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Plot Device

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"This movie has so many contrived plot devices that TV Tropes deserves to be in the credits as lead writer."
LittleshyFiM on the usage of this trope on My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Rainbow Rocksnote 

A plot device is an object or character in the story whose purpose is purely to drive the Plot, maintain its flow, or resolve situations within it. It could be something everybody wants to obtain, a device that must be destroyed, or an annoying teenager who must be protected at all costs.

It may also be an object or gadget introduced early in the story for the sole purpose of solving a sticky situation later on.

The term is commonly used in a derisory manner, on the grounds that the best stories are character-driven, and using an object to make things happen is thus seen as a sign of bad writing. However, there are plenty of good stories which do indeed revolve around a plot device; equally, a plot device can very easily be used to generate conflict and thus spark a character-driven story.

Whenever someone uses the term derisively they often mean that something is being used as a gimmick (or worse, an Ass Pull) to Hand Wave resolutions to Plot Holes in a way that breaks the Willing Suspension of Disbelief.


Lampshade Hangings and Other References:

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Almost by definition, stories have plot devices. Examples should be limited to lampshade hangings and references to the term.

    Comic Books 

  • One Captain Marvel comic, starring Genis-Vell, featured a very clever Kree fellow named "Plaht," whose "device" cleared away several plot inconveniences.



    Tabletop Games 

  • In The Dresden Files RPG, certain characters are noted as being "plot device level" characters. Most of them are considered Plot Devices because they're so ridiculously powerful that no Player Party would ever reasonably be able to take them on directly, making stats meaningless, and thus would have to outmanuever, work around, or run away from them; these include the Faerie Queens, Angels, and Dragons. A handful, however, are noted as being a Plot Device because they're so far down on the other side of the scale that they can only really provide one specific and specialized purpose, such as Elidee, a tiny pixie—even by pixie standards—who shows up briefly in one book to serve as a guide/flashlight for Dresden.
  • This is one of the functions of Secrets Mistborn Adventure Game. For example, the secret formula for a new Allomantic metal, which gives the heroes bizarre new powers at the cost of drawing the attention of the Canton Of Inquisition.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade: Vampires of 3rd Generation or older (that is, effectively, those vampires that predate Noah's Ark) have "Plot Device" as a power. The game clarifies that these vampires can do whatever the plot needs them to be able to, as long as it can be vaguely construed as fitting with their defined power-set.


    Video Games 

  • One of the various Mac Guffins that City of Heroes radio missions will occasionally ask you to retrieve is a "P.L.O.T. Device." Its description:
    The Phased Linear Oscillation Transducer is a miraculous device, capable of producing such a variety of effects that many find it simply unbelievable. However, overusing a P.L.O.T. device can have serious consequences, and the more egregious uses can strain the very fabric of reality. P.L.O.T devices have fallen out of favor overall, but many a young and reckless pioneer has picked up a well-used P.L.O.T. device and run with it.


    Web Original 

  • Dr. Bill Ernoehazy, an Orion's Arm contributor'', wrote another story with a Faster-Than-Light Travel system called the Plott-deVice drive.
  • This short by Seth Worley features a device called Plot Device, which is a yellow box with large friendly letters reading "Plot Device" with a Big Red Button on its top and enables the user to turn his life in a movie and travel between different film genres.
  • The Imperial Hereditary Seal in Farce of the Three Kingdoms. Sun Ce openly refers to it as one, and later the narrator steals it from Cao Cao's effects in order to use it to legitimize Liu Bei.

    Western Animation 

  • There is a character in Sheep in the Big City, literally called The Plot Device, which is a robot that can cause nearly anything to happen to advance the plot.