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Tempting Fate

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Heinrich Hoffmann sends his condolences.

"Fate is like a caged gorilla. It will pelt you with dung if you mock it."
Warriv, Diablo II

Some things just shouldn't be said, even in jest. Taunting a monster or Bullying a Dragon is likely to end badly. (Mugging the Monster definitely will.) Monologuing will invariably give The Hero the time he needs to defeat you. And then there's this trope.

Tempting Fate is when a character says something that dares the universe into making things miserable for them, and the universe takes them up on the challenge. Oftentimes, the character is commenting on how they've hit Rock Bottom and how things couldn't possibly get any worse — right before things do turn From Bad to Worse. Conversely, they may talk about how things are absolutely perfect, only for their world to come crashing down five seconds later. Also watch out for a Gilligan Cut.

And sometimes tempting fate can get downright lethal. For example, that guy in every horror movie who tells his friends "I'll be right back" before wandering off by himself is most assuredly not going to be back. Or that guy in every war movie who shows that picture of his family to the others and expresses his hope to get through this and make it back home to them, which all but ensures that he won't make it. Or that veteran cop in every action movie who's just a few days away from Retirement, and thus doomed to be gunned down in his final case. This particular variant of Tempting Fate is known as a Death Flag.

The fate-tempting words may be followed up by a friend saying "You Just Had to Say It!" Of course, whether fate really had a hand in it or not depends on the situation. After all, it's not like fate just magically materialized that guard ambushing you from nowhere, right? What matters is that events pre-planned or not conspire to make things terrible the moment such phrases are uttered.

For the super-tropes to this, see Trope Telegraphing and Be Careful What You Say. Compare Schmuck Bait, Instantly Proven Wrong, Speak of the Devil, Threat Backfire, and Too Good to be True. Contrast the Godzilla Threshold, when things really can't get any worse, and Already the Case where fate has acted before the tempting. Keeping to disturb the court after getting a Penultimate Outburst warning is akin to tempting fate in Law Procedurals.

And don't forget the Evil Overlord List, either.

Sub-tropes and related tropes:

There's a Long List of tropes and Stock Phrases that are specific varieties of Tempting Fate, or are commonly played alongside it, either in the temptation or in the response:

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • Never say no to Panda.
  • Hyundai's Super Bowl commercial. It starts with a young kid playing with a football when it was taken by some older bullies who tell him if he wants it back to get his own team. Cue montage of the kid rounding up the most badass prepubescent kids around, doing things like wrestling bears or carrying adults out of burning buildings.
  • "American Honda Presents DC Comics Supergirl": During his second nightmare, Steve refuses to wear his seat belt while driving Ellen through a jungle, claiming it is safer that way. Shortly after they are attacked by a tiger and get a giant boulder dropped on them. Steve manages to dodge both dangers, but he continues to ignore his sister's pleas to buckle up, insisting that they are perfectly safe. Two panels later, his jeep is broadsided by a truck driven by bandits, and Steve goes flying off into some rocks.
  • "Victory by Computer": Lex Luthor announces he will escape from his cell within 12 hours, and Superman himself will break him out. Superman checks his cell, finds out all defensive mechanisms are intact, and states they can relax. Luthor advices them to not relax too much, since Superman of all people should know Luthor does not make promises he cannot keep.
  • In the late 1980s, there was a memorable Ad Council public service announcement on teen alcohol abuse and drunk driving. After a night of cruising the boulevard, a group of teenagers is ready to call it an evening and go home ... except the driver complains that the night is young and still wants to party. His passengers — about four or five of them — realize he's been drinking and is in no condition to drive ... but the driver insists that he is fine, especially after barely avoiding a collision with an oncoming car. After the others beg him to pull over, the driver plays the trope and says, "I AM INVINCIBLE!!!!" Immediately thereafter, he slams on the brakes ... but cannot avoid a deadly head-on collision. The commercial is best known for its use of Michael Jackson's "Beat It," playing on the teens' car stereo.
  • In a Real Life example, Singapore made use of the upcoming 2014 World Cup in an ad to publicize gambling addiction, featuring a young boy sadly telling his friends his father had bet everything they owned on Germany. A heart-breaking scene - made less heart-breaking when Germany won.
  • The Pizza Head Show: In one ad promoting a tie-in for the remastered editions of the original Star Wars trilogy, Pizza Head finds himself plunged into a space battle with "Darth Steve". Pizza Head eventually gets fed up, saying "Get that Skywalker guy to do this! I'm going back to Pizza Hut, where it's safe!" The commercial ends with the intergalactic Pizza Hut getting blown up by the Death Star mere seconds after Pizza Head lands.
    Pizza Head: I don't think the Force was with me...
  • The guy in this 1985 commercial for Oxy Pads, shown at the end where he mouths off to the Interactive Narrator.
  • Dr. Pepper: What's the worst that could happen? (And yes, that is in fact Jesse Eisenberg.)
  • A banned commercial in Indonesia. (starts at 00:15) One guy voiced his disbelief that there's an offer for telephone quota that's very cheap that if he found one, he's going to re-marry with a monkey. An advertisement of such pops up right afterwards. There was a sequel involving the same guy not learning his lesson that when he heard there's going to be another cheaper telephone quota price, he declared that he'll re-marry with a goat if he saw one. And lo and behold, the guy was then involved in a threesome with a monkey and a goat.

  • BoBoiBoy: BoBoiBoy is anxious about taking care of Tok Aba's stall on his own, to which Tok Aba replies that it isn't as if the customers would be aliens. Not long after, BoBoiBoy happens upon the series' alien antagonists, as he catches the alien's robot named Probe snatching cocoa from the stall and chases him.
  • Happy Heroes: Big M., after regaining his memory in Season 2 episode 50, is informed by Little M. that someone told Happy S. their shark's weakness - the someone in question being Big M. himself while he was amnesiac, which neither character realizes. Big M. exclaims that the person who gave away the shark's weakness should be hit on the head by a flower pot and attacked by angry dogs... which is exactly what happens to him a second later.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, any unfortunate ideas that Jonie comes up with are almost guaranteed to happen immediately after she mentions them. In particular, if she says anything related to Wolffy appearing, you'd better watch out for him.

    Audio Plays 
  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who drama "The Revolution", after the Doctor has crashed their spaceship and maintained a constant chatter as they slog through the jungle, Benny nearly says "It can't get worse", but then stops herself. When they immediately get attacked by natives anyway, she protests that she didn't say it. "That's against the rules!"

  • According to Bill Bailey, while he was performing at a charity gig sponsored by a Swiss banking firm, the organisers of the gig explicitly asked him not to make any jokes about Nazi Gold. Never ask a comedian not to make jokes about something; Bill later did some research into the bank in question, and devotes part of his Tinselworm DVD to making jokes about the bank's ties to the Nazi regime and encourages the audience to protest against them.
  • Dara Ó Briain also has a routine about how the one thing that you should never do is to tell a comedian not to do material about something; when he was doing a gig where a certain celebrity was present, he was warned not to do any jokes about a super-injunction; a super-injunction is a legal injunction that cannot be publicized, meaning Dara obviously had zero idea about it prior to being warned not to mention it, and he promptly started to make light of it.

    Fairy Tales 
  • "Heart of Ice (Andrew Lang)": A literal example. King Farda-Kinbras and Queen Birbantine were so happy together they defied fate to ruin their happiness. Fairy Gorgonzola, who was listening, got pissed at their arrogance, and took their daughter's heart away.

  • Many professions have superstitions designed to avert and/or subvert this trope, such as stage performers' traditional well-wish of "Break a leg!" (because telling someone "You'll be fantastic!" is tempting fate), or sailors' reluctance to call "lifeboats" by that name (so Fate won't put its accuracy to the test).

  • In one version of The Clovers' "Love Potion #9", the protagonist isn't deterred by the encounter with the cop, and decides to go back to the gypsy lady and ask for the #10 version.
  • Hawkwind:
    • Robert Calvert's 1974 solo debut, Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters, has several examples, being a satirical account of the Luftwaffe's controversial adoption of the F-104 Starfighter. Defence Minister Franz Josef Strauss (Vivian Stanshall) is mad with desire at resurrecting German air superiority, later being enticed by an American Con Man (Jim Capaldi). The latter sells the titular F-104 Starfighter Plane in bulk, refitting them as the "F-104G" (for Germany, as Strauss squees over). The F-104 was a fighter infamous for its safety record, quickly becoming known as Der Witwenmacher (The Widowmaker), with at least 30% of the planes having crashed.
    • Similarly, the titular Captain Lockheed (Calvert) is a drugged-up test pilot with a bravado to match. Once the press unravels the whole charade, Strauss and the entire defence board resign.
    • It becomes strangely predictive, seeing as how the scandals stretched to other friendly governments, including the Netherlands and Japan, as well as how Lockheed had been bailed out in 1971, only to have been revealed to have spent $22 Million in ensuring the use of the Starfighter around the world in 1976.
    • The entire story's also lampshaded by the Gremlin, an embodiment of aerial disasters and the album's loose Greek Chorus.
  • Machinae Supremacy, Need for Steve, opening speech:
    "We'll give you complete creative control."
  • The Notorious B.I.G.'s albums are infamous for that. His first album and the only one released in his lifetime? Ready to Die. His second album, the last one on which he had creative input on and his first posthumous release? Life After Death. His third album, and first posthumous album? Born Again.
  • In December 2009, as a campaign to make their song "Killing in the Name" the UK Christmas No.1 rapidly gained traction, Rage Against the Machine were booked to perform it live on BBC Radio, and were sternly told beforehand to censor the song's infamous crescendo. You know, the one where Zach de la Rocha yells "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" over and over again. Three guesses what de la Rocha did.
  • After winning the FA Cup in 1994 and making it to the 1995 Final, Manchester United released a song called "We’re Gonna Do It Again", presumably "it" being winning the FA Cup again. The result in the Final? Everton 1 Manchester United 0.
  • C. W. McCall: In "Four Wheel Drive", the narrator says repeatedly that "Well, the chase was on, but I had the edge / With a rig that'll never fail". The song ends with him saying his "CJ-5 with a four-wheel drive" is "Settin' out back a' the jail".

    Music Videos 
  • Part way through the video for Cat Hairballs, Stimpy (who is hwarfing up hairballs for Ren to stamp and send down a conveyor belt) reassures "Don't you fret, I won't run out, I've lots more hair to spare." This is not long before the video focuses on Stimpy running out of body parts to lick and starts desperately slurping and hwarfing, which has begun to take a physical tole on Stimpy. By the end, Stimpy is half dead and licked clean. And after a final failed attempt at hwarfing, passes out on the conveyor belt and gets violently stamped on the ass with a painful hularf sound effect, which leaves a butt brand across Stimpy's butt cheeks.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Countless instances in Greek Mythology. Proclaiming oneself smarter/mightier/prettier/better than the gods always brings immediate ruin down on the offending mortal (if the gods don't at least choose to be lenient and instead put said mortal to the test), yet mortals do this continuously.
    • In the story of the Seven Against Thebes (as re-told in The Thebaid), one of the leaders, Capaneus, stood just at the wall of the city and shouted that Zeus himself could not stop him from invading it. Zeus promptly killed him with a thunderbolt.
    • In revenge for Diomedes wounding her before Troy, Aphrodite saw to it that he was driven into exile in Italy. Trying to cheer him up, his six companions told him that at least Aphrodite could do no worse to them. She then turned the six companions into birds.

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance had a small bit of audience interaction, in which listeners could submit items for the Fantasy Costco to sell, provided they didn't already exist and weren't too broken to ever use. The only exception to this rule was the Flaming Poisoning Raging Sword Of Doom, an insanely powerful item submitted by an eight year-old fan that Griffin included in the game as a shout-out to said fan. Realizing the sword was a Game-Breaker unlike any other, he stopped the party from getting their hands on it by pricing it at 60.000 gold, which is more than they'd ever be able to get in the game. However, he severely underestimated Taako, who exploited the game mechanics so badly that Garfield ended up giving him the sword for only 900 gold.note 
  • In the Firefly game of Cool Kids Table, as soon as Todd says that "nothing will go wrong" when they fly into the Reaver territory, the lights go out and the screens start flashing. Then they cut to commercial.
  • As episode seven of Sequinox begins, Alan and Cassidy realize that they were relatively unscathed after the last episode's fight, unlike Jake. Shannon the GM then writes something down ominously.
    Shannon: Sounds to me like you were complaining you didn't get hurt enough!
  • The D&D podcast The Lucky Die has a behind-the-scenes series called Beyond the Eclipse. In episode 4, which came out roughly the same time as episode 150 of the main show, Dungeon Master Volonda complains that, while she is greatly enjoying the game, it's taking much longer than she originally expected and she begs for it to just be done already. Two years, a hundred episodes, and one IRL wedding later, and the show is still going strong.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Any time a wrestler says something like "I could beat you with one hand tied behind my back!", you can bet the house that he'll be put in a match with such a stipulation.
  • Whenever someone issues an open challenge and says he/she is ready for anyone on the roster, the result is usually being squashed by the biggest person in the company.
  • At the 1988 edition of SummerSlam, Honky Tonk Man, having no one to face for the championship with the recent injury of Brutus Beefcake, demanded an opponent. He was then squashed in half a minute by the Ultimate Warrior.
  • Royal Rumble 1999 Vince McMahon said when he drew his number that he'd hoped he'd draw #2. He ended up drawing #30. However, fate repaid the temptation when Shawn Michaels (then-Commissioner of the WWF) announced that Vince McMahon would be #2 in the Royal Rumble.
  • After a WWE Title match on Smackdown between Rey Mysterio and the late Eddie Guerrero, heel manager Paul Heyman shows up, and after delivering a bigoted speech to both Eddie and Mysterio in which he expresses his desire to see the two of them and their families deported, he rants on about his "vision" for Smackdown, and ends the speech with "...and there's not a man alive who's going to stand in my way!" Guess who shows up seconds later to kick Heyman's ass.
    • The cocky rant itself was tempting more fate — the next week he was drafted to Raw and minutes later quit his job.
    • A similar thing happened to William Regal during his phase as Raw's heel GM and King of the Ring, when he often blacked out the venue during fights and such. Well, with Regal on the verge of dictator, loudmouth Mr. Kennedy interrupts him asking for a fight. Regal responds, "The very next person who interrupts me, whether it be you or anyone else, will be fired on the spot." Guess who is the next person that interrupts Regal. And by the way, Regal would later lose his match versus Kennedy and get FIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRRREEED!!! as a result of Mr. McMahon's proposition.
    • Regal wasn't the first heel GM of Raw to meet this fate. When Eric Bischoff was the Raw GM a few years earlier, he opened Raw the night after the Survivor Series pay-per-view in an understandably bad mood as Raw's team had lost to Smackdown's team in a 5-on-5 elimination match the prior night as well as his own loss to Smackdown GM Theodore Long and Kurt Angle failing to win the WWE Championship from John Cena. When nobody responded to his demand for an explanation of why they lost, he threatened to come back to the locker room area and fire whoever he saw on the spot. Cue the entrance music of Vince McMahon, the one person that Bischoff didn't have the authority to fire.
  • CM Punk himself managed two in the same promo in Ring of Honor during his feud with Raven: "Raven, where did being Extreme ever get you?", and "That beer you drink has never and will never touch my lips!" - after his dog collar match with Raven, Punk got jumped by Tommy Dreamer, tied to the ropes, and forced to drink beer. And three years later, he ended up in the revived ECW.
  • Because Triple H, the WWE Champion, had been drafted to Smackdown in 2008, Smackdown had two champions and Raw had none. Edge, the World Heavyweight Champion, came to Raw to insult Jim Ross and Batista, who he had beaten the night before. He then proceeded to brag about how Raw had no champion, about how none of the top contenders would ever get a shot at his title, and how he would never come back to Raw. Unfortunately for Edge, he didn't count on Batista beating the tar out of him, or CM Punk (whom he had neglected to mention) cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase to become the new World Heavyweight Champion.
  • During an episode of Raw in John Cena's hometown of Boston, Randy Orton pulled Cena's father out of the front row of the crowd and promptly punted him in the head. Cue Orton being on the receiving end of the most brutal beatdown Cena had ever administered to anyone in his career.
  • On the April 8, 2013 episode of Raw in the IZOD Center, the crowd is extra wild, chanting for just about everyone during Randy Orton vs. Sheamus, from referee Mike Chioda to Randy Savage. After that, they chanted for JBL and Jerry Lawler on commentary. JBL then states there's no way they'll chant for Michael Cole. Seconds later...
  • During the Extreme Rules 2012's Pre-Show, The Big Show had to defend his Intercontinental Championship against former champion Cody Rhodes that was determined to be a Tables Match (where the only way to win is to put your opponent through a table). About 45 minutes into the actual show, Cody kicks Big Show's leg out from under him and he ends up stepping onto (and breaking, technically "going through") the table.
    Big Show: (laughs) Good luck trying to get me through a table.
  • The Raw before Wrestlemania 38, Omos was interviewed and declared that, after his victory against the Viking Raiders, "No mortal man can beat me!" Guess who showed up to challenge the giant.

  • In one episode of Dragnet, a man who didn't believe in life insurance won a bet with a life insurance salesman, and didn't take a policy out. Less than an hour later someone murdered him.
  • The introduction to the Lux Radio Theatre staging of The Front Page (June 28, 1937), says that Amelia Earhart couldn't make her scheduled appearance, but would be on the show next week after she completed her around-the-world flight. Earhart disappeared forever when her airplane ran out of gas somewhere in the vicinity of Howland Island on July 2, 1937.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Dungeons & Dragons supplement Draconomicon features a quote from a dragon hunter: "Dragons don't see very well in the dark. They don't hear so well, either." This is the lead-in to a section explaining that D&D dragons have anything but poor senses; they tend to have high ranks in perception-related skills, have far better night vision than humans, can see in total darkness at a long distance, and can even use smell and hearing to discern the location of anything within a large radius. Unsurprisingly, the citation describes said dragon hunter as "the late Aylmer Dapynto".

  • In BIONICLE, after the heroes have awoken Mata Nui and everyone is celebrating, Takanuva writes on his blog about his hopes for a new era of peace. Hahli, on the other hand, has her doubts, but joins in the celebrations nonetheless, walking off into the distance, humming a song about hope for tomorrow. And then the Big Bad reveals he's taken over the universe. The end. At least, for that arc...

    Visual Novels 
  • CLANNAD: In the first episode of the first season, Tomoya hopes that Nagisa's father is sane. It took years after Nagisa's Death by Childbirth to find out the complete reason on his actions.
  • C14 Dating: Deandre, one of the love interests, is taking the eight-week field class during which the story takes place because he's missing a class worth of credits and mentions several times that he just needs a passing grade in the class to be done with his education and start working in an unrelated field. Only four weeks are required to pass the class, with the extra four being for people who are interested enough in the subject, want the work experience or need to retake the class. Guess how the narrative keeps Deandre around for second half of the game.
  • Harvest December:
    • Shiro declaring that she's not afraid of getting hit by a car as it wouldn't hurt her. Cue her immediately getting hit by a car. Fortunately, she was right about it not hurting her despite the narrative of what happens after the impact not being Played for Laughs.
    • Masaki is visiting a girl's room and spots a pair of clean panties that had fallen off of the laundry pile while she's downstairs getting snacks. After several seconds of deliberation and he's decided to fold them and put them back in place, cue her returning just as he's picked them up.
  • In Highway Blossoms, Amber enjoys listening to her late grandfather's mix tape. At the start of the game, she notes, "I'm worried the deck might eventually eat the tape, but it never happened to him no matter how many times he played the damn thing, so I'm not too scared." No prizes for guessing what happens to the tape the morning after Amber and Marina have sex.
  • In Ikemen Sengoku's prologue, Sasuke warns the main character to not fall in love with anyone in the Sengoku period that she accidentally time-traveled to because it could cloud her desire to return to her present time. The main character responds to this by laughing and pointing out that hardly any of the guys she's met have been even nice to her. Fast forward three months later...
  • In Seven Kingdoms: The Princess Problem, the delegates settle down for a long, boring meeting where each of them must officially introduce themselves to the group. The first delegate to talk is Lyon, whose introduction is typically terse; Avalie remarks hopefully that if all the speeches are like his, the meeting might end at a reasonable hour. They aren't.

    Web Animation 
  • Monkey Wrench: As they're preparing to drop off their client Nobert at the space station terminal, Shrike asks Beebs what he'd bet that their rivals Scratch or Tyneen will show up at the last second. A bewildered Beebs asks why he'd want to win that bet. Cue last second ambush, and Beebs shoots a dirty look at a rather sheepish Shrike.

    Web Original 
  • Subverted in The Brave New World Universe's Old Friends opening arc. Moros is invading a secret lab, and at one point remarks to himself that the plan is going very well. He then hits himself for having the thought. Luckily, nothing happens. Except a survivor who makes it through Moros's zombie hordes...that won't be a problem later....
  • Often deliberately invoked in Cracked. Whenever the list asks "What could be worse (scarier, bigger), than that?", the next item invariably will.
  • DesuDesBrigade: After learning of the aforementioned Project D being done at a NASA base, Hitch said, "I am so outta here the moment they mention space vampires!" Much later in the review, near the end, when the vampire tells Kuki about their battle with evil aliens across the universe...
    Hitch: Done. I am not doing space vampires! No! Done. Done! Dammit!!
  • Gary: Landlord of the Flies:
    • The first proper post has Gabe marvel at the low cost of rent, noting that the landlord "seems a little lame, but nice enough." Naturally, the rest of the blog focuses largely on just how unpleasant said landlord really is.
    • When Gabe comes back with a friend post-eviction to retrieve his desk, he internally worries that Gary will be more subdued than normal (thus depriving his friend of a chance to witness just how crazy he truly is). As he thinks this, he notices Gary screwing the front door shut right in front of him.
  • Mommy Sleeps in the Basement: After Paisley has seemingly finished reading her poem to the class, she says she brought a photograph of her mother which includes the last part for extra credit, and begs to be allowed to present it. Mrs June agrees, "thinking there couldn’t possibly be any details worse than what she already presented." Hoo boy, is she mistaken.
  • In this story on Not Always Right's sister site Not Always Friendly, a bad driver defends his bad driving by saying that's he's never had an accident... right before slamming into another car.
  • Occurs all the time in the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Whenever an agent says anything along the lines of "At last, a break from badfic." or "Now I can catch some sleep." he/she/other/it get sent to another mission. Lampshaded by references to the "Laws of Narrative Comedy". If a mission is described as appearing "not too bad", it will rapidly get worse.
  • The Rapture Logs: Web serial novel OH GOD THE RAPTURE IS BURNING starts the entire epic story with a sentence that sums up everything you need to know about Tempting Fate: "Rapture's nothing but bullshit." The title of the story comes from almost the very next sentence, so you can imagine how that turned out.
  • Scorchy's Let's Play of Knights of the Old Republic II: The player, during the fight against Darth Nihilus, ends an update with a vote on whether he should try to fight him normally or have Visas sacrifice herself to weaken him through their Force bond. The very last words in this update are "And don't say both or I'll murder a puppy. Multiple puppies." The very next update, which goes with the first option but also shows how the second would play out, is titled "The Puppy Holocaust", with video of the second option "brought to you by the flayed corpses of a thousand little adorable puppies".
  • Some posters on social media and forums have challenged people to "Name (x) that is more (y) than" the subject of an included picture, such as "Name a more iconic trio than the Dream team." What usually follows is a Long List of examples that easily surpass the one in the picture.

Alternative Title(s): Asking For It, You Were Asking For It, Tempt Fate, Advertising, Folklore, Music, Music Videos, Mythology And Religion, Professional Wrestling, Web Original, Stand Up Comedy, Radio


Don't! Touch! Anything!

One button in Mike's car sends it into all manner of chaos right after Mike tells Sulley to not push any more buttons and to let Mike do it himself. The only way for the madness to stop was for Mike to pull the car keys out of the ignition.

How well does it match the trope?

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