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Plot Coupon

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A somewhat more literal case than most.

DANIEL RADCLIFFE: Michael, I found out that Ralph Fiennes split his soul into 7 pieces and scattered them around the world. And yes, this really is what I learned, not the set-up to an RPG on Super Nintendo.

A thing that a character needs to obtain in order to cash it in later for a Plot resolution.

For example, let's say that our intrepid hero must steal a key, then find the Treasure Chest of Galumphry that the key will open, then remove the Orb of Power from the chest and use it to banish the Big Bad. The key, the chest, and the Orb are all plot coupons. Extremely common in video games, where collecting these coupons is known as a Fetch Quest, it is often presented as collecting several pieces of a lost artifact or gaining recognition from several factions.

A plot coupon might just as easily be one item in a series of MacGuffins, where the things themselves are not important, it is the seeking of them that moves the story along (indeed, the two terms often get used interchangeably). See also Plot Coupon That Does Something, and Sword of Plot Advancement for when the Plot Coupon is a weapon or a piece of armor.

If the items in and of themselves are useless and only become valuable in hindsight, see It May Help You on Your Quest.

If the goal of the mission is to obtain an item that turns out to be less valuable than the finding of it, It's the Journey That Counts.

Coined by Nick Lowenote  in a science fiction convention talk, later printed as an article The Well-Tempered Plot Device in the fanzine Ansible and popularized by the Turkey City Lexicon. (The joke being that once you gather enough plot coupons, you can cash them in for a plot resolution.)

Subtropes and Related Tropes:


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    Anime & Manga 
  • .hack//ROOTS initially has a set of items that the Twilight Brigade were collecting because they think it will lead to the Key of Twilight. Ovan claims that the items are leftover data from the previous iteration of The World and have no in-game purpose anymore. They turn out to be the breadcrumb trail for a trap laid by Yata but there's also no reason to assume Ovan's explanation is wrong since he had to fool Yata about not recognizing the trap but being interested in the items.
  • The Dragon Balls in Dragon Ball. In its sequels, the plot is resolved more by fighting, and they become used to enforce status quo.
  • The Lupin III series makes liberal use of them, usually as the catalyst, Chekhov's Gun, and the eventual resolution of each caper.
  • The Castle of Cagliostro: The sigil and the inscription on Clarisse's ring set the adventure in motion because it's how Lupin realizes Clarisse is the crown princess. Later in the film, Lupin tells Jigen and Walter that it also reminded him that he first saw Clarisse when she was a child because she was wearing the ring at that time.
  • The Secret of Twilight Gemini begins with Dalune giving Lupin his half of the titular diamond. However, he tells Lupin that the diamond itself is merely "the key" to a much bigger prize: the hidden treasure of the Geltic Tribe, that was lost over 300 years ago. Finding the treasure would require him to find the Twilight's missing half, which Dalune says is somewhere in Morocco.
  • Every Story Arc of Sailor Moon had one or more of these. Most notable are the Seven Rainbow Crystals...especially since they weren't in the original manga and were created by the anime specifically to extend the storyline. In the manga they're just looking for one big crystal; in the anime, it breaks into seven color-coded pieces so the senshi have to spend that much longer trying to find them.
  • The five Weapons of Light in the third season of Slayers; most of the time, the one we see is the Sword of Light wielded by Gourry. And it isn't just for the third season either, the Sword of Light is the key to a lot of storyline events.

    Comic Books 
  • Red Sonja: The Art of Blood and Fire has Sonja collecting six artisans to showcase their skills at an emperor's farewell party.
  • Swordquest has one for each realm, and they are used to take the heroes to the next world in their quest.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Rankin Bass' Jack Frost, Father Winter agrees to turn the title character into a human, but he can only remain that way if he collects "the four human essentials" by spring: a house to live in, a horse to carry him, a bag of gold to sustain him, and a wife to make it all worthwhile. He literally gets Everything but the Girl.
  • The hero's medal in Wreck-It Ralph. Ralph needs it to win a modicum of respect among the Nicelanders, and the first major plot point is his adventure through Hero's Duty to retrieve it (within Hero's Duty, it's a MacGuffin). Unfortunately, it gets stolen by someone who cashes it in for almost exactly the same reason. Then the main plot starts.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Enemy of the State: The tape, which has recorded the murder of a congressman by a group of corrupt NSA agents. Logically, the tape is being coveted by them to destroy the evidence that would expose their guilt.
  • The Ark of the Covenant, the Sankara Stones, the Holy Grail, and the Crystal Skull in Indiana Jones. Also the headpiece of the Staff of Ra, Grail Diary and Grail Markers.
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider had the pieces of the Eye of the Illuminati.
  • Subverted in The Matrix Revolutions when Trinity provokes a Mexican standoff rather than fetch "the eyes of the oracle" in order to save Neo from the Merovingian.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe centers around the Infinity Stones, six gems that control various aspects of the universe. Whoever brings all six together would essentially become the most powerful being in the universe. Thanos, the Greater-Scope Villain of the MCU, wants the Stones for his own purposes, and Avengers: Infinity War sees the Avengers and their allies fighting to stop Thanos from obtaining them all.
  • Men in Black has the Galaxy "on Orion's Belt" or rather, on the cat Orion's collar.

  • The Adversary Cycle. In Nightworld the protagonists have to assemble a sword of the kind used to defeat Ransolm in The Keep, using the broken parts of prior magic artifacts. This is made more difficult than usual given that The End of the World as We Know It is happening and giant flesh-eating monsters are roaming the earth gobbling up anything that moves, including aircraft.
  • In The Ancestral Trail, the pods and, later, omni pieces.
  • Justified in Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart — the story is structured as an elaborate, carefully-scripted quest, and it turns out that there's a reason why it's structured that way.
  • In Teresa Edgerton's The Grail and the Ring, the titular grail. (It is not the Holy Grail, but a grail carved out of a single large sidhe-stone, a substance that grants it magical powers.) Subverted in that Prince Tryffin, when tracing the object's history in the Inner Celydonn, actually collects a "shadow" of the grail, not the original. It's strongly implied that Dame Ceinwen disposed of the original in the Marches-Between-Here-and-There to keep it from making any more trouble, then couldn't find it again when it might have been useful.
  • The image above is of a Golden Ticket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In the opening stretch of the novel, virtually everyone in the world wants to find one of these — there are only five, each of which is hidden beneath the wrapper of a Wonka chocolate bar. A ticket will grant its finder a tour of the titular, long-closed-to-the-public (and seemingly people in general as no one ever sees workers enter or leave it) factory chaperoned by Living Legend / Reclusive Artist Willy Wonka himself, along with a lifetime supply of sweets. Pinball Protagonist Charlie is lucky enough to find the last of these tickets, kicking off the rest of the novel.
  • City of Bones by Martha Wells: The main characters and the villains are both searching for a set of three relics that they hope will fit together to activate a piece of Ancient Magitek.
  • Coraline had to recover the souls of three dead children as part of the game to escape the Other World.
  • Each volume of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising requires tracking down one or more Plot Coupons, all of which are named in a poem presented in the second volume.
    • Over Sea, Under Stone is the hunt for the grail (not the Holy Grail, though).
    • Volume 2, The Dark is Rising, involved a hunt for six similar, elementally-themed discs known as The Signs of the Light.
    • In Greenwitch, the protagonists had to retrieve a cipher key for the inscription on the grail.
    • The Grey King involved winning the golden harp (clues having been provided by the grail), then using it to wake the Sleepers.
    • Silver on the Tree had a mini-Plot Coupon sequence to retrieve the actual Plot Coupon (the crystal sword), the user of which had to be protected by the Signs.
  • Lampshaded in Death By Cliche by Robert J Defendi; only, it's the bad guy who's been collecting them.
  • Emily Rodda's Deltora Quest series and its magic gems (plus other random broken pieces of something in the sequels.)
  • The Eye of Rom, the single ruby earring used in Haldane empowering rituals, becomes one of these in Deryni Rising. During their preparations for Kelson's ritual, Morgan and Duncan learn from Kelson that it was buried with his father. The trio has to pay a visit to the royal crypt to retrieve it before they can begin the ritual sequence. Of course, it isn't as simple as that...
  • Inverted in Roger Zelazny's Forever After, in which the group of heroes who originally gathered the five sacred weapons/armor pieces, must return them to hiding, to keep the world from tearing itself apart from the strength of the combined energy.
  • Helen Hawthorn, the narrator of Ni Claydon's Hand of Mercy, is increasingly annoyed when she realises that the scattered bones of Clem's severed hand are effectively Plot Coupons.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry has to track down two sets of Plot Coupons before he can finish off Voldemort. The first set is Horcruxes, of which five remain after two were destroyed, respectively, during Chamber of Secrets and right before the events of Half-Blood Prince. The second set is the titular Deathly Hallows, of which there are three, and it's an optional quest until Voldemort starts looking for one of them. Harry has had one of the latter since the first book: his father's invisibility cloak.
  • In Keys to the Kingdom, there are parallel sets of Plot Coupons such that one of each set must be retrieved in each book: the Key held by that day's Trustee, and the portion of the Will of the Architect being held prisoner by said Trustee.
  • Elijah spends a good part of Last Mage locating and securing the mage towers against the Big Bad. Just as Planned.
  • The Mermaid Chronicles: In Quest for Atlantis, the protagonists track down two diamonds, one in a mountain in Washington and one at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, which will allow them to open the portal to Atlantis.
  • Race to the Sun: The three main characters need to collect four objects (a perfect shell, jet, turqouise and abelone) from the four sacred mountains of the Navajo to give to Spider Woman because otherwise she won't help them find the Rainbow Road. And they need to find the road to go to the House of the Sun to get weapons to fight monsters.
  • EVERY book in the Rainbow Magic series has one of these. No exceptions. For example, whatever items Jack Frost stole are these.
  • Lampshaded in Charles Stross' Saturn's Children via a particularly egregious pun:
    "Don't get cute." He grinds the gun barrel against the back of my neck. "The encapsulated bird your conspirators sent you to fetch. The sterilized male chicken with the Creator DNA sequences. The plot capon. Where is it?"
  • In Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible, Doctor Impossible must collect three of these to construct his latest Doomsday Device.
  • Zelazny's The Changeling Saga had the hero going on a quest to find the three pieces of his father's magical staff, the only tool powerful enough to defeat the villain.
  • Lampshaded and double-subverted in Un Lun Dun by China Miéville. The book of prophecy claims that, in order to defeat the Big Bad, they must collect a chain of these. The initial subversion comes when the protagonist decides this will take too long, and skips to the last link in the chain. The double-subversion comes when she realizes that she actually needed the Plot Coupons after all. Fortunately, she is able to Take a Third Option to get around this.
  • Villains by Necessity: The fragments of the Spectrum Key. Every one's needed to move the plot forward, i.e. opening up the Dark Gate again to save the world.
  • Whateley Universe: there is a 'fad' among mystics for something called a Great Quest, in which considerable magical power could be achieved by successfully divining the location of several otherwise normal objects which hold 'shards' of the quest objective, with each of these Plot Coupons leading to the next. As part of the Quest, the force of Magic itself creates increasingly dangerous challenges which stand in the questor's way. In a twist, it seems that most of those who voluntarily initiate such quests are supervillains, with the heroes (or at least protagonists) acting as part of the challenge.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alias: Just about every Rambaldi artifact (very evident in season one).
  • Angel: Mocked in "Reprise", wherein Angel is told that to get to the Big Bad, he needs a ring; to get the ring, he needs to kill a certain demon; to kill the demon, he needs a magic glove. Angel cuts off his informer with, "Okay, now you're making this up."
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Blink": The 17 DVDs not only contain the Easter Egg with the Doctor's message to Sally, but they're also authorized control discs for the TARDIS.
    • Subverted in "Last of the Time Lords". The Doctor's companion Martha spends an off-screen year assembling a super-gun and set of super-bullets that can kill a Time Lord permanently. As soon as she's done it, the Master captures her and destroys it; Martha later laughs at him for believing in such an obvious plot device and reveals that her search was just a cover for her real mission.
  • The Legend of Dick and Dom: The protagonists need to make a magic potion, and hunt down an ingredient Once per Episode. The ingredients vary in difficulty (The Eye of the Beholder, which requires a Journey to the Center of the Earth! ... A Pint of Milk!) which allows more time to be spent on adventuring or comedy, as required.
  • The Lost Room: The Objects.
  • M*A*S*H
    • In one episode Hawkeye engineers a complicated series of trades and favors in an attempt to get a replacement pair of boots. It unravels and he winds up wearing a golf bag.
    • In another episode Radar initiates a series of swaps after he sees how much Col Potter enjoys tomato juice. He succeeds only for Potter to reject it, having forgotten how allergic to tomato juice he is.
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Phonebook Follies", Miss Brooks must find the copy of last year's phonebook that Mrs. Davis lost. Miss Brooks and Mrs. Davis are ineligible to receive a new phonebook otherwise.
  • Prison Break uses this repeatedly, with varying effectiveness. Coupons range from a specific bolt to all sorts of evidence about the Company to the five million dollars that DB Cooper stole and buried in Utah.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In one episode, Jake and Nog end up trading one plot coupon for another in a seemingly endless chain. 5000 wrappages of yamok sauce, for 100 gross of self-sealing stem bolts, for seven tessipates of land...
  • Supernatural:
    • They spend a lot of time looking for the Colt, first to kill the Yellow-Eyed Demon and then to kill Lucifer.
    • Later, they must find the blood of the 3 fallen in order to make a weapon to kill the Leviathan.
    • There are also the tablets that represent the word of God.
    • The four rings from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse form a key that will allow Sam and Dean to re-imprison Lucifer.
  • T-Bag, a long-running series whose 9 series and 4 specials consisted of nothing except chasing plot coupons (first letters, then numbers, then whatever arbitrary things the writers came up with). And hanging lampshades on them.


    Puppet Shows 

  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Bartering With Chief Thundercloud", Miss Brooks needs Mrs. Davis to give her an old lamp. This would set off a chain of trades that will allow Miss Brooks to barter for a new coat.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mystery Date (1965) used outfit pieces as the coupon. If you have the three cards in a set, and it matches the date showing up, you win.

    Video Games 
  • In Albion, a long quest revolves around finding (of all things) a virility amulet for a tribal king (and saving the guy who made it, who got lost in a big dungeon). Then there's the Metal-Magic Scroll and the High Knowledge which are required for a spell that is the only thing that can defeat the Big Bad.
  • The Jiggies in Banjo-Kazooie, which are used to complete the jigsaw puzzles in Gruntilda's Lair to open new worlds. Used again in Banjo-Tooie as proof that you are worthy to complete the challenges of Jiggywiggy, who seems to be the master of all things Jiggy, whose completion opens new worlds. They return in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, and are gained during the challenges settled by the Lord of Games.
  • Most Bioware games are, to a large extent, about retrieving plot coupons rather than the plot itself:
    • In Baldur's Gate II, many quests can be completed only after retrieving particular artifacts. Alternatively they are optional, but you are HIGHLY suggested to get them, otherwise the challenge will be too hard. Some examples: before facing the Shade Lord that plagued Imnesvale, you have to pass past a shadow dragon, which can be difficult at the beginning of the game, so you must first find a magical gem that makes you undetectable by him (unless you deliberately decide to attack anyway); in order to destroy the Cult of the Eyeless, you must retrieve the two pieces of a magical rod and assemble it to decisively weaken the final boss, an elder beholder that could slaughter your party otherwise.
    • The plot itself of Baldur's Gate II requires you to get a certain high amount of money before being able to pursue the villain. Doing quests for business is your main way to earn money - the other being selling any item you find meanwhile.
    • In Knights of the Old Republic, the player has to find all Star Maps to get behind the villain's military strength; to retrieve these Maps, he/she always has to do something that involves finding out about the game's background and/or solving problems unrelated to the actual plot, like a Wookiee civil war or a conflict with Tusken raiders. The main plot will only go on after finding one of these coupons.
    • Dragon Age: Origins has the player finding a few rather large coupons in the form of allied armies - to get these, he, just like in KOTOR, has to solve several local problems unrelated to the main plot.
    • In Mass Effect 2, most of the game revolves around finding living breathing coupons aka squad members - the actual plot is few and far between and only moves on after gathering a certain amount of members.
    • In Neverwinter Nights, the game is divided into chapters which are all about collecting different plot coupons as the situation warrants. Chapter 1 has you tracking creatures who are needed to cure the Wailing Death plague, in chapter 2 you have to collect evidence that the villains are operating out of Luskan and in chapter 3 you must collect the artifacts known as the "Words of Power" that the villain needs to enact her plan of world domination. As with KOTOR and Dragon Age, the player must often solve problems often unrelated to the main plot before getting the coupon.
  • The parts of Dracula's body in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, again in the inverted castle portion of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and a third time in Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance.
  • Crash Bandicoot: The second game and the third have the Power Crystals.
    • In the second, Cortex asked Crash to help him gather the crystals so that he can avert a cosmic disaster; N. Brio (Cortex's former underling), however, wants Crash to collect the gems instead, and swears to stop Crash if he goes after the crystals. Collecting the crystals is more necessary as you'll need them to advance to the later levels, while the gems seem like a Collection Sidequest at first; but to achieve 100% completion you have to gather the gems as well. Turns out, there's a good reason Brio tries to stop you: as Crash's sister Coco reveals at the climax, Cortex has been duped Crash the whole time as he wants to use the crystals to power his Mass Hypnosis satellite to brainwash the entire earth. Cue Crash chasing Cortex in space to prevent him from escaping with the crystals. The gems, meanwhile, get used to power Brio's laser cannon, which he and Crash then uses to blow Cortex's space station to smithereens.
    • The third game has Cortex and his boss, a magical sentient mask named Uka-Uka, planning to gather crystals from the past and future, and their newest colleague N. Tropy builds a Time Machine for that purpose. Uka-Uka's good twin, Aku-Aku, brings Crash and Coco to the time machine to gather the crystals (and gems, and time relics) before the baddies could do so.
    • Crash Team Racing, in its Adventure Mode, has the trophies, then the boss keys, CTR Tokens, the Relics, and the 5 gems. You'd need the trophies from the race tracks to race the boss, which grants you the boss key if successful, which lets the player access new worlds with more race tracks and new bosses. All 4 keys are needed to race the Final Boss, Nitros Oxide. But after you won, Oxide demands you to gather the relics and then race against him again if the people of the earth wants him to go away (he's an alien); so now you have to gather the Tokens and Relics from the same tracks you played before, which also unlocks the Gem Cups that give you the gems necessary to open the last secret track to get one extra relic.
  • In Crystal's Pony Tale, the titular character needs to gather seven crystals to save his friends.
  • Commander Keen: Used in three of the seven episodic games (ship parts in Marooned on Mars, guardians in Secret of the Oracle, and bombs in Keen Dreams). The second and fifth episodes gauge your progression with the destructive machines you disable (Tantalus Ray Cannons in the former, energy sources for the Armaggeddon Machine in the latter), while the remaining two simply avert the trope in every way.
  • Dark Souls has the Bells of Awakening, that must be rung to reveal the purpose of the Undead. And then, after that, you retrieve the Lordvessel and then kill some gods for their Lord Souls.
  • Used repeatedly in Diablo II:
    • In Act II, you must collect the Viper Amulet, the Staff of Kings, and the Horadric Cube to assemble the Horadric Staff, which acts as a key to open the tomb of Tal Rasha.
    • In Act III, you must collect Khalim's Relics; combined, they act as a key to open the Durance of Hate.
  • Diddy Kong Racing:
    • The four pieces of the Wizpig amulet in order to unlock the Disc-One Final Boss race with Wizpig.
    • The Silver Coins from the challenge of the same name in order to unlock the Trophy Races, which leads to...
    • Four 1st Place Trophies in order to unlock Future Fun Land and race Wizpig again as a True Final Boss.
  • In Dragon Quest IV and sequels, the player must collect the 4 legendary armaments (sword, shield, helmet, and armor). Only the hero may wear them, and by the time the player acquires these, his hero likely already has better equipment.
  • In the flagrant Dolled-Up Installment Dragon's Lair: The Legend, Dirk quests to collect the Lifestones to awaken a sleeping giant knight. Specifically, 194 of them. It's as much fun as it sounds.
  • Donkey Kong 64 has several:
    • 201 Golden Bananas, with 25 available per level: Four bananas per each of the five Kongs, plus one per Kong from "Blueprints", which themselves are also Plot Coupons due to not only being traded for Golden Bananas sometime after collection, but also for their usefulness to gain extra time during the Timed Mission of the final world. The special 201st Banana is obtained after rescuing all Banana Fairies in the worlds. A minimum of 100 is required to clear the game.
    • There are also "DK Coins", which feature heavily in minigames and races. While not traded directly, the races / minecart sections require a certain number of these to be in your possession by the end of the section to receive the Golden Banana; so even if you win the race or make it out alive through the minecart ride, you won't be rewarded if you don't have enough coins.
  • The first half of Fallout concerns itself with the Vault Dweller being tasked with locating a water chip to replace that of Vault 13, which has broken irreparably. The game is on a strict 150-day time limit until it's found and returned to the Vault.
  • In the fourth episode of Farnham Fables, Theresa has to collect six Rainbow Keys to create a bridge so she can cross the peanut butter river and meet her friend Andrew (it's a Dream Episode, in case you're wondering how any of that makes sense).
  • Garfield's Nightmare: The gold-colored alarm clocks, which Garfield needs to collect in order to wake up from his prolonged nightmare. Each clock is guarded by a boss in a specific world.
  • Grapple Dog: The Cosmic Gems, purple well-cut gems that Pablo has to use to unlock boss levels And the three trial levels in world 6.
  • The music notes of Harvest Moon: Magical Melody and the harvest sprites of Harvest Moon DS.
  • HarmoKnight has you hunting for Royal Notes, 53 in all. These are only required to progress further twice throughout the entire game, the third time to unlock the level Birdwatching.
  • In the NES adaptation of Hook, you need to get four items to proceed past certain areas. Of particular note is Peter Pan's magic sword: it does absolutely nothing combat-wise, but Tinkerbell tells you that you'll need it to defeat the dangers that await you after the game's midpoint.
  • Hype: The Time Quest has the Jewels, which each allow Hype to move to the next Era.
  • Jet Force Gemini has the missing twelve pieces of the ancient Tribal spaceship. It has to be rebuilt to intercept Mizar before his asteroid impacts Earth.
  • Killer7: In many chapters, you have to collect Soul Shells and deliver them to someone in the Vinculum Gate to access the whereabouts of the next boss (though this changes in the penultimate chapter: the first delivery takes you to someone telling you that your next target went elsewhere, and the the second deliverynote  is only the first of many steps necessary to access that level's boss).
  • Kirby games generally have a set of special stars (or Crystal Shards in the game with that title) that you must collect to actually face the real Big Bad — who will only show himself after you complete everything else. However, these items are generally used to make the weapon he needs in the final fight.
  • Legacy of the Wizard has the four Crowns and the Dragon Slayer sword required to kill Keela, as well as many must-have, rare items such as the High Jump Boots and the Mattock.
  • The Legend of Zelda and its various sequels are the namesake for this trope. In later games, there are often two sets of coupons, the first usually being three items (pendants, pearls, etc.) needed to claim the Master Sword, rewarded halfway through. The second act then has a set of more items (medallions, pieces of a mirror, etc.). Another is simply eight items (essences, pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom) without any distinct midpoint
    • The Legend of Zelda: Eight Pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom. They grant access to the final dungeon.
    • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link: The Six Crystals, or rather the six statues to put the crystals in (you have the crystals at the outset, and the objective is to place them into the statues). They dispel the barrier that protects the entrance of the Great Palace.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: Three Pendants of Virtue first, then the Seven Maidens. The Pendants allow Link to claim the Master Sword, while the Maidens dispel the force field that protects the entrance of Ganon's Tower. Zelda is actually one of the second set of plot coupons you have to collect and you can see her in your inventory screen in a crystal.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening: Eight Instruments of the Siren. They're necessary to awake the Wind Fish.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Three Spiritual Stones followed by the Six Medallions. The Spiritual Stones grant access to the chamber of the Master Sword in the Temple of Time, while the Medallions symbolize the freed power of the Sages (who help Link enter Ganon's Tower in the end). In a more literal (yet minor) example of this trope, Zelda also gives you a letter that allows you to pass by a certain guard.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: Four Mask Remains. They keep the power of the bosses sealed, and upon collecting them Link manages to free the Four Giants (the only ones capable of stopping the Moon).
    • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games: Eight Essences of Time (Ages) and Nature (Seasons). Collecting the full set of eight in each case nets you the Huge Maku Seed needed to dispel the magic protecting the final dungeon.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords: Three Great Keys. Note that there are 3 types of Keys (Silver, Golden, and Hero), and to fully complete the game, the player must collect a total of nine keys. However, you only need 3 of a kind to fight Vaati.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: Three Goddess Pearls to unveil the Tower of the Gods (which holds the secret to access the whereabouts of Hyrule), then the blessing of two temple Sages to empower the Master Sword, and finally the eight pieces of the Triforce of Courage to return to Hyrule.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures: Seven Shrine Maidens (including Zelda), and Four Royal Jewels.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap: Four Elements to restore the Four Sword and gain the power to both save those who were cursed by Vaati's petrifying magic (including Princess Zelda) and defeat Vaati himself.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Four Fused Shadows, then the four fragments of the Mirror of Twilight. The Fused Shadows are initially collected so Midna can confront Zant; when that doesn't work (Zant even ends up taking them away from her), she and Link have to retrieve all fragments of the Mirror to repair it and access the Twilight Real, defeat Zant, and then use the Fused Shadows to destroy the barrier protecting Hyrule Castle.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: Three Spirits, then the three Pure Metals. The Spirits allow Link to access the Ghost Ship to rescue Tetra (or what's left from her), while the Pure Metals are used to forge the Phantom Sword, capable of defeating Bellum.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: Four colored Force Gems (which are needed to assemble the chunks of the Tower of Spirits together, followed by the Bow of Light to defeat Malladus, and then the Compass of Light to access his whereabouts (the Dark Realm).
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: The three Ancient Tablets to access the areas of the surface, the three Sacred Flames to empower the Goddess Sword and turn it into the Master Sword, and the four parts of the Song of the Hero to unlock the whereabouts of the Triforce.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: The three Pendants to claim the Master Sword, and then the paintings of the Seven Sages to dispel the barrier blocking the entrance to Lorule Castle.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The four Divine Beasts (and, by extension, the sacred skills given to Link by their former Champions), as well as the 12 captured memories. In a twist, however, thanks to the game's nonlinear structure you can actually skip collecting these. After the introductory level, it's entirely possible to head straight to the final dungeon and take out the Big Bad. Doing so requires tremendous skill and good equipment though so the game actively encourages you to seek these out first.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom: The five Secret Stones which are needed to be collected upon clearing the respective dungeons in order to awaken the characters associated with them in order to stop Ganondorf. Much like with the Divine Beasts in the previous game, getting the first four secret stones can be tackled in any order. However, the fifth sage being Mineru requires much more of a throughout search and a bigger sidequest to even unlock her has the fifth and final sage (though she can be acquired even earlier with the right amount of setups). There are technically seven Secret Stones in total but one is held by the deceased Rauru until Zelda manages to take his and the other is held by Queen Sonia, Rauru's wife. However, she is killed by Ganondorf who promptly steals hers for himself.
  • Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite has the Infinity Stones. Ultron-Sigma has two, leaving the heroes to find the remaining four in order to defeat him.
  • Each game of the Metroid Prime Trilogy has a set of items that must be collected in order to access the final level. 12 Chozo Artifacts in Metroid Prime, 9 Sky Temple Keys in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (plus, for each individual temple in Dark Aether, 3 Dark Temple Keys), and at least 5 out of 9 Energy Cells in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Note that you're not told about their importance until the right moment comes, so you can occasionally find one of them while doing something else to have less work remaining by the final act. The big exception here are the Octoliths in Metroid Prime: Hunters, of which there are eight, as you must start finding them one by one as soon as the game starts, and do so at very specific plot points and in a specific order.
  • The Might and Magic series has several games with plot coupons
    • The third game, Isles of Terra has the Ultimate Power Orbs. There are 31 of them in total, and the player needs to give 11 of them to either King Zealot, Tumult, or Malefactor in order to get the Blue Priority Pass Card to open the final dungeon. To activate the escape pod to win the game, the player has to pick up the six Hologram Sequencing Cards found in the 6 major dungeons: The Dark Warrior's Keep, the Halls of Insanity, The Fortress of Fear, the Tomb of Terror, the Cathedral of Carnage, and the Maze from Hell
    • The fourth game, Clouds of Xeen have the King's Megacredits. 5 of them are needed to purchase the town of Newcastle, 5 more are needed to renovate the place and turn it into a town, and 5 further are needed to open the basement and gain the Sword of Plot Advancement called the Xeen Slayer, to kill the final boss
    • The fifth game, Darkside of Xeen has the Energy Disks, which are given to the wizard Ellinger to restore Queen Kalindra's castle. 5 of them restore one floor, and there are four floors. After this, the player needs the Songbird of Serenity and finally Queen Kalindra's royal crown.
    • If World Of Xeen, obtainable by installing both Clouds and Darkside, are there, the player's final quest requires the Scepter of Temporal Distortion (which is found by killing Xeen) and the Cube of Power (found after killing Sheltem), and then the various ID tags that allow the player to save Prince Roland from his imprisonment.
  • Each game in the Mother series features Plot Coupons. However, only the first game actually had you collect anything, and that's in the loosest sense of the word.
    • Earthbound Beginnings features the Eight Melodies, or the 8 parts of a song that the mysterious Queen Mary of Magicant has forgotten. The Melodies aren't actually items. Instead, various NPCs or Items sing them to you, you even get one melody from a cactus. In order to proceed to the Big Bad, you have to sing all eight melodies to Queen Mary. It turns out that Mary is actually Maria, Ninten's great-grandmother, who was abducted by aliens. Gigyas was a baby she volunteered to raise, and the song you have spent the whole game learning is a lullaby she used to sing to him. Singing the lullaby to Gigyas is the only way to actually defeat him.
    • EarthBound features Your Sanctuaries, eight locations where Earth's Power was the strongest. Each also had a melody associated with it, and when Ness uses the Sound Stone to play them all back, he goes to his own version of Magicant. Unlike the first game, however, the eight melodies, nor the power of Magicant are used against Giygas. Paula has to pray nine times instead.
    • Mother 3 features Seven Needles scattered across the Nowhere Islands, which require the use of PK Love to be pulled out. Pulling out all seven awakens a sleeping dragon that the islands rest upon, who will only listen to the person who pulls out the seventh and final needle. The Big Bad eventually reveals a mysterious masked general who can use PK Love as well and uses him to try and pull out the seventh and final needle. The Final Battle takes place at the site of the final needle.
  • Ōkami: The Serpent Crystal (ultimately claimed and used by Waka), and the Tube Foxes (collected by you, but given to and used by Rao, the fake one).
  • Pokémon has, in nearly all mainline games, the Eight Gym Badges in each Generation. In each case, they're required to challenge the Elite Four and the region' current Champion.
  • Robopon has the X-Stones of the second game. Each one is required to challenge a ranked competitor, and people will go to obscene lengths to hide them and keep their rankings.
  • In Sam & Max Hit the Road, the final puzzle involves collecting four wildly different items to complete a spell for the Bigfoots, some of which you might have already gathered if you follow the old adventure game maxim of "pick up everything that isn't nailed down": a filled snow globe from the Mystery Vortex, Conroy Bumpus's hair-tonic-drenched pillow from Bumpusville, a T-rex tooth from the Mt. Rushmore Dinosaur Park, and a zucchini in the shape of John Muir from the Celebrity Vegetable Museum.
  • Sky Odyssey has the four pieces of the Lost Map, hidden in ruins scattered throughout the Islands of the Dark Sea. The player needs to find these map pieces in order to discover the only way into the Tower of Maximus, the games final level.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Almost every game has used the Chaos Emeralds (or "Time Stones" in Sonic the Hedgehog CD) as plot coupons, often sought by Dr. Eggman or any other antagonist as a power source. In the earlier games, they were not necessary to complete the game, they just made it easier and gave you the good ending. However, since Sonic Adventure, they have, in nearly every game, been necessary elements of the plot, often being the goals for completing the level.
    • Inverted in Sonic Unleashed where Sonic has all the Chaos Emeralds from the start and has to place them in temples across the world to reassemble Earth.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, Golden Spatulas are needed in order to progress to further parts of the game. At least they have the decency to hang a lampshade on it:
    SpongeBob: Say, Bubble Buddy, why do I have to collect all of these golden spatulas for these toll booths?
    Bubble Buddy: Because, SpongeBob.
    SpongeBob: Well, that just about works for me.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: SuperSponge features an item at the end of every level that you must collect in a series of levels in order to fulfill Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy's tasks. An example would be searching all over Bikini Bottom for ingredients to make a sandwich for them.
  • Star Fox Adventures has the Spellsstones (4) and the Krazoa Spirits (6). The Spellstones are needed to stop the ongoing instability of planet Sauria's internal energy, while the Krazoa Spirits are needed to put back the regions of the planet that separated from it as a result of the instability.
  • Super Kiwi 64: The game tasks the player to collect amethyst gems that serve as power cells to refuel the airplane that got stranded in the island where the kiwi and a friendly pilot are now. The Doomsday campaign has differently-shaped gems that are instead used to dispel the barrier that blocks the entrance to the final level.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins has the eponymous large coins, each with an engraved icon representing the world where they're found. These are special coins from boss battles, not the normal kind found in ?-Boxes. Collecting all six of them is necessary to unlock the last, single-level world (Wario's Castle).
    • Super Mario 64 set the tradition in itself and subsequent 3D Mario platformers of emploiyng a Fractional Winning Condition to progress by collecting a specific type of item, usually replacing the Level Goal format seen in the 2D games. Super Mario 64 itself, as well as the two Galaxy games, all have you looking for 120 Power Stars (the minimum required to unlock the last level is 70 in two cases, and 60 in the other). In Super Mario 64, the Power Stars are the energy that protect Princess Peach's castle, hence why Bowser hides them in the various playable courses in order to overtake the castle (though certain Stars remain hidden in the Castle itself, something Bowser comes to lament when he's defeated in the final battle).
    • Super Mario Sunshine replaces the stars with Shine Sprites, which retain the purpose of collection and are justified in-game for being the source of solar energy in Isle Delfino. Instead of a specific number of them, what unlocks the last level is the collection of the Shine Sprites guarded by Shadow Mario, one per world, and in turn you must have collected the Shine Sprites of the preceding episodes to unlock the Shadow Mario episodes themselves.
    • Super Mario Galaxy: The game introduces Grand Stars, a higher tier of Power Stars within the total of 120 Plot Coupons alongside the regular kind. The Grand Stars provide enough energy to activate the sections of the Comet Observatory in the first game, from which Mario can access to further galaxies. In turn, each galaxy can only be accessed when a certain number of Power Stars is retrieved, as they serve as fuel to the Observatory. Three Power Stars are green-colored, and though they can still count for the minimum total it takes to unlock the last level (60), they're optional otherwise as they have a different primary purpose. In the long run, you even have to get them all a second time with Luigi to unlock the 121st star (for both characters) for the 100% completion.
    • Super Mario Galaxy 2: Power and Grand Stars make a return to play this trope's role, but their justification is different. While they still serve as fuel, in this case to the Faceship, the Power Stars are only required to open the path in certain world maps, usually near the major boss level of a world. Then, every time a Grand Star is obtained, the Faceship will be able to reach a new galaxy cluster. To achieve 100% completion, you also have to collect 120 green-colored stars to unlock the Grandmaster Galaxy, which has the last two stars, leaving you with a grand total of 242 stars.
    • New Super Mario Bros. 2: The game wants you to collect 1,000,000 coins (regular coins) for no apparent reason. If this is achieved, it then challenges you to find 99,999,999 coins (enough to fill the coin meter with all 9's, basically). You are then rewarded with a new title screen.
    • Super Mario Odyssey has Power Moons, of which there are 880 unique samples in total (more Moons can be eventually bought in the shops). The game justifies the Power Moons as being a fuel source for the Odyssey (New Donk City is even powered by a seemingly-endless supply of them). Some of the moons come in groups of three, and are called Multi-Moons; they're either guarded by bosses or obtained by completing certain special objectives (collecting them is also necessary to complete the individual side stories of the Kingdoms).
    • Super Mario Bros. Wonder: The Wonder Seeds are collected in levels by completing the challenges of the Wonder Flower effects as well as reaching the respective Level Goals, and used to purify areas that have been taken over by Piranha Plants. Meanwhile, the Royal Seeds are collected at the end of the worlds and used to gradually dispel the Piranha Plant barrier that is protecting Castle Bowser.
    • Mario Party:
      • The majority of home console installments (namely 1 to 8, Super and Superstars), plus Mario Party DS, have Stars which the characters strive to get as they play in the boards in order to fight for the title of Super Star. Mario Party: The Top 100, due to its near-total focus on minigames instead of boards, only has Stars in one mode (Minigame Match). Mario Party 9, 10 and one of the boards in Island Tour use white-colored Mini-Stars instead, though they're still fought for by the characters in their race to become the next Super Star.
      • Mario Party 3 has Star Stamps, which the characters strive to collect so one of them becomes the next Superstar. There are seven Stamps in total.
      • Mario Party DS: As narrated in the Story Mode, the Sky Crystals fell from the sky and are now in hands of different characters. Mario and his friends receive the first four Crystals as reward for helping them, while the fifth is retrieved from Bowser.
      • Super Mario Party has the Gems awarded for completing all the main modes in the game. Each Gem represents a virtue: Tenacity, Spirit, Love, Courage and Passion; and placing them all in the Super Star's ceremony plaza unlocks the game's ending.
    • Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars has you locating the seven pieces of the broken Star Road.
    • Paper Mario makes you rescue the seven Star Spirits. Unlike most examples, the Star Spirits actually unlock usable moves in standard gameplay.
    • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has you locating seven Crystal Stars. Like the original, the Crystal Stars also unlock moves. Peach is also a MAJOR plot coupon, but for a different reason. A bad one.
    • Super Paper Mario mixes it up a little, you need eight Pure Hearts. You're given one when you start the game, though, so you still only actually need to find seven.
    • Paper Mario: Sticker Star has you hunting down shards of the Sticker Comet and the six Royal Stickers that came from it. Comet pieces open up paths to new levels, while Royal Stickers add a page to your sticker album. Unfortunately, the Royal Stickers are also empowering the game's bosses, so you have to deal with them first.
    • Paper Mario: Color Splash has you locating Paint Stars, which come in Mini and Big flavors. The Mini Paint Stars open up paths to new levels, just like the comet pieces from Sticker Star. The six Big Paint Stars each clear out a major obstacle, clue you in on what happened before you arrived on Prism Island, and toss you a health upgrade.
    • Paper Mario: The Origami King: There are five streamers that cover Princess Peach's Castle, but unlike the other games, you're actually trying to destroy the Plot Coupons rather than collect them. Since they're blocking the way to Peach's Castle and thus the Big Bad, they're also guarded by the game's bosses.
    • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has you collect the four pieces of the Beanstar after it shatters.
    • Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time has you collecting the six pieces of the shattered Cobalt Star. Played for laughs in this one, as the number of shards you have goes up and down wildly throughout the game, until you get them all which is worse than useless; it actually frees the Final Boss.
    • Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story has the three Star Cures.
    • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team has the five Ultibed parts and the Dream Stone. The villains steal the last one before you get there though.
    • Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam has the Paper Toads scattered across the Mushroom Kingdom. In this case, you really just need them for free labor so Toadette can build the papercrafts you need to fight Bowser's creations.
    • Wario: Master of Disguise: The Wishstone pieces are the main driving force of the plot. Wario and Goodstyle travel around the world to reunite the pieces (two of which, in fact, are won from the antagonists Cannoli and Carpaccio respectively), because reuniting them is believed to grant a wish. This wish is to restore the power to Terrormisu, who is revealed to be the Greater-Scope Villain.
  • Tales of Monkey Island by Telltale Games:
    • The second episode, "The Siege of Spinner Cay", did some Lampshade Hanging with this with a local bait shop that will ONLY accept literal coupons to purchase bait. One of these three coupons leads to a (literal) Red Herring, but the other two are quite essential to progress in the plot.
    • "The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood" has the ingredients for the Feast of the Senses, which are needed to power up La Esponja Grande. After LeChuck steals it in "Rise of the Pirate-God", you need to de-power it again by gathering ingredients for a Diet of the Senses.
  • In A Tiny Sticker Tale, there are five medallions that the player can obtain by helping residents across the island, representing Joy, Love, Safety, Self-confidence, and Perseverance. Collecting all of them allows you to view the ending.
  • Most Uncle Albert games have objects that the player must collect to advance.
    • In Uncle Albert's Magical Album, the player must collect statuettes to gain access to Tom and the treasure.
    • In Uncle Albert's Fabulous Voyage, the player must collect six pieces of parchment to discover the game's solution. It's actually possible to finish the game without completing the parchment, but you wouldn't know how.
    • In Uncle Albert's Mysterious Island, the player must collect three jewels to open Pachacamac's mask and collect three pieces of steles to repair the sacred stele telling the code that would also open the mask. You can input the code without the stele, but you have no way to know the combination otherwise.
    • In La Statuette Maudite de l'Oncle Ernest, the player must collect three jewels which are used to unlock a perchment that shows the location of an island. Then the player must find the Eye of Shiva which was divided into three parts.
  • The Grand Scores in Uncommon Time, though only for the first part of the game. They're necessary to perform the ritual that will Save the World and are guarded by elemental spirits at significant locations in the journey.

    Web Animation 
  • The relics in RWBY. An interesting variation, in that the villain is trying to use them for their intended purpose, while the heroes are trying to keep them safe. Salem hopes that if she brings the relics together before humanity is reunited, the gods will return and destroy the world, granting her death at last. The heroes don't want this happening, for obvious reasons.

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Plot Coupons, Plot Token


Time Pieces

There are 40 Time Pieces in all. Your goal is to collect all of them after they are scattered across the planet, both so that you can regain power to your space-ship and to prevent time rifts from wreaking havoc.

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Example of:

Main / PlotCoupon

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