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Trouble Magnet Gambit

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Kuan: Badger badger badger, badger badger badger, badger badger...
Sid: AAAUUGH!! Stop it!! (hands Kuan paper) Okay, look, try this variation on the theme, same tune, different words.
Kuan: Sure! (examines paper) Let's see now... Ahem Hastur, Hastur, Hastur-

This is the act of giving someone an item that is harmless on its own, but designed to cause trouble later on through external sources. For example, raw meat in bear country, an air horn in snow-capped mountains, or carrots in rabbit territory.

Related to Uriah Gambit. See also Chekhov's Gun.


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  • Overlord (2012): The sociopathic Princess Renner loves nothing more than to see the look of puppy-like devotion on her bodyguard Climb's face when he sees her doing good deeds or tending to his wounds, so one of the gifts she got him is a magnificent suit of mithril armor. He wears it with pride even on a stealth mission, refusing any attempts to reduce its shininess with soot (just as she knew he would).

    Comic Books 
  • An issue of Catwoman has Selina get hit in the face with one of The Joker's pies. The pie itself is harmless... but it does carry a radioactive tracer that draws two ballistic missiles right to it. Which means Catwoman has to race the missiles over the roofs of Gotham in hopes that the missiles don't catch up with her while she's in a residential area.
  • Rulah, Jungle Goddess: In "The Slumbering City", (Zoot comics #11), a treacherous spy pours a liquid snake lure on to the skirt of evil queen. When she attempts to flee, the snakes she had been using to torture Rulah turn and attack her.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Phantom: A storyline explaining the disappearance of George Bass has the 13th Phantom sailing with Bass on his final voyage, which was a secret mission for the British crown. At the end of the mission, Bass is sailing his renamed ship to rendezvous the British fleet off the French coast. However, a traitor on board secretly lowers the British ensign Bass if flying and runs up the French tricolour. This causes Bass' ship to be fired on and sunk by the British fleet.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Big Bad's MO in The Deadly Bees. The eponymous bees are attracted to a certain substance, which causes the bees to attack the substance relentlessly. This is emphasized when the jacket of the local inspector gets the substance on it; when the jacket is removed, the bees keep attacking it instead of the inspector.
  • In Never Say Never Again, Fatima Blush attaches a homing signal to James Bond's scuba tank so her radio-controlled sharks will attack him.
  • In X2: X-Men United, Mystique puts a syringe filled with iron in solution into an off-duty guard's butt. How bad this would be for him in the long term is unknown considering that he seems only a little bit under the weather the next day, but he's also hung over and recovering from some kind of drug. But long-term effects don't really matter because Magneto uses the extra iron in the guard's blood to escape, killing the guard.

  • In Children of Dune, the Atreides twins are sent elaborate robes by the rival Imperial House. The catch is that two Laza tigers have been trained to attack and kill anyone wearing the robes.
  • Done twice by Count Pommodoro in The Great Balloon Race. The first time he sprinkles birdseed atop the balloons of the Greek entry, causing birds to peck holes in the envelope. The second time he sabotages his rival Aristotle Pilaster by attaching a Turkish flag to the bottom of his gondola; causing him to be shot at as he flies over Cyprus.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: The Tarma and Kethry short story "Friendly Fire" centers around a bad-luck token the pair receive by mistake, which can only be gotten rid of by giving to someone else. They run into bandits, and as the token is mixed in with their coins, the thieves take it off their hands.
  • In one Honor Harrington book, the Manticoran Queen and Prime Minster are given Grayson "memory stones" that contain transponders which will attract the two missiles that will be released as soon as the two of them are in space.
  • Happens by accident in The Hound of the Baskervilles, in which the escaped convict Seldon is secretly given some old clothes of Sir Henry's by a well-wisher. The Hound is set on the trail by the smell of Sir Henry's boot, and understandably mistakes Seldon for its real target because of the clothes' odor.
  • Professor Moriarty pulls this in The Hound of the D'Urbervilles ; a client comes to him begging for help escaping the curse of an Artifact of Doom, and, once it's done, stiffs him on the bill. So Moriarty discreetly slips the thing back into the guy's pocket.
  • In Jhereg, Keira uses her pickpocketing skills to replace Mellar's regular daggers with Morganti daggers (which destroy the victim's soul). Aliera then picked a fight with him and got stabbed, causing Mellar to panic and flee Morrolan's castle, allowing Vlad to kill him. Mellar didn't know that Aliera's soul was protected by her sword, allowing her to be resurrected.

  • Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Was Not: In "The Adventure of the Sacrifice Stone", Samuel splashes Miss Dalrymple's coat with a herbal potion designed to attract snakes, and the lets loose an 8 ft. red-belly black snake on her trail.
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard pertaining to the legendary Deathly Hallows in Harry Potter. Three wizarding siblings evade Death, but Death is cunning, and appears to congratulate them and offers a gift to each. These gifts later caused the demise of the eldest and middle by Artifact of Attraction and Driven to Suicide respectively. The youngest avoids this fate because he does not trust Death, and asks for 'an item that allows him to leave without being followed by Death'.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the 1970s The Bionic Woman episode "Deadly Music", an enemy agent attaches a homing signal to Jamie Sommers so trained sharks will attack her. And yes, this was probably the inspiration for the Never Say Never Again example above.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Keys of Marinus", Vasor, in order to ensure that Ian does not come back from rescuing Altos, slips him some raw meat to attract the wolves. Under the name "Vasor Gambit", this was the former Trope Namer.
    • In "The Web of Fear", the Great Intelligence's Mole slips model yeti into the pockets of several heroes in order to attract the dangerous yeti-robots to them.
  • One Law & Order episode involved a girl giving her current boyfriend a leather jacket that used to belong to her former boyfriend, a member of a violent biker gang. The guy did not realize that the jacket had the gang's "colors" on it and by wearing it he was insulting the gang in the worst way. The girlfriend found out that he was going to dump her to please his rich parents so she made him a target, knowing that he would be in a bar frequented by members of the biker gang. She expected him to receive a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown but he was stabbed to death instead.
  • The Magician: In "The Illusion of the Cat's Eye", the villainess kisses her a lip rouge that is scented to act as an attractant to the black panther she uses as an Animal Assassin.
  • The Mentalist:
    • Jane will sometimes pull this, such as planting a seemingly innocuous marble in a man's pocket and then claiming marbles are used to identify Red John's followers.
    • To stop a serial killer who had managed to cover his tracks a little too well, Jane appeared on a live broadcast show with him. He brought up Red John in their conversation after jabbing at the killer's ego, prompting the killer to mock the supposedly-deceased Red John as a pathetic amateur. Not a day later, he was found dead with Red John's signature.
  • A mob boss uses a variant of this in an episode of Mission: Impossible to get revenge on his girlfriend for turning him in: he cuts her brake line, lets all the fluid drain out, and sends her to "pick up five grand".
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: A variation occurs on the episode where Picard is forced to take a vacation on the Pleasure Planet Risa. Riker raves about Risa at various points in the series and asks Picard to pick him up something called a "horga'hn" while there. Turns out the horga'hn is a fertility statue and displaying one in public (as Picard does, unaware of its meaning) is essentially broadcasting that one is looking for some action, specifically a sexual rite known as jamaharon. When Picard finally got someone to explain why random women kept brazenly approaching/propositioning him as he tried to find a moment's quiet, he was not amused.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the James Bond 007 role-playing game module Goldfinger II: The Man with the Midas Touch, the player characters are doused with a pheromone that makes them irresistible to bulls, and then dumped in Pamplona in front of the Running of the Bulls.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth: This was the purpose of the chisel hidden in Horace Knightley's chess board in the second game's second case; the culprit knew that Patricia Roland was terrified of Sirhan Dogan and paranoid that he had allies everywhere, and would connect the chisel to Sirhan. So when she found it in Horace's possession, she'd panic and kill him.
  • In BlazBlue, Arakune's projectile attacks work by having him "curse" the target, causing them to be attacked by insects (when he commands it) until they manage to land another blow on him.
  • Inverted in Dragon Quest III with the Golden Claw. Dangerous in the pyramid (every step's a random encounter, and you can't use magic in the basement where you get it), but once you leave, as long as you don't return to the pyramid, it's the fighter's best weapon (it still increases the encounter rate outside the pyramid, just not nearly as drastically).
  • In Left 4 Dead, the Boomer has low HP and deals poor damage on its own, but it can vomit on survivors, attracting common infected to them.
  • Metal Gear
    • In Metal Gear, shortly before fighting the first boss, Snake is captured and his inventory stolen. When he retrieves his items, a savvy player will note that a transmitter has been placed in among his gear. As long as he carries it, guards are alerted to his presence.
    • Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid just cuts out the middleman, and gives him a bomb.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, a transmitter is placed on Snake after his capture. If you don't remove it, you have to evade the Ocelot unit once you get back to the jungle, but you also get a bonus cutscene a little bit later.
  • StarCraft:
    • In one of the most horrifically inhumane tactics in the campaign, Mengsk has Kerrigan plant Psi-Emitters on a rebellious planet's surface. This attracts the Zerg swarm to ravage the area. Actually a double example, as the Zerg then attract the Protoss fleet to simply incinerate the entire planet.
    • And again, with Edmund Duke at Tarsonis. "Who authorized the use of Psi-emitters!?"

  • In one User Friendly strip, Kuan is driving Sid crazy with the Badger Song, so Sid gives him a Lovecraft-themed version with "Hastur" for "Badger". Sic transit Kuan.

    Web Original 
  • This is used to kill a man in Whateley Universe. A man who is known to be rather friendly with the local weres is slipped a fungus that affects them like catnip does cats by a man who wants all the land he owns.

    Western Animation 
  • Downplayed in Sofia the First, wherein a rival steward gives Baileywick a pin that curses its possessor with clumsiness. He doesn't wish any harm on Baileywick, he simply wants Baileywick out of a job (either fired or via retirement, believing himself to be too old to be useful) so that he can take it instead. When Sofia and Clover figure out what's going on, Clover sticks the pin back onto the rival to buy Sofia time to explain the situation.
  • South Park: Timmy tries to off Jimmy by giving him a parka identical to Kenny's. Jimmy then walks down the street with half a dozen fatal accidents just missing him.

    Real Life 
  • The classic "Kick Me" Prank.
  • It was alleged in interviews after the fact that some commanders put troublesome soldiers in the position of field communications men in World War II, because the huge aerials and bulky radio backpacks guaranteed that they would be easy targets for snipers. How much truth there actually is in this is debatable.
  • A petty revenge method against a family that annoys you that's starting to spread around: give their children gifts along the lines of kinetic sand, air horn, nerf guns, and such. Children being children, they would use it to play in their house.

Alternative Title(s): Vasor Gambit, Context Activated Bait