he finally declares to everyone that he's sick of being the one "with the Bug Eating and the funny syphilis", and that he's not going to let the universe do it to him anymore. And for the most part, from that point on in the series, the universe doesn't. He is also the Trope Namer for Butt-Monkey, describing himself.
- The series makes in clear that the universe has it in for Buffy and for most of the characters in general. No two ways about it.
- The titular character of Angel. His overall story arc seems to underscore the fact that The Powers That Be enjoys playing with him.
- RoboCop: The Series wasn't kind to its version of Anne Lews, Lisa Madigan. Over the course of the series, she had a drug problem while trying to lose weight ("Trouble in Delta City"), was knocked out and had her gun stolen to kill someone ("When Justice Fails"), and was almost paralyzed for life in ("Nano"). The episode "Midnight Minus One" also implies she came from a broken home.
- The Golden Girls: Sofia addressed this a couple of times:
- In the episode "Two Rode Together" Dorothy and Sophia go to Walt Disney World for vacation. Sophia wants to ride Space Mountain but Dorothy wants to have quality time by looking at photographs. Sophia tries to sneak out and hopes nothing can stop her but it starts raining.
Sophia: Why do you always take her side?
- In the episode "Ebb Tide" Sophia rents out a room, while Dorothy goes with Blanche to her Big Daddy's funeral, so she could by a big screen TV. The renters accidentally breaks Blanche's plate and is force to pay for a new plate. Blanche comes home and breaks the plate.
Sophia: What is this, sarcasm?
- In the episode "Two Rode Together" Dorothy and Sophia go to Walt Disney World for vacation. Sophia wants to ride Space Mountain but Dorothy wants to have quality time by looking at photographs. Sophia tries to sneak out and hopes nothing can stop her but it starts raining.
- "The Curse" by Disturbed is about this trope, inspired by the events in singer David Draiman's life. On the other hand, its ultimate theme is one of inspiration through hardship.
- Ironically titled song, "The Lucky One" by Celldweller invokes this. "My head's caught beneath God's thumb, I guess that makes me the lucky one."
- Sound Horizon's Moira revolves around this concept. Thanatos, enraged at how Moira makes every human being her Cosmic Plaything, decides he's going to get his own Cosmic Plaything to turn into a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds and pit him against Moira.
- "The Impression That I Get" by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones is this mixed with Lyrical Dissonance in the form of an incredibly catchy ska-punk song:
Have you ever had the odds stacked up so high
You need a strength most don't possess?
Or has it ever come down to do or die?
You've got to rise above the rest...
- The song "Disciple" by Slayer has lyrics about the Almighty wanting everyone to be miserable. In fact, the chorus of the song features Tom Araya shouting "God hates us all!" over and over again.
- "Devil on my Shoulder" by Billy Talent is all about this:
Follow the rainbow, my lucky omen
There ain't no pot of gold, just copper tokens
I found the key to life, the lock was broken
All my accomplishments, are best left unspoken
I dug a hole so deep
I'm gonna drown in my mistakes
Can't even sell my soul
'Cause it ain't worth shit to take
- In the ''Vocaloid song "The Game of Life" the protagonist tells her story of her eleven past life were nothing but whims of capricious god. In the end, she may or may not be said god.
- Literally true in Greek mythology. If some mortal caught the eye of one of the gods, he/she was seduced by them, or just flat out raped. Worse yet, if the god had a spouse, they could make life very bad for you, up to and including being chased by a giant snake across the continent of Europe. Or worse, if their talents outmatched the gods, or they gave a god an answer they didn't like or gave an award to someone else, they were screwed. And if there was more than one god involved...well, they were screwed either way (just look at The Trojan War). How can it get worse you say? Well, remember the gods could take on any form, including that of any person.
- The worst thing about Greek mythology is that praying to a god wouldn't get you that god's favor. At best, you'd be ignored. At worst, another god might notice and be offended that you weren't asking him for help and dish out some petty vengeance. There's a reason the gods of Greek Mythology are the Trope Codifier of Jerkass Gods.
- Job. The Devil makes a bet with God that Job only loves Him because he's got it so good; and if it were all taken away he would Rage Against the Heavens. Job persists in his faith, believing that God works In Mysterious Ways, and is rewarded by getting back 3 times what he lost.
- "A Man Said to the Universe" by Stephen Crane.
A man said to the universe:“Sir, I exist!”“However,” replied the universe,“The fact has not created in meA sense of obligation.”
- In Warhammer 40,000, anyone who worships Tzeentch, the Chaos God of trickery, does so with the constant knowledge that despite his patronage they are nothing more than pawns in one of his elaborate schemes. Beyond that, the lousy state of the galaxy is often attributed to the sheer number of entities - the Chaos Gods, the C'Tan, Eldar farseers, and the God-Emperor - playing at chessmaster and getting tangled in each others' plots. For more specific examples...
- The Lamenters chapter. The only Space Marine chapter formed during the so-called Cursed Founding to not display obvious mutations or other defects, they nevertheless suffered distrust and prejudice - to the extent that during their debut campaign protecting a world from the forces of Chaos, an allied chapter actually abandoned them, leaving the Lamenters to suffer 80% losses before being rescued by the Ultramarines and White Scars. The surviving Lamenters were then lost in the Warp and presumed dead for two thousand years. They only re-appeared after fighting the whole way back out, which just made the Imperium distrust them even more. After rebuilding their strength, the Lamenters were redeployed to the other side of the galaxy as part of a brotherhood of chapters guarding another warp storm. Unfortunately one of their allied chapters (and one of the few who actually showed some amount of brotherhood to them) went renegade and dragged the Lamenters onto the wrong side of a civil war, where the Lamenters once again suffered crippling casualties. After the revolt was put down, it was decided that the Lamenters had acted out of misguided honor, and were given the chance to atone through a century-long penitent crusade... right into the oncoming Hive Fleet Kraken. Their last report before further contact was lost mentioned that they were down to three heavily-wounded companies.
- COMMISSAR CIAPHAS CAIN, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!! has repeatedly stated in his private memoirs that if the Emperor is truly watching over him, He has a twisted sense of humor.
- In Warhammer, The Knights of The Templars of the Everlasting Light, the order is a well known knightly order that's also infamous for being cursed. Their knights fall of their horses unexpectedly, their swords breaks before a killing blow can be delivered, their grand master got dumped on a cart of manure, and their chapter house is swallowed up in a freak earthquake.
- The GURPS RPG has two Disadvantages that sum up this trope: "Weirdness Magnet," which attracts inconvenient strangeness to the character (the given example includes a talking dog and aliens making a base in the TV set); and "Cursed" which explicitly states "the GM can hose you any time he feels like it, and you have nothing to say about it, because you are Cursed."
- In Scion, each character has a "Fateful Aura" that turns them into walking Weirdness Magnets. Also, the more they use their awesome powers, the more likely they are to tie innocent bystanders into their growing legend. The stronger their Legend, the easier this happens and the more pronounced the effects, which is the main reason the Gods left the mortal world in the first place.
- It's somewhat more complex than that. Fate is in essence the human desire for things to operate based on rules of Narrative story. Being Fatebound offers benefits... one binds oneself to a particular role, and becomes more likely to succeed when acting in it... while becoming less likely when trying to defy it. The Gods gathered the power of being Fatebound as Heroes to the Mortals to defeat the Titans... then withdrew from the world to let those mortals die out so that they could be who they wanted instead of who the Mortals expected them to be.
- While we're here, this is no doubt the feeling that afflicts anyone who takes the "Things Don't Go Smooth" disadvantage in Serenity: the RPG. As outlined by Mal:
I want it to go smooth. Why don't it ever go smooth?
- Prometheans were granted life by the Divine Fire. The catch? The Divine Fire is innately hostile to 'normal' life... and living things know this. Maybe not innately, but deep down, they know it. So a Promethean's life really, really sucks, seeing how every human it meets will eventually flip out.
- This is the central concept of The Sims. When forced into several dire scenarios a Sim will actively look towards the player, begging for mercy or salvation. You are for all intents and purposes their freewill and deity.
- Daniel from Amnesia: The Dark Descent. His entire life - from his abusive childhood with a chronically ill younger sister all the way up to his experiences during the game itself - resembles an extremely cruel and miserable practical joke, and this is without taking into account just what he did while in the service of Baron Alexander, or why. Or that he's afraid of the dark in a horror game with the word "Dark" in its title.
- Maggey Byrde in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is convinced this is her lot in life, dating back to when she fell out of her family's ninth-story apartment at six months old. As she notes, her luck is bad to the point she's never even tied at tic-tac-toe. Being one of the three characters to be the defendant in three separate cases (the others being Maya Fey and Phoenix himself, who also got three times in the hot seat) goes a long way towards backing up that claim.
- The Great "Warrior" Susano from Ōkami becomes convinced over time that his feats of skill are a result of the gods toying with him. Given that the player is a god and assists him throughout the game, though, he's not too far off the mark.
- Curtis Craig of Phantasmagoria 2 is this. Literally.
- Everyone in the Chzo Mythos is Chzo's plaything.
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has a couple of optional character Traits that make the player this. "Born Under a Sign" makes both critical successes and critical failures more likely, and "Nietsche Poster Child" makes critical failures more likely but improves experience gain.
- In a similar vein, the first two Fallout games have the "Jinxed" Trait, which increase the chance of a critical failure for the player and also for anyone nearby. While generally reviled, walkthrough writer Per Jorner has stated that Jinxed could be useful for a "pure (and weird) Hand-to-Hand build."
- Lucas from MOTHER 3. His mother dies, his brother goes missing and turns up as an evil cyborg who later kills himself to join his mother, and his father goes nearly insane with grief. Even the dog is upset about it.
- Yosuke's Butt-Monkey status basically gets upgraded to this in Persona 4: The Golden. Specifically, he wonders if he is cursed, or insulted a gypsy.
- In the Never Winter Nights 2 fan campaign, The Maimed God's Saga, the plot ends up revolving around a bet made between Tyr (the Lawful Good god of justice) and Malar (the Chaotic Evil god of evil lycanthropes and cannibalism), and the player is unwittingly dragged into it.
- In Legacy of Kain, everyone but Raziel is a plaything of destiny. Ironically enough, the lone exception finds himself being manipulated by everyone else because he is the only being in existence with true free will.
- Pit in Kid Icarus: Uprising is a literal Cosmic Plaything, as the gods themselves make fun of him, whether or not they're on his side.
- Axl Low of Guilty Gear is a funny, easy-going British guy who has been forcibly dragged away from his friends and his girlfriend Megumi into a mess of apocalyptic proportions by the machinations of beings who aren't even from his own time period. The poor guy has no interest in any of their crap and just wants to go home, but to have a chance of doing that, he has to reluctantly work to their agendas. Add in the implication that his troubles are being caused by an unknown Evil Counterpart, and he really has a mess to get sorted out. Revelator cranks it up further by revealing that poor Axl isn't even human at allnote and probably never was, and going home is possible but it means wiping out this timeline and all his friends with it. Faced with this Sadistic Choice in the finale, he chooses the latter.
- How much of a Cosmic Plaything are you when "Cosmic Plaything" is pretty much your innate special ability? No matter what Sagume Kishin says, the universe always conspires to oppose her words through any means possible. Due to this, she tends to not speak very much and always chooses her words carefully... On the plus side she has found a way to weaponize this power: If she speaks about something bad occurring, it will eventually resolve itself. That said, there's absolutely no guarantee that the situation will necessarily resolve itself the way Sagume wants it to resolve itself, though.
- Taken up to INFINITY with BlazBlue's Ragna the Bloodedge. It got so bad that it the fanbase felt like the only way for him to get his happy ending was by dying and be put out of his misery, and that's pretty much what happened.
- While a lot of the misery in his life was his own fault, the rest of the hardships Kratos from the God of War Series suffered came from him being a demigod son of Zeus destined to destroy Olympus. He never really had a chance.
- Every single character in Undertale is this - twice over, in fact! Before the game even starts, the universe has spent a very long time under the control of Flowey the flower, who has the ability to manipulate time and has Ripple Effect-Proof Memory. Towards the end of the games Kill 'em All route, he tells you that, in an increasingly more desperate attempt to keep himself entertained in the face of nigh-immortality, he's reset the timeline a truly staggering amount of times, doing everything from helping solve each and every character's problems to killing everybody in cold blood. He tells you that, after a certain point, he's basically stopped seeing people as real people anymore - at best, they're now actors, with scripted lines and motions to go through, and he's long grown tired of the act. As soon as you show up, however, things suddenly get a lot more interesting for him, because you, the protagonist/player, are the new god of this world, and your abilities now override his own. So, what will you do? Will you be merciful and lead the suffering cast of characters into the promised land, or will you descend into nihilistic madness like Flowey in your attempts to see everything this game has to offer? Or will you skip over the descent entirely and just Jump Off The Slippery Slope, killing everything in your path just because you can? Amazingly, this whole thing is done with exceedingly little actual breakage of the fourth wall, since practically everything the player is capable of doing is integrated into the canonical universe somehow.
- This whole mess comes to an important head during the final battle of the Kill 'em All route, where you face off against the game's Fourth-Wall Observer, Sans. Though we never find out exactly how, he is the only character in the game who knows he's a Cosmic Plaything and uses this to his advantage in several ways. Notably, he attempts to have an "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight with the player, reminding them of the previous games they've most likely played (who does the Kill 'em All route on the first go, right?) and pulling a number of scathing What the Hell, Player? moments. The creator of the game seems to be using Sans to make the following argument: in a meta sense, being a video game character in and of itself makes you a Cosmic Plaything, and Video Game Cruelty Potential is how the "cosmos" indulges in this.
- Some fans have started to wonder if Rean Schwarzer from The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is the world's plaything as any attempt he does to do good, ends up screwing him over in the worst possible way.
- Done literally in the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series, where several of the protagonists and antagonists alike are just pawns used by deities beyond their comprehension to determine the fate of humanity.
- In Persona 2, the heroes and villains are pawns in a cosmic game orchestrated by Philemon and Nyarlathotep to settle a bet on whether humanity will destroy itself or not. Tatsuya in particular has to suffer through two games' worth of struggle to eke out a victory in the end.
- In Persona 4, Taro Namatame, Toru Adachi, and the protagonist are all pawns in a cosmic game orchestrated by Izanami to determine humanity's truest desires. Namatame in particular gets his warnings about the Midnight Channel dismissed out of hand and gets played like a fiddle by Adachi.
- In Persona 5, the protagonist and Goro Akechi are pawns in a cosmic game orchestrated by Yaldabaoth to determine whose salvation of the world is stronger. Akechi in particular goes through a horrendous childhood, is manipulated by literally every faction in the game, and ultimately ends up Dying Alone in the depths of the Metaverse, his fate known only by the heroes.
- Dragon Ball FighterZ: Android 21... where do we even begin? She lost her son, was turned into an android by her husband Doctor Gero, and was activated long after his death with no recollection of her past life. She tried to make the best of her situation by rebuilding Android 16, who was modeled after her son, but she ends up killing him in all three story arcs. Her own story arc has 21 kill 16 in a fit of Horror Hunger, crossing into the Despair Event Horizon upon regaining her senses and creating an evil duplicate of herself. She still attempted to make things right by helping the Z-Fighters stop the evil 21, but unfortunately she still has to pull a Heroic Sacrifice to destroy them both, fearing her hunger would resurface again. At the end of the day, you just can't help but want to give the poor girl a hug.
- Brolli in Diamond in the Rough (Touhou) fits. It's Played for Laughs in the first part of the series, with him being called out on his stubbornness, and it's Played for Drama in the second part, in which he has to solve everything, but can't.
- Leonard Church from Red vs. Blue is a subject to so much trauma, humiliation and bad luck that listing it here would be quite hard. He gets accidentaly killed by his teammate, his body is left to rot away and his ex-girlfriend takes his spot on the team. And that's not even the whole first season. Each subsequent one, be it a sequel or a prequel, ads up to his misery until he makes a one final Heroic Sacrifice in Season 13. The only bright side is that it more or less worked... though obviously he would never know it did, much to his dismay.
- In SwordCat Princess, Kathryn tries to steer her own life, but Karma & Fate is working to steer her toward where she "must be" to do the most good. Lord Oberon and his sort-of employee, MacKnight are also continuously testing Kathryn without her knowledge.
- Vexxarr. All he wants is a long, boring life full of cake and Halo. Instead, the Bleen Empire (his own species) are trying to kill him, and everywhere he tries to hide has territorial aliens, Ascended Beings, insufficiently advanced aliens and his own incompetence. And his crewmates.
- Something*Positive's Davan and Mike think God has it in for them. They're right; at one point He neglects the backlog of prayers concerning a war in favor of watching horror dawn on Davan's face after the man's latest disaster, and God was pissed that He accidentally let something good happen to Mike.
- 8-Bit Theater has Black Mage. The universe is practically structured to bring as much pain to him as possible, almost justified as it's hinted to be the world's self-preserve mechanism against his destructive powers. Some of the other Butt Monkeys have also noted their cursed lives of suck:
Onion Kid: "Guess I ran out of parents."
- K from Blip. It's outright stated that, since Heaven can't foresee her actions, they're "censoring" her to insure that she has as little impact as possible on the world.
- Worse still - the forces of Hell want her to stir things up and will always make sure that interesting things happen in her life which Heaven will have to squash down, ensuring that she gets her chain yanked her entire life. She will never be allowed the benefit of dull boredom, always standing on the brink of hope and getting denied before achieving anything remotely fulfilling.
- It was revealed in Housepets! that King and Tarot are player characters in a cosmic game of Dungeons & Dragons.
- In S.S.D.D the Oracle ruins certain people's lives for fun. Tessa Edwards being a favorite.
- Bob from The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! is a proven weirdness magnet. He can attract monsters and such just by standing there. He has no idea why.
- Every Lineage Child from Sire is one by virtue of "The Binding" a fated narrative that drives their stories and forces them on the road which would confront the morals and obstacles that their Sire/Dam had to face. Fate will outright murder anyone who tries to run away from their story.
- At one point in The Order of the Stick, Elan starts coming up with possible ideas of what an inactive spell the Order found could do, such as shrinking the group down or turning them into dinosaurs. Vaarsuvius responds with, "Those ideas are theoretically possible, if, for example, the cosmos hated us. (An idea I am not ready to dismiss, given our adventures thus far.)"
- The titular character of Matchu has been struck by lightning twice in the same day, fallen through weak floors, and had a UFO land on top of him right when he was finally about to talk to his love interest.
- Howard from Sketch Comedy. (Also, inverted with Susan.)
- Erfworld: Wanda sees herself and everybody else as this and believes that one can either embrace destiny or suffer in vain by resisting. The Big Bad, Charlie, also suffers from this, but takes the opposite approach. He dedicates every single one of his efforts to stalling a prophecy knowing that Fate, the very Genius Loci of Erfworld, manipulates events towards trying to kill him.
- Clover Firelight, from Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic. She even names herself "Fortune's plaything." Her luck takes a turn for the better later on, when King Eric III of Drostardy realizes that he loves her, and makes her his Queen.
- In The Gamer's Alliance, The Guy Who The Gods Like To Pick On, Sr. has it pretty rough because for some weird reason the gods really do like to pick on him all the time. He ends up from one miserable situation into another and can't even kill himself because the gods like to keep him alive just to humiliate him even more in increasingly cruel yet morbidly hilarious ways. His children, Guy Jr. and Gal, are also suffering from this albeit to a slightly lesser extent.
- A common pastime of the Archailects in Orion's Arm, some think that the only reason they still allow "lower life forms" to exist is for entertainment.
- The Nostalgia Critic:
- Word of God said that he was created to always get the short end of the stick and be a victim - although he does a lot of crap to balance that out - and the Christmas Special proved that even Ask That Guy would be nicer and better off without him.
- When he was reviewing Care Bears, he kept wondering why Grumpy Bear was the one always getting the wrong end of the stick or doing hard work and even asking
- Nostalgia Critic: "Why does this universe hate him so much?"
- In Death Note: The Abridged Series (kpts4tv), Light is this, sometimes literally. Also Mikami, the writer really has it in for him. And L who is resurrected just to be killed off again.
- Several characters in the Whateley Universe would qualify, including Ayla (probably due to the curse that transformed him in the first place) and Kayda (thanks to the enemies of Pteswani among the Native American spirits), but the clearest case is Josh Gilman, who is the recipient of a family curse that made him 'tasty' a specific Eldritch Abomination - until the spell transformed Josh into Josie made her less palatable.
- The Bullshit Man from You Know Whats Bullshit.
- Mario to an extent. It seems that no matter how hard he tries, he never makes the voices stop. His life became a nightmare for him after Peach, his former girlfriend, broke up with him over his baldness. Since then, he has been Driven to Suicide, and Bowser and Chef Pee Pee even planned once to have the latter dressed up as a woman to prevent him from killing himself. This has been done up to "Mario's New Girlfriend!", where he hooked up with Rosalina and have lived a better life since. At least until a handicapped child named Jeffy was dropped off at Mario's door, making his life worse than ever. He has been broken into sobbing several times due to being unable to deal with his situation, to the attempt where he actually killed himself once over Jeffy. Clearly, Failure Is the Only Option for him.
- Chef Pee Pee gets constantly tortured by Bowser and his son Bowser Junior, especially the latter. Chef Pee Pee has sworn multiple times to kill Junior, but he either never actually did it or failed in an attempt to do so.
- Entirely Presenting You: Anything that could go wrong for Alexis, does. Despite wanting to do good and be a superhero, it seems like for every single good thing she does, two bad things come as a result.
- Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. He's been harassed by aliens, haunted by a mechanical ghost, raped by a genetically engineered dog, bought a recorder that took complete control over his body, had his car and house damaged repeatedly, and has even died on many occasions.
- Prince Zuko of Avatar: The Last Airbender has resigned himself to the fact that everything in the universe seems to be working against him and his pursuit of his goals. He copes with this by priding himself on struggling and fighting for his victories with no help from cosmic luck.
- Well, aside from that time when he snapped, ending up standing on a mountain peak during a storm screaming for The Universe to try to strike him down like it always does...
- Whether it's Played for Laughs or Played for Drama, Sokka. "The universe just loooves proving me wrong, doesn't it?" To the point where this exchange actually comes to his advantage.
Sokka: (as it is raining and he is being heavily soaked) Look, I'm gonna make a prediction now. (Sarcastically) It's going to keep drizzling...(Beat.) See? (Everything promptly becomes sunny and sparkly, the clouds vanish, the sun shines warmly and the land is happy again.)Aang: Not everyone has the gift, Sokka.
- Kaeloo: Stumpy. He seemed to be the Butt-Monkey before one episode proved him to be an actual cosmic plaything.
- The Simpsons has Frank Grimes, a man who has worked harder and has more logical intelligence than anyone in Springfield and is rewarded with a lifetime of misfortune. He was abandoned by his parents and never got proper school education as a result, having to work at a delivery service just to make a living. He has also been caught in a silo explosion which was followed by a long painful recovery, went through a possible divorce, and lost a job opportunity at the power plant to a dog which led to his run in with Homer and he quickly becomes baffled that Homer has everything a deserving and hardworking man should have despite not deserving it due to his idiotic slothful nature. Frank's obsession with trying to prove how this isn't how life should work ends with him going crazy and electrocuting himself to death. Even his funeral was as a joke due to Homer's sleeping interrupting the service. Yeah, the people behind that episode REALLY didn't like Frank Grimes.
- Homer instantly becomes this whenever he enters New York City.
- The four main characters in South Park. Cartman had been anal probed for starters, Kenny has been killed many times, and Stan and Kyle would sometimes get ridiculously short ends of the stick, especially Kyle for some reason.
- Episodes like "Cartmanland" and "HUMANCENTiPAD" seem to imply that Cartman is God's plaything, receiving what he loves and then having it taken away just to mess with him. Definitely a case of Call It Karma, though—"Cartmanland" largely focused on the idea that a universe where Cartman actually got what he wanted would not be just.
- Timmy Turner, the main character in The Fairly OddParents!. Granted, the prerequsit to have Fairy Godparents in the first place is to be misserable but even then he is tormented constantly. The writers even go so far as subverting the It's a Wonderful Life trope by letting the character of Jorgen Von Strangle tell Timmy that his very existence causes misery for everyone. He is also frequently tormented by Francis The Bully, Vicky his evil babysitter, and Mr. Crocker his Sadist Teacher. And that's not including his neglectful parents. Even when Timmy wishes for his situation to improve, he is forced to wish everything back to normal (more often than not because said wishes proceed to make things worse!), a very notorious Reset Button, thus continuing his ongoing misery.
- Phineas and Ferb's sister Candace. Her relentless quest to "bust" her brothers and prove their outlandish activities to their parents means she gets dragged through the wringer and usually gets within a whisker of succeeding, only to have it all snatched away at the last moment thanks to Dr. Doofenshmirtz's inventions backfiring, leaving her looking crazy. Like Wile E. Coyote, it's only her own obsession that keeps the pain coming, but it does seem that fate is against her: even if the entire universe has to expand to rob her of validation, it'll happen.
- Even worse, a number of later episodes have Candace attempting to rid herself of her obsession, which inevitably fail just as badly as her attempts to "bust" Phineas and Ferb. Basically, not only is she not allowed to succeed, she's not allowed to stop trying.
- In The Real Ghostbusters, Egon once commented, "Sometimes I think the universe just waits for me to get cocky."
- Squidward from SpongeBob SquarePants. It seems that the whole universe is out to make him miserable, whether it be his dreams being shattered like glass (no doubt by SpongeBob and Patrick, or just being yanked away by anything), or just being hurt for no reason. It's little wonder that fans of the show have declared him The Woobie.
- Plankton. If, even for the Big Bad. It seems that even the most wretched attempts of wanting to steal the Krabby Patty formula, the karma will come back at him with a worse punishment.
- Henry from KaBlam!
- Gumball Watterson in the episode "The Curse" where he finds himself under a plague of bad luck for no explained reason.
Gumball: I swear, sometimes it's like the whole universe is against me.
- Gumball Watterson in the entire series, honestly. Half the time he does bring it on himself due to his crazy schemes but other times it seems like the universe just wants to mess with him for no good reason. Case in point, in the episode "The Vegging" when he just wants to not go on any adventures and spend a day doing nothing, the universe goes out of it's way to make sure that doesn't happen. He was once going to be a black cat to reflect how unlucky he is.
- Many characters of Looney Tunes play with this. While karma does play a lot into their bad luck, the contrived nature of their endless pain and misfortune almost comes off as some higher being out there having sadistic fun...
- Wile E. Coyote is a stand out example. While a key rule in his character is that he could stop his pursuits (and thus his abuse) at any time, his schemes to get a basic meal always fail in often the most contrived (and painful) of ways. Even when he anticipates an error in his plan, fate is always a step ahead of him and twists things back in his direction.
- Frizz and Nug of The Dreamstone bemoan this status endlessly. Given they spend each episode shanghied into villainous missions to steal a MacGuffin they don't give a crap about, usually facing the brunt of their abusive boss, the angry heroes, their own bumbling and anything else that can cause pain for them out there as a result, they're not far off.
- Garfield is an interesting case. For him, he's only a Cosmic Plaything on Mondays.
- The three main protagonists of Ed, Edd n Eddy, even when they're not doing anything to deserve it. In one episode they try to get to the candy store because there's a sale on jawbreakers, but the universe throws everything at them from a severe thunderstorm to a stampede of chickens. At that point, Edd gave us this quote:
- Eugene and Helga in Hey Arnold!, the former is The Klutz who always has bad things happening to him even when they should be logically impossible and the latter is an Insecure Love Interest who never succeeds in winning the affections of Arnold, is treated like dirt by everyone and all of her schemes backfire in hilarious ways (most times deservingly so).
- "Why universe hate Waspinator?"
- Anyone who claims to have never had even a single day where it felt like this is lying.
- Being paranoid certainly helps.
- Even if they aren't (most likely due to young age), it is inevitable that they will someday experience just such a day.
- Will be made worse by abusive friendships