Follow TV Tropes


The Plan
aka: Plan

Go To
It doesn't matter what he's referring to, it's still true. Until it isn't.

Count Geoffry: Well, what is it? Spit it out!
Evil Knight #3: Well, that was only the end of a plan...
Evil Knight #1: What about the middle bits?
Evil Knight #2: You know, where you tell us how we're going to win the tournament.
Count Geoffry: [eye twitch]
Blazing Dragons episode 3, Tournament Day

In nearly every work, you have a Plot. Frequently, a plan will guide the plot, often an Evil Plan, hatched by the villain. Some plans are complex, with so many unforeseen events acting in concert, making it a Gambit Roulette. Other characters try to stick with A Simple Plan, which always gets more complicated. If the character doesn't plan ahead, it's an Indy Ploy. If you can't figure out what subtrope a character's plan belongs to, just Pot Hole it here.

This is a subtrope of Battle of Wits. Also, Gambit Index covers everything about The Plan, such as who plans and who foils the plan, how the plan is revealed, and what is done after it works. This index covers only the plans themselves, and is divided into two categories— Types of Plans; how the scheme will work, and Specific Plans; what the scheme will accomplish. If it would fit in both, it goes in Specific Plans.

Can be undone by "The Villain Knows" Moment.


Types of Plans

Specific Goals


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Blue in Pokémon Adventures pulls off at least one of these per story arc that she appears in, some more complicated than others. And some that are just plain Ass Pulls.
  • The plot of Death Note is almost entirely driven by the plans of Light Yagami (Kira) and L (later replaced by Near), who both try to outwit each other in what's essentially a wide-scale game of cat-and-mouse where Anyone Can Die.

    Fan Works 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • Advice and Trust: When Rei was fighting Zeruel all alone, because Asuka and he got fired, and she was losing badly, Shinji came up with a plan to help her: return to the Geofront and hijack a spare Eva Unit, reasoning that Asuka and himself would be able to move it together. Was it a good plan? Yes, it was.
    • Evangelion 303: The events of the history are due to Seele's plan -known as "Third Impact", a large-scale nuclear attack- to end up with USA's global influence. At the same time, the Black Project Evangelion is Gendo's plan to stop them.
    • HERZ: The Plan to defeat SEELE consisted of the Children performing their own version of the Ceremony, using two Evangelions instead of one to seal Adam, Lilith, the Lance, Unit 01 and 02 out of the planet and at the same time destroying the original research materials.
    • Scar Tissue: Let's see: The remnants of Seele have a plan to retrieve the last functional Evangelion and use it to Take Over the World; Ritsuko has a plan to stop them; Gendo quickly came up with a plan to avoid to be prosecuted and thus helping his son; and a mysterious, third party has another plan to destroy Seele and save the Children's lives.
    • Thousand Shinji: The events of the history are part of the plan of Tzeentch to defeat the C'Tan and the Necrontyr, and he hoped accomplishing this by manipulating events so that Shinji, Asuka, Rei and Misato transformed into the new Chaos Gods. The existence of a "plan" is revealed and mentioned several times in the final chapters until finally Tzeentch shows up, tells that "everything went just as planned", and explains exactly what the plan consisted of and what his goals were.
  • Child of the Storm has Doctor Strange pulling the strings at the heart of a plan on an absolutely colossal scale, spanning the entire Earth and most of the dimensions around it and (through time travel) millions upon millions of years. All of it, every last piece of it, is arranged with the sole intention of defeating Thanos.
  • For The Greater Goof: In order to test whether there's a connection between Scabbers the rat and Peter Pettigrew's name showing up on the Marauder's Map, Fred takes the rat and runs down a corridor before returning it to Ron so George can track the motion of "Peter Pettigrew" on the map. The plan goes off flawlessly and confirms that Pettigrew's dot moves when Scabbers does.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Two of Ralph Hayes, Jr. (writing as RealityCheck)'s My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic series have the Princesses using different methods to achieve the same ultimate goal: averting We Are as Mayflies for their subjects, by making everypony else immortal (or at least abolishing old age).
    • Played with in The Stars Ascendant. Twilight apologizes for saving Equestria the wrong way, assuming that Celestia had some sort of plan for battling Tirek that she messed up. Celestia feels guilty because she didn't have a plan and was just desperately trying to keep Tirek from stealing the alicorns' powers.
  • Static Shock

    Films — Animated 
  • In Turning Red, Mei comes up with a three step plan to raise money for 4*Town concert tickets.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Discussed in The Chronicles of Riddick. "Because that was my plan."
  • Death, from the Final Destination series, does this. And boy, it is a BIG ONE! Brace yourselves...
    1. Death targets Sam (from Final Destination 5, which is a prequel to the first movie) and Sam and his friends escape. Death, however, had planned for just such a thing to happen and after Candice (a friend of Sam) dies, her boyfriend Peter blames Molly, who survived in the original vision and goes after her; when Sam kills him, (after everyone else except Nathan, Peter, Sam and Molly are dead) Molly escapes Death, thus putting her on the list. So... guess where she and Sam go? Yep! Flight 180. Death later targets them there and blows up the plane.
    2. Alex Browning, from the FIRST Final Destination, sees this vision, panics and gets himself and his friends off. Death folds the new humans into another plan, and starts killing them off in reverse order, even catching the last ones months later and a continent away.
    3. As the people in the first film die off one by one, the people from Final Destination 2 witness their deaths (from offscreen) and they are mentioned in Final Destination 2. As it turns out, by witnessing the events of Final Destination meant that the people (from Final Destination 2) escaped their actual deaths and were targetted on Route 23. Again, Kimberly, the protagonist, panics and gets them all off. Once again, Death has planned for this, goes backwards down the line and kills them all of, including Clear Rivers, the only survivor from Final Destination 1.
    4. This is later mentioned in Final Destination 3, and Word of God states that Kimberly and Thomas, the only survivors of Final Destination 2, die five years later, just before the last three people of Final Destination 3, thus sealing the really complicated rift created by their survival.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • It's lampshaded in the third movie that a major part of Jack's mystique is if he somehow plans every detail in advance or just wings it.
    • It can be argued that the entire third movie is a series of interlocking plans, because although all of the plans (except Jack's) are straightforward, they interact in unexpected ways.
    • The wild shifting is lampshaded in On Stranger Tides.
  • A three-way cross of them in Ex Machina.
    • Nathan orchestrates all three, by bringing Caleb to his home under false pretenses, so that Caleb can administer a Turing Test on Ava. Which is further false pretences, as Nathan was trying to see if Ava could utilize a whole suite of human attributes to successfully manipulate Caleb as a part of a larger, more elaborate and comprehensive Turing test of Ava's sapience. Once she proved it, Nathan could force Caleb leave his estate and he would reboot Ava into the next iteration, effectively killing her current iteration.
    • Ava didn't want to be trapped in a prison, and seduced Caleb into wanting to flee with her, ultimately using Caleb only as a mean of escape. She was also causing the power outages, which gave her and Caleb a bit of privacy in which she could make a few more pointed statements about her desire to escape. Nathan knew all of this, and his own plan relied on it.
    • Finally Caleb, not quite knowing Ava was manipulating him, made a more mundane ploy, by trying to get Nathan piss drunk, steal his key card, reprogram the house's security protocols to unseal the doors during a power outage instead of sealing, and he could make a getaway with Ava when she caused one last outage. Nathan saw right through this, and didn't let himself be manipulated. This would have kept Ava in her room, except Caleb suspected Nathan was still watching during the power outages (he was right), and did the legwork the night before, letting Ava get out. At this point, all three parties' plans were in shambles, and they would have to wing it.
  • Blind Horizon: The film centers on a plot to assassinate the President, one which was actually quite good, and could possibly work. First, they send three hitmen to the town of Blackpoint, New Mexico. Then, a fuel truck is tipped over (made to look like an accident), blocking the highway to force the Presidential motorcade into the town, with the hitmen waiting.
  • Re;member: Max and Zev, two Jewish men in a New York City nursing home, have put together one to track down the Nazi Otto Wallisch who killed their families before he dies (or they do). It's revealed Max also has a second one — Zev is Wallisch, so Max's manipulated him into hunting down his accomplice and then himself.

  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series:
    • Hari Seldon invented psychohistory, a set of mathematical formulas that can predict human behaviour. Using psychohistory, he observes that the Galactic Empire is in decline and social forces will tear it apart, resulting in thirty thousand years of anarchy before a Second Galactic Empire is established throughout the galaxy. Unhappy with this, he creates a plan (the Seldon Plan) where a small colony at the extreme edge of the galaxy will build a new empire within only 1,000 years.
      "When the Galactic Empire began to die at the edges, and when the ends of the Galaxy reverted to barbarism and dropped away, Hari Seldon and his band of psychologists planted a colony, the Foundation, out here in the middle of the mess, so that we could incubate art, science, and technology, and form the nucleus of the Second Empire. [...] The future course of the Foundation was plotted according to the science of psychohistory, then highly developed, and conditions arranged so as to bring about a series of crises that will force us most rapidly along the route to future Empire. Each crisis, each Seldon crisis, marks an epoch in our history."Hober Mallow, "The Merchant Princes"
    • Prelude to Foundation: Chetter Hummin convinces Hari Seldon to run away from the Evil Chancellor, causing him to hide amoung various factions of people living on Trantor. Mr Hummin is actually R. Daneel Olivaw, and so is the Chancellor. He orchestrated this to help Seldon develop psychohistory.
    • The Foundation Trilogy:
      • The Seldon Plan is a very very very long-term plan. The Seldon Plan involves the entire Milky Way galaxy, populated by a few quadrillion people at least, over a period of a millennium, with a dash of Xanatos Speed Chess (The Second Foundation) thrown in to keep the whole thing from going off the rails.
      • "The Mayors": Salvor Hardin plans to eliminate Wienis, corrupt uncle to the King of a nearby Kingdom, by handing a Lost Technology battleship to the enemy and using conveniently timed sabotage to "show" the legitimacy of the "Religion of Science".
    • Foundation and Earth: Every Ancient Conspiracy that takes place chronologically before this novel ends up being revealed to be part of Robot Daneel Olivaw's plans. He's more than 10,000 years old, he helped create the planetary consciousness Gaia, he helped convince Seldon to come to Trantor and complete his work on psychohistory so that he can create the Seldon Plan, and he turned the protagonists of this novel into a MacGuffin Delivery Service (because he's coming up against the limits of being The Ageless) in the form of a longevity boost in order to see it all through to completion.
  • Played in The Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan. It consisted of the Senate's decision to send Percy and company to Alaska in a leaky dinghy.
  • A Mage's Power: Several and Eric is a critical piece in all of them.
    • Tasio has a plan to make Eric grow a spine. He incorporates later two into his own.
    • Duke Selen has a plan to become King or dowager king of Ataidar. He exploits Kasile's into his own but is unaware of Tasio's.
    • Kasile has a plan to ferret out her kidnappers. She has no idea that the person helping her hired them to do so.
  • Each Dune book has one that drives most of the story:
    • Dune was the plan to eliminate the Atreides by the Harkonnens and Corrinos, with the secondary plan of Paul's to avenge the first and bring Kynes' vision to life.
    • Dune Messiah has the Tleilaxu plan to have Paul assassinated by a Manchurian Agent Duncan Idaho ghola, with the Bene Gesserit and Spacing Guild also playing a part.
    • Children of Dune has the Corrino plan to assassinate the twins and retake the throne.
    • God-Emperor of Dune has the Ixian plot of introducing Hwi Noree to Leto's court.
    • Heretics of Dune has Taraza and Odrade's plan to use their own enemy to destroy Rakis and free humanity of Leto II's lingering grip.
    • Chapterhouse: Dune has Odrade's plan to unity the Bene Gesserit and Honored Matres.
  • In Skippy Dies, Lori and friends have a series of convoluted plans all referred to as "The Plan", none of which pan out:
    • The first iteration of "The Plan", revealed after Skippy's death, involves Lori telling her parents she's dating Skippy (the Betty in her Betty and Veronica Love Triangle), while secretly seeing Carl. She tells Carl that Skippy doesn't mean anything to her, but she's actually still in love with Skippy. Carl doesn't really understand the plan, and he screws it up by releasing a sex tape of him and Lori to the whole school. The fallout from this causes a confrontation between Skippy and Lori that contributes to his overdose death.
    • The second iteration of "The Plan", in the third part, is similar to the first one, but with Janine blackmailing Carl into secretly seeing her to avoid word about the first plan getting out, while Janine works to get Lori and Carl back together. But Lori isn't interested in seeing Carl, and doesn't even care once the plan is revealed.
    • The third iteration of "The Plan" occurs near the end of the book. Lori plans to kill herself with an overdose of diet pills from her secret stash, but is waylaid when Ruprecht appears and she gives him an unexpected pep talk that gives them both a new lease on life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The aptly named episode "Gambit" of Blake's 7 in which Big Bad Servalan's Starscream, Travis, goes to the criminal planet of Freedom City to find the technician Docholli knowing that his nemesis, Roj Blake is also seeking Docholli because he knows the location of Federation headquarters. Travis becomes Docholli's bodyguard so that when Blake arrives, Travis can kill him. Servalan also wants to kill Docholli to prevent him from revealing his information to anyone so she pays Krantor, the lecherous ruler of Freedom City to kill Travis and Docholli, knowing that Krantor will try to torture Docholli to find out what secret he carries and that the location of Federation headquarters is of no use to him. When Krantor sends Servalan Docholli's corpse, it will be obvious that he's extorted the secret of Star One's location. Therefore to shut him up, the Federation will kill Krantor and burn Freedom City to the ground. She also makes a deal with Travis for Docholli's life. Either way Docholli and Krantor die and Freedom City is destroyed. Watching her try to explain this plan to her dimwitted Dragon Jareair is quite amusing.
  • Sabrina Thompson on Survivor: One World: not particularly great at the game's mechanics, but superb at its core. Considered a serious threat to win the million against Kim Spradlin, no less by The Chessmaster herself, Sabrina pulled off the Scheherezade Gambit by threatening her with a Genghis Gambit. If she or Chelsea ended up on the bench, either of both of them would paint it as a breach of their original alliance. Piggyback on the sure thing in Spicy Latina Alicia and the third player would win by default. Bring Christina and her back story was sure to seal the deal on the spot. Given the Hatfield-and-McCoy mood of the jury at the Ponderosa, and the strong social network Sabrina had built, Kim would almost certainly be blasted with a Humiliation Conga (especially with Troyzan there). Kim did not take the easy way out, after all; she brought her original girls to face the jury. With the jury appeased, there were no major incidents, and Kim got the gold. Sabrina's Xanatos Gambit scored her the silver.
  • Pulled in Friends off by Chandler to get a baby named after him (instead of Joey). Which, since Chandler is a Butt-Monkey, backfires when the baby turns out to be a girl and the parents refuse to change the name.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light, Akio Inaba, aka "Maidy Maidy", hatches a plan with his Final Fantasy XIV guildmates to reconnect with his estranged father Hirotaro: he would invite his father to play FFXIV with him, meeting him in-game without him knowing that his new friend is actually his son. Together, they would play through the game, and Akio would get his father to open up about what is going on in his life. Eventually, they would fight the endgame raid boss Twintania, and only after defeating it would he reveal his identity.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Cyric from Forgotten Realms. This guy has so many different plans going on that even HE doesn't know about all of them sometimes. The guy is a little Axe-Crazy. One of his greatest plans involved pretending to hold the Idiot Ball for years, only to convince the other greater gods that he was useless in his position as Greater Evil God and attempt to strip him of his power. All this ended with Cyric destroying the love of his two greatest enemies, (sort of) regaining his sanity, and pissing off the entire pantheon of other gods, with them being able to do NOTHING AT ALL to stop him.
    • This harkens back to his FIRST plan where he killed a goddess of illusion with the help of a lesser god, but got off scot free because he knew exactly what the Over God would say. The other gods exact punishment, but Cyric also gets them to remove the punishment through even more trickery and lies. He also binds an Eldritch Abomination to him at the same time. The same one that bit off Tyr's hand, you know, Tyr, the Big Good of the Forgotten Realms? Yeah, and because the Over God says so, Tyr can't do a thing to stop Cyric and his many many plots. Cyric goes on to weave even more plans ending ultimately with Tyr's death, Helm's death, Mystra's death, and the death of many other powerful gods and the complete destabilization of magic itself. He does end up in chains for causing the deaths of those gods, but he is the god lies and trickery... does anyone really think those chains will hold him for long? Especially since we don't even know if that isn't yet ANOTHER gambit of Cyric's. He could be walking freely about the Realms, using his power as God of Illusion to create a clone to take his place in the chains.
  • Falling astray of a vast mesh of plans, and thus getting manipulated in a million directions at once until you finally just give up, is a common occupational hazard amongst Shadowrunners.
    • One Shadowrun adventure module has this fate befalling a friggin' dragon, previously the indisputable master of the technique. It's also worth remembering that Shadowrun is, along with Paranoia, one of the few tabletop RPGs where it's perfectly acceptable to turn on the rest of the party.
    • Special note goes to Dunkelzahn's Heroic Sacrifice to prevent the Horrors from invading the Earth. As anyone who played Earthdawn will point out, the Horrors managed to drive a few gods mad back in the Fourth World. So it's even odds whether Big D's plan is going to succeed or not.
  • Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 give us Tzeentch, Lord of Change, Greater Daemon of the Chaos god, patron deity of sorcerers, planners, backstabbers and mutants. Tzeentch, his daemons and his mortal agents/pawns specialize in making plans, so many in fact that all of them are the backup plan for another plan failing/require another plan to fail in order to work. It's all but stated that Tzeentch does this on purpose, deliberately setting his plans up for failure because his final victory over all other gods (Chaos, C'tan, elf/Eldar and otherwise) would also be his defeat, leaving him with nothing to do.
  • In the card game Dominion, you can buy the event "Plan", allowing you to trash bad cards when you buy good cards. However, the plan only works when you buy cards from a single pile that you choose, forcing you to plan ahead. You can even change your plan mid-game. The project "Sinister Plot" also qualifies.

  • In Sherlock Holmes, Holmes has Madge Larrabee restrained when she finds him in Watson's apartment and makes a dash for the window to give a signal. He then considers it might be a good idea to let her give the signal anyway to draw Moriarty in. He arranges for his butler to let her go as if by accident when he sees him lighting a cigarette. She takes the opportunity, gives the signal and gloats for a moment. When it appears that Holmes is all too prepared to see Moriarty, she tries to give a second signal but is restrained again.

    Web Original 
  • Ethan from Fate By Blades pulls off an epic one. He sets up a tripod of power that divides the Empire between his lord, his friends family and the Stormson forces. This sets up the Septis forces to rule the North as the strongest of the three forces. When Lucas can't break the Tripod, and his son dismisses Ethan, Ethan has Kona remain at court to call him back when Alduis dies. Then, Ethan tries to destroy the Tripod by destroying the Stormson forces, while teaching Kona everything he will need to know to defeat Ezra. Even when Ethan fails, dying from sickness, he has Kona to carry on his legacy. Kona succeeds, and Ethan's plan ultimately succeeds.

    Video Games 
  • In Azrael's Tear, The Leader of the group of Templar Knights assigned to protect the Holy Grail has a great vision of the future in which the human race is dying; a "Thief" enters the Temple of Aeternis where they and the Grail reside, passes an elaborate test of worthiness, and leaves with the Grail to save mankind. The Templars' fellow order the Prieuré de Sion sees it as their holy obligation to ensure the Grail comes under their control after the test and thus manipulates things to ensure this happens no matter what. Eventually, it is revealed that they had "helped" the vision come true by leaking information about the Grail to the Raptors, technologically advanced professional tomb robbers.note  Thus, several Raptors arrive at Aeternis, competing to acquire the Grail. Only one will emerge with it. Or possibly one of the Guardians will take it for himself instead. But whoever gets it, the Prieuré waits to take possession in the end.
  • Super Robot Wars X: In the IF route, Hopes turns against the heroes to utilize X-Cross' positive emotions to fuel Al-Warth without the world needing to create wars and become the world's pillar. If Lelouch fights against Hopes, then Hopes' quote against Lelouch is "Not another word, Lelouch." It's because Lelouch has figured out what Hopes' plan is way before the others. Because Lelouch has already done it with his "Zero Requiem".
  • The villain of Jade Empire has a damn good one. Master Li, really the Emperor's brother Sun Li, killed a spirit monk rescuing you as a child from the destruction of Dirge in order to raise you himself as a prized pupil, while also deliberately teaching you a flaw in your technique (other characters see the flaw but lack the proper skill to exploit so many conclude it's just a feint on your part). That way he can get you to kill all the people he needs out of the way, including his brother Sun Hai, and then at your moment of triumph he can step in and exploit your trust in him and the flaw he taught you to kill you easily and then take over. It's brilliant. The only problem is he never counted on the Water Dragon goddess (who he believed to be functionally dead) using the last bit of her strength to bring you back to life so you could get a shot at revenge.

Alternative Title(s): Plan