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Gambit Roulette

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"How can anyone, even skilled conspirators, predict with perfect accuracy the outcome of a car crash? How can they know in advance that a man will go to a certain pay phone at a certain time, so that he can see a particular truck he needs to see? How can the actions of security guards be accurately anticipated? Isn't it risky to hinge an entire plan of action on the hope that the police won't stop a car speeding recklessly through a downtown area?"

A convoluted plan that relies on events completely within the realm of chance, yet goes off without a hitch. If your first reaction to seeing The Plan unfold is "There is no way that you could have planned that would happen!", then it's a Gambit Roulette.

A Gambit Roulette tries to make a character seem impressive, but can break Willing Suspension of Disbelief if not done correctly. You really have to establish a character as The Chessmaster for them to be able to pull this off without arousing your audience's skepticism. If the character pulling the roulette is a god, a person with precognition, a hyper-advanced AI, or someone else with similar abilities interacting with mortals, it becomes somewhat more believable, but even then, the suspension of disbelief can be tenuous at best.

If, as part of retconning in a new villain, everything up to then (including the supposed successes of the heroes against the old villains) is all part of a new Evil Plan, it's Arc Welding. Also often the justification of the Omniscient Morality License; their control over events is supposedly total. Many examples could be part of a Xanatos Gambit where it simply never became necessary to tell the audience about any other contingencies.

May be parodied by having events obviously (and blatantly) be out of the character's control, and yet still have them take credit for it.

Note that complexity alone does not make a plan into roulette. A few separate plans may combine while individually making logical sense. When a dozen things are going on but the actual details of the plan aren't reliant on each item fortuitously fitting into place, then it's a Gambit Pileup. If the character has plans for either outcome, not just the improbable one, it's Xanatos Gambit. If they admit that they hadn't planned for certain occurrences, but took advantage of them as they came up, that's Xanatos Speed Chess. Contrast Batman Gambit which is based on the most likely outcome, based on the planner's knowledge of the people involved, rather than an improbable one. A roulette requires the planner to say that events that were literally impossible to predict were All According to Plan.

This is a Spoilered Rotten trope. Expect spoilers and avoid using spoiler tags unnecessarily.


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    Film — Animated 
  • Patlabor: The Movie: The Big Bad's scheme is dependent on a typhoon passing by Tokyo Bay to set off the trigger condition for his virus across all of Tokyo, which does happen at the climax of the film. The problem is that he commits suicide believing that his plot has progressed past the point where it can be stopped over a week prior. Meteorological science is nowhere near good enough to predict the path of a typhoon that far in advance, so his plan coming to fruition before it was discovered and steps taken to thwart it beyond SV2's desperate effort to avert catastrophe was pure luck.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The God-Machine in Demon: The Descent runs on this to utilize the obscure laws, loopholes and exceptions in the laws of reality. Butterfly of Doom is in full effect; one small action can lead to a chain reaction, over a long period of time, to bring forth effects it desires. Often it sends Angels to make sure the chain of events work exactly as it predicts. That being said, this modus operandi exposes it to Spanner in the Works. An interference on the right spot at the right time can invalidate the entire chain of event, possibly one that took years to fruition.
  • The Quori in Eberron frequently pull off this kind of plan, and the game offers a really good explanation as to how: in addition to being super-intelligent Eldritch Abominations, the Quori frequently return to their home plane to plot, where Year Inside, Hour Outside is in effect. This essentially means that they have weeks to plan their next move while a single night passes on the Material Plane.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, the ancient Magnificent Bastard planeswalker dragon Nicol Bolas subtly pulls strings behind the scenes to unseal the Eye of Ugin and release the Eldrazi for reasons known only to himself. When his henchman Sarkhan Vol asks how he managed to set up the exact circumstances to unlock the seal, Bolas admits that he merely set up as much as he could and relied on chance for the rest. Once his master plan is revealed, it's also quite unclear how this helped and in fact introduced an additional failure point should they happen to devour one of the planes he needed. Unless he was planning that the Gatewatch form to fight them so they'd later ally with Lilliana so they'd help her kill her archdemons so he could take control of her and use her to command his army, in which case maybe calm down.
  • In Scion: Demigod, the Epic Manipulation knack called Advantageous Circumstances allows you to do this at will in order to gain a temporary advantage to the current situation as long as you can explain what you do to the GM. In the example they give, a Scion of Ogoun attempts to escape from another Scion in a bar. He buys a drink for a girl across the room. The girl gets the drinks and smiles thankfully toward the Scion, when a middle aged man leaving the restroom and walking towards his wife gets between them at the right time. When he smiles back, his wife accuses him of buying the girl a drink and pushes him back, knocking him into the pursuing Scion and giving the Scion of Ogoun a chance to escape.
  • The Temporal Probability Agency is all about this. A sentient computer sends information back in time to itself from all possible time lines in order to best instruct their agents on how to save the world. Agents get odd little instructions, like 'Save this plane from terrorists. Also, spill a drink on the captain.'

  • In his fourth tour, Enigma (2009-10), British illusionist and mentalist Derren Brown pulls one off spectacularly, with the set-up lasting the entire show:
    • At the beginning, he gives a man in the audience an envelope containing a card and tells him not to open it.
    • At the interval, he asks the audience to vote for a choice of seven cards: a goose, confetti, ice-cream, a moose, an egg, a needle, and apple juice.
    • Near the end, he gives six men from the audience numbers from one to six and asks them to randomise themselves in front of poles A to F. At the same time, he opens two envelopes, both containing six of the cards from the interval, giving the cards from one to each person in order of their numbers, and places a third at the front of the stage.
    • He then calls a woman up from the audience and asks her to pick a man at random, choosing #2, standing in front of pole C, and a card from the second envelope at random. It turns out to be the ice-cream, which is the same card #2 has. He opens the third envelope, revealing it to... be the ice-cream, with the letter C on the back. All six men place the cards on hooks on the poles and leave the stage.
    • He calls on someone to reveal the winner of the interval poll: confetti, which is written on the card given to the man at the beginning. He then reveals how he did this exactly: with props in the wings covertly saying "choose the confetti".
    • Then, he shows a clip of the band Mc Fly (part of an unrelated at the beginning) singing a version of their song "Obviously", rewritten to contain the lyric "(He said) obviously, the order will be, an egg then a needle and then an ice-cream and there'll be a goose and moose and apple juice, oh yeah." Cue gasps and standing ovation #1. For the second chorus, he then flips the tops of the poles to reveal the same order. Cue gasps and standing ovation #2.
    • And finally, he says "But Wait, There's More!", and reveals the main reason he called the tour Enigma back in 2007: it's an acronym of all six cards in the order. Cue the final set of gasps and standing ovations.

  • In LEGO's BIONICLE universe, the main villain of every story year so far, Makuta Teridax, has been defeated several times, but has revealed that he has, in fact, planned for every possible setback ahead of time. The Gambit Roulette is still turning, in fact, as he planned or at least accounted for all of the following to happen: the destruction of his own body, the death of the benevolent Great Spirit Mata Nui, the subsequent resurrection of said spirit, the rest of the world believing him dead... And the odd thing is, he seems to be the only one. There seems to be no Gambit Pileup coming, no (glaringly obvious) Deus ex Machina, just a slow slide towards his victory, trying to keep him from winning as long as possible. Quite dark for a Merchandise-Driven children's story. It went exactly as planned. Makuta committed Grand Theft Me on Mata Nui just as his soul was about to return to his body, becoming the universe as a result and banishing Mata Nui into a Soul Jar and out of the Matoran Universe.
    • Indirectly lampshaded when he discussed the matter with Vakama: "Little Toa, you have not yet begun to see even the barest outlines of my plans. I have schemes within schemes that would boggle your feeble mind. You may counter one, but there are a thousand more of which you know nothing. Even my ... setbacks ... are planned for, and so I shall win in the end."
    • Well, he hasn't planned for every possible setback, but instead tended to adapt to the situation. Throwing the fight against Takanuva was likely improvised as a way to get the heroes off his back. Getting crushed by a huge gate at the end of that confrontation was definitely not part of The Plan, according to Word of God but it didn't hurt too much as he was going to abandon his body in the end anyway. Mata Nui's death wasn't an intentional step but rather a noted high-risk that would have to be dealt with if it came to pass, hence his willingness to pull an Enemy Mine with the Toa Mahri, but he managed to work it to his benefit by using the window of time between Mata Nui being revived and his spirit reconnecting to his body to pull the Grand Theft Me master-stroke without issue.
    • Piraka Zaktan has seen the full plan, and keeps it in mind. This has allowed the heroes to actually work towards foiling it, as when Zaktan became their captive, he guided them to Teridax's then-supposed location. There was some ambiguity whether he was telling the truth or just wanted to play a roulette of his own, but we'll probably never find out, since that story-arc was abandoned quickly, courtesy of Teridax himself blowing Zaktan up ...or that's what everyone thought, but Zaktan was left in no position to try anything and made his escape to leave the Toa to their fate.
    • Pridak of the Barraki eventually sees the plan himself, or what he could make out after repairing the ruins Zaktan made of the original planning chamber. He immediately tries to get the other Barraki together and make an alliance with the Dark Hunters, not trusting his "employers" among the Order of Mata Nui, but Teridax's plans come together before he can do anything meaningful with the knowledge.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Ace Attorney series subverts this, in the fourth game's finale. The real killer's defense is that since he was in prison, he had no way of getting the victim to lick the poison stamp just as Wright and Brushel started to look into a certain case more deeply, and challenges Apollo to prove he had some convoluted plot to carry this out. Klavier, though, calls his bluff, and points out that he can't prove it - because the whole thing was one big coincidence anyways, and the victim should've died from the stamp years ago, but survived due to his daughter being a Spanner in the Works. As Klavier points out, the case Apollo presented was simply about what did factually happen and had nothing to do with whether the real killer could have predicted it would happen and that the real killer was twisting what Apollo was presenting.
    • The Great Ace Attorney plays it straight in the opening case, however. Jezaille Brett's extremely elaborate plan of poisoning Wilson, then shooting him and framing Ryunosuke relied entirely on leaving the victim's gun in open view and timing it perfectly so that both other witnesses would be, for separate reasons, looking away when Ryunosuke picked up the gun. She had no reason to know that he'd do that, and if he either failed to notice the pistol, tried to alert Wilson verbally instead, or just left well enough alone, the plan would have completely failed. Of course, being an Ace Attorney protagonist, he chose the only course of action that led to him being framed. Of course, it was an improvised plan, but still a major gamble.
  • Danganronpa:
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: In the third chapter, the killer's plan requires a lot of things outside of their control to go right, such as one group of students finding Hifumi playing dead and another group finding Kiyotaka's corpse at the same time to trick the former into thinking Hifumi was actually dead, nobody discovering planted evidence at the wrong time and so on. But unlike Nagito below, this doesn't work out entirely to their favor; the plan does go awry in a few instances, most notably when Asahina feels too sick to leave the infirmary and inadvertently forces Hifumi to keep playing dead, requiring the killer to improvise a way to get Asahina out of the room- which works, but leaves a very narrow window of time for Celestia's fall guy to have supposedly moved Hifumi's corpse to the art storage room, which helps discredit her narrative.
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair has Nagito Komaeda, for whom the repeated use of this trope is completely justified: his Ultimate Good Luck means that any plan of his that depends on "just hope that the right thing will happen" will reliably work, and his plans generally rely on exploiting this fact by leaving some crucial element completely up to chance.
    • He wants to be picked to clean a building so that he can prepare the things he will need for another plan later on. He suggests the group draws straws to decide who cleans the building, and sure enough he got the short straw.
    • Late in the game, he comes to the conclusion that there is a spy in the midst of the trapped party, and, in order to force the spy's identity into the open, orchestrates an elaborate Thanatos Gambit involving him committing suicide in such a way that the spy would inadvertently finish him off, and thus be considered the culprit for killing him. How does he guarantee that the spy (whose identity he does not know) would be the one to do it? He doesn't, instead relying on his luck so that of all the people who stumbled on his body, the spy would be the one to finish him off without even realizing it. It works.
  • The Devil on G-String gives us one in the form of the devil, Maou. Every one of his plans require that everyone acts exactly how he knows them to act. A single misstep would bring down the entire scheme. This culminates in his last giant trap: creating a blockade and making it a hell on earth all to get his father out of prison. Despite this, he still manages to weasel himself out of sticky situations by playing Gambit Speed Chess with the protagonists.
  • Played with in regards to the entire scheme of Mercurius in Dies Irae. His plan is basically one giant gamble for him to get a desired outcome as he, as a god of Eternal Recurrence, can just pull a giant reset if things don't pan out and try again. By the time the story starts he is implied to have done this millions of times already, reiterating on the plan through simple trial and error. A big reason for him having to rely on a gamble in spite of his nigh omnipotence is that he can only affect the starting point of each loop. From then on he has to rely on the butterfly effect as all his pieces play themselves out without his input.
  • During the warmup to the rescue in The Eden of Grisaia Thanatos tests the usefulness of the Mihama girls by sending them on various pointless errands. It gets the exact timing of everything down to the second and predicts exactly how people will flinch, among other things.
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors Zero's plan included: Seven coming up with code names for everyone so Zero wouldn't know their identities, Lotus randomly talking about some crazy theory she just came up with and she herself didn't take seriously so she'd mention prosopagnosia to Junpei, or Ace entering the room when Junpei and Clover were having a conversation about the first Nonary Game just as Clover was about to say the name of the girl who died back then. Any of these events not happening would've put Zero's plan in a tight spot. Justified as Zero had a glimpse in the future nine years before the game's events so she could have known this would happen.
  • Remember11: As it turns out, starting a Stable Time Loop probably means the entire thing is prone to failure, as the many, many bad endings of the game show (most of them resulting from seemingly innocuous choices, natch). An Infinity Loop means infinite chance for failure... This can be considered part of the Deconstruction of previous game Ever17.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, as EP7 reveals, Kinzo's true plan with the epitaph is that it was made to be solved by one person - Yasu. It was all a big gamble in order to get Yasu to forgive him. There's a reason why the inscription above the chapel says "You will only be blessed at a probability of a quadrillion to one." Except he probably didn't count on any of the siblings being able to solve the epitaph's riddle.

    Web Animation 

  • This is discussed, inverted and parodied in 8-Bit Theater, where Red Mage, who against all logic or sense thinks himself The Chessmaster, realizes that a Gambit Roulette is foolish: any plan which relies upon something going right has a chance of failure, and a plan which relies on many things going right is all but doomed to fail. Therefore, a plan that has no attachment to reality whatsoever is unstoppable!
  • A really stupid example, or even possibly a parody of this trope is Bob and George in its entirety. The whole series just being a gigantic set up for their mom to make George stop being too much of a pussy to fight, and kill Bob if he got out of hand. And the last few years being a bet between the Helmeted Author and Author to see if George would shoot Bob or not based on Gambit Roulettes between Bob and George themselves where George merged with the Shadowy Author and Bob was merged with the Helmeted Author, and manipulated certain aspects of their final meeting, that were in truth being manipulated by the author characters (even when the author characters WEREN'T using their "author powers" to alter fate and such, thus why it was bet.)
  • From Daily Victim by Dave "Fargo" Kosak, the features "Okay man, listen up: I've developed a 32-step program designed to get my hot girlfriend into cosplay," where the focus character tries to get his girlfriend to like dressing up without realizing that she's being manipulated, and "My 6-month plan to get my hot girlfriend into cosplay has colossally backfired", where his plan has worked too well, and he needs to wean her off of her obsession via an equally circuitous scheme.
    • And then there's the system administrator who always has a backup plan: "You see, you never want to fake a major organ failure to hijack an ambulance to a concert where you falsify medical documents and sneak into the trunk of your friend's car in a Spider-Man costume unless you're PREPARED for the eventuality that someone might get hurt if the car slams into a deer."
  • Dominic Deegan:
    • Dominic Deegan, with his limited ability to see the future, plays The Chessmaster in almost every arc, manipulating events to a more ridiculous degree each time. By the Snowsong arc, he's stepped into Gambit Roulette territory even considering his powers, albeit mitigated by some minor setbacks.
    • The mindgames the Travorias play on one another throughout the series would count as Gambit Roulettes... except that they nearly always fail.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Magus needs Ellen to zap Elliot with her Gender Bender ray, but is intangible with very limited ways to interact with the world. His plans range from the "slightly implausible" (he orchestrated the entire sequence of events that led up to Ellen's "birth") to the completely ridiculous (planning to amplify Ellen's desire for pepper in order to make her sneeze and accidentally zap Elliot).
    • This is largely the fault of Pandora, who is incredibly old, powerful, intelligent and bored. Any plans she makes deliberately has a large chance of failure, and any help she gives is hardly useful, because she wishes to see outcomes she cannot predict by forcing people to be creative.
    • Lampshaded here, when Voltaire points out how much his attempts to assassinate Elliot relied on factors that he could not possibly have arranged. That is why he's willing to vow to make no further attempts on Elliot: he is so restricted by Immortal/fae law that he has no reasonable way to make further attempts anyway. Part of Voltaire's overall motive in trying to change fae law is sheer frustration that he has to make such convoluted plans, as otherwise he'd much prefer Boring, but Practical methods.
  • Freefall: Sam Starfall's favorite master plan is to simply imply he HAS a master plan, then let his victims make up the details...
  • Girl Genius:
    • Averted when Gil is able to work out that a conspiracy against The Empire won't be coming after its incapacitated ruler because his being crippled couldn't possibly have been planned by them.
    • Played with when Klaus theorizes that Agatha's presence on his airship was part of some grand scheme for her to control Gil Wulfenbach, using the slaver wasp he had already been infected with. Gil points out that she didn't plan to be on the ship, and they were the ones who brought her—unconscious, no less. Klaus claims that it's too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence. However, he is in fact lying because he has been infected and is being forced to, and behind him his genius second in command can be seen working through the possibilities and clearly coming to the conclusion that there is no way that what Klaus is saying is right.
  • Homestuck: Doc Scratch and Lord English's master plan takes this to truly absurd extremes. Being omniscient time travellers in a multiverse where You Can't Fight Fate probably helps, though. Their plan actually has no possible way of being up to chance. The two of them have tied themselves and their/the universe's existence into their plan through a mind-bending series of stable time loops. If any deviation from the timeline that they have created occurs, then somewhere along the line, an event that should/shouldn't occur doesn't/does happen, an action is or isn't taken, a mistake is or isn't made, and the timeline is doomed by the paradox. The story just follows the Alpha timeline where everything goes to plan because it would be boring to sit through all of the possible ways they could screw up. They show what happens when a deviation is made, anyway.
  • Near the end of It's Walky!, a We Can Rule Together speech by Penny and (presumably correct) extrapolation by Alan reveal that Dargon founded SEMME in the seventies specifically to gather abductees and Martian technology, the former to be given just this We Can Rule Together speech, the latter in anticipation of SEMME's eventual disbandment and the resultant scattering of Martian technology to military centers around the world. The latter event, by the way, was thirty years later and contingent on an HA caper they couldn't possibly have predicted, itself following his death and resurrection. If either Dargon or Penny had lived long enough, we might have seen what, exactly, they planned to do with the world's military infrastructure destroyed.
    • Mike pulls this off routinely in both Shortpacked! and Dumbing of Age. Often times he will do something innocuous or plain friendly only to see it be all according to plan.
    • The trope was actually parodied near the beginning of the strip:
      Head Alien: Nothing happens that I haven't designed. Do you understand?
      Alien Mook: *NSYNC?
      Head Alien: [dejected] I was careless.
  • The entire Bird "conspiracy" in the webcomic Kevin & Kell. Too long to explain, but it implies giving somebody super powers, Time Travel, the Y2K bug, and locking an odd couple in a room.
  • Narbonic:
    • At the end of the "Professor Madblood and the Doppelganger Gambit" arc, Helen claims the whole chaotic sequence of events was her plan. As the series goes on, it's hinted that she plans a great deal more than typically believed. Helen is a megalomaniac (albeit an extremely cute one), so some or all of this could be from her own self-aggrandizing.
    • Indeed, in another comic in "Doppelganger Gambit", she explicitly claims a fondness for the Indy Ploy approach: "It's times like these I almost question my usual strategy of doing whatever dumb thing pops into my head." It's possible she masterplans things at a subconcious level which then tells her conscious mind to do seemingly random things.
    • In another "Doppelganger Gambit" strip, Artie says her mind operates on a different level from his, making him a cog in her machine (and he's a genius himself).
      Dave: She's currently giggling and trying to set herself on fire.
      Artie: That's mad genius for you. It's a sort of brain potluck.
    • Artie at one point suspects everything about him—from his intelligence, to his morality, to his shapeshifting ability—was engineered so that he could save Helen's life at one crucial, impossible-to-predict moment. He then wryly notes that it would be perfectly in-character for her to pull off such an insane plan when she could have easily just avoided the dangerous situation in the first place.
  • In the Oglaf strip "Remains of the Day" (NSFW), the skull-faced Curse Spectre curses a man so that his jizz will land on the face of whoever he's thinking about when he orgasms. In retaliation, the man resolves to think of Curse Spectre every time, causing the curse to only shame Curse Spectre... and in doing so, cultivates in himself a fetish for skulls. Upon going to a skeleton strip club for satisfaction, the man is horrified to find that it's absurdly overpriced... cue Curse Spectre laughing, implying this was its plan all along.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Tarquin calls out Nale's Complexity Addiction by describing exactly how one of his latest plans falls into this trope. On that same page, Tarquin even lampshades the tendency of Chess Master villains (like himself) to claim they pulled this off.
    Tarquin: A Gate, an abomination, a ritual, and you don't even have the ritual but a friend of a friend does? We were never in any position to realistically pull that off.
  • The entire climax of the first season of Tower of God and a lot more. Test Administrator Yu Hansung from had a great masterplan in which Bam was supposed to be declared Legally Dead without anybody noticing that he was just in hiding, so that he could be trained as King Slayer in secret. For that end, he needed to have the person Bam was looking for (Rachel) in somewhat close proximity without the two interacting, which wasn't that hard since Rachel obeyed Yu Hansung already. He also had to manipulate Hoh into trying to get rid of Bam by telling him that he would stop climbing if Rachel died. At the same time, he had to manipulate Khun into discovering that Hoh was being manipulated by Yu Hansung and was trying to get rid of Rachel and Bam, so that he would set up protective measures for both of them in the next test. Yu Hansung had to rely on Khun's deductive and manipulative abilities, which Khun used to make Quant try and protect Rachel during said test while figuring a way out to make Rachel participate in the final test, since she could not participate anymore after she got rendered ostensibly paraplegic by Hoh. This means that Yu Hansung's plan relied on Khun's plan partially failing and Khun looking for alternatives. Here Khun's detective work comes into play. Khun went with his results to Lero-Ro, who told him of a secret way of testing outside of the rules which only Irregular's like Bam could use, because the test had clearly been meddled with. So Bam got a tailor-made test in which Rachel could participate and which just so happened to happen inside a lake where the two where alone and unobserved. Rachel simply pushed Bam off their vehicle so that he was left to drown and she alone completed the test. Then Bam just had to be removed from the lake so that they could not find the body and declare him dead, so that the Government of Jahad would not follow the development of Bam, the Irregular into Viole, the Slayer, which was now made easy, since all of these events took quite a chunk out of Bam's sanity. And the greatest part of it all: Yu Hansung made it seem like he was helping the Jahad Government with underhanded methods while he actually plotted against it in secret. He is a true Magnificent Bastard.
    • At least part of this is justified in the anime adaptation by implying that Rachel was following Hawryun's instructions, with Hawryun being a Navigator with a supernatural ability to know what to do next to reach a goal (though Navigators are not properly explained in the anime). Of course, she was working for Hansung in the original as well, so he could have used her advice to make the details work out.
  • Initially, it seems that Alaric pulled this combined with a Thanatos Gambit in TwoKinds. It is, however, revealed that this was only one of hundreds of possible outcomes he planned for.

    Web Original 
  • In an article on creating villains, the sample villain, the Fire King, infiltrates an elven noble's household, takes over the household, becomes the king's trusted advisor, starts a war, eliminates elements on both sides to prevent peace. The point of all this is to wipe out all the elves so that he can perform a ritual to absorb all the magical energy in the world, and conquer hell.
  • This webpage lets you create your own plots which can easily become Gambit Roulettes, for example: Your unstoppable plot: hone your psychic powers, easily allowing you to summon a powerful spirit, easily allowing you to kidnap a popular singer for a huge ransom, easily allowing you to force your minions to make a super battleship, so you can create an evil temple, so you can acquire an unstoppable mega-tank, which allows you to kidnap the prime minister so you can replace him/her with an imposter, so you can force your minions to make a high-tech submarine, easily allowing you to summon a demonic force, which sets the stage to seize control of a legion of golems, which sets the stage to build a clone machine, which sets the stage to pillage the hemisphere which will slake your dark need for power!
  • Clickhole gives us Big Red Horizon: a plan that involves the writer falsely confessing to being a Serial Killer to get put on death row, while his accomplice becomes the state governor. All to get a free lobster dinner as his last meal, and pardoned after it.
  • Mentioned extensively in's 6 Most Pointlessly Elaborate Movie Murder Plots.
  • Played with in The Defrosters. In episode 9, Pixel Girl implies that she is working on a plan to stop Pixel Boy from playing World of Warcraft. She and James even mention TV Tropes as they debate the differences between a Gambit Roulette and a Xanatos Gambit.
  • In the early days of the League of Intergalactic Cosmic Champions The Man In Black would claim that things were going exactly as planned, even if there was no way he could have planned it.
  • Several borderline examples in Worm: Contessa, the Simurgh and Dinah all do this to varying degrees, and all have powers that make it seem plausible. Notably, only the Simurgh is able to do this when people that block precognition are involved.
    • Tattletale tries to pull this off, and manages to succeed at some points. However, she's quickly outmatched: she might be a high-level Thinker (assessed at 7), but she's certainly not the highest-level Thinker on the block.

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs: "Wakko’s Gizmo" starts out as your standard Rube Goldberg Device, but turns into this trope halfway through. We see that the gizmo relies on the following to work:
    • a pizza delivery man to open the door to the tower just in time to be scared off by a suit of armor on wheels so the latter can fall on a skateboard and coast down a spiral ramp,
    • Ralph the guard to be scared by the same and try to stop it by yanking the phone out of the wall to use the cord to trip it,
    • the cord to somehow also be attached to scaffolding that holds two mural painters,
    • Dr. Scratchansniff to drive past at the very moment the scaffolding collapses and dumps a bucket of paint on his windshield, causing him to crash into a fire hydrant,
    • the water from the busted hydrant to electrify a lamppost with a small anvil tied to a blimp tethered to it, burning the tether away and activating the blimp’s motor,
    • the blimp to fly into a barn’s weathervane and pop, dropping the anvil on a ramp that a cow is standing on and catapulting it into the sky,
    • the cow to crash through the ceiling of Mission Control, causing the engineers to prematurely launch a rocket from the shock,
    • the rocket to bump a satellite, changing its trajectory enough to turn a satellite dish at the studio with a set piece featuring a U-shaped ramp tied to it by a rope,
    • the set piece to be pulled into the path of a tour group on a golf cart, which flies around the ramp and straight back to the tower, up the spiral ramp to bump the tower door shut and set off the rest of the device.
  • Parodied in The Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres; antagonist Walter Mellon reveals that he created the Aqua Teens, Dr. Weird, and the Insanoflex, and kidnapped Neil Peart in the meanwhile, so that Frylock and Dr. Weird would ultimately become enemies and fight to their deaths, whereupon he would inherit their houses and use the land to build a gym. Frylock then informs Mellon that they all rent, and he couldn't have built gyms in residential areas anyway. Then the movie ended.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: As meticulous as the Clock King is, there is a LOT that could go wrong with his plans.
  • The Pixies' "thirty-seven year plan to take over Fairy World" in the Musical Episode of The Fairly OddParents! is so hilariously convoluted it defies description but let's try anyway... They are driving and comment that they need a baby for their next plan. A short distance away a train of the circus is approaching a broken bridge, two clowns see this and use the cannon to launch their son, Flappy Bob, to safety. He lands near HP and Sanderson, who take and raise him, in the right way so that he could take the plans to the Learn-a-Torium and make it, then the two pixies use their magic to help the children destroy the city, so that Flappy Bob could convince the adults to put all their children in the Camp Learn-a-Torium, so that HP and Sanderson could manipulate Timmy into wishing a world dominated by kids, so that the kids would not need fairies any more, so that the pixies could grant a wish to Flappy Bob with a loophole to control the fairy world... After it ultimately fails (for apparently not the first time), they wonder if they should try a six-week plan this time.
  • Futurama parodies this in "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings" — the Robot Devil brags that his "ridiculously circuitous plan is one-quarter complete". The plan: 1) Trick Bender into accepting an air horn, 2) Hope that he deafens Leela with it, 3) Convince Leela to sign a deal with the devil with him for her hand (with a twist) 4) Use the threat of this to get his hands back from Fry. All just to get him back where he was at the start of the episode. Even more, he somehow managed to get Bender to trade his hind plate for the air horn so as to have the perfect comeback for his catchphrase!
  • Gargoyles: The episode "Metamorphosis". Xanatos plans to fake the death of his colleague Dr. Sevarius and get a mutated Derek Maza on his side requires that Derek jump in front of him to take the dart with the serum, the Gargoyles attack his lab at exactly the right moment before Derek is about to receive a "cure," for the cure to be destroyed in the struggle, and then for Sevarius to get knocked into his aquarium during the ensuing fight and somehow not receive a fatal charge from his two electric eels. Given that Sevarius was in on it and that Xanatos is otherwise a competent chessmaster they probably had other ways of making it work.
  • Justice League:
    • After Brainiac has been revealed to have been living in Lex Luthor for years, he states that he's been manipulating Lex Luthor into manipulating everything else so that he, and not Lex, could implant his mind into a duplicate of Amazo (or rather, a "more suitable body"). Really, he just installed a backup of his program into Lex and rolled with whatever came his way. This turns into Gambit Speed Chess when Lex takes advantage of being merged with an immortal robot in order to try and become a techno-organic god.
    • This is also why many fans don't like Amanda Waller's revealed plan in the show's final episode: to create a "replacement" for Batman, she finds a couple who seem to be a good matchup for the psychological profile of the Wayne's, has the husband subjected to genetic modifications that cause him to produce what is genetically Bruce Wayne's sperm, then arranges for them to be murdered at the same age when Bruce's parents were dead. The amount of ways that could have gone wrong are too myriad to list — notably, the plan did go off the rails in that the assassin Waller contracted to do the job refused to follow through.
  • An example (but certainly not the only one) where this is used for comedic effect: In the Looney Tunes cartoon "Fool Coverage", Daffy Duck (after much persuasion) sells Porky Pig an insurance policy that will pay him a million dollars if he gets a black eye. However, after Porky signs, he's informed that the policy has some fine print — the payout can only occur if the policyholder receives a black eye as a result of a stampede of wild elephants running through his house between 3:55 and 4 PM on the Fourth of July during a hailstorm. When this improbable sequence of events actually occurs (right after Porky signs up), Daffy makes up an additional clause on the spot that requires that a baby zebra be part of the stampede — and guess what runs through the house immediately thereafter.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • When Princess Celestia appears at the end of the two-part pilot for the first season, she announces she'd planned for everything that happened. It's anyone's guess how she knew Twilight would run into just the right group of new friends and they'd each get a chance to prove themselves along the way as fit to wield the Elements of Harmony, and that Twilight would recognize all of this in time for it to mean anything. Celestia is certainly smart, and the true extent of her abilities is unknown, but predicting all that would have taken omniscience, thus making the plan this trope either way.

      Much later, however, in the beginning of season 4 to be precise, the audience is shown that the very origin place of the Elements of Harmony already bore clear symbols of their future wielders, leaving open the possibility that it was all fated to happen and Celestia might have somehow known that she could rely on that without even having to know the exact details. If so, the trope would be subverted at much length.
    • In the episode "Daring Don't", the character of Daring Do seems to rely on this. She wanted to enter the Fortress of Talicon so she could remove the rings that were protecting the temple, causing it to collapse. Dialogue at the climax indicates that her "plan all along" was to get captured by the villain Ahuizotl so he would take her to his fortress. The only problem is, it was Rainbow Dash's entirely unpremeditated involvement that ended up getting her captured in the first place. In fact, at the moment that happened, Daring was trying as hard as she could to not get captured, making Rainbow's later comment, "You did it on purpose?" even more unfathomable.
    • Frequently deconstructed by Starlight Glimmer, who has something of a Complexity Addiction and is fond of elaborate plans to achieve her objectives. These inevitably include such things as Batman Gambits on people she doesn't know that well, massive cases of Missing Steps Plan, assumptions that events will inevitably fall her way, or pure simple Insane Troll Logic, and as such always fail spectacularly.
  • Canaletto in Ōban Star-Racers Arranged for the death of the mother of the right girl i.e. Eva, so that she would be emotionally scarred and chase after her father off-world. Then he injured the main pilot to make her the only remaining pilot who would then would have to win a VERY competitive race, and relied on her prior emotional scarring so that she would reject the grand prize at the end and he could claim it for himself. Ironically, the only point at which he hits a bump is not when any one of these chance events fails but when Sul changed the flow of destiny. The only thing that helps this go down easier is that he's implied to be able to see the future and manipulate certain events.
  • The Simpsons
    • Homer Simpson's mother plotted to destroy a missile silo owned by Mr. Burns. This plot relied entirely on her dying at exactly the right time, Homer finding her video will on the right day, everyone using what they left her in precisely the right way (and Lisa stealing her crystal earrings), and Mr. Burns leaving a cinder block and chain near the cell Homer was trapped in.
    • Also seen in the episode "Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind", in which Homer pulls a Gambit Roulette on himself. Upon accidentally learning that Marge was planning a surprise party for him, he goes to Moe's and orders an amnesia-inducing drink. Before he downs it, he predicts that he will wake up to find his family missing, remember snippets that imply that he hit Marge, go to Dr. Frink for memory recovery, only remember enough to conclude that Marge was having an affair with Duffman, and then throw himself off a bridge at the exact moment in which the party ship was underneath and at the exact place in which he lands on the ship's moonbounce.
    • Sideshow Bob in "Funeral for a Fiend" does this. He builds a fake restaurant and broadcasts commercials for its grand opening solely for luring the Simpsons (and no one else) there. Then he purposely misquotes Shakespeare in order for Lisa to correct him so he could pretend to look it up on Wikipedia in order for the laptop to overheat and explode, leading to his capture. Then at his trial he relies on the chance that Bart will snatch away his nitroglycerine so he could fake a heart attack and allow his father to inject him with a drug that simulates death. Then he manages to undergo a funeral without an autopsy or any embalming process, and gets his family members to make Bart feel guilty enough about his death in order for Bart to enter the funeral home when no one else is around, and make peace with his "corpse" before it is cremated.
  • Subverted in one episode of Teamo Supremo: the main characters are stumped as to how the seemingly unrelated robberies committed by "Mr. Vague" contribute to his ingenious plan.
    Mr. Vague: You fools! I have no plan! I just like to act evil and steal stuff!
  • In the fifth season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), it was revealed that every event in the series until then — the Shredder's rise to power, Hamato Yoshi's death, the creation of the turtles, etc. — had all been allowed to occur as part of a plan to kill the demon Shredder.
  • Total Drama
    • A lot of Heather schemes require an insane amount of luck to work:
      • In Not Quite Famous, after reading Gwen's diary in front of everyone, she convinces Lindsay, Beth, Izzy and Owen to vote off Justin. The problem is, she's on a team with eleven campers so Heather had to assume everyone else wouldn't unanimously vote for her, otherwise she would have been eliminated anyway.
      • In Search and Do Not Destroy, she kisses Trent in front of Gwen. Leshawna catching wind of this, rallies the contestants to vote off either Trent or Heather, Heather wins immunity so they settle with eliminating Trent. However, Heather had no way of knowing her chest had the immunity pass in it.
    • The "Total Drama Drama Drama Drama Island" special was actually an overcomplicated plot for the Total Drama powers that be (both in and out of universe) to use for the purpose of making the second season, in a Moment of Awesome for the whole series.
    • Mal in All-Stars and Sugar in Pahkitew Island are walking embodiments of this trope as most of their successes were due to sheer luck and not of actual strategy or skill. Examples of this are Mal being able to find Courtney's list in "Sundae Muddy Sundae" without any explanation for how and most of the events from Pahkitew Island that were triggered by Sugar very likely still being able to happen even if she wasn't there to cause them.
  • There is never a full outline of what the plan was, or who was planning what, but the events of the third season finale and fourth season premiere of The Venture Brothers required an absurd amount of chance and relied on a Ass Pull for resolution. Molotov Cocktease and Hunter Gathers manipulate events so that Brock Samson kills OSI's top three assassins in a fairly straightforward plan to ensure the supremacy of their Blackhearts organization. Although not specifically stated, they may have also been responsible for Brock's car attempting to kill him, which itself relied on pure luck on several levels. It gets completely ridiculous once it turns out that the whole storyline going back to Hunter's sex change operation was an elaborate plan by Hunter Gathers, who is actually The Mole for the Blackhearts who reversed his sex change, in order to convince Brock to join Hunter's SPHINX organization. The plan is either the most convoluted and implausible plan of all time or an unbelievably well executed game of Gambit Speed Chess. It gets even crazier in the season 4 finale, when it's revealed that EVERYTHING outlined above was in fact orchestrated by General Treister to expose and eliminate Doe and Cardholder, who were actually moles for the Guild of Calamitous Intent; then install Hunter as the new head of the OSI. In other words, Treister's roulette depended on somebody else perfectly orchestrating and executing their own roulette, which quite possibly makes him the true master of this trope. Meanwhile Mol infiltrates SPHINX as "the rookie" (unsure if she's always been or just sometime before the season finale) in order to (possibly) place her Blackhearts as prostitutes that Dr. Venture orders for Hank and Dean's home school prom in order to distract Brock while she gets away with her SPHINX captured and doped up love, Monstroso (who may be a decoy or maybe the Blackhearts thing was a lie.
  • Deconstructed in Young Justice. Nightwing starts a complicated scheme to infiltrate The Light by sending in Aqualad and Artemis as moles. This plan will require the moles to commit genuinely villainous acts to maintain their cover, and most of Nightwing's team must be kept in the dark about the plan, meaning that they will be unaware that two of their greatest enemies are secretly allies. These two facets of The Plan eventually cause the situation to spin wildly out of Nightwing's control, and Kid Flash calls him out for putting his allies at risk with a plan that had too many variables.

    Real Life 
  • Adolf Hitler tried to pull this off, but there's been some debate among historians as to why it all kept blowing up in his face. Some people paint Hitler as a madman who seized opportunities others provided and got by with Indy Ploys, right up until he didn't. Others say that Hitler was trying to do this trope and did it badly, frequently shooting himself in the foot due to his rampaging ego not letting him comprehend his own failure, which is why leaders on both sides came to see Hitler as a threat to his own plans.
  • Admiral Yamamoto's plan for the Battle of Midway was supposed to be a Gambit Roulette that involved splitting his forces into seven different groups across the entire Pacific to defeat the American carrier fleet. A simpler idea like "Put all my ships in one fleet, sail in to attack Midway. The Americans don't have enough ships to stop such a fleet, so if they do force a battle, I destroy their fleet. If they don't, I conquer Midway," would have been a pretty good Xanatos Gambit. Yamamoto's roulette plan ended in a spectacular failure when American codebreakers figured out key details of his plan. Because his ships were split up into many groups, they couldn't support each other, leading to many ships not even seeing action; this was especially damaging since the escort cruisers with Yamamoto's scout planes were all assigned to a battleship taskforce which was not in position to scout for the carrier taskforce. Some of the more ridiculous elements, like the "diversionary" attack on Alaska (which contradicted the entire point of the operation and served only to weaken the main force), were imposed by Yamamoto's superiors.
  • A certain screenwriter, presumably just to get attention, claimed that a particularly ludicrous Roulette was performed against him by 20th Century Fox. In summary, he alleged that a script of his was stolen by Fox, who then gave it to Alan Moore to be turned into a comic (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) specifically so it could be filmed without people guessing its true source. The resulting Frivolous Lawsuit treated Moore, who had done nothing wrong, so poorly that he chose to cut all ties with the film industry.
  • There's an Urban Legend that on his death in 1966, Walt Disney left a series of films dictating in detail exactly how every aspect of Walt Disney Productions was to progress for the next twenty years — films directly addressed to the various members of the staff, as if he were still in conference with all of them. As Snopes points out, all you'd need do to demonstrate the fallacy of this legend is to look at the company's awful track record in the 1970s: if Walt was still dictating the direction of his studio from beyond the grave, then clearly they wouldn't have been churning out movies like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and Now You See Him, Now You Don't.
  • Much of what Napoléon Bonaparte did in his career:
    • In the 1793 Siege of Toulon, while still a captain, he deliberately disobeyed his commanding officer's orders. Luckily, it was this disobedience that won the battle.
    • While a general in Italy, he once put himself on the front line of the battlefield at the Arcole Bridge. The French lost the battle and Napoleon barely escaped with his life, but the move won him huge respect and loyalty from his soldiers.
    • Any treasures captured on campaign were supposed to be either left alone or sent to the French government in Paris. Instead, Napoleon took a risk and disobeyed this rule, allowing his soldiers to keep their loot. This gave them a huge incentive to win battles and firmly won them to his cause.
    • In 1799 Napoleon was invited to be part of a coup attempt. This coup was intended to be purely parliamentary with no military involvement - Napoleon's inclusion was merely intended to win the army round. When the initial attempt looked like failing, Napoleon just marched in with his soldiers and not only ensured the coup's success, but shifted himself from a minor plotter to the lead figure.
    • In 1815, Napoleon escaped from his first exile on the island of Elba with the help of a few soldiers. When he met the first French troops sent to arrest him, he simply walked forward and dared them to shoot him. Not one did, and they (along with the rest of the French army) went over to Napoleon's side.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Yagami Gambit, Single Xanatos Pileup, Aizen Gambit, Xanatos Roulette, Madara Gambit, Planning The Unplannable, You Couldnt Possibly Have Planned That


Wiz Explains Madara's Plan

Wizard describes the details of Madara's convoluted plan, resulting in him passing out from exhaustion.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (34 votes)

Example of:

Main / EvilPlan

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