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Unwitting Pawn

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"I was a fool. I had been deceived that I had been working for a greater good. I was in fact an unknowing tool of a greater evil."
Shunjinko's biography, Mortal Kombat: Deception

This is the kind of person that the Magnificent Bastard and Batman Gambit depend on. Not only does an Unwitting Pawn fail to stop the bad guy, but he actually furthers the villain's plan in the process. The Manipulative Bastard will take great delight in using them and then deconstructing their naivete and blind faith as they gloat (in which case compare What Have I Done). Not surprisingly, they also have a tendency to die ironically after inadvertently helping the villain. But if they survive... there's bound to be some nasty surprises in store for the Bastards.


These guys are not always being manipulated by the villain; sometimes they blunder their way into helping him of their own accord. Not that the villain's going to examine his gift horse for cavities...

The Wide-Eyed Idealist often becomes this, but sometimes the Knight Templar and Well-Intentioned Extremist can fall into this too. When the main character does this, and then has to fix it, it's Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!.

Sometimes the unwitting pawn is deserving of his fate. They may be a Corrupt Corporate Executive, Evil Businessman, or someone else who has achieved great success through questionable means. Sometimes, he owes his success to someone he screwed over. They will often fall victim to blackmail or the reminder of what could happen "if the truth should get out...". Sometimes, the pawn is allowed to remain a figurehead to keep up appearances while his strings are pulled behind the scenes. This often happens to Corrupt Politicians as well who come to realize that they probably had a lot of help to realize their ambitions and get to the top.


Compare Out-Gambitted, Unwitting Instigator of Doom. Contrast the Spanner in the Works, who just as ignorantly harms these schemes.

Tend to be played by The Chessmaster, logically enough. But also the Manipulative Bastard uses them too.

Beware: many examples are by nature spoilers!


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Kimblee masses the Drachman army to attack Amestris from the north, in order to cause enough bloodshed to complete Father's giant Transmutation Circle. All the Drachmans are defeated except for the General, who calls Kimblee out. Kimblee then coolly states that he didn't care which side lost as long as lots of people died. The General is then hit by one last shot from the Amestrians, to add death to insult and injury.
    • Hohenheim's backstory reveals that the Emperor of Xerxes also fit this bill. Father lured him into creating a nation-wide transmutation circle, claiming it would grant the Emperor immortality. Instead, Father used it to give immortality to himself and Hohenheim, at the price of the entire nation.
      • Father wasn't lying when he said he would grant the Emperor immortality, he just never said the Emperor would be immortal inside the stone.
    • The upper echelon of Central's military were suckered into following the same scheme with similar promises.
    • In the 2003 anime version, the homunculi manipulate alchemists into trying to create the Philosopher's Stone so that their leader Dante can use it for her own immortality. Dante also falsely promises to make the homunculi human if they succeed.
  • Played with in Bleach, where Magnificent Bastard Aizen is unable to manipulate Ichigo directly, so it is revealed that instead he manipulates almost EVERYONE ELSE in the story (including everyone Ichigo has fought, as well as Orihime) since before the story started so Ichigo will do what he wants. He has in fact been keeping an eye on Ichigo since his birth due to being the instigator in his parents' meeting.
  • Peach Girl: Toji and most of the Spear Carriers in the first arc, and Gigoro in the second. Of special note is Gigoro's actions in "The Destruction of Pure Love"; he starts to realize that Sae's account of Momo isn't entirely accurate, so he tries to get Momo's side of the story... by chasing her through the warehouse district, not saying anything less stalker-y than "I need to talk to you."
  • Makoto Isshiki in RahXephon. He takes down Tokyo Jupiter, but all he achieves by doing so is enabling the Mulians to invade the outside world en masse. It's Personal...
  • Lavinia Reberth of Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry is a Fangirl of epic proportions, who'd do anything to get some of Sara's attention. Dress up as a Playboy Bunny? Failed. Ambush her in the shower? Got the wrong girl. Steal her most precious possession? Dropped it in a garbage dump, which ended up with Sara's true identity revealed to the whole crew, the Libertad kicked out of port before it could complete repairs, and one of their teammates dead. Oops.
  • In Transformers Armada, almost every major non-human character takes a turn being one of these, as would be expected when The Mole happens to be a Manipulative Bastard.
  • Variable Geo: This applies equally to the entrants of the VG tournament, regardless whether it's for the grand prize, the desire to compete, or to settle grudges against other participants. In the end, they're all being used by as unwitting test subjects, by The Jahana Group, who secretly monitor the tournament to determine which of them will make the ideal host body for Miranda's disembodied spirit.
  • In the anime of Chrono Crusade, nearly everything that the main characters do seem to play right into Aion's hands. In the end, even though almost all of the main cast die, they only seem to stop him temporarily.
  • Poor Suzaku Kururugi from Code Geass. Being an emotional, impulsive, and naive mix of Death Seeker and Wide-Eyed Idealist in a series full of Chessmasters and Manipulative Bastards is definitely his perdition. On the other hand, his supernaturally effective combat abilities and tendency to run head first into dangerous situations without telling anybody means he's derailed almost as many schemes as he's aided.
    • Same for the Order of the Black Knights, which was first manipulated by Lelouch before becoming Schneizel's pawns. Lelouch actually is the hero who is trying to save the world. He has a lot of bad luck and some questionable methods, but the Black Knights generally benefited from his actions, manipulation aside. Schneizel, not so much. He has decent luck, if not good, and his methods are not questionable - they're definitely not good for the human race as a whole.
  • In Death Note, nearly everybody falls victim to this trope at some point, Chessmasters included. Misa is the only major character who does not, and that's likely because she makes it clear in their first conversation that she doesn't mind being used by Light. She certainly is a pawn, but not an unwitting one.
    • Every member of the Task Force ends up being suckered in by Light at some point, not only buying his innocence, but also treating him as their actual leader and the new L.
    • Double Subverted by Rem, who kills L for Light in order to save Misa from being arrested. She figures out exactly what Light is trying to get her to do, how he's getting her to do it, and what will happen if she goes through with it (she dies)... And she does it anyway.
    • Perhaps the biggest Unwitting Pawn in the series is Light himself. For all of his chessmaster pretensions, Xanatos-grade scheming, and proclamations of Godhood, he was never anything more than a plaything for Ryuk's personal amusement. The best part is that Ryuk actually spells that out to him — along with what will ultimately happen to him — within minutes of first meeting him but Light never realizes the full implications until it is too late.
      • Averted, and very much so. Light understands perfectly well what he is to Ryuk, which is why he makes sure to stay interesting in his clever Scheherezade Gambit, which remains very effective until Light is cornered and captured, and thus no longer able to provide entertainment and apples for Ryuk.
    • L falls headfirst into this trope when he decides to test the thirteen day rule, which provokes Rem to kill him, exactly as Light planned. In the manga, his thoughts before his death leave it unambiguous that it wasn't the outcome he considered.
  • Alice of Code Geass: Nightmare of Nunnally, desperate to save Nunnally, accepts help from Anya and proceeds to Kamine Island. It turns out that Anya was possessed by Empress Marianne, who needed Nunnally to complete her and Charles' Assimilation Plot. Thankfully, Alice telling Nunnally that she values her as an individual derails the plan.
  • In One Piece, Whitebeard was a target for this. The World Government wanted to kill him and his whole crew with a barricade killzone trap and execute Ace, the son of the Pirate King once they are stuck as a warning to all Pirates and cement their power. However, Whitebeard, while he still dies, manages to re-ignite the Golden Age of Pirates, and most of his crew and allies survive. Also, technically Ace was saved, but still dies anyways. However, in the end, he, and technically the WG, is still fooled by the true mastermind and main cause of the war, Blackbeard. His plan was that he knew Whitebeard would risk anything to save a single of his crew, and the WG would do anything to take him down. While everyone is focusing on Marine HQ, Blackbeard slips into Impel Down, recruits the strongest prisoners of Level Six, which contains some of the worst criminals in the history of the world, sails back, kills Whitebeard, steals Whitebeard's destructive powers for his own means, and then makes a clean escape. Even worse, the WG's pride makes it that they will not acknowledge his success, and cover it up, meaning he can plan even more things unharassed.
    • Law (of all people), thinks he's this to Luffy. You would think that manipulating the Straw Hats would be a piece of cake thanks to their captain's unassuming nature. Unfortunately for Law, he didn't account for the antics or Luffy's "I do whatever the hell I want" attitude, and it becomes increasingly obvious to him and the audience that he was never in control of the alliance, especially when Luffy admits that his plan to take down Kaido works towards Luffy's goal of taking down all of the Four Emperors, and that he's using Law's plan for that goal.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: What Shinji Ikari appears to be this in whatever it is his, father, Gendo is planning. But there is a rather big twist. In the end, it turns Shinji was only ever of minor importance to Gendo's plans; Gendo only ever really needed him to pilot Unit-01, truly nothing more and nothing less. In reality, it turns out Shinji's true crucial role that he never knew anything about or never saw coming, was as the lynchpin in his mother, Yui's, plan to derail SEELE's Assimilation Plot in the final minutes of the eleventh hour.
    • As part of the backstory, Misato's father, Dr. Katsuragi, was manipulated by SEELE into causing Second Impact.
    • Rebuild of Evangelion has this really bad. Everyone is pawns to Gendo. In the series at least it's eventually shown that Gendo isn't quite as slick as he thought he was when Rei and Ritsuko turn on him and Seele sends troops to kill him. In the end he doesn't get what he wants, largely because Rei gives control to Shinji instead, who ends up killing him in Instrumentality. In Rebuild, he somehow manages to trick Seele, into killing themselves (shutting themselves down thinking it would help the plan) and he manages to con Kaworu who's an all knowing Angel himself. Admittedly Kaworu figures it out at the last minute, but because Shinji had already been sold on the idea that the spears would fix the problem he didn't listen to him and pulled them anyway. He even allows Misato's team to show up to stop the Impact, because it wasn't time (he just wanted Unit 13 to obtain God mode).
    • Another interpretation is that everyone is a Unwitting Pawn for Yui Ikari.
  • Naruto:
    • At the beginning of the series, we have the Sound Genin, used by Orochimaru in the Chunin Exams. Dosu actually realises this, but all three meet a premature demise before he can do anything about it.
    • Then Sasuke which was the Unwitting Pawn of both Itachi and Tobi. No wonder he developed Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
      • Itachi ultimately was one for Tobi. Itachi believed, like almost everyone else who was confronted by him, that Tobi was Madara, and despite his efforts to act in defiance, all of his failsafes to protect Sasuke from Tobi failed and he only succeeded in making Sasuke into a more powerful and hateful pawn for Tobi to manipulate.
      • Yahiko also became a pawn to Tobi, since his suicide was Nagato's Start of Darkness and made him join Tobi which in turn allowed Tobi to take Akatsuki under his control.
      • Also we have Danzo, which in spite of all his motives also became this to Tobi. So nearly all his actions played into Tobi's hands: His union with Hanzo in the betrayal of Nagato allowed Tobi to take Akatsuki under his control. Also he manipulated Itachi into slaying his clan which allowed Tobi not only to acquire a large number of Sharingan, but also use Itachi to find a new pawn in the person of Sasuke. And Danzo is the one who reveals to the Kages that Tobi is Madara, which is exactly what Tobi wants them to believe.
      • Also Kakashi became one to Tobi or rather Obito. The entire fight with Kakashi into the Kamui dimension was planned by Obito in order to remove Madara's seal as it prevented him from becoming the Ten Tails Jinchuuriki, and Kakashi did what Obito wanted: Hit him in the heart.
    • Rin and Kakashi (although the latter's part was just a happy coincidence) were pawns in Madara's plan to create a successor by driving Obito to despair.
    • The entire world, but especially the Uchiha Clan, Madara and Kabuto were this to Black Zetsu in his pursuit to revive Kaguya.
  • Alain from Pokémon was this to Team Flare, until his breaking upon learning the team's true intentions when Ash was captured, during the Team Flare Arc.
  • In Berserk, Big Bad Griffith presents himself to the Pope of the Holy Church as God's prophesied messiah, inspiring the old man to essentially serve as his biggest hype machine, further easing his manipulative influence throughout Midland... and all the while remaining blissfully unaware of his true, vile nature.
    • A lesser example, but nonetheless one that creates long-lasting consequences, is Skull Knight's attempt to kill Griffith with a mystical attack, only for the latter to redirect said attack into accidentally destroying the gate that separates the physical and astral planes in the Berserk-verse. This allows Griffith to unleash hell on earth.
  • Who in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- isn't playing into Fei Wong Reed's plans, again? Kurogane might be the least manipulated of the group, but he's not exactly immune, either. He is the (positive kind of) pawn of Ichihara Yuuko, though and thus serves as the counterpart to poor Fai.
  • Maka ends up one of these in Soul Eater, when convinced by Medusa that the witch truly cares about her child (a reaction very heavily hinted to be down to her relationship with her father). She is used to defeat Arachne, which in turn gives Medusa's soul a new body to inhabit, while demonstrating to the witch that Maka has sufficient power to be a serious threat to witches. Medusa then tries, but fails, to kill Maka due to the timely appearance of Chekhov's Gunman. Needless to say the Manipulative Bastard made another attempt.
  • Treize Khushrenada is such a Magnificent Bastard he turns essentially the ENTIRE CAST of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing into Unwitting Pawns.
  • Hak-Yoon ends up being one to Mi-Mi, who manipulated him by pretending to like him, then had him and his gang rape her maid and film it in front of two of said maid's best friends, all because she was jealous that the maid had gotten the boy she was really in love with, and when said plan fell through, abandoned him to his fate and told him he was nothing more than a pawn for her revenge. He isn't too happy about this.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Poor Homura. So you wanted to save your friend from certain death using your Faust powered wish? Well you did technically save her by making it so as long she is not saved, the timeline repeat itself. Unfortunately, you also helped Kyuubey create what is the ultimate power source based on people suffering since Madoka is not only a juicy power source but since with every cycle Homura becomes more cynical, her suffering only gives even more power with each interval. And she can do nothing to get out of the loop.
  • So many in Monster as the series' Big Bad, Johan, plays everyone like a fiddle in order to get what he wants. At one point, he has a town of Unwitting Pawns as he moves them to the point where they all start massacring each other.
  • Near the end of the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Sho assumes that everybody in Duel Academy were the pawns of Kagemaru, the season's Big Bad.
  • In the second season of Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, this is the standard MO of the Barians (especially Gilag); they brainwash one or more duelists, then give them a powerful Spell Card called "Rank-Up Magic - Barian's Force" which can be used to summon powerful monsters called "Chaos Xyzs", which they also provide. This plan never worked (and in Gilag's case, almost got him killed when it went wrong), and it took a long time for it to sink in that they should try something different. (But in their defense, eventually they did.) Except Vector who masqueraded as a student named "Rei Shingetsu" and played Yuma like a fiddle. Giving him some card (Number 66 to lure him and several V cards and Rank Up Magic - Limited Barian's Force to use against him with Vain - Sneer of Betrayal).
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Everyone—but especially Patrick Zala and Muruta Azrael—serve as Unwitting Pawns to series' Big Bad Rau Le Creuset. In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, Shinn Asuka is the Unwitting Pawn of Chairman Durdandal.
  • In Maiden Rose, by launching an offensive against a train invading his country without orders Taki ends up playing right into his ally Princess Theodora's hands (she having secretly murdered everyone on the train herself in a coup before he fired on it), and is placed under house arrest despite being the commander holding the front in a war against their mutual enemy.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, seemingly everyone is a pawn of Aleister Crowley. A number of them are aware of this (so, not unwitting), but The Hero, Touma, is not. There are even some hints that Aleister is trying to pull one over on Aiwass, though until we actually know what his plan is it's hard to say.
  • Oliver Cromwell, leader of the Reconquista movement and Big Bad of the first arc of The Familiar of Zero is ultimately this for King Joseph of Gallia, the ultimate Big Bad of much of the series. Cromwell's rebellion would not have gotten anywhere without Gallian aid and the only reason why Joseph helped in the first place was so he could use the chaos of the war as a cover to slip his agents into Albion in order to find the Founder's Music Box as part of his plan to gather Brimir's Void relics and harness their power.
  • Kagerou Project: Ayano. After finding evidence that her father is under the Demonic Possession of the Wide-Open Eyes Snake and that he will kill her younger siblings and two thirds of her social circle to succeed in creating a new Medusa in our world. Understandably, she falls into despair, and after a long conversation with the snake himself, Ayano decides that the only way is to kill herself, enter the Daze to get possessed by a snake herself, and choose to stay behind - ensuring the Medusa plan cannot come off. Except, that was what he wanted all along; by having his plan ruined, his host's wish cannot be fulfilled; the Snake has an excuse to reset time, thereby ensuring he will be able to continue existing.
  • Almost the entire cast to Head in Star Driver.
  • Fairy Tail: Jellal is victim of this twice. He spends eight years as Ultear's pawn, and then Brain uses him to awaken Nirvana. To a lesser extent Reitei Lyon and his entire group, everyone working under Jellal in the Tower of Heaven, the first magic council. Basically, if you've spoken to Ultear, assume you're being used.
  • In Toriko the entire conflict between the good guys (IGO) and the original bad guys (Gourmet corp) was controlled by the until-then unknown NEO organization. Tons of different characters (including Midora, both in his youth and in the present) were manipulated by Acacia and the Blue Nitro.
  • In The Seven Deadly Sins, the entire Holy Knights order (especially Jericho and Vivian) were being by Hendrickson, who himself was being used by Dreyfus, in order to awake the Demon Clan, the remaining Ten Commandments, and reignite the holy war.
  • Mazinger Z: Dr. Hell was Archduke Gorgon's unwitting pawn. Gorgon wanted to destroy both Dr. Hell and Mazinger-Z, so he helped Hell to fight Kouji Kabuto and his allies because the constant conflict weakened and wore the heroes down, and as soon as Hell stopped being useful, he abandoned him and let him die (or killed him personally in some versions) while his War Beasts finished Mazinger-Z off.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul:Re, it turns out that the entire CCG has been this all along. Not only has the Washuu Clan been conspiring with a ghoul organization all along, but they are themselves secretly a family of ghouls. The Knight Templars and sadistic ghoul-haters of the organization have been fighting and dying on the orders of ghouls all along. All to maintain an endless conflict between the two species, and keep these two groups in power.
  • In Attack on Titan, Annie, Reiner, and Bertolt are revealed to have been this all along. As part of Marley's Warrior program, they were raised to believe the people living within the Walls were evil and a threat to the safety of the entire world. Grisha's backstory includes the creation of the modern program, with the Marleyan government announcing that King Fritz had sent a message threatening to use the Wall Titans to destroy the world. However, Grisha is later told by Kruger that there was no such message, because the ruler of the Walls is controlled by the First King's "Will" and cannot act to even defend their people. Marley is actually after the natural resources underneath the Walled territory and wants to exterminate everyone in their way. To this end, they invented the whole "threat" and manipulated children into doing their dirty work. Even worse, Kruger mentions that once Marley has obtained the Founding Titan, they will likely use it to exterminate all Eldians, including those serving them. As such, the Warriors were tricked into seeking out the Coordinate not to save their people, but to give Marley the means to carry out a Final Solution.

    Comic Books 
  • Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan and to a lesser degree all the other main characters become suckers for Ozymandias.
  • In the Green Lantern story Sinestro Corps War, the Guardians and the Green Lantern Corps turn out to be these after Sinestro reveals that he (Sinestro) won the war by making the Guardians override their own principles and disable the "no killing" function on the Lantern rings.
  • The Knights of the Old Republic comic writer love these. Usually one or more of the main characters, but often the villain.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • Mina Mongoose was this to Ixis Naugus — he used her musical protests against NICOLE as a conduit for his magic, inflaming the public's distrust of NICOLE into paranoia and hatred, beginning a series of events that leads to Naugus being appointed king of New Mobotropolis.
    • Geoffrey St. John. It was pretty obvious that Naugus was taking advantage of the then recent death of Geoffrey's father Ian St. John to get the poor kid to help him. Any doubts were dropped when Naugus possessed Geoffrey to escape his mutations.
  • Supergirl:
    • The eponymous heroine has occasionally been pawn of some villain -such like Lex Luthor- who intended to seduce her as part of a plot against Superman or herself. However, she always finds out about the truth sooner or later, and when she does... Cue Unstoppable Rage and Curb-Stomp Battle.
    • In the H'el on Earth arc, H'El seduced her and talked her into helping him bring Krypton back, assuring that no Earthmen would suffer. She joined him... until she found out that his plan involved blowing the Sun up and destroying Earth. Then she turned on him right away.
    • In Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl, Supergirl and the whole Justice Society were Lex Luthor's pawns, who was using them to increase his power, popularity and fortune.
    • Subverted in Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade when Linda needs to leave classroom and pretends she is being abducted by an invisible superhero and she is "just an unwitting pawn in a larger game". Played straight with Belinda Zee, who has no idea that she's Mr. Mxyzptlk's pawn.
  • In Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus to Lex Luthor. Lex tricked Doc Ock into helping him destroy Superman. He pretended it was a partnership between equals, but Ock was kind of Lex's hired muscle, and Lex planned to betray Otto all along.
  • The Punisher's work as a vigilante was turned into a case of this in the Purgatory miniseries. It had all been a ploy by Olivier, a demon kicked out of hell, and Frank has been unknowingly committing numerous sacrifices in his name for years.
  • When Doctor Octopus reformed the Sinister Six in the six-part story "Return of the Sinister Six", he used the other five members this way. He told them that his plan was to launch a satellite armed with a deadly poison, and then blackmail the world into making them its rulers lest they use it. This was a lie. The "poison" was something used to prevent people from using cocaine, and he planned to blackmail cartels and everyone else who benefitted from the drug trade, gaining incredible influence in the underworld on an international level - alone.
  • In The Multiversity, a number of characters unknowingly further The Gentry's invasion.
    • Ultra Comics #1: Ultra Comics itself acts as vector of contagion to The Gentry in different worlds (including ours).
  • Ultimate Marvel
    • The Ultimates: The Liberators and their backers are motivated by rejection of the American foreign policies, and intended to "Liberate" the US from what they saw as an evil government. They were manipuled by Loki, who organized all this to screw his brother Thor, member of the Ultimates, just for kicks.
    • Ultimatum: Doctor Doom arranged the events of Ultimates 3 to make Magneto go into an even more radical attempt to cause worldwide destruction. It worked. It worked too well.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): When Artemis won The Contest and became the new Wonder Woman she was approached by agents of the White Magician as very quickly after she arrived in America, who ensured that her "heroics" were either completely ineffective affairs with paid "actors" as the villains or things which outright helped the White Magician and his extensive black market superweapon deals.
  • In IDW’s Beast Wars comics, the Predacon Shokaract believes that he is the mastermind of a plot to elevate himself to godhood. He has no idea that his lieutenants are worshippers of Unicron, the Transformer God of Evil, and are manipulating him to bring about their master’s return.
  • DIE: We eventually find out that Sol and the various writers who became the Masters, were ultimately all pawns of Die itself, which reached through time to manipulate them all into creating the archetypes and game which led to its creation.
  • One of the more hated aspects of The Punisher: Purgatory was the retcon that Frank Costa was really a demon named Olivier put into the body of a stillborn baby and that he orchestrated the events that caused Frank Castle to become the Punisher so Castle could be one of these for him, building an army of those Castle killed.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, Cornelius Fudge is ridiculously easy to manipulate, be it by Dolores Umbridge, Lucius Malfoy or someone else. He's actually a good guy at heart, but only avoids causing a world catastrophe because Hermione (who has come to control him most usually, and, therefore rule Magical Britain from the shadows) keeps a tight leash on him.
  • In Power Girl fanfic A Force of Four, Wonder Woman's old enemy Badra frees three Kryptonian criminals emprisoned by Superman and strikes up an alliance with them to destroy their enemies and then Earth. The trio believe they are equal partners until it's revealed Mars is Badra's real boss and the god was using them to further his goals.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act III:
    • During the course of the fic, Kuyou attacks Yokai Academy with the intent to get revenge on Tsukune for his previous defeat. It's ultimately revealed that Hokuto personally manipulated Kuyou into doing so by exploiting his hatred of Tsukune, using the resulting chaos as a distraction so he could break into the secured levels of the academy and steal an Artifact of Doom for use in his Evil Plan. Hokuto gets what he wanted, and Kuyou is Killed Off for Real by Tsukune.
    • As revealed near the end of the act, Akua and Kahlua aided Kiria in his plan to rewrite history with the Chrono Displacement spell, intending to give their father Issa a top spot in the new world once humanity is subjugated. In the final chapter, it's revealed that Kiria's plan would ensure that he would be the sole dark lord, and part of said plan would have Akua and Kahlua, and possibly Moka and Kokoa as well, infected with Blackheart and then sent back in time to kill Issa and destroy his empire from within, thus ensuring that Kiria would rule unopposed. The two promptly switch sides and spend the next act trying to atone for their mistake.
  • In the Mass Effect fanfic The Council Era, Krogan Overlord Tikrog Kurvok unknowingly becomes a pawn in his advisor Halak Marr's plot to start the Krogan Rebellions and turn the krogan into a Master Race.
  • In The Stars Will Aid Their Escape, the entire cast — from Trixie (who he himself drove insane) to the Princesses themselves — end up manipulated by Herald as part of his plan to bring about the summoning of the Outer Gods.
  • Mare of Steel: Brainiac allies with Steel Wing, supposedly to help him capture and destroy Rainbow Dash/Supermare. However, Brainiac was only using him to study Supermare's strengths and weaknesses for his own purposes, ultimately declaring Steel Wing a liability and throwing him under the bus to the Princesses while wiping his memory of Brainiac.
  • The Warmistress of Equestria: The Traitor Legions trick rogue griffon General Blackwing into an alliance, and aiding in setting up a False Flag Operation to start a war between Equestria and the griffons in order to further the Traitor Legionnaires' goal of destroying Celestia. Meanwhile, within the Traitor Legionnaires' alliance, Lord Talon Hoof thinks that he's the supreme leader, but is being manipulated by Scorpan as part of his plan to empower and release his master Tirac from the Warp.
  • The Digimon Emperor Ken from Zero 2: A Revision ends up being manipulated by the three independent villains to benefit their own plans for world domination.
    • Devimon uses his Black Gears to manipulate Ken into constructing Chimeramon using the components of himself as well as the Digidestined's Digimons in order to use the Chimera to relocate him into the Digital World.
    • Demon manipulates Ken into becoming the Digimon Emperor by preaching a "statement" about order and chaos and gave a Dark Spore to Ken in hopes that the corruption factor will return Demon back to his former strength and amplify his own dark powers.
    • Myotismon manipulates Ken into constructing the Control Spires in order to weaken the barrier between the Digital World and the Digital Limbo in order to regain the rest of his data that is still trapped in the Limbo.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire fanfic Asshai's Flames has Senira, who unknowingly helps her mother's plan, which more or less applies to the whole monastery too. She realizes this in the end and kills Selye when Asshai falls, which means her own death as well.
  • The Bridge: The Big Bad brings King Sombra Back from the Dead, and sets him to try and retake control of the Crystal Empire, which somehow furthers the Big Bad's own plans. For his part, Sombra doesn't know how he's alive, and doesn't particularly care.
  • The Equestrian Wind Mage: Season 2 focuses on the heroes waging war with Ganondorf, who's trying to take control of Equestria. However, unknown to any of them (even Ganon himself) until late in the game, he was released in Equestria by the true villains, the Church of Majora, to serve as a diversion from their own plans for Equestria.
  • In Children of an Elder God:
    • Megumi Kunzama is a reporter that believes she’s getting the scoop on NERV. In reality, Gendo and Fuyutsuki are using her, leaking harmless or false information to her. And she’s no idea.
    • All Children are Gendo and Yui's unwitting pawns, since they're using the pilots to fight the Great Old Ones and the Outer Gods and steal their powers in order to carry their plans forward.
  • Shinji and Asuka figuring out that they're unwitting pawns is an important subplot in Advice and Trust. When they open up to each other and start talking about their childhoods and their piloting experiences, they figure out that Gendo and SEELE are keeping things from them and realize that they're being used to further some kind of sinister scheme. They even managed to completely ruin Gendo's plan by befriending Rei, before they even realized that he had a plan. And he's none the wiser.
  • Evangelion 303: Although Gendo seems to be less abusive than his canon self, he keeps a secret agenda and he’s using everyone –including his son and his son’s fiancée- to carry it out.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, Misato and all pilots are unwitting pawns to Gendo to test a computer program known as the Emerald Tablet and destroy SEELE. When Misato finds out about it, she decides to turn on NERV.
  • In Thousand Shinji:
    • Subverted. Gendo and SEELE turned everyone into their unwitting pawns… but Shinji and the other Children realized that they were being manipulated, and in turn they used Gendo.
    • It was played straight, too. Unbeknown to Gendo and SEELE, they were the puppets of the Warhammer 4000 Gods, who were using them to create new gods.
  • The Second Try:
    • Subverted. Gendo and SEELE believe that everyone are their pawns… but due to time-travel shenanigans, Shinji and Asuka know exactly what they intend to do and later they tell Misato.
    • From a certain point of view, Shinji and Asuka are reluctantly using everybody in NERV as their pawns to avert the end of the world.
  • Last Child of Krypton: Shinji was meant to be Gendo’s unsuspecting puppet, but his inability to synch with an Evangelion prevented this. The remaining characters were the paws of Gendo and SEELE until Kaji blew the lid off their little conspiracy.
  • Once More with Feeling subverted this. NERV’s staff is Gendo’s unwitting pawns, and the UN is SEELE’s one. However, Shinji pretends to be also clueless, although he knows what they’re exactly planning, and he warned the Japanese Government via Kaji.
  • Avenger Goddess: Over the course of the flashback/World War II arc, it becomes rapidly apparent (and is eventually outright confirmed in Chapter 23) that for all his delusions of grandeur, the Red Skull is just Ares' puppet in his plans to test and corrupt Diana.
  • Son of the Sannin does this in a particularly cathartic way to Danzo, of all people. During several arcs he continuously undermined Konoha's effort to retrieve the jinchuriki by leaking intel of their whereabouts to Akatsuki, apparently because he thought he could let them gather all the Tailed Beasts in a single place to take them back. Come Chapter 90, turns out this idea was planted on him by Obito Uchiha using Kotoamatsukami several years ago, as a measure to both keep an eye on Orochimaru and sabotage Konoha from the inside by playing on Danzo's ambitions, and given his reputation nobody could have guessed it wasn't his plan to begin with. To cap it off, Obito had also planted a mental trigger that would make Danzo completely obedient to him, and used it to retrieve one of Pain's Rinnegan eyes, and then orders him to commit suicide via Reverse Tetragram Sealing once he's done with him.
  • BURN THE WITCH!: Lila Rossi treats all of her 'friends' as such. When Rose/Witch Hunter tearfully declares that she just wanted to be friends, Lila insists that they were - because in her mind, friend is just a fancy word for people who can do things for you. When Hawkmoth informs her that her services are no longer required, he twists the knife by sadistically calling her "Friend," causing her to realize that he played her the exact same way that she's manipulated countless others.
  • Fire!: Played straight with every villain recruited by Firebrand... and subverted with Doctor Doom who, when contacted, sees through his words and refuses to become a tool.
    "The answer is no."
    "But, your excellency—"
    "NO. Doom does not conspire. Doom is not used. Doom uses! This conversation is ended." He stabbed a button on his console that would not only break the contact, but prevent further contact from being made.
    The gall. The insufferable, common-man gall of the representative. To think that he himself, Doctor Doom, would possibly—could possibly—be induced to participatory activity with a too-large band of costumed inferiors in a disruptory mission of ill-defined intent.

    Film — Animated 
  • Frozen: Prince Hans dupes Anna by faking his romance with her so she could unwittingly hand over Arendelle to him on a silver platter after "staging a little accident" for Elsa.
  • In The Little Mermaid (1989), Ariel was completely unaware that Ursula was using her as a pawn to become the ruler of Atlantica. As quoted by the 2004 Disney Princess storybook:
    Ursula: It's not you I'm after. You're merely the bait to catch your father.
  • In The Princess and the Frog, Naveen doesn't realize that Facilier and Lawrence were only using him to trick Charlotte into marrying Lawrence (disguised as Naveen) to get all Charlotte's money until the near end of the movie.
  • Everyone in Sugar Rush in Wreck-It Ralph is this to King Candy (in reality Turbo in diguise).
  • In Zootopia, Judy Hopps was manipulated by the Big Bad Bellwether for most of the movie before catching on pre-climax.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In AM1200, Sam Larson becomes aware that he is this to a cosmic entity lurking within a mysterious radio station.
  • Michael in Arlington Road is trying to avoid a terrorist attack. What he doesn't realize is that he's being played and his actions ultimately lead to the bombing of the FBI Headquarters.
  • Assassin's Creed (2016): Cal Lynch is used by the Templars-backed Abstergo Foundation to find the location of the Eden Apple of Granada by exploring the life of Aguilar in 1491. Sophie makes for an unusual Templar in that she wants Cal to be witting and therefore willing to help them. He makes up for it by stealing the Apple back from her father, after killing him.
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Batman ends up this to Lex Luthor, who exploits his jaded and violent vigilantism and the existing fears of Superman to manipulate Bats into trying to kill Supes. And it almost works.
  • Subverted in Blade II. The Evil Overlord's Affably Evil daughter mocks the eponymous protagonist for agreeing to a meeting with his enemies too easily, but quickly shuts her trap when its revealed he was prepared to kill them all with a LOT of carry-on explosives at the first sign of treachery. Later in the movie, when The Mole reveals himself and gloats at the heroes' gullibility, Blade corrects him by stating that he knew of his duplicity from the beginning, a fact he illustrates in explosive fashion.
  • Robert the Bruce becomes this at the end of Braveheart, when his father uses him to lure the hero William Wallace into a trap.
  • Subverted in Collateral Damage: The protagonist very nearly succeeds in helping the terrorists' Evil Plan come to fruition, but luckily becomes wise to his true situation just in time to foil it.
  • In The Dark Knight, most characters involved in the Joker's plots played right into his hands when they thought they were about to stop him. Even Batman, who had never faced a criminal like him before, is his pawn through much of the film.
  • In Die Hard, it's the police and the FBI. They face a major "terrorist" attack with standard procedures, unaware that Hans Gruber knows all about them and his Evil Plan depends on them operating in that matter so he can manipulate them into helping him open a super secure vault and then cover his escape.
  • In Equilibrium, John Preston turns over the entire leadership of La Résistance for a chance to see the Big Bad face to face and assassinate him. Except DuPont knew about this plan all along and arrested Preston as well. DuPont would have succeeded, except he took the time to gloat before killing Preston, triggering Preston's Unstoppable Rage.
  • Christopher Nolan's first film, Following has two levels of Unwitting Pawns. A house burglar and a blonde femme fatale sucker a floundering writer into framing himself for the burglar's murder charge. Then we learn that the burglar is actually working for a gangster who the blonde is blackmailing, and he was setting the writer up for her murder.
  • Frank Pentangeli in The Godfather Part II. He's caught in Michael's war with Hyman Roth and is callously played by both sides. Michael encourages him to meet with the Rosatos to ascertain Roth's guilt in an assassination attempt. In turn, the Rosatos try to kill Pentangeli and pin it on Michael. Pentageli survives and informs against Michael to the FBI. Michael intimidates Pentangeli into recanting his testimony and ultimately into committing suicide.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen. Present, lampshaded, and part of the symbolism. A mockingjay is a powerful symbol to the rebels, but it's also a bird that can't sing its own songs, relying on what others sing to it.
  • Everything that Morpheus does in The Matrix, since The One, The Prophecy, and The Oracle are all further systems of control of the humans by the AI's.
  • In Mortdecai, Charlie spends the first half of the movie as one, unwittingly smuggling the stolen painting to Krampf in his Rolls Royce after Krampf bribes his mechanic, Spinoza, into hiding it there without Charlie's knowledge.
  • Philip in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, who rushes back to Syrena as soon as he regains consciousness... and thus rewards Blackbeard with Syrena's tear and gets her tied up to die.
  • The Hovitos in Raiders of the Lost Ark were manipulated by Belloq into believing that Indiana was stealing their fertility idol and that Belloq simply wanted to protect it for them. They stopped Indiana from escaping with the idol and then attempted to kill him, during which time Belloq made off with the idol.
  • Everyone in the Saw movies is like this. The entire franchise is one giant incomprehensible Gambit Roulette, and all the characters are constantly walking right into Jigsaw's plans.
    • Though inverted because Jigsaw genuinely wants the suckers to live; he doesn't expect them to make the wrong choice and die but he wants them to make the right choice and live, therefore he doesn't do Evil Plans. His successors and helpers, however, do seem to want everyone to die, and expect them to do dumb things - which they do. All the time.
  • Star Wars:
    • Mace Windu dies in an attempt first to arrest and then just kill Chancellor Palpatine, which is not only unsuccessful, but also provides Palpatine with ammunition for his claims that the Jedi are revolting against the Republic and SHOT FIRST. In a double irony, he also ends up making The Chosen One, who he himself had doubts about already, switch his allegiance to the man he attempted to "assassinate".
    • In Attack of the Clones, Jar Jar Binks's only two lines of dialogue put him square in this category.
    • Queen Amidala in The Phantom Menace when Palpatine manipulates her into calling for Valorum's resignation.
    • In fact, almost everyone in the prequels not named "Palpatine" is this.
  • In a rare example of a villain being this to the hero, Lex Luthor finds himself being played by Supes himself during the climax of Superman II. Specifically, he believes he had depowered Supes when he had in fact unwittingly depowered General Zod and his co-conspirators.
  • It's strongly implied in The Terminator that John Connor deliberately manipulated Kyle Reese into falling in love with his mother by giving him the picture of her. Reese was just allowed to be unaware that his own son was sending him back in time (to his almost certain death) to ensure he could be conceived and grow up to save humanity. It must've been a heartbreaking decision for John.
  • In the original Total Recall (1990), Quade is his own unwitting pawn. He had his own memory wiped as part of his cover to infiltrate La Résistance and identify its leader.
  • In Twice Upon A Time, Synonimess Botch tricks our heroes Ralph and Mumford into bringing him the mainspring from the Cosmic Clock, giving him control over time and the chance to cover the land of Din in nightmare bombs as part of his plot to trap the Rushers in waking nightmares.
  • In Wanted the main character is played, especially through the charms of the hot chick. Who is played herself, along with everyone in the order. At the end, some of her "colleagues" decide going into business for themselves isn't such a bad idea, but she has the... balls to set things right.
  • In White Noise, once John begins experimenting with EVP (a way of listening to/seeing spirits in the beyond) on his own, he starts receiving messages from his late wife, believing them ways to save people. They're really trick visions sent by three very, very malicious spirits so that they can follow him and break into the realm of the living through the door he's opened up. And Anna's constant insistence that he 'Go now!'? Those were visions of when he arrived at the final location the messages showed him, where she was trying to warn him to get away and save himself. "Exactly as planned" indeed.
  • Wild Things 2: Maya King, Julian Haynes, Detective Morrison, Niles Dunlap, and possibly even Brittney's mother were all hapless pawns in Brittney's scheme to get rich. Terence initially wasn't a part of the scheme and almost becomes a Spanner in the Works when he tries to blackmail them, but ends up being framed for Maya's murder.
  • Wonder Woman (2017): Ludendorff and Doctor Poison are manipulated into creating their gas weapon by Ares, who wants to use it to extend the war indefinitely.
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine:
    • The look on Wolverine's face when Blob told him that Stryker was performing experiments on mutants and when he realizes what led him to willingly get his brand spankin' new adamantium skeleton... priceless.
    • Emma Silverfox becomes Stryker's hostage -> Kayla is forced to work for Stryker -> Kayla faked her death as a part of their plan -> Wolverine accepted Stryker's offer to coat his bones with adamantium to avenge Kayla's 'death' at the hands of Sabretooth.

    Multiple Media 
  • In BIONICLE, Makuta Teridax used the entire universe as his pawns. The goal of the Toa Mata was to reawaken Mata Nui, put into a deadly coma by Makuta himself. Knowing that they will succeed because it was their destiny (and since Mata Nui's death would cause the end of the world), he manipulated nearly everyone he came across and lead his Brotherhood of Evil with an Evil Plan whose exact details he kept to himself. Long story short: his manipulating ensured that he would have enough time and be in the right place to commit a Grand Theft Me on Mata Nui when the heroes awakened him, thereby becoming the ruler of the universe.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ravenloft runs on Paranoia Fuel, so this is so common in adventures it's almost more of a Plot Twist when it doesn't happen.
  • A constant danger in Hunter: The Vigil. It can be pretty hard for Hunters to tell the difference between the good-ish supernaturals and the true villains, and they often get suckered into working for the latter. For example: Division Six is a group of mage-hunters being used by a Seer of the Throne as his private hit squad, the Knights of Saint George are serving the agenda of an Abyssal entity, the Inquisition is run by a ghoul, Les Mysteres are run by the Pure, and so forth.
  • In Warhammer, it's strongly implied that Bretonnia's whole "Cult of the Lady" religion is a complete sham, set up by the Wood Elves who dwell in the forest in the south of the country so they have a nice, easily-manipulated buffer zone to protect them from the world. The End Times reveals that, yes, the Lady is actually the Elven goddess Lileath.
  • Similarly, in Warhammer 40,000, the Adeptus Mechanicus is all but stated to (knowingly, in the case of the higher-ups) worship the Void Dragon as the Omnissiah (rather than an aspect of the Emperor). The C'tan being on par with the Chaos Gods in terms of Big Bad and the Mechanicus being responsible for humanity being able to travel the stars and defend themselves, this is as bad as it sounds. This also leads to a lot of enthusiastic Mechanicus dropping in on tomb worlds, waking up the Necrons as they poke around, and the next thing you know there's yet another system or two lost to the Imperium.
    • Read the introduction to any Imperium-centric story carefully for a nice bit of horror: It is the 41st Millennium. For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor of Mankind has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the master of mankind by the will of the gods. What Gods do they mean by that? It could just be a figure of speech, but...

  • Jesus Christ Superstar portrays Judas as a man who unwillingly advanced the agenda of Caiaphus and the Council, as well as fulfilling prophecy.
  • Othello: Iago manipulates everyone in his vengeful goals, leading to, as is the case with a Shakespeare tragedy, multiple deaths.
  • Thrill Me has the moment where Richard finds out that Nathan has been lying to him about basically everything since the murder, including when Richard thought he had the upper hand. In fact, Nathan's masterminding is the reason they got caught. Yes, getting caught was part of Nathan's plan.
  • Fittingly, many characters wind up as pawns in Chess. It all culminates in “The Deal (No Deal)”, a song that’s essentially just ten minutes of Walter and Molokov manipulating the entire cast.

    Visual Novels 
  • Mary in Shikkoku no Sharnoth is obviously the pawn of multiple competing factions, but doesn't realize it fully until well into the story.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney's Klavier Gavin is the Unwitting Pawn for his brother Kristoph's Evil Plan to get Phoenix Wright disbarred.
    • Trials and Tribulations has Pearl Fey, who is manipulated into triggering the events of the final case by her mother, Morgan Fey. While Pearl thinks she's just following her mother's orders for Maya's sake, her actions are actually the means to kill Maya. Luckily, the plan isn't fulfilled thanks to a third party who knew about it beforehand.
    • Justice for All has the third case where Franziska performs a surprise search on Acro's room, which forces him to hide the murder weapon on his person. Franziska only did the search because of Gumshoe, who in turn brought the idea of the search due to Edgeworth suggesting it to him and knowing Phoenix would be the defense attorney on the case. This turn of events causes Phoenix to correctly guess that the murderer hid the weapon at the bottom of his wheelchair and under the blanket he wears over his legs. Franziska loses and is flabbergasted that she, a perfectionist, made a mistake and curses herself for conducting the surprise search. In actuality, she was just the unwitting pawn to Edgeworth, who helped Phoenix catch the true killer without him even knowing it.
  • In Zero Escape trilogy, everyone who isn't Zero or willingly working for Zero is this to some extent. Special mentions:
    • Ace, or Gentarou Hongou from Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, ends up being used by Zero to mop up the other Corrupt Corporate Executives who ran the Nonary Game 9 years ago.
    • Dio, a Free The Soul agent from Virtue's Last Reward, sent to sabotage the Nonary Game Ambidex version. What he didn't realize was that not only the organizers anticipate his infiltration of the game, it was actually necessary. If that's not enough, revelations in the next game show he was also Brother's unwitting pawn as well, sent in to deliberately fail without Dio's knowledge.
  • Fate/stay night has Shirou and Rin being pawns in the schemes of Gilgamesh and Kotomine in all three routes, with Shinji joining them in Unlimited Blade Works.
  • Several in the Danganronpa series:
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc:
      • Makoto in Chapter 1. The whole point of the trial is Naegi trying to clear his name in Sayaka's death. What's interesting is that he was framed by the victim in her own failed attempt to murder someone else - Makoto is only cleared because even the murderer was tricked by Sayaka.
      • Hifumi is tricked into helping Celeste in her scheme due to his lust for Alter Ego and Celeste making a False Rape Accusation against her first victim. Once he's finished in his part of the plan, he's murdered by her.
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair: Teruteru and "Byakuya" (aka the Ultimate Impostor) are the Unwitting Pawns of Nagito. Nagito sent a note warning "Byakuya" of his murder plot to get "Byakuya" to host a party in the old dining hall then got himself assigned cleaning duty so he could set up a murder plot. Then he allowed Teruteru to discover what he's doing, confesses and tells him his entire motive. He managed to entice "Byakuya" to set up the Locked Room Mystery Nagito needed in a room which goes completely dark in a blackout and gets Teruteru to try and murder him, starting the Killing Game. He didn't intend for "Byakuya" to die, however.
  • Monster Prom: The REVENGE ending. Miranda will ask you to do a series of seemingly random tasks to help her out, with very flimsy reasons for it. It turns out that this is her plan to kill the water polo team for kicking her out by feeding them eggs from a sea monster and them telling said sea monster they ate her eggs, she reveals that this was her plan if invited to prom after the events are completed.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Strong Bad Email stupid stuff, Strong Bad makes a bet with Kevin Grumbles that he can make Homestar say something intelligent. In desperation, he tries saying something nonsensical ("I say there, Homestar...butt's twelve by pies?"); as it turns out, Homestar apparently made his own bet with Kevin Grumbles that he could make Strong Bad say something stupid, and Strong Bad just won it for him. The real kicker is that Kevin actually wanted Strong Bad to make Homestar say something stupid, but Strong Bad thought that was too little of a challenge. Perhaps he should've asked an insultingly simple math question. He could have at least gotten Coulomb's law out of it. He also gets suckered in the game Strong Badia the Free. He spends the entire game trying to become the new king, only to find out that it was all a ploy by the King of Town to get Strong Bad stuck in the castle and the King in Strong Bad's position.
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, the Emperor makes Magnus realize that both his supposed savior, Tzeentch, and his supposed Cool Big Bro Horus manipulated him so that he'd fall to Chaos and doom his people and Imperium. This plays crucial role in Magnus' Heel–Face Turn.
  • RWBY:
    • In Volume 3, Yang's predictable fighting style becomes a useful tool for the villains to exploit during the Vytal Festival tournament. She is tricked into attacking Mercury unprovoked after defeating him in the finals. This results in a huge negative public backlash against Beacon which attracts vast hordes of Grimm that the military struggles to contain. This is the beginning of Cinder's plan to turn people against their governments, kingdoms against each other and start the process of destroying the Huntsmen Academies.
    • Discussed in Volume 7. Ironwood tries to pre-empt Salem's plots and activities by upgrading Atlesian security, recalling his military back home and placing Mantle under heavy surveillance while he prepares a counter-plan that involves repurposing Amity Colosseum. This causes arguments among the heroes over whether the squeeze on Mantle's economy might play into Salem's hands by exacerbating divisions between Mantle and Atlas. When the heroes finally unite to save to capture Watts and Tyrian, and evacuate Mantle, they appear to finally get on top of the situation. Then Ironwood discovers Salem's black queen chess piece sitting on his office desk, revealing Cinder's presence in Atlas and triggering his PTSD over Salem's use of that symbol during the Battle of Beacon. Interpreting it as a sign that Salem's been one step ahead of him the entire time, he begins questioning whether every action they've taken has successfully played right into Salem's hands. This reignites the arguments between all the heroes over what the best course of action to take now is in light of the revelation that Salem's plan relied on Ironwood going all out to capture Tyrian and Watts, leaving the normally powerful Atlas exhausted and vulnerable to an assault by Salem's approaching Grimm army.
  • Vegeta ends up being this for Commander Daiko in Dragon Ball Deliverance, as he was being used by him to weaken the out of control Broly enough that the Legendary Super Saiyan could be retrieved and put under Daiko's control.

  • The Order of the Stick
    • Miko Miyazaki leads the villains to Azure City and allows them to discover the location of Soon's Gate. She kills Lord Shojo, leaving the city more vulnerable to attack. Then she destroys Soon's gate when the villains are on the verge of losing, giving them a chance to escape certain death. And all the while, she believes that she's following the will of the (Lawful Good) gods. Although she was only being manipulated into the first one of these, the least important error really. The other two she she accomplished on her own.
    • Vaarsuvius turned into one when they attacked Xykon with their newfound power, knocking him off his throne, exactly as the fiends who granted Vaarsuvius that power planned.
    • As it turns out, Xykon himself is this to Redcloak, who's been playing humble servant all these years in order to get Xykon to aid in completing the Plan (which, it seems, doesn't aid Xykon's own goals at all). But he doesn't mind being a pawn, because he has better things to do with his time than deal with a backstabber who already has a self-destruct button tied to the back of their head: The Monster In The Darkness is brainwashed to kill Redcloak the moment he betrays Xykon openly.
  • Sillice of Drowtales when Kalki tells her that the Nidraa'chal she's just fighting are just a diversion for the enemies that are currently most probably killing the Val'Sharess. Sillice then barges into the ravaged tower, confronts one of her sisters (the only one NOT included in this plot) and then gets accused of having killed all the guards in an attempt to overthrow her mother, and has to run away to exile with their mortal enemies. No one suspects the ones that are truly pulling the strings: Snadhya'rune, Sarv'swati and Zala'ess, who get off scot free and take control of the clan while pretending their mother is still alive.
  • Terezi of Homestuck is usually Awesome by Analysis, but she's recently fallen into this at the hands of Gamzee, who she has no idea turned evil.
    • Absolutely everyone to Doc Scratch. There's a reason he calls people who aren't omniscient "suckers." Which is taken beyond the impossible in [S] Cascade, where its revealed that he manipulated the entire main cast into creating the Green Sun. Note that the main cast has been doing everything in their power to destroy the thing. Scratch's last word, said to Gamzee, is even "S u c k e r s", a succinct summary of just how much he played everyone.
  • Nick in the "Surreptitious Machinations" arc of General Protection Fault. The entire plan hinges on him being isolated from his friends and building the "Project Velociraptor" to power Trudy's energy weapons, enabling her and C.R.U.D.E. to take over the world. He's also one of the only ones who still trusts Trudy, so the heroes have to try to convince him to see the truth.
  • Riff of Sluggy Freelance was eventually revealed to be this, having worked for the Nebulous Evil Organisation Hereti-Corp producing inventions in return for funding, and not realizing the purposes they were being put to.
  • Tower of God: Rachel, Khun, and Bam all play into Yu Hansung's and Headon's hands in their plot against the ruling system.
  • Bad Moon Rising recently showed that Terry was originally sent to Sokolov Academy to act as a spy for his mother, but was unaware of the real reason he was sent to the school at the time.
  • Kat Vance from Sequential Art finds herself in the Quinten Research Laboratory, where she learns the human staff has succumbed to deadly gas that permeated most of the facility. The A.I. Is a Crapshoot prototype computer OZ-BASIC explains that the fault that caused the tragedy exists in other Quinten facilities, and asks Kat's help in creating an uplink in panel #474, so that others can be forewarned in time. In reality, OZ-BASIC seeks to take control of the Pipingrad Death Ray satellite, with which to expunge all those that would oppose its Evil Overlord status.
  • Played with in We Are The Wyrecats. K.A. certainly was this, but the rest of her team, as it turns out, is more than aware that the Big Bad is using them. They just aren't equipped with a lot of options on fighting back at the moment. By letting her remain unaware of this, K.A. effectively becomes her own team's Unwitting Pawn, and she does not take it well when she finds out.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Tara is manipulated into attempting to kill Elliot by the Immortal named Voltaire who she believes is forbidden from lying like the Ancients of her world.

    Web Original 
  • In The Normal Innocent Bystander's Survival Guide, point 17 is:
    "If the Evil Overlord offers you immortality, superpowers, or infinite wealth, and all you have to do is something that seems terribly trivial, don't. It's a trick. You will be used as a pawn in a larger game, and then crushed like a bug."
  • Only just before the final battle of Web Game Demon Thesis do the main characters realize that they've been pawns for the Manipulative Bastard Eldritch Abomination Mesmerus that they hate. After a strange stone totem was brought to the library of their university, the main characters suddenly found themselves gifted with Elemental Powers and other spells, and fighting off various monsters while Mesmerus encourages the violence. At the end they learn this is because them using his power to cast spells is necessary to weaken the barrier between dimensions and allow Mesmermus to cross over into our world. By the time they do learn this, it's too late to do anything, and Mesmerus appears.
  • In The Ruins of an American Party System, it's eventually revealed that Floyd Olson (otherwise presented as a President Mary Sue), has for most of his administration been manipulated by his Attorney General, Huey Long, who has been exploiting his influence over Olson to build his own political empire within the government, effectively turning Olson into his puppet. Once Olson realizes this, however, he spends the last months of his life before succumbing to cancer building up resources that his Vice-President and successor Fiorello LaGuardia is later able to use to dismantle most of Long's power base.

    Western Animation 
  • Challenge Of the Superfriends: In one of the more infamous plots from the series, the Legion of Doom collaborates with a group of Venusians to rework Earth's climate into something more tropical. To this end - in what may be the single most contrived Gambit Roulette in history - they enact a series of disasters, and the Superfriends play right into their hands when their attempts to stop them result in filling the atmosphere with steam, flooding the western hemisphere, and moving the Earth out of its orbit. Uh, oops?
  • In Gargoyles, Xanatos was accustomed to using this trope: almost every major character was his pawn at one point or another. In one memorable episode, however, Xanatos is outsmarted and used as a pawn by one of his creations.
    Xanatos: Owen, I think I've created a monster.
  • In season 4 of the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, both the turtles and the Well-Intentioned Extremist Agent Bishop are suckered royally by the Foot Mystics/Shredder's Heralds, resulting in the entire plot to season 5.
  • Big Hero 6: The Series: In the Season 1 finale, Obake sends his minions after a case containing a failed prototype of an energy amplifier. It's actually worthless; the real reason is that he knew Hiro would become interested in making a real one, which he could then steal.
  • Danny from Danny Phantom becomes one of these almost every time he encounters Vlad Masters. Usually Vlad hints at what he's going to do right away, and Danny fails to understand and plays right into his hands anyway. Surprisingly, Valerie was an even bigger sucker than Danny—her entire ghost hunting 'career' was started by Vlad as part of a gambit and just became the gift that kept on giving for him and all his plans. She was NOT happy when she found out the truth.
  • Timmy from The Fairly Oddparents is this sometimes, most noticeably in "School's Out! The Musical", where he, along with Flappy Bob, are pawns in the pixie's Gambit Roulette. He also plays into Norm's hands in "Fairy Idol".
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, Omi ends up playing right into Chase Young's hands in the second season, temporarily becoming his apprentice.
  • Kim Possible found herself in this position in So The Drama, when it was revealed that Erik was really a "synthodrone" working for Drakken. As Ron observed, "Drakken hasn't won, he played you." An even more direct case was in the episode "Hidden Talents", where Drakken created fake messages from Wade (as well as sending a virus to the real Wade) to get Kim to bring him one of Dementor's inventions. He also attempted to do it a second time after he forgot to tell Kim to get the adaptor plug, but the second time didn't work as well due to Wade debugging his computer.
  • Harold in Total Drama Action, when choosing to listen to Courtney and Duncan of all people, in order to vote off LeShawna, his Love Interest.
  • Where Sinedd from Galactik Football goes, intergalactic conspiracy is sure to follow.
  • Scooby Doo in episode 16 of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated; Pericles used Scooby's need to save the town to further his own plan to find the Cursed Treasure of Crystal Cove.
  • In one episode of Batman: The Animated Series, a businessman builds a casino... themed after The Joker. Joker is understandably incensed, a breaks out of Arkham to punish this act of image-theft by blowing up the joint. As Batman discovers, the businessman had spent too much on his building, and gave it a Joker-theme so the Joker would do just that, and then cash in on the insurance. Joker gets more incensed when Batman reveals this to him.
  • South Park:
    • Both the Good and Evil characters in the Imaginationland trilogy, manipulated into war for a terrorist cell's plot to destroy collective imagination by getting both sides to kill each other, despite the narrative's full support for the Good characters starting in Part 2 as if the Evil characters were the Big Bads instead of the already-dead terrorists, when they weren't, despite what they literally are. However, the plot fails because the Good characters win the war and the Evil characters are imprisoned.
    • Stan, Kyle, and Scott Tenorman in "Scott Tenorman Must Die". To a lesser extent, the rest of the town was this to Cartman in that episode. The only thing he hadn't planned on was Chef actually taking the Chili Contest seriously and submitting an entry, though this simply means Cartman has delicious chili to eat while he explains his master plan.
    • This happen to Kyle again when Leslie tells him that Pc Principle kill Jimmy and that Randy is helping him to kill any objectors to his political but in reality shes a ads whos wants to get rid of Pc Principle so she can turn South Park against each so ads can take over the world.
  • In the season 3 finale and season 4 premiere of The Venture Bros., Brock Samson is this to Molotov, and Molotov herself is this to Gathers. Molotov puts a hit out on Brock for three of the top OSI assassins and pins it on the OSI, getting him to kill them so that her own assassin organization, the Blackhearts, would have no competition. However, she doesn't realize that that's exactly what Gathers wants her to do, as it would later lure Brock right into a trap set by Gathers to coerce him into joining the reformed SPHINX.
  • In Over the Garden Wall, the Woodsman is tricked by the Beast into maintaining the Beast's Soul Jar, which he believes contains his daughter's soul instead. He was also initially unaware that the eidelwood trees he was using used to be human children.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Long Feng thought he was using Fire Nation Princess Azula to regain control of the Earth Kingdom capital, Ba Sing Se. In reality, she was using him to take control of it for the Fire Nation. By the time he realized she was playing him, she had already turned his own men against him. When he admits defeat, obviously impressed at her, she rubs salt in the wound by indicating this was all he was to her.
    Long Feng: You've beaten at my own game.
    Azula: Don't flatter yourself. You were never even a player.
  • Gravity Falls has almost every character that interacts with Big Bad Bill Cipher become this, furthering his plans for Weirdmageddon with every trick he pulls. This culminates with him possessing Blendin Blandin to trick Mabel into giving him the space-time rift that was the final key to his plan, causing the aforementioned event.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil has an interesting variation in that a villain is used as a pawn for another: that being Ludo being used as a tool and puppet by Toffee of Septarsis.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): In early season 5, Tiger Claw summons the demodragon Kavaxas to Earth in order to bring the Shredder, who was killed by Leo in the season 4 finale, Back from the Dead, using a mystical talisman, the Seal of the Ancients, to keep him under control. By the fourth episode, "End Times," Kavaxas successfully resurrects Shredder... but Shredder is little more than a shambling corpse under Kavaxas' control, and destroys the Seal of the Ancients; as it turns out, Shredder's resurrection was one of three tasks Kavaxas needed to accomplish in order to bring about The End of the World as We Know It, and he was using Tiger Claw all along in order to accomplish those three tasks.

    Real Life 
  • Napoleon III, who got played by every second-rate power in Europe, and some overseas. He certainly WAS one to Bismarck, but that was because Bismarck was Bismarck rather than because Napoleon III was gullible. Indeed, he actually came out on top of most of his battles (Mexico and the war of 1870 were the exception, not the rule), and most of the time he was being "played" by said second-rate powers, it was largely because he grasped more or less what they were doing and sympathized enough to go through with it anyway (Italy 1859 is the most obvious example, but the Belgian revolution and the Crimean War came in close seconds). If anything, he fell victim to trying to be someone he wasn't and had the misfortune to run up against the most ruthless and skilled ruler in Europe in charge of the largest and best military on the continent.
  • A popular (at least, in modern Russia) conspiracy theory says that Adolf Hitler was one either for the US and the UK, because they used him to conquer most of Europe, attack the USSR, be defeated and occupied from both sides, with purpose of making Europe weak and controlled by the USA, or for Josef Stalin, who manipulated him into starting the war, defeating France and continental allies, and then Stalin planned to attack and crush him, but Hitler attacked first. Both theories has many facts behind them, but whether they are true is still Riddle for the Ages.
  • Henry Morton Stanley helped to explore the Congo and claim it for King Leopold II of Belgium. Henry, like many others, was under the assumption that the Congo Free State would be run for humanitarian purposes. He had no idea that Leopold II was using him to set up a genocidal dictatorship.
  • Supposedly, the only relatively foolproof reason for letting yourself be recruited as a spy is to do it for the money. Any other motives (freedom, nationalism, the workers' revolution, whatever) expose you to being played as an unwitting Double Agent, mole, or agent provocateur by the people you oppose. This is NOT a "useful idiot," which is when (usually overt) support for a third party's nominal, moderate, public goals is cynically manipulated by the latter to advance their more closely-held, radical and secret goals. The "idiot" part comes from them being The Quisling without realizing that's what they're doing. They claim to love their country/faction/family/4-H club, but their actions and words say otherwise — and they'd never believe you if you pointed it out.
  • On the TV show Never Mind the Buzzcocks, a guest uttered a stream of swear words, which were bleeped out. The guest then informed the production team that they had just broadcast the Morse Code for a certain four-letter word.
  • Nearly everyone involved in the Malet coup of 1812, aside from Malet himself and the Abbé Lafon. Even those who helped prepare the coup - including a law student who should have known better - had no idea of what Malet and Lafon were really plotting. As General Lahorie put it, "We were conspirators in spite of ourselves."


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Xanatos Sucker


Vendra Prog

Vendra thinks she and her brother were forcibly taken from the Nexus and that Mr. Eye was trying to help her. It is not until it was too late that Mr. Eye sent them to the Polaris Galaxy to manipulate them into breaching the Nexus for galactic domination.

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Main / UnwittingPawn

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Main / UnwittingPawn