Follow TV Tropes


Improvisational Ingenuity

Go To

"Among the multitudes of which scamper, fly, burrow and swim around us, man is the only one not locked into his environment. His imagination, his reason, his emotional subtlety and toughness, make it possible for him not to accept the environment but to change it."
Dr. Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man

Necessity is the mother of invention and sometimes life just refuses to deal you a good hand.


You could be the one born with a useless superpower in a world where Everyone is a Super, a hero who has been trapped in a corner by The Empire, a strategist whose carefully laid plans have gone completely off the rails or even just a engineer who needs to replace a crucial, difficult-to-obtain part as soon as possible.

In situations like these, it is the ones with the ability to improvise creative solutions who thrive the most.

Regardless of their field, these are the people who know how to turn an adverse situation to their advantage and make the most of whatever material they have on hand. Whether it's exploiting the quirks of their seemingly useless ability, macgyver a device from utter trash or rapidly altering their plans (perhaps even inventing a new one on the fly) to account for rapidly changing circumstances.


Improvisational Ingenuity typically comes in two distinct flavours, with some leeway and overlap.

Limited Time: When an individual is forced to come up with a solution to their problems either on the fly or within a limited time span. Typically this manner of improvisation arises in scenarios where unexpected circumstances have arisen and/or that are moving too quickly to allow for careful preparation. In situations like these, success or failure will often hinge on the character's ability to problem solve quickly and under pressure.

Minimal Resources: When a character is presented with a scenario in which they are have to solve a practical issue with whatever resources are at hand (rather than those ideally suited for the job). These resources may not necessarily be limited to inanimate objects but also include people, skills and information. In these situations, this will be a test of a characters ability to think creatively in order to formulate a solution.


Can be found in combination with The Chessmaster, Combat Pragmatist, Crazy-Prepared, Figure It Out Yourself, Guile Hero, Improbable Weapon User, Improvised Armour, It May Help You on Your Quest, Jack-of-All-Stats and Opportunistic Bastard.

A Super-Trope to Heart Is an Awesome Power, Indy Ploy, MacGyvering, Scavenged Punk, Scavenger World and Xanatos Speed Chess.


Anime and Manga

Fan Works

  • The Progenitor Chronicles:
    • The MC has no combat ability, so when he gets caught in biohazard outbreaks, his only choice is to improvise and he demonstrates his ability to on a few occasions:
      • He concocts a plan where he plants a cell phone somewhere and calls the phone, allowing the ringtone to distract Hunters away from him and his group. Similarly, he gets someone to throw a metal post into the metal detectors at a security checkpoint, setting off the alarm and causing another distraction.
      • He's armed with a bow and arrows later, but knows that weapon wouldn't really help him in a direct fight against B.O.W.s. He does things like shoot a faraway car window, letting the car alarm serve as a loud distraction.
      • He's in a research lab with a pressurized gas tank. When cornered by a Hunter, he breaks the pressure regulator on the tank, causing the rapidly releasing pressure to propel the tank like a torpedo into the Hunter (bonus points for the tank then smashing through a window down the hall, causing another loud distraction).
    • Rebecca is no slouch in this department either. Noting that Hunters, being cold-blooded, are weak to cold, she devises a plan to set off a sprinkler system in a building by starting a fire, then lure the Hunters out into the winter night. Running out into the cold while wet drastically slows them down, allowing for a quick escape.



  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden is a decent powerhouse by about the 5th or 6th title, but his real advantage is that he's very intelligent and good at analyzing his opponents, then crafting ways to defeat them using tactics that they absolutely would not have predicted. He's taken down a fairy queen by arming a bunch of pixies with boxcutters, whomped a necromancer that was much stronger than he was by bringing along a zombie tyrannosaurus, and is apparently the only person who ever figured out how to harm Nicodemus.

Live Action TV

Real Life

  • In New Zealand the term Number 8 Wire Mentality - derived from a gauge of fencing wire which was frequently macgyvered to solve mechanical or structural issues - has come to denote the use of ingenuity and resourcefulness a means of solving problems in lieu of ideal circumstances.
  • How WETA first originated. Starting life out as a small, home-based operation with it's practical effects achieved on a shoestring budget through trial and error and no small amount of MacGyvering.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: