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MacGuffin Delivery Service

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"We don't want anyone to just like sort of all of a sudden turn up and be like 'Ho ho ho, travelers, thanks for getting the Staff of Magnus for me I'll be taking that'. And then we have to like chase him to the end of the Earth and like get the staff back. We just wanna- oh shit!" [Estormo shows up and tries to do just that]

The Unwitting Pawn has been tricked into fetching one or more Plot Devices for another character. Almost always this is the hero, who was trying to Keep Away the macguffin from the villain. The Reveal of the villain also signifies the change From Bad to Worse; it's possible that the MacGuffin would've been safe if it had been left alone, but the hero was able to retrieve it, thereby doing the villain's dirty work for them!

Despite the similarities, don't conflate this with the MacGuffin Escort Mission; those characters are aware that the villain is attempting to remove the item(s) while in transit. It can overlap if the "final destination" that the heroes were assigned to deliver the object(s) was subverted by the villain (possibly the Treacherous Advisor who then betrays the heroes).

This is a Sub-Trope of Unwitting Pawn, because if the characters knew the villain was waiting for them to bring the MacGuffin, it wouldn't be moved in the first place. Also Sub-Trope to Nice Job Breaking It, Hero, because the hero was convinced their actions would benefit the world instead of making things worse.

Compare You Can't Thwart Stage One, where the villain triumphs due to the Theory of Narrative Causality. These tropes may overlap to drive up tension of the villain's success, while still showing the hero as a capable character in their own right. A reminder; this trope can apply to any Plot Device, not just a MacGuffin.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In the first arc, Yamcha and Puar, desert bandits at the beginning, decide that if they can't take the Dragon Balls from Goku's group by force, they should follow and move in when all seven are collected. This plan more or less goes out the window when Pilaf's gang steals the Balls first.
    • In the Namek arc of Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta leads Gohan and Krillin to his stash of Dragon Balls so they can use the wish before Freeza gets a chance to — only for the Ginyu Force to show up and take them all in one fell swoop. Ginyu decides to bring them all to Freeza himself while the rest of the force decide to put the Z-Fighters through the gauntlet.
  • This happens so often in the Lupin III movies that it becomes a shock when Lupin doesn't have to fork over the treasure-of-the-film.
  • In Monster Rancher, the good guys have the magic stone, which they have to keep Moo from getting so he doesn't cause The End of the World as We Know It. It isn't until near the end when Lilim attacks Holy, grabs the stone, gives it a long kiss, and leaves, and the good guys don't ever get it back.
  • In Phantom Thief Jeanne, in both the anime and the manga version, the titular character spends a good part of the story unknowingly working for the devil.
  • Pokémon: The Original Series episode "Mantine Overboard". Team Rocket letting Ash and his friends do the hard work of finding a treasure chest in a sunken ship, then stepping in and taking it away from them.
  • Averted in Chouja Raideen, where the heroes are completely unaware of the MacGuffins' existence until late in the series.
  • In Transformers: Kiss Players, the Sparkbots call upon Marissa Faireborn, Shaoshao Li, and Atari Hitotonari to travel the multiverse and gather fragments of the Allspark. When they succeed, the Sparkbots reveal that the fragments were actually Angolmois, Unicron's lifeforce. They thank the girls for doing their dirty work for them and revive Unicron. Fortunately, Primus appears and defeats the Dark God.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Legacy story arc in the Batman comics, Ra's al Ghul used Catwoman this way to get to an ancient wheel that was a recipe for plagues.
    • The Riddler also tried it on Catwoman during the "When In Rome" storyline, using her to get a ring that makes the wearer the head of the Mafia. He ends up with a fake ring and a lungful of Scarecrow's fear gas, giving him visions of everyone around him on the plane as the Joker.
  • In Captain America Annual #13, the Red Skull is after Hitler's Strongbox. The Skull learns the strongbox is located in the castle of Albert Malik, the Communist who impersonated the Skull in the 1950s. The Skull, knowing that Captain America will not resist attempting to stop him, issues a challenge which contains the strongbox's location. Cap makes his way through Malik's booby-trapped dungeon to the vault. At which point the Skull comes up behind Cap, death ray in hand, and tells him "I must thank you for activating all the many defenses Malik devised to protect the true strongbox." When an angry Cap declares "So you didn't arrive here first! You maneuvered me into being your stalking horse!" the Skull responds "You should feel flattered. I had so much faith in you surviving Malik's death traps, I followed hard on your heels."
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the League is sent by MI6 to recover an anti-gravity substance called "cavorite" which was stolen by Fu Manchu. This they succeed in doing, and return the cavorite to "M", the head of MI6, only to learn that he is none other than Moriarty and plans to use the cavorite to destroy his rival and thus gain uncontested control over the criminal underworld of Britain.

    Fan Works 
  • In Evangelion: ReDeath, Kaji is trying to figure out Gendo's plan to somehow obtain ultimate cosmic pimp power by playing the song "1999" after the year 1999. So...
    Kaji: I found the original CD of Prince's Greatest Hits, so I gave Gendo the disc he needed so I could discover the truth behind his plans.
    Misato: But you gave him the disc!
    Kaji: Yeah, it was the only way I could get close enough to the truth!
    Misato: But you gave him the disc.
    Kaji: Aw, crap!
  • In Queen of All Oni, the only method Jade has for tracking the masks on her own is astral projection, which she doesn't trust because she can't control it. So, she has bugs planted in Uncle's shop, so that whenever Jackie and the others discover the location of a mask, she can simply follow them there. This is also what led her to the first tablet of the Teachings of Eternal Shadow, which set off the story's secondary Plot Coupon hunt.
  • Shadows Awakening: Daolon Wong considers letting the heroes gather all the Dark Treasures and then stealing them all together from Section 13. Ultimately, it's his partner The Phantom who does this.
  • The Tears of Gaia: When Maugoth learns of the Tears, he decides to let the Mane Six do all the hard work of finding them, so that he and his fellow Blightlings don't have to worry about any of the potential threats protecting them.
  • In With Strings Attached, the four knock themselves out collecting the three pieces of the Vasyn, one by one. Returning triumphantly with the (much smaller) third piece, they are horrified to discover the other two (huge) pieces missing! (Paul: Who would want them? Who could steal them? John: We could!) Subverted in that the four had no idea anyone else would want the Vasyn, and the thieves didn't even know the four were fetching it until they returned to Ta'akan and found the first two pieces sitting there.

    Films — Animated 
  • A variation in Disney's Aladdin. Jafar specifically recruits Aladdin to retrieve the lamp from the Cave of Wonders, promising all its other treasures in return. But after he snatches the lamp, he double-crosses Aladdin, tries to kill him, and then shoves him back into the collapsing cave. Later, it is shown that during the chaos, Aladdin's monkey Abu stole the lamp back from Jafar before they were shoved in, and Aladdin manages to summon the Genie from it. The use of this trope is one of the things taken from the Persian folktale the cartoon is based on.
  • In The Black Cauldron, not long after the heroes get the Cauldron, the Horned King's men capture them and bring the prize to their master.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Avengers: Endgame, Thanos becomes aware that the heroes have traveled back in time to collect the stones before he does. He decides to just wait for the Avengers to gather them all up and then attack them to take the stones for himself. Yet in the end, at the critical moment, this is turned against him, because Tony manages to swipe the stones off his gauntlet after he had finally collected every stone and use a nanite imitation of the Infinity Glove to do a Snap of his own.
  • In Bullet To Beijing, Harry Palmer is told by his contact Louis that one component of a deadly biological weapon will be on the bullet train to Beijing. When the train is nearly at its destination, Harry discovers that the vial is in the doll that Louis's grandson gave him before he began.
  • Dungeons & Dragons (2000) centers around the Rod of Savrille, a magical staff that can control Red Dragons. The Empress wants it after the Council of Mages votes to confiscate her staff of Gold Dragon control, so that she still has a way to stand up to The Archmage Profion, and Profion wants it because he's a psychotic, power-hungry lunatic and the ability to control dragons would probably help his ambitions. From there, it's a race between the good guys and the bad guys to get the Rod and deliver it to their patron first.
  • In The Fifth Element, Leeloo fights off a squad of Mangalores to retrieve a case of Applied Phlebotinum stones, only for Zorg to take it from her at gunpoint. Subverted when the case turns out to be empty; the stones are actually in the body of the Diva Plavalaguna, who takes a bullet during the shootout and reveals their location to Korben as she's dying.
  • In For Your Eyes Only, James Bond and Melina salvage the ATAC after being attacked by some of Kristatos's mooks, only to surface and find Kristatos and his other mooks, having killed their crew.
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra opens with a combination of this and Macguffin Escort Mission, with Duke and Ripcord leading the convoy to transport the nanomite missiles.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Quill retrieves the Orb of Power at the start, then carries it around for half the movie, only to have it taken away from him by Ronan, the very villain that the heroes were trying to prevent from obtaining it. This happens as a result of Drax, one of the heroes who has a vendetta against Ronan, drunk-dialling Ronan to finally meet him in battle (he loses).
  • Indiana Jones
    • It happens twice in the movie — first with the idol in the Amazon and then with the Ark itself — that Indy runs all the risks to retrieve a valuable artifact, only for Belloq to be waiting at the entrance to take it off him. Lampshaded in the second instance:
      Belloq: Again, Doctor Jones, what was briefly yours is now mine.
    • Hilariously subverted in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indy goes to Berlin to get his father's Grail diary from a book burning. But after getting it back, he gets mixed up by a crowd and bumps into Adolf Hitler himself. Indy literally hands Hitler the book which explains everything about the Holy Grail, its location, and how to retrieve it safely. Hitler has absolutely no idea of the book's significance, and mistakes Indy for an autograph hunter, quickly signing the book before moving on.
    • As noted by The Editing Room, the villains in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull invoke this trope to do the exact same thing the heroes want to do!
  • In Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life, Lara goes through all the trouble of locating the elusive Pandora's Box and finding it, for the Big Bad to show up at just the right moment to seize it.
  • Both National Treasure movies involve the Big Bad luring Benjamin Gates into some treasure hunt filled with riddles, letting him do the hard work in solving them and leading the villain to the treasure. Gates is all too willing.
  • In the film Ocean's Thirteen, Linus Caldwell and his father are about to escape Banks' building with some obscenely valuable diamonds when they are confronted by Francois Toulour (the antagonist of the previous films), who takes the diamonds at gunpoint. Subverted, however, after Toulour leaves the protagonists reveal that the diamonds they gave to Toulour were fakes, and they escape with the real ones.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief invokes this. Percy was used to carry the master bolt to Hades by Luke. After that, he delivers it to Zeus. Of course, some of the gods thought Percy was the original thief from the start, for no adequately explained reason.

  • Inverted in The Affix when the Gable twins bring the jewel back to Matt, following a disastrous Noodle Incident that convinced them it definitely did not want their company.
    • And then in The Well of Moments, Maxwell and Jasmine are both pawns on opposite ends of such a ploy. Knowing Jasmine will need the Well and its current owner is no easy target, her anonymous tipster gives Maxwell just enough info since he's both foolish and surprisingly competent enough to steal it himself, and tells Jasmine where to be so she can follow and steal the Well from him. When Jasmine finally discovers who helped her and why, she's greatly amused.
  • The plot of the Deptford Mice prequel Thomas is basically one huge example of this trope. The difference being, the chessmasters behind the good guys actually intend the bad guys to get hold of the MacGuffin, because they've left it hallowed and thus useless for resurrecting the monster.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • In Dead Beat, the villains are all looking for both the Word of Kemmler, and a book to summon The Erl-King. Harry is the first to find both, and ends up summoning the Erlking himself to keep the villains from using which point said villains show up, club him over the head, and take both. Notably, Harry at least has the foresight to speed read and memorize the Word of Kemmler as soon as he gets it just in case.
    • Harry actually suggests this to the villain in Small Favor, offering to bring the coins holding Nicodemus's defeated allies and one of the holy swords used by his nemeses. This was the only reason Harry could come up with for Nicodemus to not just take his prisoner and run. (He tried the coins first and threw in the sword when it was clear that wasn't enough.) He ends up double-crossing Nicodemus, no shock, and absconds with the sword and the prisoner, but is pickpocketed of the coins during the fight.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel First & Only, the villains originally try force and searching his room to find something in Gaunt's possession, but eventually decide to try this.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Dumbledore hides the Philosopher's Stone within the Mirror of Erised, with the condition that it will only give the stone to someone who wants to find it but not use it for themselves. When Quirrel demands Harry look in the mirror and see where the stone is, it's transported to his pocket — unfortunately for Quirrel, he can't so much as touch Harry without The Power of Love burning him.
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry breaks into the Ministry of Magic based on visions (from Voldemort) which everyone he tells about urge him to block in order to get the prophecy for Voldemort. Only the people the prophecy refers to can take it, and Voldemort doesn't want the Ministry to stop conveniently denying his return. It's two tropes in one; a pretty case of a Batman Gambit by Voldemort that results in Harry almost serving as a MacGuffin Delivery Service.
  • In The Magicians, Quentin ends up not only unwittingly summoning the Beast into Ember's Tomb - a location he'd been magically barred from entering - but also bringing him one of the magical buttons he'd been hunting for all along. As it turns out, Quentin and Co have been dancing to the Beast's tune ever since they arrived in Fillory.
  • Tad Williams' trilogy Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn turns out to be a giant Kansas City Shuffle: the prophetic dreams many of the protagonists have are actually sent by the villain, in order to get them to bring the three titular swords together.
  • In The Lightning Thief Percy is used by Luke and Ares in an attempt to deliver Zeus's master lightning bolt to Kronos. He then needs to deliver it to Zeus to prevent a war of the gods.
  • In Septimus Heap, Marcia Overstrand is tricked into returning to the Castle with the Akhu Amulet, which DomDaniel wants to take for himself, via a faked message.

    Live Action TV 
  • Subverted on Blake's 7: The crew of a prison ship find an abandoned space ship in the middle of nowhere and decide to have a few of the convicts go on first to find booby traps. The convicts are the heroes and they take the ship as their own.
  • Doctor Who: The Key to Time Story Arc hangs a lampshade on this, with the heroes expecting the Big Bad to try to get every part of the Key. Eventually they discover that he simply got his Dragon to look after the last part and wait for the others to come along, in order to save himself the trouble. "The Five Doctors" has a villainous Time Lord get the Doctor's five incarnations (and various of his companions) to retrieve the secret of (true) immortality for him.
    • Also found in some of the Animated Specials.
    • The earlier story "The Keys of Marinus" features a similar scenario: The Doctor and company spend five episodes searching for the titular Keys, then get back to find Big Bad Yartek has taken over the machine they operate and is waiting for them. (Fortunately, Yartek's attempt to impersonate the macine's previous owner results in him Saying Too Much and Ian quickly hands him a fake.)
  • The Librarian: Quest for the Spear. If the Sword of Destiny hasn't been found in all these years, why don't they assume it's safe where it is?
  • Once Upon a Time in Wonderland: In order to complete his spell to rewrite the laws of magic, Jafar discovers that he needs to restore the Knave of Hearts' missing heart. After Alice and Cyrus travel to Storybrooke to retrieve it to stop him getting it he simply takes it from them. However, in the battle they are able to take his staff, which is another necessary component of the spell.
  • In Tin Man, Azkadelia has spent years unsuccessfully searching for the Emerald of the Eclipse, which she needs to bring her plan to plunge the O.Z. into eternal darkness to fruition. Enter DG and friends, who decide that they have to find the Emerald to stop her. Not one of them suggests that they can foil Azkadelia's plot by just sitting down and twiddling their thumbs until the eclipse has passed.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Adventure "The Apocalypse Stone". The first half or so consists of the PC's going on a false mission on behalf of the Big Bad to get him the magical Stone he covets but is under a Magically-Binding Contract not to remove. Unfortunately for everyone (well, except maybe members of the Doomguard), it's not just a MacGuffin; the Stone was actually holding the world together, and removing it from its place has some nasty effects.
    • Dungeon magazine #40, adventure "Khamsa's Folly". The evil priest of Set named Pahposet sends dream visions to the Player Characters in an attempt to get them to kill the greater medusa guarding the Circlet of the Adder and retrieve it. Once they do so, he plans to take it from them.
    • Judges Guild adventure The Illhiedrin Book. Two opponents (the fighter Khaystar Saru and the thief Drallto Feinfingers) are each working for a different wizard who wants the title book. They each plan to let the Player Character party find the book for him and then steal it from them.
  • Earthdawn adventure ''Terror in the Skies". The Tome of Banishment is a collection of rituals that can send Horrors back to their own plane of existence. A Horror tricks the player characters into retrieving it, then steals it from them. If the PCs can regain it, they can use one of the rituals to banish the Horror.
  • Traveller
    • Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #23 Amber Zone "The Birthday Plot". Inkula, a Grand Master of the Irklan religious sect, plans to let the PCs find the evidence of his crimes for him, kill them and take the evidence.
    • The MegaTraveller Journal #3, adventure "Rapid Repo". The PCs are ordered to obtain the vital components of a prototype deep radar system on the Vargr-occupied planet Depot. The head of the Vargr counter-intelligence knows about the deep radar but not exactly where it is. When he learns that the PCs are coming he decides to let them find the deep radar and then take it from them.
  • Call of Cthulhu supplement Horror on the Orient Express. The two main villains of the adventure, Mehmet Makryat and the vampire Fenalik, cannot acquire the pieces of the Sedefkar Simulacrum themselves. They trick the Investigators into gathering the pieces for them and try to steal the pieces from the Investigators.

    Video Games 
  • There's a minor attempted example in Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn in Firkraag's lair, where some tomb raiders try to trick you into doing their dirty work and then kill you. Of course, it doesn't work.
    • In the main plot, you end up delivering a very important Macguffin to the Big Bad without realizing it until it's too late: your own divine soul. It stops being a Macguffin the moment you lose it, since the power it grants the Big Bad is made all too obvious. Worse, the loss of it grants you new and terrifying powers since your soul was the only thing keeping the essence of Murder at bay.
  • Baten Kaitos does this with the End Magnus. Except Geldoblame himself is being manipulated by Melodia, Fadroh, and Kalas.
  • Inverted for the very first mission of the Batman & Robin licensed game. You have to stop Mr. Freeze from stealing a diamond by getting it first. In order to do this, you must disable the museum's complex security system... or, alternately, wait for Freeze to do this himself and then jump in to secure the diamond without much hassle.
  • Bendy and the Ink Machine: Henry goes on a bunch of fetch quests for "Alice", in which he retrieves the parts needed for her machines. This allows her to ready them to turn Boris Brainwashed and Crazy.
  • BioShock has the end-of-second-act plot twist where Andrew Ryan shows that the player was being mind-controlled into doing Atlas' bidding through the whole game, and commits suicide-by-player (by ordering the player to kill him), after which the player pilfers Ryan's body and delivers the Genetic Key to Atlas, who reveals himself as Frank Fontaine, Ryan's biggest rival.
  • Oddly enough, shows up in Bomberman 64. Altair is hyped up for the entire game to be the Big Bad, except if you've gotten all of the Gold Cards. If you do that, instead of fleeing after you've beaten him, Sirius, the guy who has been helping you out, showing up on almost every level and giving you hints, and dropping you the Remote Bomb powerup before every boss, flies in and kills him, then points out that the guys you've been fighting stole the superweapon from him, and you've been unwittingly helping him recover it. After that, all of the hint-givers in the previous levels tell you that you should die because it would be easier. They aren't lying. The hidden final world is WAY harder than anything and everything that came before it.
    • Bomberman Hero did this as well, after you've finally recovered all of the data disks, you hand them over to what you think is Princess Millian. It turns out to be Natia in disguise.
  • There's a reason why the RPG cliche list calls this 'Way to Go, Serge'. The plots Serge falls into in Chrono Cross get so mixed up at times, though, that fans dedicate whole documents on GameFAQs to just untangling and explaining them all.
  • Crash Bandicoot
    • In Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, the goal of the game is to gather Crystals for Cortex so he can shield the planet from a planetary alignment. Cortex's actual plans for them, of course, aren't as heroic as Crash's. Instead, he wants to use the crystals to power a massive mind control device.
    • Lampshaded before the final battle in Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped:
      Uka Uka: You seem to have overlooked one small detail, you little orange delivery boy! Now that you have gathered all the Crystals, all we have to do... is TAKE THEM FROM YOU!
    • And subverted by the fact that Crash wins those battles. It's even more grandiose in the 100% Completion boss fight, where Uka Uka gloats that he'll be able to achieve ultimate power with both the crystals and the gems.
      Uka Uka: Yes, it is true! The bandicoot has brought all of the crystals and all of the gems to me! Ultimate power is mine! The world as we know it is about to end!
  • In Dark Chronicle, when Max and Monica go to confront Emperor Griffon, he takes the opportunity to steal their Atlamillia.
  • In Dark Parables: The Red Riding Hood Sisters, the Wolf Queen needs Moon Essence, which is sealed inside the shrine of the Moon Goddess. Only the Elder Sister, who leads the Red Riding Hood Sisters, can access this; however, in light of current circumstances, the detective is permitted to do so instead. So the Wolf Queen just waits while the detective does all the work, then takes the element.
    • It happens again in the next game in the series, Jack and the Sky Kingdom. Jack (as in "Jack and the Beanstalk") once raided the floating Sky Kingdom in search of treasure, but only managed to take away one item. As it happens, the absence of this item is the only reason the Big Bad hasn't enacted his plan to destroy the world. Naturally, the detective happens to have it in her inventory when she visits the place.
  • Dead Island has you doing this for a whopping 96% of the game (as noted by the fact that when you get betrayed by the mysterious voice, your main plot progress is at 96%.) Since you're immune from zombification for some reason, the voice guides you to all sorts of venues before finally guiding you to a lab where scientists are working on a zombie antidote. When it's complete, the voice tells you to meet him on a prison island where you have to do some favors for prisoners before getting access to him. Once you finally meet he hits you with sleeping gas, steals the antidote, and calls in an order to nuke the island.
  • Demon Hunter: The Return of the Wings: Demons can't enter the holy center of Distia, so Perna is taken hostage and Gun has to break in and take the key to the Tower of Sin from its guardian.
  • Densetsu no Stafy 4: When Akureima announces that he intends to steal the Cupid Bow, Starfy and Starly retrieve the bow from where it's guarded to prove to Anju that it hasn't been stolen. Cue Akureima appearing to take the bow right from them, saving him the trouble of retrieving it himself from where it's kept.
  • DmC: Devil May Cry actually inverts this. When Kat gets kidnapped, Dante goes on a mission to kidnap Mundus's mistress (who is pregnant with his child.) Once that's over with, they agree to a hostage exchange. In the middle of the exchange, Vergil shoots and kills the mistress and the child while saving Kat, and gets clean away with Dante's help. To top it off, the time that Kat spent kidnapped proves instrumental to finding Mundus's security systems and overriding them.
  • In Diablo III, the evil witch Maghda takes the expedient route of not only seizing the final piece of the sword you need to restore the Stranger's memory at Wortham before you can get at it, but assaulting New Tristram with her Dark Coven and capturing your friends who have the other two pieces.
    • And of course, the giant Soul Jar you've been carrying around to devour the hordes of demons you slaughtered is stolen by Adria, which is then injected into a new host, causing all the trapped demons to fuse into the third incarnation of Diablo.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Morrowind has a rare justified example, as the player brings the Wraithguard, a magical gauntlet required to handle the tools of Kagrenac, to Dagoth Ur's lair in order to sever his (and the Tribunal's) ties to the Heart of Lorkhan, which is housed there. If the player were to be slain, Dagoth Ur would then have all the tools necessary to tap into the Heart once again. Justified, since the tools are needed to unbind the Heart and actually kill the Physical God Dagoth Ur. It happens again, with less forewarning but also less justification in the Tribunal expansion — one of Almalexia's quests for you is to find Barilzar's Mazed Band, a powerful teleportation artifact. The only way to proceed with the questline is to hand it to her, but she doesn't do anything with it there and then... because her plan is to use it to travel to the Clockwork City, kill Sotha Sil and then frame him for attacking Mournhold, after which she'll send you to the Clockwork City so you can die there as a supposed martyr to her cause.
    • Oblivion:
      • One side quest is based around this trope. (It's even called "Nothing You Can Possess," in reference to the Raiders of the Lost Ark quote.) A wealthy collector hires you to retrieve a particular carving from a ruin. Upon exiting the ruin, you're immediately accosted by a rival treasure hunter and his hired goons, demanding that you turn over the carving.
      • Something similar happens in the Mages Guild quest where you must retrieve a replacement amulet since the original was stolen. As soon as you grab it, you are confronted by the butt-ugly Nord whom you knew did it all along.
    • Skyrim:
      • The page quote is from a Subversion that happens during the College of Winterhold questline. Estormo, a Thalmor agent who is helping the questline’s main villain, ambushes you right after navigating the Labyrinthian ruin and obtaining the Staff of Magnus. In what might otherwise be a scripted cutscene, the game allows you to attack him at any time, even during his introductory speech. And the best part is that the very staff he's trying to take from you is almost tailor-made to bring him down: it inflicts Mana Drain, and he's a squishy Altmer mage who both relies on and is vulnerable to magic. You can guess the result.
      • In the Dawnguard DLC, when storming Castle Volkihar you bring with you the key pieces of Harkon's plan, Auriel's Bow and Serana. If the Dovahkiin were to be killed, Harkon would presumably enact his plan right then and there.
  • Eye of the Beholder 3. A mysterious figure sends you off to kill a lich. Once you finally manage, it turns out to have been a good lich (despite the fact that he, you know, tried to kill you) and the mysterious figure teleports in, gets an unnamed MacGuffin, reveals himself to be the evil dark god, and flees. The rest of the game is spent chasing him.
  • Very much true in Fallout 3. Very galling as you know that the big bad is looking for the MacGuffin, and although you should by rights be able to torch him, his two little helpers and half his army (and in fact do exactly that later in the game) you cannot stop him from stealing the G.E.C.K. in a cutscene.
    • Well, technically you can. In the brief period that you have the G.E.C.K., you can try to activate it. It then warns you that it will destroy everything in a several-mile radius for raw materials. You can then confirm that you want to activate it...
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy IV:
      • When after the final dark crystal in the sealed cave, and after fighting the incredibly annoying Demon Wall, Kain reaffirms his status of hypnosis and makes off with the crystal, bringing it back to Golbez. Keep in mind that the Sealed Cave is riddled with instant death-dealing Trapdoors, powerful monsters, and That One Boss, so maybe Golbez and Zemus, who's controlling him had it in his best interest to let Cecil do the dirty work for him rather than pour in minions or do it himself.
      • This trope is almost inverted during gameplay, when Cecil and Co. hatch a plan to storm the Big Bad's stronghold to get the crystals that they've obtained over the course of the game. Unfortunately, it turns out that the first step our heroes take into the Crystal Room is onto a trap door — even if everyone has the 'Float' status.
      • And Final Fantasy IV: The After Years has you doing the exact same thing, except at least this time it's mentioned that the villains might be able to get through the seal using brute force.
    • Happens twice in Final Fantasy VII with the Black Materia. Justified the first time because A. AVALANCHE couldn't leave the Black Materia where it was because Sephiroth's mooks could just trip all the Temple's traps at minimal cost and B. AVALANCHE had no idea that Sephiroth had more than a few hooks in Cloud's mind...
    • In Final Fantasy XII the empire improvises one of these. It turns out that Vossler, who joins your party on the way to the Tomb of Raithwall, was actually a traitor who told the empire about your plans to recover the Dawn Shard. So when you exit the Tomb you are met with a fleet of airships and Judge Ghis, forcing you to hand over the Dawn Shard that you just spent the last three hours of gameplay fighting to get.
      • And then you get a double dose of it later on. Cid taunts you by revealing his plan to travel to Giruvegan, but once you fight through all the baddies you find out that he never bothered to turn up, and tricked you into traveling to Giruvegan so that you could retrieve the Treaty Blade for him. Which is bad enough already, except that...
      • At Giruvegan you discover that the lost race who live there have been secretly manipulating one of your party members all along, and they give her the Treaty Blade so they can travel to Ridorana — which is where Cid is waiting for them to deliver the blade - because they want her to defeat him and use the blade to create an even more powerful McGuffin which will put the human race back in its place. So yeah, definitely one of the "90%" versions of this trope.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • If you don't have a lockpick or a chest key, you can use this tactic with thieves in games where dead enemies drop items. You follow the thief around, wait for him/her to open the chest, and then kill the thief to get the item from their cold hands. Doesn't work for money that is added directly to the thief's wallet, because you can only receive items from their inventory.
    • Happens in Fire Emblem: Awakening, with the titular Fire Emblem being the MacGuffin in question. Subverted in that the MacGuffin was sabotaged in secret, with some of the gems that gave the Emblem its power being switched out for forgeries before it was brought into danger; the one who unwillingly performed the "delivery" had an idea of the risk involved in keeping the Emblem, even if not the complete picture. This sabotage is not revealed to the player until Validar attempts to use the Emblem for his evil purpose. Additionally, the MacGuffin is taken back by the heroes after defeating Validar.
  • In The Force Unleashed, you spend the second act collecting the Rebel leaders and organizing the Rebellion for Vader. He then takes them all, revealing that he never intended to use the Rebellion as a distraction so you could kill the Emperor, but just wanted to round up and destroy all opposition to the Empire.
    • This then backfires in predictable fashion; the rebellion, having been organized together by the player, is suddenly a credible threat against the Empire rather than a bunch of scattered malcontents.
  • An interesting version of this trope occurs in the 2007 Ghost Rider (2007) game. The player travels to various locales to hunt down Blackheart's demons who threaten to open the gateway to Hell on Earth, only to find that the gate opens anyway, as the path the Rider took drew an evil symbol on the Earth in the flames left behind by the Rider's bike.
  • Happens right off the bat in Golden Sun, where Saturos and Menardi follow Isaac into Sol Sanctum to take the Elemental Stars as soon as you've retrieved them.
    • Isaac and company manage to do it again atop Venus Lighthouse, when they try to barter for Sheba's release and fail miserably. Except it turned out that Saturos and Menardi were Well Intentioned Extremists trying to save the world, and the Wise One had given Isaac incomplete information.
    • Happens yet again at the climax of the second game, when Felix and company reach the top of the final lighthouse only to learn that completing their mission will give Alex the ultimate power of the Golden Sun.
    • And Dark Dawn takes it to a ridiculous extent. Right from square one, the villains let slip that they're manipulating you. At one point, the Big Bad even gives you a MacGuffin that you need to fulfill your (read: his) ambitions. Quite literally everything you do in the game with the sole exception of winning the final boss fight is exactly what the villains need you to do. And in fact even that, and what you do after beating the final boss, is what Alex wants you to do. The game is a rare instance of 100% of the plot being a MacGuffin Delivery Service.
  • Not played straight in Gun. The protagonist retrieves something from a safe, but the bad guy who shows up to collect it doesn't bother to actually snatch the item before gloating about the situation. So the protagonist just tosses the thing back in the safe and slams the door.
  • In Hearthstone, the League of Explorers collects all three pieces of Staff of Origination, combine them into one only for Rafaam to steal it.
  • In Heroes of Might and Magic III: The Shadow of Death, Gem and Crag Hack are tricked by the villain into gathering seemingly minor artifacts for ostensibly benign purposes. The moment the villain gets the artifacts, he ditches them without paying them the promised rewards. The villain's own campaign gives players the chance to play with these artifact sets, and it becomes clear why the villain wanted them so badly.
  • Happens to Indy again Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Those Wacky Nazis wait around for Indy to collect the three stone disks needed to enter Atlantis, then stick him up in Crete and take the stones. Then when Indy gets into Atlantis they wait around for him to activate the God Machine and hold him at gunpoint while they use it.
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: After the Mantis crew travels from planet to planet looking for the key to the holocron vault on Bogano, Cal finally opens it and retrieves the holocron, but has a nightmarish vision that gives the Inquisitor Second Sister all the time she needs to steal it.
  • This happens between two villains in Kingdom Hearts. In the prequel, Master Xehanort tells Maleficent about the other worlds and the seven Princesses of Heart in exchange for a favor. Cut to the first game in the series: after ten years, Maleficent has managed to hunt down the Princesses and get them in one place. Xehanort swans back onto the scene and takes over, with the added sting that he's changed bodies twice in the meantime and might not even remember their meeting.
  • Kirby:
    • This is pulled off in Kirby's Adventure, where Kirby is happily collecting the pieces of the Star Rod which King DeDeDe has broken apart. Nightmare, the Big Bad, had been attempting to take over the Dream Land by spreading his nightmares on the Fountain of Dreams, and breaking up the Star Rod was the only way to seal its power. Whoops. Subverted in that Kirby then uses the Star Rod to destroy Nightmare.
    • Pulled off in the last game of Kirby Super Star, "Milky Way Wishes." The sun and moon begin to fight, throwing Popstar's day-night cycles out of balance. Marx, an adorable jester, tells Kirby that in order to make peace between the sun and the moon, he must ask the wish-granting comet Nova, who can only be summoned once he collects the power from all the neighboring planets. This was all Marx's plan. He was the one who tricked the sun and moon into fighting, knowing that Kirby would try to solve the problem by doing all the dirty work for him and summoning Nova. Once Kirby does summon Nova, Marx knocks him aside before he can make a wish, then wishes to control Popstar.
    • And then in Kirbys Return To Dreamland, Magolor pulls nearly the exact same scheme. Fool me once...though the Deluxe version of the game reveals that the item Magolor seeks, the Master Crown, is also a sentient force of evil that corrupts its wearers into destroying worlds and civilizations, meaning that if Kirby didn't save him from the Crown, Magolor would've become another one of its victims that went beyond ruling the universe.
  • In Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil, Klonoa has retrieved three Elements and hands them over to wise man Baguji. As it turns out, the villain, Leorina, was dressed as Baguji and can now proceed to cause The End of the World as We Know It. Might just have happened twice, considering that It kinda seems like the King of Sorrow was the one behind everything in the first place.
  • Also used in a side quest in Knights of the Old Republic, on the planet Korriban. Subverted if you choose to simply kill the student trying to threaten you, or if you give him a fake and let Uthar do your dirty work for you.
  • This IS the plot of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. If you're dark side, you're killing Jedi Masters. If you're light side, you're gathering Jedi Masters so that Kreia, the Manipulative Bastard Man Behind the Man Big Bad can kill them all. Either way, you end up with four dead Jedi Masters.
  • League Of Light Dark Omens: The villain tricks the main character into spending most of the game retrieving the special key needed to open the throne room where the Dark Lord's body had been sealed by the hero who last defeated him.
  • Legacy of Kain uses a variant of this, where Raziel plays right into the Hylden's hands by resurrecting the ancient vampire Janos Audron for the Hylden Lord to use as a host, and even murders Kain, the Scion of Balance, in the process. Take your pick on which is the proper MacGuffin: The Heart of Darkness, which had been used to resurrect Kain, or Janos himself.
  • The Legend of Zelda
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Ganondorf pulls one, when he storms into the Temple of Time just as Link has gotten all of the Spiritual Stones, played the Song of Time on the Ocarina of Time, and grabbed the Master Sword. Turns out that Ganondorf had been following Link the whole time so the kid could do all the dirty work and the 'pure of heart' junk for him. After the Time Skip, he does it again. This time the Macguffins are the Triforce pieces of Wisdom and Courage that Zelda and Link possess. He captures Zelda the moment she removes her disguise and challenges Link to rescue her.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Zant does the same thing by taking the assembled Fused Shadow pieces that Link and Midna collected.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages: Veran's MDS backfires badly. Learning that the Western Woods hide Mystery Seeds that can harm her, she has the Queen Ambi offer a reward for the one who will find them. She somehow fails to realize that a) there's another Mystery Seeds tree in Labrynna b) seeds regrow on the same tree after a while. Instead, Link gets bombs that allow him to enter the second dungeon.
  • Mass Effect 3: A mission on the Asari homeworld of Thessia has Commander Shepard activate the Prothean VI in their temple only to lose the fight against Cerberus assassin Kai Leng, and have it taken away by him.
  • Metal Gear Solid: Solid Snake is told FOXHOUND had gotten the passwords to activate a nuclear warhead and given the PAL keycard to deactivate it. In the course of the game he loses it, defies the odds to get it back, finds out how it works, and uses it... whereupon it arms the weapon instead. Revolver Ocelot actually killed one of the password holders in the interrogation process, so Liquid Snake was counting on his brother to make up for it.
  • Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge: Guybrush spends more than half the game collecting four map pieces to the legendary treasure of Big Whoop, only for the two bad guys LeChuck and Largo (who twiddled their thumbs the whole time whilst Guybrush was out retrieving the map pieces) snatch it off the cartographer he leaves it with.
  • Mortal Kombat 11: In the Aftermath expansion, Shang Tsung warns Liu Kang that without Kronika's Crown, the Hourglass will break and history will cease to exist. He volunteers to recover it, with Fujin and Nightwolf as elected chaperones to keep an eye on Shang Tsung, because... well, he's Shang Tsung. The delivery boy, ironically enough, is Shang Tsung himself, who Liu Kang distorted history around using what limited control he had of the Hourglass to enable his victory based on what Liu Kang knew of his behavior. How well this works out for the Champion of Mortal Kombat is for the player to decide.
  • Nancy Drew: In one game, you discover that the Aztec stone pillar is hollow and contains an important artifact. When you open it, the villain immediately appears, takes the artifact, and shuts you inside the pillar (from whence you have to escape). There's no option of, say, just telling people that the pillar opens.
  • Ninja Gaiden: Ryu Hayabusa gained one of the two Demon Statues that would awaken Jashin, only to have to give them up to Jaquio who was holding Irene Lew hostage. He was then promptly dropped down a conveniently non-lethal pit for his trouble.
  • Ōkami: Partly. Having retrieved the Fox Rods from inside the Water Dragon, Amaterasu then proceeds to hand them over to Rao, who then turns out to be Ninetails in disguise.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga: A variation occurs when brothers are racing to find the legendary Chuckola Reserve soda to cure Queen Bean, but the self-proclaimed "shadow thief" Popple also wants to get his hands on it. At one point in the forest, the Bros. have to use their new Hammer techniques to get three Chuckola fruits to pass a guardian. Once the Bros. get all three, the guardian lets them pass... at which point Popple and Co. come out of the bushes, enthused about how, since they couldn't get through the gate, their plan to wait for someone else to come and open it worked! The Bros. are not amused.
    • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has a double example. When you fight The Dragon who has the last of the Plot Coupons, he tells you that he was just waiting for you to bring the rest to him. After you've collected them all and go up against the Big Bad, he tells you that he gave the final Plot Coupon to The Dragon knowing you'd defeat him, so that you'd bring all the Plot Coupons to the final area. If, by chance, The Dragon managed to beat them, the Big Bad would also be able to get to the final area. It was set up so that whatever the outcome, he'd still win. At least the heroes have a good reason to collect the Crystal Stars rather than just play Keep Away with some of them; the enchantment sealing the Thousand-Year Door was weakening. If the heroes had refused to use the Stars to open the Door, it would eventually have opened of its own accord. And even if the heroes wouldn't be opening the Door, they would still need the Crystal Stars to re-seal it. The weakening enchantment ends up being a plot point; the heroes only opened the door themselves because they were tricked into thinking that the villains had entered ahead of them.
    • Super Paper Mario: Dimentio does not care about Count Bleck's plan. He wants the Chaos Heart all for himself. To do this, he needs the power of the Pure Hearts to counter him, so he let you do all that work for him.
  • In The Riddle of Master Lu, Albert von Seltsam is revealed to be a villain who's been after the game's main McGuffin all along (in order to Take Over the World or... something), when at the last moment he shows up to ask for it at gunpoint right after you've solved the final riddle to obtain it.
  • In Secret of Mana, the heroes are asked to retrieve the stolen Water Seed. They go to the underground tunnel, fight a boss, get hold of the Seed and bring it back to the Water Palace. Too bad Geshtar is there waiting for them, and the Seed gets stolen again.
  • Happens a fair few times in The Secret World.
    • During the mission to Solomon Island, players spend the penultimate chapter trying to break into the Blue Ridge Mine before Freddy Beaumont can get there. It's not until you've shut down the last barrier that you discover that Beaumont couldn't actually get into the place on his own, and you've essentially left the door unlocked for him to merrily stroll through.
    • In Issue #7, players team up with a mysterious Russian agent representing the Council of Venice in an attempt to track down Emma Smith, the resident all-powerful little girl. After a long and frustrating journey through monster-infested forests, abandoned Soviet bunkers, the snowy Carpathian Mountains, and into the bowels of the Nursery itself, you finally find Emma unconscious but alive... only for the Russian to stab you in the back with a syringe. Turns out she's the Big Bad and you just led her to the one thing she needed for her Evil Plan.
    • The finale of Issue #11 features you facing down Lilith and deciding to hear her out before you make up her mind on what to do with her — while also fending of the Black Signal's numerous bodies when they attack her. And then it turns out that the Black Signal didn't have a hope of winning, and was just hoping to keep Lilith preoccupied until reinforcements could arrive. And you've just spent the last few minutes talking to her, meaning the blame lies firmly at your feet when the Nephilim swoop in.
  • Shantae: Risky Boots prefers to typically use this tactic to procure what she needs.
    • Shantae (2002): After obtaining the last Elemental Stone. That genie that looks suspiciously like the Big Bad who seemed to know everything about the Stones and would stop at nothing to help you get the last one? You shouldn't have been so surprised when you exited the dungeon only to be tackled and robbed by her.
    • Shantae: Risky's Revenge: After Shantae beats Risky to the Magic Seals, Risky changes tactics and kidnaps Mimic instead. This puts Shantae in a Hostage for MacGuffin situation and forces her to hand over all the Magic Seals.
    • Shantae and the Pirate's Curse: Risky invokes this as part of her Batman Gambit, ordering Shantae to collect all 20 Dark Magic before she confronts the Pirate Master, expecting the (former) half-genie to end up handing it over to him after they had secretly reverted back to Light Magic, giving her a surprise 11th-Hour Superpower to beat the Pirate Master with.
    • Shantae: Half-Genie Hero: Risky surrenders the blueprints to Mimic's Dynamo after a (relatively) easy early boss fight against her. Truth be told, Risky had tampered with the blueprints so that the device meant to protect Scuttle Town would instead be used to corrupt the magic of the Genie Realm. She comes to collect once the device is fully functional, revealing that Shantae had just spent eighty percent of the entire game assembling Risky's MacGuffin for her.
  • Skies of Arcadia, to the point where it's a surprise to keep a Moon Crystal.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic Adventure uses the Chaos Emeralds this way, with Eggman just following everyone around and snatching the Emeralds from them at the most opportune moments.
    • Erazor Djinn too in Sonic and the Secret Rings. And he almost killed Sonic, too!
  • In Summoner, you spend the first third of the game gathering up the four Rings of Summoning so that you can turn yourself into an invincible warrior by using the Forge of Urath on your ringed hand. As it turns out, all that does is burn off your hand, release four demigodly demons trapped within the rings, and allow your traitorous girlfriend to sell you off to The Empire. All thanks to your mentor, who was possessed by the most powerful of the demons. Now you need to beg the Khosani for four new rings, and imprison all four demons again. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, Lloyd and his friends end up playing this role during the Journey of Salvation, when they end up powering the MacGuffin (Colette) and unwittingly hand it right over to The Dragon (luckily, Yuan intervenes). They end up doing the exact same thing again when they cure Colette's crystallization sickness only to ill-advisedly attack the Big Bad's lair, who was of course expecting them and instantly recaptures Colette.
  • Hero-tricking-villain example in Tekken 6: in Raven's ending, he waits for Dragunov to capture the body of Azazel before flying in and grabbing the dark-energy McGuffin from Azazel's body. Dragunov's own ending has the exact same thing, except that the orb is a bomb.
  • In Terranigma you spend the majority of the game reviving the desolate planet Earth, with the last piece revived being Beruga who wants to wipe out the majority of what you just spent the first 75% of the game reviving and preserve the remainder as technologically-created zombies, according to the plans of Dark Gaia, for whom you've been unwittingly working the whole time. Oh, and did I mention that Beruga was the one responsible for wiping out all life on the surface world in the first place?
  • Pulled off at the end of the Tex Murphy installment The Pandora Directive.
  • Tomb Raider
    • In the original Tomb Raider I, Lara inadvertently helps Natla reclaim her original Scion piece, and also the other two.
    • Same in Tomb Raider II, Tomb Raider III, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation — Okay, this happens a lot. Pretty much the basic plot of every game is Lara beating the villain to the treasure of the game, then somehow losing it to the baddie anyway and having to tackle a supernatural final boss.
    • Zig-zagged in the case of Tomb Raider III, in that Lara collects the final four artifacts in the game for her employer, Dr. Willard. While his claimed intentions were that of merely archaeological curiosity, it turns out that he was using Lara to collect the artifacts to power up an ancient laboratory of "accelerated evolution". Having seen the results of previous experiments, resulting in grotesque and vicious mutations of the human guinea pigs, Lara turns rogue and later kills Dr. Willard, getting the artifacts back.
    • The theme continues in the 2013 reboot and its sequels. Lara's antagonists seem to have worked out a pretty good system by now:
      1. Make Lara believe you are after Artefact X.
      2. Watch as Lara solves all the puzzles and traps protecting Artefact X.
      3. Waltz in and take Artefact X by force.
      It's a wonder they bother using dynamite to enter tombs at all.
  • The basic plot of all the Uncharted games.
    • In Drake's Fortune, the bad guys steal Drake's treasure map (which he spent his entire adult life searching for), but are too stupid to figure out anything else. Drake follows them to the island, where he eventually finds a more precise map - which they steal as well.
    • In Among Thieves, Drake wouldn't even be involved except the bad guys keep sending him to fetch stuff. Flynn "helps" Drake steal the first treasure map, waits for him to decipher it, then strands him for the cops. He spends three months in a Turkish prison for his trouble. When he gets out, he goes chasing after the bad guys to steal back the treasure. The bad guys are so stupid that he finds another map in less than three minutes — and the bad guys take it from him and try to kill him. He escapes and finds a third map — and they steal that one too, then try to kill him again.
      • When they catch him again after he finds another clue, the Big Bad has had enough of Flynn's mediocre performance, pointing out that Drake has been one step ahead of them most of the time. He even wonders if he should have just hired Drake in the first place — so Drake is conscripted with a Sadistic Choice... and they try to kill him again once he helps them again.
    • Not to mention that all he has to do to stop Lazarevic is keep the Phurba away from him so that he can't get to Shambala. What does Nate do? Instead of tossing it into a ravine, burying it under a pile of rubble, or throwing it into a river, he uses it to remove every obstacle between Lazarevic and Shambala.
    • In Drake's Deception, the bad guys don't even bother looking for anything. They just follow Drake around and steal his plot coupons. He eventually wises up and, upon finding a star-based map, doesn't write down in his journal to be stolen, instead relying on Sully's knowledge to find the location. Surprise, surprise: Sully gets kidnapped. At one point, Elena attempts to talk Drake out of his quest, pointing out that the bad guys wouldn't even have gotten this far if it not for him. He brushes it off.
      • One vital document was actually hidden in the bad guys' secret lair. It had presumably been there for decades without them noticing and yet Drake found it within a minute or two.
    • A Thief's End is notable because Nate's pulling this — repeatedly. Though he himself found the first piece of the Linked List Clue Methodology years before, it was a dead end; long broken, the next clue missing. However, as the originator of the clues intended many to follow the list, there were multiple clues; Nate's rival locates one at an auction and tries to purchase it legitimately, Nate steals it right out from under him. And despite the rival having spent years and millions of dollars investigating the general location of the next clue, Nate is not only able to find it, he's able to get ahead of his rival — grab the clue without any of his foes noticing, then set off the Collapsing Lair and leave them with nothing. His rival is stuck blindly searching an entire city in vain while Nate quietly searches out the next clue, driving the rival to attempt Hostage for MacGuffin — key word being attempt. At this point the rival basically says "fuck subtlety" and just swarms Nate's general location with mercenaries. By the time he catches up with Nate, he doesn't even care about the treasure anymore, he just wants him dead out of sheer frustration. His Dragon just grabs some treasure that's laying around and says Screw This, I'm Outta Here.
  • In Undertale, Flowey waits until you defeat Asgore before finishing him off himself and absorbing the human souls in order to become Photoshop Flowey and regain his ability to SAVE. And to top off, he manages to do it AGAIN after you defeat him the first time by waiting until you reach the climax of the True Pacifist Ending to not only steal the human souls, but also the souls of your friends who've gathered there.
  • Lampshaded in Unreal II: The Awakening, where your Little Miss Snarker second-in-command repeatedly points out the stupidity of gathering all the pieces of an Artifact of Doom together in one place. Sadly, you fail to listen to her.
  • The ending of Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 sees Wario finally uncovering the Princess Peach statue underneath Syrup Castle, only for Mario to fly in with his helicopter and airlift the statue away. Fortunately, Wario still manages to get a reward for all his troubles when he convinces the genie Captain Syrup was using to make him a home.
  • The main character in Nevertales 3: Smoke and Mirrors finds the Author's Quill just in time for the villain to take it from her and attempt to rewrite reality.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • An interesting version of this occurs during the Lich King encounter: After getting him to 10%, he instantly kills the entire raid and reveals his plan to let Fordring assemble the world's greatest warriors (the players), kill them, and resurrect them to form an unstoppable army. The entire fight against him was just a test, to see if they were worthy. Unfortunately for the Lich King, Fording manages to break free from his prison and destroys Frostmourne, reviving the raid and allowing them to finish the Lich King off.
    • In Cataclysm, you're helping the game's Captain Ersatz of Indiana Jones to search for a valuable artifact. This being a massive Indiana Jones reference, of course his nemesis shows up to claim the artifact for himself. Subverted when the artifact bites back a la Raiders, thanks mainly to the timely intervention of famous explorer and archaeologist Brann Bronzebeard.
    • In Shadowlands the player is tasked with tracking down the sigil of the Primus, one of the items that must be kept safe from the Jailer at all costs. After recovering the sigil and discovering it is protected by unusual runic magic, your companion decides they must bring it to the Runecarver in the Jailer's fortress to have the magic undone. While the magic is undone and the Primus is restored, the Jailer was waiting for this to happen and immediately seizes the sigil.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: How the aliens view the attack with your best psionic soldier on their Temple Ship. But since they still shoot on sight and never bother with any plan to get that soldier to join them, you will probably make them regret it. Alternatively: The Aliens wanted your best to be on that ship. Why? It's a test. Everything has been a test. This is the last to see if humanity has what it takes. To do what is left ambiguous.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, Bandit Keith lets you collect the Millennium Items, then holds Ishizu hostage to force you to hand them over.

  • Inverted in Adventurers!, where the heroes were tasked with collecting the elemental artifacts. Their enemy, Rio the thief, was ordered to steal one of the elemental artifacts so that they couldn't, but in typical Rio incompetence, he stole the one artifact that had previously been successfully kept away from them. Shortly after, he confronted Drecker, who proceeded to steal it from him, resulting in the heroes' success.
    • Played straight when the heroes finally reach the end of a dungeon, only to have Khirma show up and take the crystal they were trying to keep from him.
  • Deviant Universe: The heroes had to do this with pieces of A.I. being Pixel in the Freedom War story. The villains did the same with the Omega Keys in the Omega Rising story.
  • A bit literally in The Fourth. First, Lord Skärva sends his minions to acquire a flower for use in a potion; second, the hero Blank confronts Skärva only to find the items he'd collected in the dungeons were food from Skärva's pantry, which he promptly put back there.
    Blank: I'm here for the princess, Skärva. Don't try any funny business. I collected the Eggs of Power, and the Lunchmeat of the Gods, and everything else you hid in your dungeons. I'm ready for whatever you're planning!
    Skärva: Oh, good! I've been meaning to do my groceries. Thanks for the help, old friend.
    Blank: W-what?
  • In Narbonic, the "Professor Madblood and Crystal of Marinia]]" story arc has the titular professor and Helen compete for the titular crystal. She ends up giving it to him, but it wasn't about the crystal in the first place.
  • Lampshaded in The Order of the Stick #821 by the Genre Savvy Tarquin:
    Tarquin: In any race for hidden treasure, it is always the protagonists who sweat and bleed and die to overcome the many challenges inherent in finding it—only for the antagonists to seize it from them at the last minute.

    Web Original 
  • In The Adventure Zone: Balance, Magnus, Merle, and Taako are ostensibly collecting the Grand Relics because they're weapons of mass destruction that need to be kept out of the hands of the public. In reality, they're furthering the completely unrelated goals of two other individuals: Lucretia, who wants to recombine them into the Light of Creation and use it to create a barrier that, while protecting the world from destruction by the Hunger, will ultimately destroy the world anyway by cutting it off from the other planes of existence, and the aforementioned Hunger, which wants to absorb the Light of Creation into itself to gain more power but cannot detect it unless all of its pieces are put together.
  • In the KateModern episode "Seven Dials: 5pm - 23rd November 2007", Charlie emerges from a building carrying the software, with Terrence in pursuit, only to meet the Watcher, who beats up both of them and drives off with the software.

    Western Animation 
  • The second season of Amphibia involves the girls visiting three ancient temples to recharge the Calamity Box to get home — only for Sasha and Grime to steal the box once they’re back in Newtopia. In a variation, the villains’ actual objective was using the opportunity to stage a coup against King Andrias; getting the fully-powered Box in the process was merely a side benefit. Played straight with Andrias himself, who pointed them towards the temples in the first place. He manipulates Anne into giving him the Box, only to reveal that it's the key to Newtopia's Lost Technology, which he intends on using to become a Multiversal Conqueror.
  • In the Avengers Assemble episode "Sneakers", Ant-Man and Black Panther are racing through a Wakandan Death Course to stop Baron Zemo getting hold of a powerful relic. As they reach the final chamber, Ant-Man wonders how Zemo could have got past all the obstacles so easily. Zemo then steps out of the shadows behind them, and says he didn't, they did it for him.
  • Happens in an episode of Beast Wars. Rattrap, at great risk, dives to the sunken Axalon to retrieve the Sentinel control module — only for the Predacons to blast him and swipe it when he gets to the surface. It changes hands a couple more times before the episode ends, but the ending isn't happy.
  • In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Aggreggor does this to Ben and co. After disabling each and everyone of the booby traps of the temple where the MacGuffin lies, Aggregor simply steals it from under the heroes' noses when they are too busy dealing with a Descending Ceiling.
  • In Big Hero 6: The Series, Obake schemes to give Hiro the idea to build a working energy amplifier so he can steal it for his big plan.
  • A rare case of the heroes doing such in The Dreamstone.
    • In two cases, the Urpneys are sent by Zordrak to collect a supernatural artefact that will empower his ability to send nightmares. In both cases the Urpneys succeed, after which the heroes neutralise and steal it from them so they can get rid of it. Zigzagged since both instances were a last ditch effort after the heroes failed to collect it before the Urpneys did.
    • Also utilised indirectly in "The Nightmare Stone" when Urpgor steals the title stone to sabotage Zordrak's intention to make him redundant. The heroes accidentally knock out Urpgor, but notice he has the stone so decide to not to question it and just take the golden opportunity.
  • Happens often in Jackie Chan Adventures. In fact, all seasons end with the villain getting what they wanted, but of course they still lose to the heroes. Both sides constantly run into each other throughout the series. Even Valmont pointed out how it was sometimes easier to have Jackie do the work for him of getting the MacGuffin.
    • An interesting variant happens in the season four where the heroes and villains race to collect the masks that contain the spirits of Tarakudo's generals. In the end, it does not matter which faction collects all the masks as long as they are collected together, making this Failure Is the Only Option as far as preventing Tarakudo from rising again is concerned.
    • All the odder, then, that the show's third episode, "The Mask Of El Toro Fuerte", explicitly had Valmont's Quirky Miniboss Squad discuss and defy the trope. And it's promptly subverted when they find that the talisman isn't even there.
    Finn: Listen, new guy. We don't know what power this ox talisman has. Chan might come busting out of there fifty feet tall with laser eyes.note 
  • Kim Possible:
    • In "Monkey Fist Strikes", Kim goes through numerous death traps to retrieve a monkey idol in a Shout-Out to Indiana Jones. That night, a ninja creeps into the camp and steals it. The ninja turns out to be the villain, who'd been masquerading as an Adventure Archaeologist in order to recruit Kim for the mission.
    • In "Hidden Talents", Drakken fakes messages from Wade in order to manipulate Kim into stealing one of Professor Dementor's inventions and bringing it to him.
  • In the four-part pilot episode for Ninjago, after failing to beat the Ninjas to the first three Golden Weapons, Samukai hatches a plan to steal them from the Ninjas while they’re asleep. It works like a charm.
  • In one episode of Samurai Jack, Aku disguises himself as a woman warrior named Ikra to travel with Jack and find a jewel which can transport Jack to the past. Of course, Aku doesn’t want the jewel for his own- he’s the embodiment of evil and has enough power as it is- his intent is to destroy the jewel to stop Jack from using it for his own purposes. Tragically, he succeeds, and promptly gloats at Jack for his stupidity before escaping.
  • The Simpsons: Mr Burns utilises this against Grandpa Simpson to collect The Hellfish Bonanza in "The Curse of the Flying Hellfish".


Video Example(s):


The Empress

The most feared and respected crime boss of the Nyakuza gang, and she knows it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheQueenpin

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