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Free-Sample Plot Coupon

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You're Bob the Hero, and you're going on an adventure!

The work you're in has a writer, of course. In this case, the writer knows that a handy way to structure a plot is to present it as a quest for a certain number of special items. You can defeat the Dark Emperor with ease, but only after you find everything on the Grocery List from Hell — learn the secrets of the Four Stars of Virtue, slay the Six Dragons of Deceit, win a kiss from all Fifteen Maidens of Dubious Intent... You know, slaying even one Dragon of Deceit could be the plot of an entire adventure. And what does a Maiden of Dubious Intent look like, anyway?

So the writer decides to prod you by having the first MacGuffin or Plot Coupon land right in your lap. (Let's hope it's a Maiden and not a Dragon.)

This first encounter is the Free-Sample Plot Coupon. It serves as a good motivation to look for the remaining objects or characters, which (or who) will be genuinely more difficult to find. Now, how the first MacGuffin appears may depend on the plot or the place:

  • It may be found right next to you. Not too shabby.
  • The Quest Giver already has it and gives it to you.
  • If it's an object, whoever holds it will appear instantly. If it's a character, he or she may appear instantly.
  • It may turn out that you already had one of the tokens... Or you are one yourself!

Naturally, if the first item or character takes a lot of effort to find (if not more than the others), then it doesn't fit the trope. Not to be confused with This Is Your Premise on Drugs.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Several arcs of Dragon Ball revolve around looking for the Dragon Balls. But at the start of the first arc, Son Goku already has one and Bulma meets him having two, making the quest much easier already. After Shenron is summoned and the corresponding wish is granted, the Dragon Balls scatter across the world after granting a wish, making finding them again harder. When this happens the second time, Goku plucks the Four-Star ball from the air before it could fly away—his intent was simply to retrieve it because it's an heirloom, but his friends end up using it a few story arcs later (albeit most of them were gathered offscreen anyway).
  • Inuyasha: After the Shikon is fragmented into several pieces, scattered through Feudal Japan, Kagome and InuYasha find their first shard laying around with a few hours (which is how they find out it was broken).
  • In order to save Athena in Saint Seiya, the main characters must walk through the twelve zodiac houses and confront the Gold Saints whenever it's necessary. Fortunately, Aries won't be a major concern. Mu, the house's guardian, is on the good guys' side, and after jokingly faking a battle with them, he proceeds to repair their (at that point weakened) armors so they can be better prepared. Mu also gives them suggestions about how to confront the remaining Gold Saints.
  • The manga version of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past has Link getting the first pendant from Sahasrahla.
  • Futari wa Pretty Cure:
    • It's revealed that the heroines need to obtain all seven Prism Stones... which means they need to get five back from the bad guys, to go with the two they already have.
    • A year later, they have to search for twelve of something called "Heartiels." They have absolutely no idea what that mean until the first one turns up on her own and introduces herself.
    • Go! Princess Pretty Cure: The Cures had already gathered three Keys before Kanata gave them the task of finding them all.
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, while the rest of the Clow Cards were freed, the Windy remains (Sakura having had it in her hand when she read its name) and she captures the Fly soon after.
  • The main conflict of Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL revolves around collecting the 100 Number monsters. They were released into the wild during a duel, and the first one we see chose main protagonist Yuma's opponent (and later rival), Shark. Luckily, Yuma himself got the second one.
  • In Sarazanmai, the first Dish of Hope the main trio gets is golden. After they lose it through Enta accidentally doing some Wasteful Wishing, all other dishes they obtain are silver and need to be combined to create another gold one. They're also much harder to keep in one place, as both the police and the kids want them for some reason or another.
  • Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches:
    • Because the concept of "witches" isn't introduced until more than 20 chapters into the story, Yamada already knows and is on good terms with two of the witches (Shiraishi and Odagiri) before he and his friends start looking for the remaining five.
    • Similarly, after the second witch war, when Yamada needs to find all of Takuma's seven witches to hold a ceremony, he already knows four of them (Kurosaki, Ichijo, Yuri, and Takuma himself).

    Comic Books 
  • The Killers of Krypton: After explaining to Supergirl that she will need to gather six data stones scattered all over the galaxy to discover why and by whom Krypton was destroyed, Appa Ali Apsa gives her the first stone.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Lockout: Snow receives the lighter and briefcase from the dying Colonel and promptly stashes the briefcase (which turns out to be a MockGuffin) and — unknowingly — keeps the lighter which is the ACTUAL item he seeking.
  • The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. The grand vizier of Marabia gives Sinbad a quest to find the three golden tablets before the evil Koura does. Luckily Sinbad accidentally acquired the first tablet from Koura before meeting the vizier; the vizier has the second; and Sinbad uses the first two to locate the area where the last tablet can be found.
  • In Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos easily gets the first Infinity Stone offscreen.
  • In Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the party is given the Jaguar's Eye at the start of the game.
  • The Twelve Gold Medallions: The titular medallions are required to prevent a lawful minister from being sentenced to death, and the heroic knight, Lung, must collect all twelve - three which he receives in the film's Action Prologue.

  • The quest for the Horcruxes in Harry Potter is a Double Subversion. The first Horcrux destroyed was Riddle's Diary, four years before Harry even knew it was such. And it took the plot of an entire book (Chamber of Secrets) to destroy it, so it wouldn't fit the trope. However, in Half-Blood Prince, when Dumbledore tells Harry about Horcruxes and the importance of destroying them, he tells him that not only is the diary already out of the picture, so is Marvolo Gaunt's Ring, which he and Snape had already found and gotten rid of prior to the events of Half-Blood Prince.
  • In the novel The Dark is Rising, Will Stanton is given the first Sign, the Sign of Iron, before he even learns that he is an Old One and starts his quest for the other five Signs.
  • In The Keys to the Kingdom, Arthur is given half of the first Key right at the start of Mister Monday, and the first part of the Will has already escaped before he enters the House to find the rest of the seven Keys and free the other six parts of the Will.
  • A villainous example occurs in The Dark Tower, where The Crimson King is trying to end reality by destroying the six beams that hold up the titular Tower. By the time the story starts, two of the beams have broken on their own, and the King has destroyed another.
  • In Fangs of Fury, you'll need to collect several black and white cubes for your quest. You get four Black Cubes immediately in the backstory.
  • In The Crown of Dalemark, the main characters must support their candidate's legitimacy by collecting the belongings of the semi-legendary leader the Adon. At the start of the quest, Mitt thinks he'll have to steal the first one, a ring, from his patron's family, but he's caught right away - and is given a perfect copy of the ring or so he thinks - it's actually the real one by his patron's benevolent husband.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Several Kamen Rider shows indulge in the trope:
    • Kamen Rider OOO is a continual struggle between all parties for control of the various Core Medals, with Eiji starting out with just enough to access his base form and demonstrate his part-swapping gimmick.
    • Kamen Rider Ghost gets the Musashi Eyecon immediately upon acquiring his superpowers, but has to hunt down the other fourteen needed to wish him back to life. This gets exaggerated when he gets an extension to the time limit needed, as he has ten Eyecons with his friend having three.
    • Kamen Rider Build starts with a fair number of Fullbottles already in his possession, and has to create the rest from the remains of each Monster of the Week or steal them from the antagonists. Of course, it's not until he's finished creating them all that he finds out they're components of an Artifact of Doom.
    • Subverted in Kamen Rider Zi-O. Sougo is charged with collecting the powers of the nineteen Kamen Riders that preceded him in the form of Ridewatches, and his reluctant ally Kamen Rider Geiz already has the ones for Ghost and Drive. However, the Ghost Ridewatch gets destroyed, meaning Sougo has to go through the process of acquiring a new one anyway. And more importantly, when he does collect them all and unlock his Super Mode, the fact that he never legitimately gained the Drive powers on his own works against him and forces him to go and get the Drive Ridewatch for real before he can be at full power.
  • The Outer Limits (1963) episode "Demon with a Glass Hand". Trent must find the three missing fingers of his artificial left hand to save humanity from the Kyben invasion. Fortunately Trent's incomplete left hand is a computer that can help him find the three fingers.
  • In Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, it's the last of the five jewels that's easy - it was already in their base in a sealed compartment. But then the villains come barging in.
  • In Power Rangers Dino Charge, of the ten Energems lost in the dinosaur age, the first five are what gives the Rangers their powers.

  • In the Doctor Who stageplay "Seven Keys to Doomsday", the Doctor already has the first of the seven crystals when he shows up at the beginning of the play.

    Video Games 
  • Banjo-Kazooie:
    • In all games, Jigsaw Pieces serve as MacGuffins. In the first game, they are required to complete magical pictures that open the levels they portray. Who tells the title characters about this? The first Jigsaw Piece, of course, which is found at the entrance lobby of Gruntilda's Lair.
    • Banjo-Tooie has Jingaling handle the first Jiggy to the protagonists after they promise him to rescue all Jinjos. This Jiggy allows them later to access the first Jiggywiggy Challenge and unlock the first regular world. There they can find more Jiggies and repeat the process with later Challenges to unlock future worlds.
    • The first Jiggy in Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge is located directly in front of Master Jiggywiggy, who explains their purpose immediately after you collect it and whose temple is located a short jaunt from where you start the game.
    • The first Jiggy in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is earned by completing a ridiculously simple and easy "challenge" in Act 1 of the first world (which contains only this challenge), wherein all you have to do is drive a trolley over to Mumbo and talk to him.
  • Deadly Rooms of Death: In The City Beneath, Beethro's goal is to get through the three Gates separating him from Lowest Point. The first is the Gate of Sheathing, which just requires Beethro to sheathe his sword; he gets through in the very first level.
  • In Donkey Kong 64, K. Rool orders his minions to steal the Golden Bananas from DK's Banana Hoard so he's distracted finding them while K. Rool buys time to repair the Blast-O-Matic and use it to destroy DK Isles. To make matters worse, the worlds where the Bananas were placed are guarded by B. Locker, who won't allow the Kongs to enter if they don't have the necessary amount of Golden Bananas. Fortunately, the first world (Jungle Japes) only requires one Golden Banana, which can be collected easily when the lobby leading to the world's entrance is opened thanks to K. Lumsy.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The trope is often averted in the games, where Link has to traverse through a dungeon and other places before gaining the first of the Plot Coupon items. However, there are a few exceptions:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, after Ganondorf takes over Hyrule and Link wakes up from his seven-year slumber, the first Sage tells him that all the others have to be awakened so they can together capture and seal Ganondorf. He also gives him the first Sage Medallion, Light.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess:
      • Midna initially tells you there are three Fused Shadows being protected by the Light Spirits of Hyrule, and that you need to find them all in order to stand up to Zant. It's not until later that the spirit Lanayru reveals there are actually four of them; the last one is the helm that Midna's been wearing since you met her.
      • On reaching the chamber of the Mirror of Twilight, Link and Midna learn that they need to find its three missing shards in order to confront Zant inside the Twilight Realm. A fourth shard is still in the mirror's stand, however, effectively making it their quest reward for finishing the Arbiter's Grounds immediately preceding this discovery.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, the titular Phantom Hourglass comes equipped with ten minutes' worth of Sand of Hours when you first obtain it. Some of this is admittedly thanks to the boss of the first dungeon Link defeated just previously, but most dungeon bosses only give two minutes' worth of sand, which would still leave eight of them unaccounted for.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the first Ancient Tablet is already given to him by Fi in Skyloft, allowing him to gain access to the first area of the Surface, Faron Woods. The trope is inverted in the Song of the Hero quest, as Levias is the character that tells Link about the song and the parts of it that were taught separately to him and the three Dragons guarding the areas of the Surface, but he won't teach him his part until all others are learned.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, the Pendant of Courage is actually Zelda's special charm, which she gives Link when he goes to warn her about Yuga. You still have to go through the Eastern Palace, which features no quest rewards, before Link learns this, though, so it's technically a subversion.
  • Myst has you run across ages and collect red and blue pages for their respective red and blue books. The first pages are literally right next to the books. realMyst: Masterpiece Edition even has arrows pointing from these pages to the books, just in case you hadn't figured it out.
  • Pikmin 2: The initial debt Olimar's company must pay to avoid bankruptcy is 10100 Pokos. When a bottle cap Olimar brought back as a souvenir is detected and appraised in 100 Pokos — a significant amount of money, according to the company's President —, the President is so joyful that he instructs Olimar to return to the planet he was in, now accompained by a coworker (Louie), to find more similar treasures to pay the remaining 10000 Pokos.
  • In Star Fox Adventures, a character tells Krystal that the Krazoa Spirits are the only beings capable of bringing an end to the war that is wounding the population of planet Sauria. He then tells her that the shrine guarding the first Krazoa Spirit is a few steps on her right side.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, the player is introduced to the quest for the Star Maps by finding one just outside the Jedi Enclave.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, the player's initial quest of retrieving their ship to leave Telos segues into the galaxy-spanning quest of tracking down the missing Jedi Masters, remnants of the fallen Jedi Order. One of the missing Masters is Atris, which you've just had an audience with before you depart the planet.
  • Mass Effect, Shepard accidentally finds a Prothean beacon in the end of the tutorial level. It proves to be the first in line of Mac Guffins you have to collect before you can beat the Big Bad, namely, the Prothean Cipher that allows to decode the beacon's message, Liara who does the actual decoding, and the coordinates of the Point of No Return kept by the Rachni Queen.
  • In King's Quest: Mask of Eternity the entire reason why Connor is the hero is because he picked up a piece of the Mask (one of five plot-necessary Mac Guffins) before the spell that turned everyone else to stone could hit. Everyone acts as though he's the destined hero, but if that's true then Destiny must've aimed that mask piece directly at him. This is confirmed by a Prophet and a prophecy later in the game.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • In Super Mario Galaxy, Mario's goal is to retrieve the Grand Stars that fuel the Comet Observatory built by Rosalina. Luckily for him, the first of these Stars (found in the prologue level, Gateway Galaxy) is the only one that isn't guarded by any of the bosses, in fact its power hasn't been fully used yet. Also a case of Back from the Brink, because that is the last remaining Grand Star unused by Bowser or his army.
    • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the villainous X-Nauts get to experience this trope: the first Crystal Star is hidden in Rogueport alongside the Magical Map that leads to the others. Ironically, said Crystal Star winds up being the last one Mario obtains because of this.
    • In Super Paper Mario, Mario gets the first Pure Heart handed to him before the player even officially has control of him. Hilariously, you can avert But Thou Must! by refusing multiple times to accept the first Plot Coupon, eventually leading to the giver just giving up and a Non Standard Game Over before the game even begins.
    • In Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, the titular Dark Moon is shattered into 6 pieces by a vengeance-seeking King Boo, who then entrusts 5 of the shards to 5 Possessor ghosts each. When Dark Moon shards are collected and purified, the fog that fell over Evershade Valley after the Dark Moon's destruction lightens up to reveal the next area where the other shard is. Thank goodness one of the shards landed near E. Gadd's Bunker to get the adventure started.
  • Ōkami has a sidequest-based example: In Shinshu field, a priest asks Amaterasu to hunt down five criminal demons, each marked with a sacred arrow. As soon as the titular wolf exits the priest's house to start the search, night falls and the first criminal demon challenges her to a fight.
  • Jet Force Gemini has a subversion: When Mizar escapes from his palace after Lupus easily defeats him, he threatens the characters to redirect an asteroid to blow up planet Earth. Aware of this, King Jeff tells the protagonists that there is a huge mothership that will help them intercept the asteroid and find a way to stop it, but it's missing twelve pieces. Eleven of these pieces are scattered through the galaxy, so the three characters have to do a Fetch Quest to retrieve them. The 12th piece, technically the first, is in Jeff's hands, but he won't give it away until all 282 missing tribals in the game are rescued, despite the urgency to reunite all pieces.
  • In MacGuffin's Curse, the main character gets the desired quest object at the end of the tutorial level. Then the real story begins.
  • In Sonic Adventure, Tails already has possession of the first Chaos Emerald. Sonic Adventure 2 has both Eggman and Tails with their own Chaos Emeralds.
  • Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song has the FateStones, a selection of jewels that give various bonuses when equipped. One of the main characters, Barbara, is given the Amethyst as a gift at the start of her storyline. Alternately, any of the other characters can recruit her and find she's already carrying it.
  • Played straight in Skies of Arcadia, but you don't actually find out until more than halfway through the game. When Fina joins the party, she says that her quest is to find the six Moon Crystals, but she doesn't mention that one of them is already accounted for until you've collected four of them. She's talking about the Silver Moon Crystal, which Ramirez reveals is scattered into pieces within the Silvites themselves.
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening gives you 3 out of 6, when you find out you need them. The coupons are the Fire Emblem itself and the five jewels that attach to it. The character who explains why you need them gives you a gem, and Chrom has had the Fire Emblem and the first gem since the first half of the game. The emblem (with first gem already attached) was important in the first half of the story, but its exact use wasn't established until the second half.
  • Metroid:
    • Metroid Prime Trilogy plays with it in all games; each game features a Plot Coupon hunt, but it doesn't begin until about mid-way through the campaign.
      • Metroid Prime: You need to bring twelve Chozo Artifacts to the Artifact Temple to access the endgame. The Artifact of Truth, the first of those twelve, can be found at the temple itself, sitting under a small structure. You only need Missiles to be able to access it, and collecting it activates the Chozo Totems which will give hints to the locations of the remaining 11.
      • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes: One of the ten keys needed to access the Sky Temple is already in its lock thanks to the efforts of a long-deceased Luminoth warrior, so Samus only needs to find nine. In turn, one of those nine keys lies close to its required destination, needing little effort to find it; namely, its location is the Dark World version of Samus's landing site.
      • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption: Samus has to gather Energy Cells to restore power as she goes to portions of a derelict space vessel. Conveniently, a wrecked fighter is crashed in its docking bay, with its Energy Cell having fallen out for her to grab and use right away.
      • Metroid Prime: Hunters downplays this trope. The whereabouts of the first Octolith are found at the start of the game, but like all other Octoliths it's guarded by a boss that must be defeated. The remaining Octoliths not only require defeating a boss each to be claimed, but also reach said bosses' whereabouts by exploring extensively the main locations of the Alimbic solar system (including the starter Celestial Archives, as there's another Octolith besides the first one located there).
    • Metroid Dread: Inverted with the E.M.M.I., of which there are seven and are usually escaped from several times until Samus manages to defeat them with the Omega Cannon (each time enabled upon defeating a Central Unit). In this case, it is the last one (located in Hanubia) which Samus destroys effortlessly without needing to get the Omega Cannon from the local Central Unit (which, in fact, is remotely destroyed as well), not even having to escape from it a single time. The reason for both machines' destruction is due to Samus' Chozo powers finally awakening.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X has the Blood Lobster sidequest, where the main character has to find 99 lobster-shaped toys stuffed with explosives, scattered all around New Los Angeles. Why 99 and not 100? Because Rook manages to spot one and throw it away before it explodes in their hands (as the culprit planned to kill them before the start of the collection).
  • Far Cry 2 does this with the Jackal Tapes. There's seventeen in all, but you only have to look for sixteen - the guy who recorded them in the first place and who asks you to look for them gives you the first one, the suitably-infamous "Infamy" tape, immediately after making his request.
  • Snake Pass: The first level needs you to collect only one Keystone, and it's sitting there out in the open. In later levels all three Keystones are scattered all over the place, in increasingly tricky locations.
  • Pokémon Sword and Shield: It's only an optional sidequest, but the DLC has a man who lost 151 Alolan Diglett all over the Isle of Armor and requests your help in finding them. He asks this of you just after you stumble into the first one (who blocks a bridge that is the most obvious way to reach the plot-relevant dojo.)
  • Petal Crash has the seven Sacred Blossoms, a set of artifacts that grant a wish to whoever gets all seven of them. Each character starts with one already in their possession (Lilibri for instance starts off with the Lily, while Daize won the Daisy in a game of cards), with their story consisting of travelling across Florea to defeat the other characters and obtain their Sacred Blossoms.
  • Stella Glow: During the final numbered chapter, it's revealed that there's a song capable of killing Mother Qualia, who intends to destroy humanity. The song was divided into five scores many years ago, each one taught to a Witch of that era. In the present time, only Hilda (the Time Witch) has preserved her score, because she's the last surviving Witch from the last millenium's generation, her being over 1000 years old. So the current-era Witches, who play the entrusted role of the remaining four elemental Witches (Lisette for Water, Popo for Wind, Sakuya for Fire and Mordimort for Earth), need to retrieve those destined for them by traveling back to their hometowns (all of them over the course of the chapter) and listening the corresponding notes.
  • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne: Early in the game, the Demi-Fiend is told that he should seek out the Menorahs. He is then handed the first of them. As it turns out, this is both a gift and a curse - while the Menorahs flicker when they come close to another, they also attract the holders of the other Menorahs, the Fiends, who wish to claim them as well. The first of these (and the only mandatory Fiend battle) is Matador. Obtaining all the Menorahs is necessary for the True Demon Ending.

  • Keychain of Creation has its whole premise centered around Misho and co. searching for the Keys of Creation. Fortunately, Misho already possesses Eternal Dawn, the Key of the Sun. Unfortunately, the bad guys also start with one already. Three more are left for the hunt.
  • In Godslave, Anpu gives Edith a task of retrieving his nine ba. Thankfully, he's the first one.
  • In The Order of the Stick, by the time the Order learns of the importance of the gates, they've already destroyed one (Dorukan's Gate) in the previous volume, and Team Evil has destroyed another (Lirian's Gate), leaving only three of the gates left to locate (and, as it so happens, they're standing in the very room with the Third Gate, Soon's Gate)