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Plot-Triggering Death

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Uneasy lies the crown that wears no head.
"I am Doctor Edward Roivas. I am a clinical Psychologist. I am also dead. […] Their attention turns to my grand-daughter. For she is the last of my line, and the last hope of humanity."
Eternal Darkness, Introduction (abridged).
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Between the many ways death can be used in media, there's its use as a trigger for the start of the story itself. It could start a Roaring Rampage of Revenge from part of the protagonists and pull them into something even greater, maybe looking for the truth behind the death could make the protagonist know about something he wasn't supposed to know, the protagonist could suddenly see himself having to continue where the deceased left off, or the execution of a baddie may bring forth something even worse, etc.

In order for a death to be covered by this trope, it has to satisfy some conditions:

  • The death has to either occur before the story begins or during the first moments of it.
  • The death must either:
    1. Make the plot start moving (without needing to affect the protagonists directly at first), or
    2. Make the protagonists start taking some kind of action which later pulls them into the big plot (which must not be necessarily related to the death).
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  • In case of TV series or long runners with clear continuity, the death must have affected the big picture of the series. For example, the deaths occurring on every episode of a murder mystery series do not count; but the death of a close one that made the protagonist take the decision to become a detective so he could investigate the mystery behind that murder does count. Deaths on this kind of works that trigger new mystery arcs also count.
  • On some occasions, the death is self-triggered: if My Death Is Just the Beginning, then the protagonist obviously can't force the antagonist to stop... antagonizing.

Can sometimes overlap with Starts with a Suicide, Posthumous Character, Death by Origin Story, The Lost Lenore, I Let Gwen Stacy Die, Stuffed in the Fridge, Crusading Widower, Doomed Hometown (can be a greater scale of this trope), Starts with Their Funeral, Unexpected Inheritance, and the list goes on and on.

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As a death trope, unmarked spoilers are bound to appear. Beware.

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Episode 1 of Highschool DXD, shows the main character dying before the show even begins.
  • In One Piece, the public execution of Pirate King Gold Roger, at which he made his Famous Last Words about his treasure (the titular One Piece), launches the Golden Age of Piracy. This is the setting of the story; nearly every pirate, including the protagonists, are searching for the treasure and with it the right to call themselves the new Pirate King.
    • His Friendly Enemy Whitebeard similarly launched a new era of piracy with his own death, with his own Famous Last Words confirming One Piece is real where doubt had begun setting in.
    • The death of Corazon (aka Donquixote Rocinante, Donquixote Doflamingo's younger brother and Trafalgar Law's idol) is the primary driving force of the Pirate Alliance Saga. His death earned Doflamingo Law's hatred, causing him to spend the next thirteen years of his life plotting revenge. If Corazon had never died, it's highly doubtful Law would've been a pirate, let alone one of Luffy's allies. Seeing as the Dressrosa arc involved practically every major power in the world, you could easily argue that his death is an integral part of how the new era of piracy will be shaped — which is ironic considering that Corazon was a Marine spy sent to infiltrate his brother's pirate crew.
  • Code Geass: C.C. "dies" but not before granting Lelouch a Geass. With his new superpower, he investigates the murder of his mother Marianne, whose own death initiated plot as it led to Lelouch and Nunnally being exiled to Japan.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann; although not at the start of the plot, the death of Kamina (a quarter of the way in) was the key trigger to the character development of Simon throughout the rest of the series
  • The first/second season of Yu-Gi-Oh! is motivated by the death of Pegasus's wife.
  • Deadman Wonderland employs this in true gory fashion: an entire classroom of junior high students gets outright blended to bits by the Red Man (A.K.A. "Wretched Egg"), save for Ganta Igarashi- implanted with a Branch of Sin, turned into a Deadman, and tactically framed for the killings so he's sent to the titular Hellhole Prison. The Red Egg, who is revealed to be Shiro’s Superpowered Evil Side, is faces as the Final Boss after Rinchiro Hagire is dealt with.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The death of Ed and Al's mother pushes them to perform human transmutation to try to bring her back; their attempt goes horribly wrong and they end up losing (parts of) their bodies, thus prompting Ed to join the military to find a way to restore themselves, and the rest is history. Her death is what ultimately causes their involvement in the whole story, and ironically, it's also one of the only two non-Big Bad-related deaths in the whole series.
    • Later, the death of Maes Hughes prompts Roy Mustang to take a greater role in the plot than he had already done. His need to learn the truth about what happened is one of the things that begins making life very difficult for him and those serving under him.
  • Ga-Rei -Zero-: The death of Kagura's mother a few days before the series starts up results in Kagura meeting Yomi, and played a significant role in Kagura starting her career as a Vanquisher so early.
  • The SoulTaker
    • Mio's actions just prior to death are what awakened Kyōsuke's mutant powers, and his realization that she did so out of love is why he chooses to protect humanity.
    • Maya also qualifies. Her death is what inspires Kyōsuke to find and protect the other Flickers, rather than just saving his sister.
  • Naruto: The title character is the person-shaped can for a monster the city's previous leader (who is also the titular character's father) died sealing in him when he was a baby. Much, much later, we learn that in a technical way, Rin's death of all things is what started the plot. Why? Because her death in the backstory directly motivated Obito into becoming Tobi...who unleashed the monster on the city in the first place, prompting the leader to seal it away inside the title character.
    • It goes much deeper than that — it's ultimately the reason why Obito took up Madara's offer, leading to the creation of the Akatsuki, the attack of the Nine-Tailed Fox, the Uchiha Clan Massacre, and eventually, the Fourth Great Shinobi War. Had she not died, the entire plot of Naruto would have been avoided almost entirely, and chances are that both Naruto and Sasuke would have had much happier lives.
    • Going back even further, it was the death of Princess Kaguya that laid the foundations for current events due to Black Zetsu manipulating events in an attempt to revive her.
    • Izuna was his brother Madara's entire world. Madara is the man he is today because of Izuna's death, which allowed him to be susceptible to Black Zetsu's manipulations.
  • Serial Experiments Lain: The suicide of Chisa Yomoda and subsequent e-mails claiming to be from her are what kick off the story.
  • Akame ga Kill!: The deaths of Tatsumi's two friends from his village motivates him to join the Assassin Group Night Raid, a group devoted to taking down targets in the Evil Empire.
  • Inuyasha:
    • Kikyou's death was the trigger for almost everything that occurs in the story. It's why Inuyasha and Naraku are enemies, it's why Kagome was dragged back in time, it's why the Shikon no Tama is released back into the world, and it's why Kagome is the only one who can decide the jewel's ultimate fate.
    • Also, the reason Miroku becomes a part of the group in the fight against Naraku is because his grandfather was such a significant enemy of Naraku's that Naraku cursed Miroku's entire lineage: the deaths of Miroku's grandfather and father are the reason he encounters Inuyasha's group and joins it, which is what enables Inuyasha to learn the identity of Kikyou's killer in the first place.
  • Bleach:
    • The deaths of Masaki Kurosaki, Souken Ishida, Kaien Shiba, and Hisana Kuchiki all combine to create the reason for why the first 181 chapters of the manga unfold as they do. Even after those chapters have passed, Masaki's death continues to be the motivation for Ichigo's resolve to protect as many people as he can, Souken's death remains the primary motivation for Uryuu's determination to stand by Ichigo and work with the shinigami despite quincies and shinigami being traditional enemies, Kaien's demise is the reason why Rukia opened up the path to power for Ichigo in the first place (and continues to guide her decisions after she replaces him as 13th division lieutenant), and the death of Hisana is the reason why Byakuya adopted Rukia and why Ichigo and Byakuya now possess a bond so unbreakable it can even defy brainwashing. Without those four deaths, this story would have been completely different, or perhaps even non-existent.
    • Plot-triggering deaths have been confirmed to have impacted the final arc as well. Both Masaki and Kanae's deaths are tied into the events of the final arc having been caused by Yhwach performing The Purge on impure quincies six years before the beginning of the story. The impact of these two deaths on the behaviour and decisions of their husbands (Isshin and Ryuuken) over the intervening years, and subsequently on their sons (Ichigo and Uryuu), are hugely important to the development of the final arc.
  • Attack on Titan has several significant deaths that set the events of the story in motion:
    • The death of her parents set Mikasa neatly onto the path of becoming The Ace and Eren's protector.
    • The death of Carla Yeager not only provides Eren with the desire to destroy all Titans but leads her husband to take drastic action before disappearing.
    • The death of Marcel, a childhood friend of Reiner and Bertolt has unseen and far-reaching consequences. It not only returns Ymir to human form and sets her back on the board as a major player, but is the clue needed for Hange to discover that Titans possess a Cannibalism Superpower.
    • The murder of her mother resulted in bastard princess Historia Reiss being forced into the identity of Krista Lenz. Her presence in the Survey Corps helps expose the Government Conspiracy and makes her vital to their plans to overthrow the government.
    • The deaths of Farlan and Isabel resulted in Levi abandoning his life of crime and laid the framework for his Undying Loyalty to Erwin.
      • Adding to Levi's story, his mother died when he was a very young child, leading to him being raised by serial killer Kenny Ackerman. Kenny is responsible for most of Levi's character traits: his clean freak behaviour, many of his combat skills (specifically with knives and guns) and his habit of telling poop jokes.
    • Erwin's father was murdered after Erwin went around saying that his father believed that humanity wasn't really extinct, as having such opinions is forbidden (turns out he was right, however). This fuelled Erwin's desire to know the truth about humanity and the titans.
    • Had Grisha not taken his sister Faye beyond the walls of the Eldian ghetto and unknowingly gotten her killed by Marley officers, he would have never joined the Eldia Restoration Movement and eventually end up on Paradis Island, the setting of the story. He also never would've met Kruger, the officer responsible for saving Grisha from becoming a mindless titan and giving him the Attack Titan's powers. And he would've never met his first wife Dina, with whom he had his son Zeke - the Beast Titan.
  • In PandoraHearts, Lacie’s death caused Jack to form a contract with Oz, the B-rabbit, which caused the Tragedy of Sablier, in order to bring the world to Lacie in the depths of the abyss. The contract forced Oz to be brought 100 years later along with Jack, although Oz remembers nothing about it, causing him to seek the truth about his own existence, which is why the story happens.
  • Tokyo Ravens: The death of Hakuto prompts Harutora to become an onmyoji to fulfill her wish.
  • In Keyman: The Hand of Judgement the brutal murder of Lockville City's champion, the titular Keyman, starts the plot.
  • The death of Ryuko's and Satsuki's father sets off the plot off Kill la Kill, with Ryuko searching to find out who killed her father.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Almost every single major event in the story is the result of the death of one person. That person is the main protagonist himself, Natsu Dragneel. Four hundred years before the current storyline, a young Natsu died in a dragon attack with his parents. His older brother Zeref, desperate to revive him, immersed himself in the study of forbidden and taboo magic. He was cursed for his willingness to bypass the boundary between the living and the dead by the Jerkass God Ankhselam, and would come to be known as the strongest and most evil mage in history. Zeref would create several demons to kill him that would later wreak havoc on the world (such as Deloria, who would kill Gray's parents and his mentor Ur), and many antagonists throughout the series are dark wizards who (mistakenly) seek to revive/summon him in hopes of attaining his power. Ironically, it seems the only thing Zeref was not responsible for in some way was Acnologia — many in the series are convinced that he turned Acnologia into a dragon, but in reality, Acnologia's transformation was a consequence of Dragon Slaying magic, which was created by Irene Belserion. In fact, some of the major events for which Zeref is responsible were the result of his plan to stop Acnologia.
    • The death of Fairy Tail's first guild master, Mavis Vermillion, has a significant impact on the plot, though minor in comparison to the above example. Especially considering the fact that Mavis is technically still alive as an Astral Projection. Precht/Hades, in his attempts to revive her, turned her body into the eternal magic "Fairy Heart", a.k.a. Lumen Histoire. His failure to achieve his original goal is implied to what have driven him to villainy and create the dark guild Grimoire Heart. Ivan Dreyar is implied to have tried to use Fairy Heart for his own ends, which led to him being expelled from the guild, and spread the information around, eventually attracting the attention of the Alvarez Empire. Finally, there is Zeref, her "killer", who was in love with her. Losing Mavis the way he did, after he allowed himself to believe there was someone out there he could care for and be happy with, was his true Start of Darkness and led to him becoming the evil wizard the rest of the world feared so much.
  • Haru and Midori begins with Midori's old friend Tsugumi dying in a motorcycle accident, which is the first Midori has heard about her in 14 years. At the funeral, Midori meets Tsugumi's teenage daughter Haru and takes her in.
  • Bloom Into You is truly kicked off by the death of Touko's older sister, Mio. Touko had started out as a relatively ordinary girl, but after Mio died, Touko sought to become the person Mio had once been.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho kicks off with main protagonist Yusuke's death. This leads to pretty much everything that comes afterward.
  • Zig-zagged in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Homura tries to save Madoka from her deadly fate by preventing her from getting a Magical Girl. She does this because in Homura's first timeline Madoka saved her by sacrificing herself.
    • Because of some time travel weirdness, this trope is played neither straight nor inverted. For Homura, Madoka's death lies in her own past and it is the reason for her actions right at the beginning of the show. But in the timeline of the show, Madoka is still alive and all moments, which possibly leads to her contract with Kyubey and finally her death, lies in the future.
  • The plot of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is kicked off when Tanjiro comes home from selling charcoal to find that most of his family has been slaughtered by a demon. The sole survivor is his sister Nezuko, who has become a demon herself, thus starting Tanjiro's journey to avenge his family and restore Nezuko's humanity.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • The deaths of Mary Joester, Jonathan's mother, and Dio's mother prior to the events of Phantom Blood are the triggers for the events of the entire series. Mary's death allows Dario to flawlessly lie about "saving" George, leading to Dario ending up in favors with George and George's eventual adoption of Dio, while it's Dio's mother's death that causes Dio to become the vicious monster he is now.
    • The deaths of Sorbet and Gelato on orders of the boss of Passione prior to the events of Vento Aureo are what ultimately lead to La Squadra turning against Passione, kicking off the events of the Part.
  • In Fruits Basket, the death of Tohru's mother Kyoko a few months prior is what kicks off the plot, as many of the story's events would never have happened otherwise; her death makes it so Tohru goes to live with her grandfather, then her grandfather's house renovations prompt Tohru to move out and live in a tent that turns out to be on Sohma family property, and the rest is history. Much later, it turns out that it's also the source of Kyo's insecurities about falling in love with Tohru, since he knew Kyoko when she was still alive, and he still feels guilty over not being able to save her before she was hit by a car.
  • Sousou no Frieren: Himmel's death. After spending fifty years apart, Frieren returns to find that her human friend has aged considerably since their time adventuring together, and soon after they see a meteor shower together, he dies. This makes Frieren finally realize how truly ephemeral is human life since she is an elf over 1000 years old, and she sets off on a journey to try to understand humans and how they use their limited time better.

    Comic Books 
  • The Comedian's murder in Watchmen.
  • Spider-Man is set into his heroic path because of the death of his Uncle Ben.
    • The Death of Jean DeWolff in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man which set off the Sin Eater arc, which in turn caused the origins of Venom.
    • The death of Joe Face just before the beginning of Kraven's Last Hunt - Spider-Man is shot after attending his wake.
    • The death of Aunt May (later reversed) was the catalyst of The Clone Saga, with Ben Reilly arriving in Manhattan to pay her respects and thus being drawn back into Peter's life.
  • The deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne would lead their young son Bruce to take up the cowl and become the Batman.
  • Abin Sur's death in Green Lantern. As he dies, he passes the ring to Hal Jordan, the first human Green Lantern. By exposing the crimes of fellow Lantern Sinestro, who goes on to form his own Lantern Corps and trigger the War of Light, Hal Jordan directly or indirectly causes the fulfillment of many of the rather apocalyptic prophecies in the Green Lanterns' resident ancient tome of prophecy.
  • Dynamo5: The thing that starts off the series is Captain Dynamo/William Warner's death and his widow Maddie Warner discovering his black book of women that he cheated on her with. Realizing Tower City still needs a protector, she uses the book to locate five young people she believes could be his illegitimate children. Warner exposes them to the same radiation that Dynamo had been exposed to forty years earlier, unlocking their own latent superhuman abilities, with each one manifesting one of the five powers that their father possessed. Warner trains the five young people not only into a team but into a family as well.
  • Misfit City: Captain Denby. When he dies, his will dictates that the chest containing, among other things, a map leading to Black Mary's treasure be donated to the museum. And it's there that the girls open it up and find it.
  • The death of the Scarlet Witch by a sudden and unexpected shot kickstarted the events of The Ultimates 3.
  • The death of Uatu the Watcher kickstart the events of Original Sin.
  • All-Star Comics #38 starts with the murders of The Atom, Dr. Mid-Nite, The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and Johnny Thunder, which paves the way for Black Canary to join the JSA when she takes Johnny's body to Wonder Woman. The two ladies bring the male heroes to get revived by Paula von Gunther and then set about figuring out who could have killed their male peers.

    Fan Works 
  • Ace Swift's death in Turnabout Storm. It ends up with Rainbow Dash being accused of it, which in turn leads up to Phoenix Wright being summoned to Equestria.
  • In the Katawa Shoujo fanfic Reconciliation, the death in question is that of Hisao himself. After he dies of a heart attack, his wife Lilly calls their old friend Hanako, who has not seen either of them since Hanako's bad ending in canon, resulting in her flying out to Scotland.
  • Mass Effect Human Revolution has Shepard, without whose death Adam would never have gotten involved in Saren's plot.
  • In Necessary To Win, Mizuho's death was the catalyst behind Saki and Teru's parents separating, and Saki gets involved in tankery at Oarai in hopes of reuniting the family.
  • In XCOM: From The Ashes of Temples, the plot kicks off with the Council Spokesperson being informed of the death of the XCOM Commander.
  • In "Last Rights" Senior Chief Security Officer Athezra Darrod dies from a shrapnel hit in the first scene, and the rest of the story deals with the disposition of his body: To wit, should the Kobali be allowed to turn him into one of them?
  • Broken Souls begins with Harry and his team investigating the death of reporter Konrad Tschida, whose discoveries become the driving force of the rest of the story.
  • Dear Sweetie Belle and its sequels are kicked off when Rarity's parents are suddenly killed, inducing her to write the titular letter. This turns out to have been invoked by Time Turner and Nevermore.
  • The Planets begins with Roy turning up at Winry's house after Riza's death, missing an arm and needing automail ASAP. It's shown that Riza took a bullet for Roy during the war. Her sacrificing herself and dying in his arms traumatized Roy, which set in motion the plot and ultimately led to Roy losing his arm.
  • In You Are My Sunshine, Mary's death in a car accident leads to her friends finding her letter revealing that her son Peter's father is Tony Stark. At her instruction, they reach out to him, and the plot kicks off when Tony decides to fly to Queens to meet his son.
  • The main plot of The Seven Misfortunes of Lady Fortune kicks off when Gabriel Agreste commits suicide.
  • Girls und Panzer: Hope Dies begins when Miho is murdered just before the finals.
  • #14 (MHA) begins after Izuku Midoriya commits suicide, and focuses on the effects it has on Bakugou.

    Films — Animated 
  • 2's death in 9. The Big Bad Fabrication Machine absorbs his spirit near the start of the film, killing him and powering it up enough to start fighting against the other protagonists.
  • Another Pixar example is Leland Turbo from Cars 2.
  • In a rather roundabout example, Coral's death in Finding Nemo. Her death happens some years before the actual story, but hadn't it been for that, the plot wouldn't have happened, at least not the way it did.
  • In Frozen (2013), the deaths of the king and queen of Arendelle forced their daughter Elsa to become Queen at a young age, leading to her powers being accidentally outed at her coronation.
  • Metro Man's death at the hands of his arch-nemesis Mega Mind which he planned all along.
  • Frankie's death in Shark Tale, which helps Oscar create the Sharkslayer story and become a rich man.
  • King Harold's death from illness at the beginning of Shrek the Third kickstarts the plot of the film.
  • Ellie's death in Up, although it happens some time before the plot starts. The real inciting incident is the ruling that their house will be demolished and Carl sent to a nursing home, but Ellie's memory drives him to start the plot.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The main plot of Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore gets rolling after Alice's husband is killed in a car accident, forcing her to find a job to support her and her 12-year-old son.
  • The murder of her best friend that Tea Leoni's character witnesses occurs at the start of Bad Boys and drives the rest of the plot.
  • Black Panther (2018) opens with T'Chaka trying to arrest his brother N'Jobu for crimes against Wakanda; but when he tries to shoot Zuri, T'Chaka is forced to kill him and leave his young nephew N'Jadaka behind to cope with his father's death. This leads to N'Jadaka's Start of Darkness and desire for revenge against the Wakandan Kingdom, eventually becoming the terrorist Erik Killmonger.
  • The Big Chill, the reunion of old college friends happens thanks to the suicide of one of their friends Alex.
  • In Braveheart, the death of the hero's love interest kicks off a Scotland-wide rebellion after his Roaring Rampage of Revenge against an English oppressor.
  • Aristride's murder sets off the events of Crooked House. The film opens with a newsreel announcing his death.
  • Cruel and Unusual: Maylon, Edgar's wife, dying at his hand sets off the plot as he's condemned in the afterlife as a murderer for it, forced to relive the events.
  • Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. Before the movie starts, Doc Savage's father dies in a South American country. When Doc realizes that his father was murdered, he and his aides start an investigation that leads into the main plot.
  • First Blood starts with Rambo visiting his friend Delmar Barry, only to find he had already died. Had Rambo known, he never would have come to the area and he never would have been harassed by the local police, which kicks off the movie.
  • 1984's The Funeral needs someone to die so there can be a funeral. The film thus starts with an older man having a heart attack. The plot revolves around his family trying to figure out how to run a funeral.
  • In Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), the entire plot of the movie starts because of Andrew's death. Mark Russell divorces himself from his family and hates Godzilla for the death of his son. Emma continues her work with the ORCA to communicate with the Titans, seemingly moving on, but it's later revealed her sanity took a huge toll as she believed that releasing all the Titans would benefit Earth, even though millions of humans would die, leading her to willingly work with ecoterrorist Alan Jonah.
  • The plot of Werner Herzog's Heart of Glass rests on the precedent death of the (never seen) foreman glassmaker Mühlbeck, the only one to knew the secret formula of the valuable ruby glass.
  • Highlander starts with Connor killing Fasil, another Immortal, which draws the attention of the police and the Kurgan.
  • In I, Robot, Dr. Alfred Lanning uses his own death to set Detective Spooner on the trail of a conspiracy only he knew about.
  • It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World opens with paroled tuna-factory robber Smiler Grogan crashing his car in the Mojave Desert. Before kicking the bucket, he tells the group of passing motorists who've come to his aid about $350,000 in cash "buried under a big W" in a state park near the Mexican border. Hilarity Ensues.
  • James Bond:
  • The death of the eponymous JFK.
  • The Kingdom started with a terrorist attack on an American housing compound in Saudi Arabia.
  • A Knight's Tale starts with a squire taking the place of his dead master in a joust.
  • Kull the Conqueror is kicked off because paranoid King Borna kills the rest of the royal family for fearing they're conspiring against him, and then dies himself after attacking the barbarian Kull. The rest of the film is the result of the Succession Crisis caused by Borna giving the throne to Kull out of spite.
  • The death of the hooker at Christmas turns out to be important in the first Lethal Weapon.
  • Lockjaw: Rise of the Kulev Serpent: When Alan witnesses the hit-and-run and sees his wife Becky dead, he uses the voodoo stick seeking revenge against the youngsters.
  • The death of the British Prime Minister near the beginning of London Has Fallen brings various world leaders together for the funeral, and providing the terrorists with a massive target. It turns out, the Prime Minister was assassinated for this very purpose.
  • The death of Sam Spade's partner Miles in The Maltese Falcon.
  • The killing of an embassy employee triggers an investigation which uncovers the Baron's plot in Missile X: The Neutron Bomb Incident.
  • On the Waterfront begins with the murder of Joey Doyle.
  • Ordinary People: In both the film and the novel, the death of the family's eldest son in a sailing accident sets into motion the emotional crisis from which the family has only outwardly recovered at the start of the narrative.
  • Prom Night (1980) begins with the death of a 10-year-old girl at the hands of her classmates, who vow to tell no one what happened. Six years later, on the night of the prom, a mysterious figure appears to take revenge on the now-grown teenagers for the girl's death.
  • Road to Perdition begins with a funeral where the deceased's brother drunkenly rambling that the mob boss they both worked for killed him. This man later on is killed himself and his death is witnessed by Michael Jr.
  • Goldie's death at the beginning of 'The Hard Goodbye' segment of Sin City triggers Marv's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • In The Skeptic, the death of the protagonist's aunt is what drives the plot forward.
  • Luther in The Sting.
  • Thir13en Ghosts: Cyrus Kriticos is killed in the opening while he and his team were trying to capture a dangerous evil spirit. His mansion is left to his nephew in his will, which turns out to be a Ghost House. As it later turns out, Cyrus faked his death in order to lure his relatives there for a Human Sacrifice.
  • In True Grit The murder of Mattie Ross's father by Tom Chaney sets in motion the revenge quest that drives the story.
  • The death of Will's wife Claudia in Unforgiven colors his attitude for the rest of the film.
  • Ichirō Yashida’s death at the beginning of The Wolverine is what triggers the plot. Except, it turns out, not really.
  • Yamato happens because Makiko Uchida wishes to honour her adoptive father's Last Request.

    Literature 
  • Sense and Sensibility starts with the death of Mr. Dashwood, forcing his widow and daughters to move away from the family home and live in greatly reduced financial circumstances.
  • Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer begins with the death of Lady Serena's father, leading to her discovery that he has named her ex-boyfriend as her guardian.
  • Dragon Bones starts with the death of Ward's father, and Ward inheriting the title. As Ward has pretended to have brain damage from a beating his father gave him years ago, he is now considered unable to rule and has to convince everyone that he is actually quite intelligent and has only pretended to be more affected than he was in order to avoid more violence.
  • Used recurrently in Dan Brown's novels.
  • Discworld:
    • In Thud!, the murder of Grag Hamcrusher leads Sam Vimes on a quest to discover the truth behind the battle of Koom Valley.
    • Deccon Ribobe at the start of Moving Pictures. In the first scene of the book he dies of old age, leaving no-one to perform the rituals that keep the Holy Wood magic in check.
  • The death of King Brion Haldane at the start of Deryni Rising, which begins the multi-volume saga of King Kelson Haldane's rule as well as the specific challenges of getting him safely crowned king.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire doesn't have a single inciting death, but it uses them for the initiation of individual plotlines:
    • In A Game of Thrones, Jon Arryn's death is what causes Eddard Stark (and by extension, the rest of his family) to become involved in the main plot.
    • The Iron Islands plot in A Feast for Crows is triggered by the death of Balon Greyjoy, which happens offscreen during the events of the previous book.
    • The deaths of Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark are what end up triggering the War of the Five Kings.
    • The pre-series executions of Brandon and Rickard Stark, Ned's father and brother, by King Aerys Targaryen, along with the apparent kidnapping of his sister Lyanna by Prince Rhaegar, are the immediate triggers for Robert's Rebellion. The uprising ends with the death of Mad King Aerys, which results in Robert becoming king and marrying Cersei and Viserys and Daenerys fleeing into exile. Fifteen years later, these events result in the plot of A Game of Thrones.
    • King Viserys I's death starts the Targaryen civil war known as The Dance of the Dragons in Archmaester Gyldayn's Histories.
  • Henry Archer's death in Atlanta Nights. Nearly all the characters in the book are in some way connected with him.
  • Aimee's suicide in Aimee is the reason why the main character is put on trial for murder and forced to leave her hometown. Her court-appointed psychiatrist suggests that she write a diary, which is the Framing Device for the book.
  • Aunt Dimity's death starts the whole series.
  • Happens in Warrior Cats. In the first book, Into the Wild, Redtail and Oakheart, the deputies of ThunderClan and RiverClan respectively are killed in a very early battle. Fireheart, main character of the first arc, spends the next three books trying to prove that the celebrated ThunderClan warrior Tigerclaw actually murdered Redtail while uncovering Oakheart's dark secrets and connections to the other Clans.
  • Shortly before the start of The Legend of Sun Knight, Sun's childhood friend Roland is tortured and killed for sport. He is then revived as a powerful undead creature known as a Death Knight. Sun, being the poster board for the church and the one in charge of stopping undead attacks on the city, goes to face him and is unintentionally set up as Roland's killer. The lengths he goes to in order to obtain evidence to prove his innocence and to expose the real murderer cause him to learn revival magic to bribe/threaten his fellow knights into secrecy, which causes another church to interfere in the next book. Had he not met the head of that church, he wouldn't have been called in to help in book 3, etc.
  • Hector, of the Web Serial Novel The Zombie Knight, is an undead example of this trope. The story begins with him dying and meeting Garovel, which is how he starts involving himself in dangerous situations in order to save other people's lives.
  • In the Star Trek novel Spock's World, the death of the Big Bad's mate caused the Big Bad to think that "once again [said character] did not have [their] desire" and set out for Misplaced Retribution on Spock.
  • The Book of Exodus starts when the Egyptian Pharaoh orders the massacre of the Hebrews' firstborn which led to one of them being hidden away and found by Pharaoh's daughter.
  • Old Major's death triggers the plot of Animal Farm as both Snowball and Napoleon plan to make his dream of freeing the farm from human control a reality.
  • In Holes, the death of Sam the onion salesman in the 1880s sets off the events of the entire novel; if Sam hadn't died, his lover Kate Barlow wouldn't have become an outlaw who accumulated a large fortune of stolen riches and buried it in the dried-up lake of her old town. This led to Kate's rejected suitor, Trout Walker, spending the rest of his life trying to find the treasure, thus leading to the establishment of Camp Green Lake.
    • It is actually implied that Green Lake drying up was divine judgement from God after the town killed Sam for nothing more than kissing a white woman.
  • The destruction of Buenos Aires in Starship Troopers.
  • Nicholas Nickleby starts with his father's death, forcing him to work for his miserly uncle.
  • Without Remorse, an early Tom Clancy work and his only book that's not in the technothriller genre, kicks off the main plotline with the brutal murder of escaped Sex Slave and recovering drug addict Pamela Madden by her pimp. Her boyfriend John Kelly, a former Navy SEAL, decides to settle the score personally.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: The main plot starts with the death of a Cabinet minister's Ill Girl fiancee. Mr. Norrell makes his name as a magician by bringing her back with the help of the gentleman with the thistle-down hair... who asks for one or two concessions in exchange...
  • Mo Dao Zu Shi: In order to fulfill the requirements of summoning a villainous ghoul to take revenge, Mo Xuanyu had to scatter his soul (to the point of not being able to come back ever, as a ghost or reincarnated) and sacrificing his body to the protagonist Wei Wuxian who re-entered the world and got the plot rolling.
  • Billy witnessing the death by strangulation of a child is what starts off the plot of Lethal White. Seeing the death and burial decades ago and finally telling Strike leads to the plans of several major characters' plans getting derailed. It's actually subverted - Billy saw a strangling and a burial, but the child did not die and actually grows up to be one of the murderers whose very plan was changed by Billy confessing to seeing the incident to Strike - the effect on the plot is the same, though.
  • The whole plot of Harry Potter kicks off the day after James and Lily Potter are murdered by Lord Voldemort, and Harry is taken to the Dursleys' home as per Dumbledore's orders. Years later, it's revealed that Lily's sacrifice to save her son invoked a very ancient magic, which gave Harry a powerful protection. This protection caused Voldemort's killing curse to rebound on him, destroying his physical body, and driving him to find a way to get it back for the next fourteen years. At the same time, Dumbledore works to try and prepare Harry, since he knows the boy is destined to fight (and hopefully defeat) Voldemort once he eventually returns to power.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Jon Arryn's death is what causes Eddard Stark and his family to become tangled in the game of thrones.
    • While it was Jon Arryn's death that started the events of the series and brought the Starks into the Game, it was Robert's that triggered the Succession Crisis that constitutes the bulk of the plot.
    • Jon Arryn's death may have set the process in motion, but it's Ned's execution that ultimately plunges Westeros into all-out bloody war.
    • The majority of Season 4's King's Landing arc stems from the death of King Joffrey.
    • The war of season 7 is triggered by the deaths of Tommen Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell, and Cersei usurping the throne from them.
  • In the first season of The Killing, Rosie Larsen's murder is what brings all of the characters into the plot.
  • Veronica Mars had some seasons begin with the death(s) of important characters to stimulate the season-long story arc or A-plot.
  • In Glue, the murder of local teenager Cal Bray jumpstarts the plot.
  • Babylon 5:
    • The Raiders, who for most of the first season of the show, were the only recurring antagonists, ended up getting wiped out in a matter of seconds, soon after pulling off their greatest heist, as part of The Reveal of what would be the show's primary villain for the next few seasons.
    • And for the first Season Finale of the show, the death of President Santiago kicks off the other major portion of the story for the next three seasons.
  • Nate Sr.'s death at the beginning of Six Feet Under sets the plot in motion, causing Nate Jr. to end up staying with his family.
  • Johnny Bago. Johnny Tenuti, just out of prison, is set up on a blind date by his cousin with mob connections. The date kills The Don's son, framing Johnny for the crime. Johnny goes on the lam.
  • The pilot of CSI starts with an apparent suicide. This sets up the Paul Millander mystery arc which lasts one and a half seasons.
  • The death of drug baron Harvey Wratten on The Shadow Line, which triggers the two main plots of the show by providing a starting point for Jonah Gabriel's investigations and putting Joseph Bede in charge of Wratten's organisation.
  • Single Father: Rita's death kicks off the series as her widower and children try to find a way to cope afterwards.
  • The Palace: King James is onscreen for a few seconds, doesn't even get a line, and dies before the opening titles. His unprepared twenty-something son Richard becomes King. Scheming ensues.
  • Alias: Sydney tells her fiancé that she is a spy, leading to her boss having him killed. When her leave of absence gets a bit too long for her boss's comfort, he sends killers after her too. Then she finds out that she works for the bad guys, and that her semi-estranged dad is one of them. Then she earns the bad guys' trust so that she can become a double agent with the CIA. Then she finds out that her dad has been a double agent all along. Whew. On to episode two.
  • Teen Wolf: The murder of Derek's sister Laura kicks off the first season since her body being found in the woods is the reason Scott and Stiles are wandering around out there at night, leading to Scott being bitten by the Alpha and becoming a werewolf.
  • Downton Abbey
    • The major plot of centers around Matthew becoming the heir to the title "Earl Grantham" (and the corresponding estate) after both people with better claim to it go down on the Titanic, forcing some rushed (and frequently foolhardy) attempts by the present Earl and family to make sure his daughters are still provided for.
    • The death of Sybil's friend Tom Bellasis in season 2 motivates her to become a nurse.
    • Lavinia's father died in season 3 leaving his fortune to Matthew.
  • Once Upon a Time: David's transformation into Prince Charming in "The Shepherd" began when his hitherto unknown twin James was killed in a duel.
  • Doctor Who
    • The show uses this in The Impossible Astronaut, which kicks off the plot arc of Series 6. The character who dies is the Doctor himself, and apparently permanently. Subverted when it turns out he was Faking the Dead.
    • The main Series 7 arc is also launched when the confirmed new companion Clara is killed off in her second episode. Of course, it's not that she died and more that this was the second time the Doctor saw her die, making him realize there's something weird going on. Because, you know, the same person on two different planets and two different time periods died.
  • Mary Winchester's death in Supernatural's pilot episode.
  • In the first episode of Farscape, when Crichton travels through the wormhole into that strange new part of the universe, his craft accidentally collides with a Peacekeeper vessel at the other end, killing its pilot, who is soon identified as Peacekeeper Commander Bialar Crais' brother—which sets up Crais' vendetta against Crichton for the rest of the season.
  • Viudas E Hijos Del Rock And Roll began with a flashback in 1992. Miranda had a romance with Diego in Villa Gesell, and everything was fine... until her best friend Sandra seduced Roby, Miranda's father. Miranda tried to see Diego again at the Buenos Aires obelisk, as planned, but he failed to meet her in time (and, trying to give mystery to their first date in Buenos Aires, they did not exchange addresses or phone numbers). She renounced to everything related to Rock and Roll, swore to never interact again with the dreaded Sandra or Roby, and started a romance with Segundo, a delicate high-society boy. End of flashback. Now, in the present, Roby has died. Miranda is now the heir of Roby's rock radio, she has to work alongside Sandra (Roby's widow) on a daily basis, and Diego saw her in the funeral and finally located her after so many years.
  • September 11th caused Reese to become an assassin and Finch to build The Machine in Person of Interest.
  • David Palmer and Michelle Dessler are killed at the start of 24 season 5.
  • Twin Peaks. "Who killed Laura Palmer?"
  • Pushing Daisies began with the death of Chuck and Ned resurrecting her.
  • Chuck begins with his ex-best friend and super spy Bryce getting killed but not before sending him The Intersect.
  • Mary Alice's suicide in Desperate Housewives.
  • George dies at the start of Dead Like Me and the rest of the series is about how she must adjust to her new life as a grim reaper and how her family must deal with her death.
  • The Wire kicks off its initial investigation with D'Angelo skating over a murder charge.
  • Weeds: The untimely death of her husband is what pushes Nancy to sell marijuana.
  • One of the first subplots in Rome was the death of Caesar's daughter and Pompey's wife Julia. Pompey marrying someone who was not Caesar's relative was the first sign that they have become enemies.
  • Heroes begins with Mohinder going to New York to investigate the death of his father.
  • Arrowverse
    • Arrow: Every single Plot-Triggering Death somehow stems from the first entry, Rebecca Merlyn, and caused a season's worth of problems. Seasons 1, 3, and 5's can be chained together, while Season 2's is only connected to Season 1's. The only season that wasn't the result of a death, from either Oliver's five years away from home or previous seasons, was Season 4.
      • The death of Rebecca Merlyn twenty-one years before the start of the series is the very impetus for the entire show. If she hadn't died, then her husband Malcolm Merlyn wouldn't have gone insane in trying to avenge her death with the Undertaking and try to kill his best friend Robert in order to stop him from trying to prevent it, resulting in Oliver Queen being stranded on Lian Yu for five years and becoming the Arrow.
      • Shado's death on the island is what prompts the events of Season 2. Slade Wilson, who loved her, is driven insane by the Mirakuru, and Oliver's role in her death twists his mind and causes him to direct his rage at Oliver, his friends, his family, and ultimately Star(ling) City as a whole.
      • The death of Sara Lance causes the events of Season 3. Malcolm Merlyn (as always) brainwashes his daughter Thea into killing her, forcing Oliver to take the blame and in turn, pique Ra's al Ghul's interest. Sara was later revived at the beginning of Season 4.
      • Ra's al Ghul's death is the trigger for Season 5, as his daughter Talia was so enraged by it that she trained Big Bad Prometheus to help her take revenge on Oliver.
    • The Flash (2014)
      • The murder of Nora Allen fourteen years prior to the start of the series drives most of the plot of Season 1, as her son Barry's main goal is to solve it so he can get his father Henry, who was wrongly convicted for her death, out of prison.
      • Henry Allen's own death towards the end of Season 2 breaks Barry enough to create the alternate timeline Flashpoint, the consequences of which drive most of the plot of Season 3.
      • Iris West's premature death at the end of Season 3, as foretold in the midseason finale, was a result of Flashpoint, and also serves as a Plot-Triggering Death. More specifically, it acts as the lynchpin for a Stable Time Loop that ensures the existence of Big Bad Savitar. When her death is prevented in the season finale, the loop breaks and Savitar only has a few hours left before the paradox catches up to him and he ceases to exist.
    • Legends of Tomorrow:
      • Rip initially gathers the Legends in order to prevent the deaths of his wife and son at the hands of Vandal Savage.
      • Eddie Thawne's death in the Season 1 finale of The Flash is the indirect cause of Season 2, as it turned his descendant Eobard Thawne into a time remnant and thus a target for the Black Flash, forcing him to create the Legion of Doom to search for the Spear of Destiny, or face certain non-existence.
  • In Agent Carter, the murder of Jane Scott in the first episode of Season Two kicks off the plot, with Peggy being sent to LA to investigate both the death and the bizarre circumstances the body was found in (fished out of a frozen lake... in the middle of a Californian summer).
  • Daredevil:
    • The plot of season 1 is kicked off when Karen Page gets framed by Wilson Fisk for murder, and Matt and Foggy seek to clear her name.
    • The plot of season 2 is kicked off by a massacre of Kitchen Irish members courtesy of Frank Castle.
  • Jessica Jones: The main plot of season 1 is instigated by Kilgrave ordering Hope Schlottman to kill her parents in front of Jessica.
  • Luke Cage: Everything in the plot unfolds due to a group of Harlem street thugs shooting up a gun deal between Cottonmouth and Domingo. Cottonmouth's efforts to recuperate his losses end up causing Luke Cage to start coming after him.
  • The Punisher: The whole plot of the show was kicked off as the result of Frank's execution of Ahmed Zubair on the orders of William Rawlins. Because he was mistaken as the mole who leaked the tape of the execution to Micro (instead of Gunner Henderson, the actual one doing the filming), Frank's whole family is killed on Rawlins' orders, which leads to the plot of Daredevil season 2.
  • In the first season of Harrow, the discovery of Quinn's body in the river is the triggering event that starts Daniel Harrow's life unravelling.
  • Westworld:
    • The death of Arnold Weber, one of the co-founders of the titular park, convinced his partner, Robert Ford, that he is right that the hosts can achieve consciousness after years of seeing the abuse inflicted by the human employees and guests. This prompted him to create a new narrative that would start the Robot War by helping Dolores continue her path of consciousness.
    • Ford's death triggered the plot of Season 2 where the characters had to experience the host rebellion led by Dolores who is the one who killed Ford.
  • Played with in This Time With Alan Partridge. The regular male co-host of the titular show falls ill before the events of the series, leading to Alan Partridge filling his spot as a temporary co-host. However, while the illness that leads to his death serves the purpose of this trope in the series, he doesn't actually die (or at least isn't revealed to have died) until the second episode.
  • Orphan Black starts with Beth Childs' suicide, which draws witness Sarah Manning into the clone conspiracy.
  • Kamen Rider Ryuki: The newbie journalist Shinji Kido gets involved in the events of the Rider War while he investigates a string of mysterious disappearances and finds an odd deck of card in the flat of certain Koichi Sakakibara. While the circumstances indirectly confirm the man's death, it's never brought up in the plot again and it only serves to start it off.
  • Kamen Rider Ghost kicks off with the death of Takeru Tenkuuji and is underscored by his and his friends' effort to find a way to bring him back to life before his time as a ghost runs out and he'll become Deader Than Dead.
  • Kamen Rider Zero-One starts with Aruto Hiden's appointment as the new CEO of Hiden Intelligence after the death of his grandfather Korenosuke.
  • A year before the start of Never Have I Ever, Devi's father dies of a heart attack during her orchestra concert. On top of this, she was also paralyzed during swim practice. The show follows her as she tries to heal from her trauma.
  • Alex Rider: Two of them.
    • Michael Roscoe's murder. He dies leaving a message for Alan Blunt, that he's worried about his son. The ensuing investigation results in...
    • Ian Rider's murder, and the weak cover story Alex is given, causes Alex to investigate and attract Blunt's attention.
  • Velvet: Rafael Marquez's suicide in the first episode sets the series' plot in motion.

    Radio 
  • Old Harry's Game, which is set in Hell, starts with the two main human characters dying as the result of a car crash. Episode one, scene one, is Thomas's inner monologue as surgeons try, and fail, to save his life.

    Theatre 
  • Older Than Steam: Hamlet begins with the king's death (though the dead man also appears as a ghost) at the hands of his brother Claudius, and Hamlet sets out to avenge him.
  • Another Shakespearean example: the murder of the Duke of Gloucester (before the start of the play) in Richard II. We never learn exactly who did the direct killing, but we do learn that King Richard himself was behind it, and his actions to prevent that fact being discovered set the rest of the play in motion.
  • Chicago: Roxie Hart shoots her boyfriend, which is what lands her in prison and on trial for murder.
  • A Raisin in the Sun involves an inner-city black family's conflicts over how to spend a life-insurance check following the death of the father.
  • The so-called Accidental Death of an Anarchist, and the subsequent inquiry into it, is what sets the plot in motion.
  • Hamilton indicates that the death of Alexander Hamilton's mother led to much of what happened to him as a young man.

    Video Games 
  • In Mother 3, the death of Hinawa is what basically shifts the course of Tazmily and its populace onto the road of becoming more dependent on technology and less on community bonds. She was basically the glue that helped the villagers remember the importance of said community and without her, it's very noticeable how her passing has a large effect on the town as a whole. It's also basically the catalyst for what the rest of her family members do to drive the plot going forward, that being Flint going crazy from grief and neglecting Lucas, Claus going off on his own to avenge his Mother then getting killed and robotized as the leader of Porky's army, and Lucas learning to cope with his mother's death and fight against the pigmasks that indirectly killed her to save his home.
  • The Joker's death at the hands of a grieving Superman early on in Injustice: Gods Among Us served as the catalyst for everything falling apart in the Injustice-verse. In the sequel, Doctor Fate lampshades on the fact that the Joker's scheme to cause Superman's Face–Heel Turn and Start of Darkness by tricking him into killing his wife Lois and nuking Metropolis worked so well that it caused the Lords of Order to slowly give up on humanity and back Brainiac's invasion of Earth in Injustice 2. Fate even warns of a greater catastrophe coming on the horizon - that the Lords will back should the infighting between Batman and Superman keep going.
  • Robert's death in The Last of Us has set off a chain of circumstances that leads to Joel meeting up with Ellie. If it wasn't for Robert selling the guns to the Fireflies (without Tess and Joel's permission), Joel would never have met Marlene, the Leader of the Fireflies. And if Joel had never met Marlene, he would never have had to escort Ellie to safety at her request. Even earlier, if Sarah hadn't died at the beginning, the game would probably just be about Joel and Sarah trying to survive everyday life, and Joel never would've met most of the rest of the cast.
  • In Xenoblade, the death of Fiora at the hands of the Mechon leader and Big Bad Metal Face in the first moments of the game is what inspired Shulk and Reyn go ahead and kick Mechon ass in order to avenge her. As time passes, everything starts getting much more complex than that- for one thing, Fiora comes back (in Mechon form), and Metal Face is nowhere near the Big Bad.
  • Call of Duty:
    • President Al-Fulani's execution in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a downplayed instance, as it only sparks the American side of the campaign, which is noticeably shorter and more self-contained than the British side, and is over and done with before the halfway point. However, his death, combined with the deaths of 30,000 Marines in the ensuing events and the apathetic response from the rest of the world to those deaths, are what motivates the Big Bad of Modern Warfare 2.
    • Call of Duty: Black Ops is more or less kicked off by Dimitri Petrenko's death late in 1945, which is the motivation for Viktor Reznov to plot his revenge for almost twenty years. Interestingly, the way he's able to put the scheme into motion is thanks in part to another one, the death of a body-double of Fidel Castro, which ultimately leads to Alex Mason being captured and sent to the same gulag as Reznov.
    • Will Irons dying is what sparked Jonathan Irons, CEO of Atlas Corporation, to become involved in the story of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (although given the fact Irons is sitting at the helm of the world's largest standing military and dislikes government militaries even prior to the game, things may have happened with or without Will's death).
  • Cave Johnson's death can be seen as this for the Portal franchise. His death sparked the creation of GLaDOS, which in turn caused the creation of Wheatley and the plot of Portal.
  • Your guardian Gorion's death at the start of Baldur's Gate (the first game) kicks off the plot (as well as Bhaal's once more of the plot is uncovered...).
  • As the page quote shows the plot of Eternal Darkness is set off by the death of the main character's grandfather, which leads Alex to his house and to find the Tome Of Eternal Darkness which serves as a framing device for previous characters' struggles in the fight (who might also count as this trope, given they have a tendency to die or worse at the end of their chapters).
  • The plot of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas starts when CJ comes back to Los Santos after five years in Liberty City to attend his mother's funeral.
  • Echo Night begins with Richard learning that his father perished in a house fire. While searching for anything that might be salvaged from the ruins, he discovers a secret passageway to a room containing a strange painting, which drags him back onto the deck of the Orpheus and strands him there.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The main plot of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is kicked off some 4000 years prior to the time the game takes place with the death of Lord Indoril Nerevar. His death, the subsequent events of Dagoth Ur and the Tribunal using the Heart of Lorkhan to obtain divinity, and his prophesied Reincarnation are the driving force behind the game's plot.
    • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion begins with Uriel Septim murdered along with all his direct heirs, severing a pact with the Aedra to keep the mortal world from the Daedra, starting a Hell on Earth plot.
    • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the civil war plotline is kicked off by the pre-game murder of High King Torygg at the hands of Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak.
      • The plot of the Dawnguard expansion is partly triggered by the annihilation of the Vigil of Stendarr, a Church Militant group dedicated to the god of mercy, by the Volkihar vampires.
  • North Vandernot in BeTrapped!. He left the bulk of his estate - including the Bloodstone - to his niece, May, who lived in New York.
  • Jade Champion's death in Interstate '76 is what ultimately drags her brother Groove into the same life she lived as an auto-vigilante.
  • In The Cat Lady, the Queen of Maggots' plan to exterminate the Parasites is only set into motion once Susan, the protagonist, takes her own life.
  • Ghost Trick starts with an already dead Sissel discovering the powers of the dead he's been granted, looking forward to using them to solve the mystery of who he was. As he progresses, it is discovered that the entire chain of events that lead to the current situation also started off with a pair of deaths. Namely, the Big Bad Yomiel's "death" caused by the Temsik meteorite ten years before, and the subsequent suicide of his fiancée, driving him to madness and a revenge plot.
  • A young woman by the name Heidi McCourt gets murdered in cold blood by Dutch van der Linde in the Blackwater ferry heist that happens right before the start of Red Dead Redemption II. Her murder leads the law to the boat and puts the gang on the run after stashing the take. Her death also sets off the events of the first game by proxy.
  • Fatal Frame
    • Fatal Frame III: The Tormented: Kaname Ototsuki's death. He snuck into the temple where his lover was lying, covered in the Holly tattoos, and woke her up. Kaname is killed in front of Reika's eyes, which causes the Holly to enter her eyes and not only force her to replay her lover's death in front of her eyes until she's appeased, but also released the Rift into the temple, killing hundreds, and pull people into the Manor of Sleep.
    • Fatal Frame V: Maiden of Black Water: The Maidens of the Black Water were brutally killed, which was psychically and emotionally felt by Ouse. Their death and regret, along with her own desire to live with Kunihiko Asou instead of simply dying with him, caused her ritual to fail and doom Mt Hikami.
  • Bayonetta 2 kicks off with Jeanne sacrificing her soul to save Bayonetta from an out of control demon, which causes Bayonetta to go find a way to Inferno to rescue her.
  • The death of the Balance Guardian Ariel kicks off the Legacy of Kain saga.
  • Far Cry 4's plot is triggered after the death of Ajay's mother, who wishes to have her ashes scattered through Kyrat. However, he finds in the midst of a civil war.
  • Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars begins with Nod destroying the GDI satellite Philadelphia and killing GDI's leadership. Kane's Wrath revealed it was to make sure Redmund Boyle would become GDI's director and Nod's Unwitting Pawn.
  • Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense begins with the newly reformed Coyotes killing the Vigilante leader Convoy.
  • Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in the US) starts with the player character committing a murder while under a trance. You have to clear his name, and also play as the cops who are investigating the murder.
  • The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker hinges on one of these. The player character is trying to solve Dekker's murder while simultaneously treating the psychological patients he left behind.
  • Undertale is what it is mostly because the first Fallen Child died a long time ago. Their death (well, the side effects of their Thanatos Gambit) is the reason there's a standing order to kill all humans who enter the Underground and why Toriel ( the child's adoptive mother and the former queen of the Underground) lives in the Ruins.
  • Tales of Berseria only happens because Velvet's little brother Laphicet is killed as a Human Sacrifice by Artorias during the Advent, setting up for her quest for Revenge. It ultimately turns out the real Plot-Triggering Death is Celica Crowe dying in the Opening, aka Artorius Collbrande's wife back when he was "Arthur". Since she was pregnant at the time, her and Arthur's unborn son was used as the first Human Sacrifice to unlock part of the seal on Innominant. And then Melchior showed up and encouraged Artorius to take the first steps to his vision of "order" and "reason"...
  • Anna Voralberg's death at the start of Syberia forces lawyer Kate Walker to seek out Anna's previously believed dead brother, Hans, to buy the family's toy company from him, thus setting off the events of the series.
  • The deaths of Serph Sheffield and Heat O'Brien five years before Digital Devil Saga kicked off almost the entire plot. The creation of the Junkyard? That was the final straw that made O'Brien snap and try to kill Sheffield. The horrible state of the world in the sequel? Sera was communing with Bhrama when she saw O'Brien's death, which angered Bhrama to the point of destroying the world. The Demon Virus? Sheffield was killed because he turned into a demon and went berserk. As one of the first people to ever transform, the Karma Society extracted the virus from him (and Meganada). Heat's sudden betrayal of the party? The Karma Society showed him the circumstances of O'Brien's death.
  • The Mystery of Grimstone Manor, a Halloween Episode mini-game from the creators of The Cabinets Of Doctor Arcana, gets started by the death of the protagonist's mysterious Uncle Victor. He wanted to leave all his worldly possessions to his last living relative (the player), but they have to prove themselves first.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past starts with the sorcerer Agahnim killing the King of Hyrule. But for Link, the plot really starts when he finds his uncle - his only living relative - on the brink of death, and is urged to Take Up My Sword. Unlike most examples, both of these deaths are undone by the end of the game.
    • Ganondorf killing the King of Hyrule is the true plot starter in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, as it sends young Princess Zelda into hiding and young Link into his seven-year coma.
    • The death of the King of Twilight is eventually revealed to be the catalyst of the events of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Depending on which origin is chosen in Dragon Age: Origins, there may be at least one of these for the protagonist in their backstory. But for all of the origins (and Alistair), the deaths of King Cailan and the rest of the Fereldan Grey Wardens are the starting point of everything going to hell.
      • Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, the post-game expansion pack, starts with the darkspawn attacking and killing almost everyone in the Wardens' fortress of Vigil's Keep.
    • Malcolm Hawke's death sometime prior to the beginning of Dragon Age II leaves his widow and children in a very bad situation when their home in Ferelden is destroyed by darkspawn.
    • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, the trope is taken Up to Eleven by the deaths of literally everyone (except the player) who attended the Divine's Conclave prior to the beginning of the game.
  • A staple of the Yakuza series (in chronological order):
    • Yakuza 0: The murder of a debtor Kiryu had shaken down in an otherwise insignificant empty lot drags him into a brewing civil war within the Tojo Clan, with a massive real estate development and the future Chairmanship on the line.
    • Yakuza: Nishiki's murder of Sohei Dojima lands Kiryu in jail for ten years, and therefore unavailable to prevent Nishiki's Start of Darkness. Later, the murder of Chairman Sera is linked to the disappearance of 10 billion yen, sparking a civil war in the Tojo Clan with the Chairmanship on the line.
    • Yakuza 2: The assassination of Fifth Chairman Terada leaves the Tojo Clan leaderless and therefore vulnerable to attack from their rivals, the Omi Alliance, and it's up to Kiryu to provide some stability before a full on gang war begins.
    • Yakuza 3: The attempted assassination of Sixth Chairman Daigo Dojima (along with the theft of the deed to the orphanage Kiryu's been running) draws Kiryu out of retirement on Okinawa and up against a government conspiracy that threatens both the Tojo Clan and Kiryu's new family.
    • Yakuza 6: The son of a Chinese triad boss is murdered in Kamurocho, leading to a gang war between the triad and the Tojo Clan that Kiryu gets involved in because his adoptive niece/daughter, Haruka, unwittingly had a child with the triad boss' Spare to the Throne, and was put in a coma after an attempted hit on the infant.
  • Both of the first two games in the Detectives United series have one of these, as the Big Bad of each game has a Freudian Excuse for what he's doing. The wife and children of the first game's villain were murdered by criminals; the wife and son of the second game's villain were killed in a terrible car accident. In both cases, the Big Bad is a good man who has been driven to evil extremes to try to revive his family. Fortunately, in this universe, the rule of Stable Time Loop does not apply and the heroes are able to make it that neither of these events ever happened, thereby averting the present-day tragedies which resulted.

    Visual Novels 
  • Sayoko Robbin's murder at the beginning of Another Code sets her husband off to finish her invention and, later, her daughter to go and clean up their messes.
  • In Hotel Dusk: Room 215, The death of Bradley's sister Mila sets him off on his plan to take down Nile, followed by his faked death at Kyle's hands to prompt Kyle to find him and unravel the mystery behind it all.
  • The death of Gregory Edgeworth could easily be one of these in the Ace Attorney series. Basically, it was his death that kickstarted Miles' ambition to be a lawyer, which started Phoenix's. You could even go further back and say that it was Isaku Hyodo's death that led to Gregory's, and so on. Gregory's death was also the distant catalyst for Misty Fey's disappearance (which in turn had several repercussions on the Fey clan, such as Dahlia and Iris's father leaving, Mia's Promotion to Parent, Yanni Yogi's Obfuscating Stupidity, etc.).
    • In fact, a lot of deaths in this series have kicked off new arcs and plots (Mia Fey, Magnifi Gramarye, etc). This makes sense in a world where it's Always Murder.
  • Snatcher. Jean-Jack Gibson's death leads Gillian and Metal Gear to investigate what he was doing before his gruesome end. This leads right into Gillian resuming Gibson's investigation on where the Snatchers are being built in Neo Kobe City.
  • While many deaths occur in Umineko: When They Cry, it turns out that there was the death of one person in particular that was really responsible for setting the events of the series in motion: Beatrice Castiglioni, Kinzo's secret lover, who died from giving birth to their daughter, Beatrice II, who would then give birth to Beatrice the Golden Witch/Sayo Yasuda.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors plays with this. While not immediately obvious, through the game you find out about a death of a girl 9 years prior to when the game takes place, and it later turns out that said girl's death is the reason behind Zero's plan. The girl is later revealed to be Akane, who is also Zero- she intends to use a mindlink between her and Junpei to send information she needs to survive to the past to prevent her death.

    Web Original 
  • The Human Prince in Elfslayer Chronicles has a Plot Derailing Death. The plot the DM had planned was an escort mission to bring him home to his kingdom to stop the war between them and the Elven Kingdom. However, one of the players decided to instead murder him and frame his elvish lover, turning the plot into a murder mystery/ Xanatos Gambit on the part of that player.
  • Dellarko Karinik's death in Help Not Wanted: Remixed Phallic Memories in HD, which the four protagonists try to solve while also finding themselves entangled in a conspiracy between two rivalry orc tribes.
  • Ozma's initial death from illness in the backstory of RWBY set the entire series in motion, as it's what led to Salem's Start of Darkness and the human race being wiped out and being brought back in it's current weaker form.
  • Meta Runner: The apparent deaths of two TASCorp alumni, scientist Dr. Sheridan and Meta Runner Lucinia Porter, led Lucinia’s fellow Meta Runner Masa to suspect her murder by their boss, Lucks, leading to a failed attempt to hack into his private server for evidence, leading to his decommissioning, and Masa in turn to form MD-5 with Lucinia’s sister, Sofia, to fight against his former employer. Meanwhile, main protagonist Tari is connected by unknown means to Project Blue, which was what Dr. Sheridan was working on before he and Lucinia were seemingly blown up, and has very brief and cryptic flashbacks to him and the accident when she wakes up.

    Webcomics 
  • In El Goonish Shive, everything to do with Pandora's situation and her relationship with her son Adrian extends from Blaike Raven's tragic death.

    Western Animation 
  • TRON: Uprising: The entire plot can be traced back to the death (or derezzment, in this case) of Bodhi, Beck's best friend, at the hands of one of Clu's soldiers, which inspired Beck into taking on the mantle of Tron.
  • The Simpsons two-parter "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" starts with the death of a class hamster at Springfield Elementary. While burying the deceased creature, Groundskeeper Willie digs into an oil well underneath the school building, creating the conflict that will lead to Burns being shot.
  • Bojack Horseman: Sarah Lynn's death in season 3 is the catalyst for the events in season 6: Bojack's guilt and the investigation into his past that brings about his downfall.

    Real Life 
  • While it's almost certain that something would have touched it off sooner or later, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is widely considered the first in a chain of events that led to the outbreak of World War I.
  • Often seen in monarchies when the reigning sovereign dies, especially if the next person in line is underage or just barely of age. If the new ruler's reign is particularly noteworthy (good or bad), the death of the predecessor can be seen as this.
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