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Magnetic Plot Device

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Peter Venkman: What? I guess they just don't make them like they used to.
Ray Stantz: No! Nobody ever made them like this. ... The whole building is a huge super-conductive antenna that was designed and built expressly for the purpose of pulling in and concentrating spiritual turbulence. Your girlfriend lives in the corner penthouse of Spook Central.

A normal person living a normal life will likely not get involved with adventures week after week. We need a storytelling device to explain why fate won't leave this guy alone, something attracting weirdness. Without this magnet, Fridge Logic will start to kick in with viewers, creating suspicions of Contrived Coincidence.

Typical versions include:


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Brand of Sacrifice borne by Guts in Berserk draws demons to him like a lightning rod, making his life (and the life of his lover Casca, who also bears the Brand) a literal living Hell. The two of them are only alive because Guts is an unstoppable demonslaying badass (and because the Skull Knight has a vested interest in making sure they live to oppose the Godhand).
  • The shattered Four Souls gem in Inuyasha. At least in the beginning, Inu-Yasha and Kagome are trying to collect the scattered shards of it... and running into a lot of monsters and assorted beasties who are also trying to collect the shards.
  • The main character himself in Bleach, who attracts the enemies he fights due to his exceptionally strong spiritual presence, as well as Karakura City itself, which for whatever reason has an unusually high concentration of spiritual energy. It also helps that Ichigo does such a bad job of containing said spiritual power that he ends up Super-Empowering a lot of the people who hang out around him.
  • The Dragon Balls in Dragon Ball always draw a lot of characters essential to the plot together, especially near the beginning of the series. For example, Bulma first meets Goku, because she is searching for a Dragon Ball that he owns. This also works especially well as a Magnetic Plot Device, because there is more than one Dragon Ball, which allows for a more seamless move together of a higher variety of characters. It wasn't until the Android Saga, mid-way through DBZ, that they had a Big Bad whose plans did not involve the Dragon Balls in any way. (Tenshinhan was never a true "Big Bad", only a rival, and the Piccolo Jr. Saga flowed directly from the King Piccolo Saga, which did involve the Dragon Balls.)
  • In Kekkaishi, there are spiritual hot-spots (like Karasumori) that attract Ayakaishi (demons) who are hungry for power. In the beginning, this was the source of almost every Monster of the Week.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the Stand-creating Arrow is attracted to potential Stand users. Similarly, Stand users apparently attract other Stand users. How or why this happens is never explained, but fate is a tangible force in JoJo; make of that what you will.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Tokyo-3 was built over the Geofront to act as a fortress to protect a MacGuffin the Angels seek out, since if they ever found what they were looking for, it would wipe out all life on the planet. What the Angels are after isn't where they think it is, but explaining the truth is too complex to do here.

    Comic Books 
  • The chance of a quiet sane life for a Witchblade wielder is zero. It attracts unfriendly attention as a powerful artifact and possibly itself tend to choose ladies already with predisposition to be Weirdness Magnets.
  • The Star Brand of The New Universe is a Weirdness Magnet and a weirdness generator all in one, it's the Meta Origin of Paranormals... And it blows up cities if you mishandle it.
  • In Supreme Power, the various parts of the spacecraft that brought Hyperion to Earth tend to catalyze plot-signifigant events, as well as providing a Meta Origin for most other superhumans.
  • The protagonist of DC's short-lived Major Bummer is a slacker who received super-powers when aliens sent him an "Extreme Enhancement Module" by mistake. The EEM is designed to attract trouble (and other EEM-enhanced supers), so that superheroes won't run out of villains to fight or crises to avert — much to the protagonist's annoyance.
  • The Endless:
    Delirium: The things we do make echoes. S'pose you stop on a street corner and admire a brilliant fork of lightning. For ages after people will stop on that corner, stare up at the sky, they wouldn't even know what they were looking for. Some of them might see a ghost bolt of lightning. Some of them might be killed by it. Our existence deforms the universe.
  • One of the many variations of Supergirl (written by Peter David) had her move to a small town. Naturally, crazed super villains followed. This was partly explained by a mystical river that ran underneath the town, it attracted oddness like deer to a salt lick.
  • The arc of the 2012 Defenders title focuses on Concordance Anchors, devices that pinpoint miraculous events in parallel universes that create superhumans and rewrite them to occur in their home reality. This justifies the immense weirdness and sliding timescale of the Marvel universe, as the heroes are meant to fend off cosmic threats to the very existence of reality.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Bad Guys (2022): The Love Crater Meteorite, which crashed into Los Angeles a year prior to the events of the film and formed a huge crater. Marmalade's actions in the disaster's aftermath put him in the spotlight, leading to him being given the Good Samaritan Award and setting the events of the film in motion. More importantly, it's an energy source unlike anything on Earth, and Marmalade creates a plan to steal it to use in his own crimes and set up the Bad Guys — who had no interest in the meteorite prior — to take the fall for him.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Ghostbusters
    • Ghostbusters (1984) actually made a plot point about how busy they were being related to an apartment building that attracted supernatural energy. This building was specifically designed well before the 'Busters were around to eventually serve as a dimensional portal to bring in Gozer the Gozerian, an ancient god not seen for the last 7,000 odd years.
    • The river of slime in Ghostbusters II also filled this role, concentrating the negative emotions of New Yorkers to empower supernatural entities.
    • The reboot uses the same plot device with different details: the ghost-summoning device was specifically built by the Big Bad, based on the protagonists' research.
  • Throughout the Terminator franchise, John Connor is the Magnetic Plot Device for both himself and his mother, as well as his uncle and robot sister in the series.
  • In the Transformers Film Series, the Allspark takes on this role. In the first Transformers film it was an object that both Autobot and Decepticon wanted and would cause unpredictable things to happen around it (mostly creating mini-robots from nearby mechanical devices). Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen used leftover fragments of the Allspark to cause more chaos, the big one being that it downloads a Cybertronian database into Sam's head. While Sam says I Just Want to Be Normal, The Call Knows Where You Live and this is the only reason why he is involved with the events of the movie at all. Supplementary Material suggests that the AllSpark was attracted to Earth because of the Solar Harvester, and that the meeting between Sentinel Prime and Megatron, both of whom get sidelined in Transformers: Dark of the Moon was to take place on Earth also because of Earth's previous history with the Cybertronians.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe introduces the Infinity Stones, which has an impact on at least half the films.
  • The Kryptonian Scout Ship in the DC Extended Universe proved to be a significant factor in introducing various Superman elements. In Man of Steel it took the place of Superman's traditional Fortress of Solitude, being an ancient exploration vessel that crashed on Earth 20,000 years ago and was covered in ice. The ship was still operational, and Clark was able to use his Orphan's Plot Trinket to access the ship and receive information from an AI of his father Jor-El. The ship was commandeered by Zod and subsequently crashed in Metropolis during the climax. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the ship was being studied and Lex Luthor accessed the database and supertech in order to create Doomsday to defeat Superman. In Justice League and Zack Snyder's Justice League, the ship was used again modifying the same process that created Doomsday in order to resurrect Superman.

  • In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, the main characters are ta'veren — people who inexplicably create outrageous coincidences and shape the world around them simply by existing.
    • On one ordinary day while Rand is in the city, a baby falls out of a high window onto cobblestones and crawls away unhurt; a freak wind blows a tiny feather into a man's open mouth and suffocates him to death; and a basket of roof tiles falls off a tower, shatters into a million pieces, and its shards happen to randomly (but perfectly!) form the image on the city's new flag.
    • This becomes really important in Mat Cauthon's development. Since he's aware his presence skews probability, Mat takes bets on being able to do impossible things, and then does them— such as when he throws a knife into a tiny block of wood in midair, a long distance away, while blindfolded.
  • In the early Discworld novels, Rincewind is a walking magnetic plot device due to being possessed by one of the most powerful spells in the world. He's rid of it at the end of the second book, after which... he's still a magnet for everything weird that Terry Pratchett wants to throw at him (a later book establishes that the Lady — implied to be Lady Luck, although the books takes the same effort to avoid saying her name as the characters do — has taken an interest in Rincewind, and sometimes uses him as a pawn in her games with Fate). If it ain't broke...
  • Teela Brown, from Ringworld, in a rare science fiction take (and yet another instance of Niven being an imp and poking fun at his own story). See what the luckiest girl ever can do! (particularly her ending...)
  • Cloakmaster cycle:
    David Shepheard: There is a lot of interesting stuff that happens to Teldin Moore in space, but it all boils down to three basic facts:
    2) Anyone who has come into contact with the Ultimate Helm wants to get hold of it and
    3) The Ultimate Helm wants to get onto The Spelljammer.
    The cloak is the ultimate railroading device. You could give the Cloakmaster Cycle one book, three books, six books or nine books, but you would still end up with the end of the adventure being set on The Spelljammer and Teldin's cloak trying to turn him into its next Captain.
  • In the Eternal Champion series, Elric (in his various incarnations) is always being summoned to do battle in various worlds without rest. So he is always in an Adventure Town.
  • The One Ring in The Lord of the Rings, as the Nazgûl are constantly searching for it and it calls out to servants of the Dark Lord to try and get back to his hand. Also, the Silmarils in The Silmarillion for more temporal reasons - everyone seems driven mad with the desire to possess them, meaning anyone who holds one can never rest easy. Even if he's Morgoth.
  • The Caves in the Quentaris series. They connect the City of Adventure to alternate universes, and are a large source of profit as well as danger as adventurers go questing for treasures or random monsters come and attack the place.
  • It is frequently said throughout the course of the Liaden Universe series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller that "the Luck" moves strangely about Clan Korval—hence the clan is one great big Coincidence Magnet. It is never explained why exactly this is so, but everyone who believes in "the Luck" seems to regard it as an immutable fact of life. Also, it is shown to be every bit as genetically heritable as the famed Clan Korval piloting ability, regardless of whether its inheritor is officially in the clan or not.
  • At one point in The Chronicles of Narnia a character points out that Narnia always seems to be undergoing some crisis or other. Aslan corrects him: Narnia regularly undergoes centuries at a time of peace, it's just that he only brings children from our world to the time and place that they're most needed.
  • The Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series runs on a Background Magic Field called the Tradition, which not only 'knows' the basic fairy tale plots but tries to reenact them. If you happen to fit the mold of, say, a heroic dragon-slaying knight, the Tradition is going to send dragons your way... even if they're not particularly monstrous and you don't even want to slay them.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen: "Power draws power." It is a fact of this setting that whenever important things are happening in roughly the same and area, they all tend to converge in one place. Some characters are aware of this tendency and exploit it.
  • In Worm, powers are granted by a passenger, which seems to be some kind of alien being with a will of its own that subtly drives superhumans to conflict with each other, explaining in part why most people with powers become superheroes or supervillains getting into conflict instead of just living normal lives. The other reason for this is societal pressure for people with powers to become heroes and initially treating "rogues", people who don't use their powers for fighting, as undesirable.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Hellmouth of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They only actually go into the Hellmouth in the first and last seasons, but everything in between is still blamed on it.
    • And justifiably so, as it shoots out enough evil-ness to attract demons from miles around. Plus, the town being built expressly for demons to come and eat the squishy humans. Numerous villains also plan to open it, which would cause the End of the World as We Know It.
    • The title of Slayer. Demons sometimes run off to see how they would match up against the legendary demon killer, à la Spike.
    • The Origin comic introduced the concept that the Slayer is a "creature of destiny", which is sort of an inversion of this trope. The reason Buffy could never escape her destiny is not because supernatural stuff is attracted to her, but she is guided by destiny to it. That's why her high school in Los Angeles was attacked by Lothos, why she encountered a demonic cult at the mental hospital she spent a few weeks in, why she ended up moving to Sunnydale after leaving LA, and why she stumbled upon a demonic labor operation when she spent a summer there trying to hide from her destiny.
  • Wolfram and Hart of Angel. A multi-dimensional demonic law firm. The possibilities practically drip off of that sentence.
    • Similar to the Slayer, Angel has 200 years of old enemies to deal with.
    • And The Powers That Be got directly involved with Angel's life to ensure it was never calm.
    • And with the help of Doyle/Cordy's visions when trouble doesn't come to Angel...
  • Stranger Things: The Hawkins Lab experiments is the ultimate source of every problem in the series, although it continues after they cease operations and even become more friendly with the protagonists. Their efforts exploring the Upside Down is what breached the barrier, more specifically Eleven's psychic powers. That one event triggered later problems, and in season three it's specifically said that the Russians HAD to re-open the barrier in Hawkins because it was weaker in an area it was previously breached.
  • The Rift in Torchwood - introduced in the 2005 series of Doctor Who, it became the focus of the first two seasons of the spin-off. It provides the team with all manner of time / space weirdness to deal with, and occasionally draws the Doctor back there when he uses rift energy to refuel the TARDIS.
  • The TARDIS from Doctor Who. Seriously, how often is the Doctor actually looking for the plot of the episode? Nearly every time, he trips over the plot while sightseeing.

    The TARDIS was ancient and obsolete even back when the Doctor stole it in his first incarnation, so it doesn't always land where it is supposed to land. Naturally, it sometimes lands in the middle of trouble.
    • It has been suggested in the show that it does land where it is supposed to land, but not necessarily where the Doctor intends it to land. The TARDIS to some extent takes the Doctor where he needs to go/is needed. The TARDIS is stated multiple times to be alive and can sense things in the timeline. In "The Doctor's Wife", the TARDIS herself claims that she lands wherever the Doctor needs to go.
  • In Class (2016), a Doctor Who spinoff, the Doctor explains that Coal Hill Academy is now a target due to time having worn thin at that location; the teenaged students present immediately recognize this as similar to the premise of multiple television shows, starting the list with Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Hellmouth.
  • The Stargate of Stargate SG-1 and everything else in the Stargate-verse. Understanding the Stargate's potential for weirdness, the military installed the iris to limit what could come through.
    • The city of Atlantis in Stargate Atlantis. There always seems to be some Ancient experiment that they discover that messes with the team from time to time.
    • In Stargate Atlantis, Earth is also this, being the object of pursuit of all the Wraith in the Pegasus Galaxy.
  • The actual ships in the various Star Trek series. It allowed them to find a Planet of Hats and a Negative Space Wedgie.
    • The holodeck. A lot of fans have wondered that with the holodeck so prone to malfunctions and become dangerous, why is it left on?
      • Even besides its tendencies to malfunction, the holodeck allowed for almost any story to be told. Film Noir, sure. Sherlock Holmes, why not? The Wild West, yippi-ki-yay!
    • Deep Space 9 and the Celestial Temple/Bajoran Wormhole. It was responsible for everything that went on there.
    • The non canon Next Generation novel, Q-squared, lampshades the Enterprise D's constant encounters with time travel and other anomalies and attributes all (or, at least, most of) their problems to Q messing with them.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise introduced the "Temporal Cold War" story arc to both stir things up with the ship and crew but also to make things a little more surprising for the audience because the show was a prequel. The fact it was a prequel and people in the future knew of their importance in history made them a target.
  • The Nexus in Charmed.
    • The status of the Charmed Ones also made them a frequent target for nefarious plots.
  • The anomalies in Primeval.
  • The Lost Room: All of the objects attract one another. One object-wielder eventually got tired of being targeted by collectors and gave his up willingly to the hero.
  • Inverted with The X-Files. The files are a constantly growing folder of the unexplained, meaning the characters themselves are searching out the unexplained. This in turn adds to the X-Files.
  • On Lost, it's the island itself.
    • Literal magnetism is involved as well. A huge magnetic discharge from the Swan station caused Flight 815 to crash.
  • For Smallville, the Magnetic Plot Device is not the Green Rocks, but instead is the Kryptonian influence of Jor-El. The Green Rocks were just a side effect of that.
  • A big criticism towards House is the number of medical mysteries that get thrown his way, mentioned at being about one a week. The show has made some remarks in that regard, giving most patients a unique set-up as well as doctors all around the region would send patients to House because he was just that good.
  • Merlin's two main characters are examples of this — Arthur, being Crown Prince of Camelot, is the target of numerous assassination plots and is expected to go forth and smite various evil creatures with mighty smitage; Merlin is an incredibly powerful sorcerer, which in itself attracts some opposition.
  • Immortals in the Highlander series are always drawn to each other because of the Quickening and The Game.
  • Teen Wolf doesn't have one to start with, but at the third season break the writers evidently felt they needed an explanation for why things will continue to show up, and they create one by having the main characters activate the Nemeton, which is said to draw supernatural creatures to it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The eponymous places of power of the game Feng Shui, which are always being fought over by one faction or another.
  • This tends to happen in Scion, because the player-characters (and any entity with high enough Legend ratings) distort Fate around them and bring weirdness to them.

    Video Games 
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: Every single object or person of magical power is a Magnetic Plot Device. Dark Force's commanders and their armies seek out these sources of magic power for Dark Force's nefarious machinations, and the heroes either are in possession of a magical object/include magical teammates, or track down sources of magic to beat the Dark Force invasion to it. As such there is always a conflict waiting to occur when the two parties interest, or when a new source of magic introduces a new character or faction with their own plot weaving through.
  • The Artifact from Freelancer. Everything that happens in game, is because of it. Justified as it is the only thing that can kill alien invaders, and they know it.
  • It is eventually revealed in Dragon Age II that Kirkwall is pretty much the DA-verse's Hellmouth - the Veil between the physical world and the Fade is very thin and the city's history and evil supernatural influences conspire to make it the Wretched Hive it is. Three super-powerful demons are imprisoned there; vast blood sacrifices were carried out when it was the hub of the Tevinter slave trade, leaving lakes of blood under the city; all the uber-demons, unholy rites, and suffering and death ripped the Veil wide open; and ever since then its history of violence, oppression, and demonic rites has just made the problem worse and worse. Oh, and Kirkwall or someplace very close to it is also where the magisters entered the Golden City, corrupting it (unless it was already corrupted, which it may have been) and bringing the darkspawn into the world....and one of the most powerful of these magisters-turned-darkspawn is sealed in stasis in the mountains nearby, where his dreams leak into the world, inspire creepy cults, and drive people mad. Not that the events of the game are likely to improve this situation.
  • The 2009 Ghostbusters: The Video Game also does this as it's revealed Ivo Shandor, the cult leader/architect who rigged the apartment building, also rigged the library and hotel from the first film, and the museum from the second, as nodes for this city wide apparatus meant to fuel Gozer's Destructor form, with the apartment building being the door. His old estate was a castle/laboratory where the slime river was first made before it was pumped into the sewer. Also it was revealed one of Ivo's henchmen killed Eleanor Twitty, who became the librarian ghost.
  • Baldur's Gate: why do bloodthirsty warriors, powerful wizards, creepy vampires, braineating aliens, demons, dragons and god knows what else all come to the protagonist? Well, because he/she is the child of the vanquished god of murder, Bhaal, and thus he/she has divine blood in his/her veins and a powerful taint in his/her soul, attracting people who want to exploit him/her for their own goals or kill him/her to counter a possible menace to their plans... or they simply want to challenge the ability of a demigod for fun.
  • Mass Effect: the first game starts with Shepard, a distinguished human veteran, enter in contact with an ancient relic of a long dead alien race. By touching the Ancient Artifact, he or she creates a mental connection with the device and gets a vision of war and destruction. The motivations behind this vision set in motion the events that lead to the conclusive final battle and establish the premises of the following games, including being the target of the ultimate enemy that triggered everything and mankind's greatest hero tasked to lead the war against said enemy.


    Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10, as soon as Ben gets the Omnitrix a lot of aliens show up specifically to take it from him.
  • The Allspark from Transformers: Animated. Even with its Gotta Catch Them All status, it certainly keeps things interesting for everyone.
    • Of course, said status mostly stopped during the third season, but enough weirdness had already happened for the third season to involve the return and development of earlier weirdness instead.
  • Code Lyoko's entire plot is about the Supercomputer and XANA's plottings. The computer is near magical enough to make whatever story you want to tell happen.
  • After capturing so many ghosts, The Real Ghostbusters eventually had ghosts coming to them, for better or for worse (the "worse" usually being freeing some other ghosts from the containment unit).
  • Jonny Quest's father, Dr. Benton Quest, is a scientific genius and professional Magnetic Plot Device.
  • Beast Wars had the presence of the Vok, aliens with some vested interest in the planet. The Maximals and Predacons stumbled upon a lot of ancient artifacts and called attention to themselves. This mostly provided a third party to mess around with things, including leaving around bizarre technology and including having a doomsday weapon that eventually led to the transmetal upgrades.
  • The ghost portal in Danny Phantom kept releasing ghosts into the human world, at which point Danny would have to deal with them. It's also the source of the Freak Lab Accident that made Danny half-ghost.
  • Gargoyles has an inversion of this during the World Tour arc. According to Tom, the magical island of Avalon does not take you where you want to go, it sends you where you need to go. Thus Goliath, Eliza, Bronx, and Angela travel all over the world saving the day. At one point they are even sent right back to Avalon. Even when they finally return to New York, it's only because Avalon knew they would be needed there to stop Oberon from kidnapping Baby Alex.
  • Megas in Megas XLR is either used to transport the characters to alien places, draws aliens to it, or causes major problems, justifying why two guys from New Jersey encounter so many aliens.
  • Season 5 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic introduces the "Friendship Map", first shown in "The Cutie Map,", which is an offshoot of the Tree of Harmony. It can summon all — or any — of the Mane Six or their friends to deal with friendship crises anywhere in Equestria by making their cutie marks shimmer and vibratenote  (or other parts, like Spike's spikes) and pointing out their destination on the map, and it sends a different signal to their marks when they've solved the problem. Sometimes the ponies summoned question why they were called over somepony else, but they always end up being exactly the right pony for the job.
  • Firehouse Tales: The team's sirens go off right after receiving their distress signal.
  • For Team Umizoomi, Bot has his "Umi Alarm" which beeps whenever a child needs help somewhere.
  • Discussed in Gravity Falls, when Ford shows Dipper the massive alien ship under Gravity Falls. He admits that he isn't sure if it's what attracts all the weirdness in the town or if it showed up because it was drawn there itself. Word of God says it's been there for millions of years, though.
  • In Steven Universe, the Crystal Gems go on missions all over the world (and sometimes beyond), but Pearl mentioned in "Rising Tides/Crashing Skies" that the Temple attracts Gem monsters, which is why so many show up around Beach City.
  • In Milo Murphy's Law, the title character himself causes most of the plots because of his terrible luck.