Follow TV Tropes

Following

With This Herring

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/anne_racket.png
When all you have is a tennis racket...
"You must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest wiiiiith... a herring!"
The Knights Who Say Ni, Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Advertisement:

So, you're a hero of destiny, summoned before the mighty king of this pastiche Tolkienesque fantasy kingdom and charged with saving the world from the terrible evil that has befallen it before it's The End of the World as We Know It. We know you can pull it off. Because Destiny Says So.

Oh, did we mention that you've got five bucks and a butter knife to your name?

Strange though it may seem, the king has sent you on the most important quest the world has ever known, and he expects you to pay your own way. Oh, he might invite you to scrounge around the castle for any treasure chests you can get to (forget the ones with locks or behind locked doors), all probably containing enough loot to buy a pointy stick; but it wouldn't even occur to him that, what with the world hanging in the balance, it might be a good idea to give you every resource at his disposal. No Supernatural Aid for you!

Advertisement:

Nor are you bringing much to the situation; Warriors of Destiny don't have trust funds. Or savings accounts. Or bus fare, for that matter. You'd think that just to qualify as a Warrior of Anything, you'd at least have a sword, maybe a suit of well-worn armor from all that warrioring you did to build up your reputation, but no. In fact, you're a Level 1 warrior, so you don't even have any experience to speak of — though the king is hardly going to suggest sending you off to boot camp with his personal guard for a week.

No, you're just going to have to do it the hard way, beating up local slime and mad wolves for the gold pieces they drop. (What the wolves are doing with gold pieces to begin with is anyone's guess.)

Fairly standard setup for the classic fantasy Role-Playing Game and all sorts of Adventure Games.

Advertisement:

Somewhat less noticeable these days, not because your kit is any better, but because the setup of being deliberately sent on a mission by a king is currently out of fashion, in favor of either being a penniless drifter who just happens upon the adventure, or being a kid who insists on taking on the challenge.

Survival Horror has a form of this trope, but there it tends to work a little better, as it's less about deliberately being shafted and more about not getting a chance to prepare.

Frequently overlaps with No Hero Discount. Contrast with Bag of Spilling, in which equipment/power-ups don't carry over to the next part; and Giving the Sword to a Noob, where a powerful weapon ends up in the hands of an incompetent such as The Chosen Zero. An alternative to this trope is It May Help You on Your Quest, where useless looking equipment turns out to be unexpectedly vital later on. If it's literally a herring, see Shamu Fu.

Often the first step in a Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness. A Taste of Power subverts this trope... at first. For the gameplay version, see Early Game Hell. For the general trope of starting with weak gear, see Starter Equipment.

No relation to Red Herring, nor to the With This Ring trope. The fanfiction With This Ring is rather the opposite, starting the protagonist out with one of the greatest weapons in the universe. May overlap with Impossible Task (as the Trope Namer does).


Example subpages:

Other examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the second episode (the RPG parody) of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi king-Papan charges Sasshi and Arumi with defeating the dark lord, Aki-nee. The king gives them a bag of gold, then the court turns around and goes back into the castle again.
  • Done even more brutally in full-on RPG parody series Magical Circle Guru-Guru when the king loudly disavows himself of all responsibility for the child heroes after giving them a small amount of gold.
  • Played straight in The Five Star Stories: Mishalu Ha Lonn had to find and rescue her Emperor from a large (about an army-sized) and heavily armed mercenary force with a single lousy division of inexperienced recruits and just four Mortar Headds of dubious stats against her enemy's nine. Her detachment manages to hold long enough for The Cavalry to arrive, though.
  • Played with in Bikini Warriors, where the king who is trying to send the heroines on a quest only gives them 10 gold to work with. The heroines try to convince the king to supply them better, ending with Dark Elf giving an ultimatum to decide between his kingdom or his money. He winds up throwing the heroines in the dungeon, naked and tied up with ropes.
  • Luffy from One Piece starts off his adventure on the high seas with nothing but his clothes, a devil-fruit power (which prevents him from swimming) and a dinghy. And on top of his lack of material supplies, about the only thing he really knows how to do is fight so he can't even navigate.
  • In Dragon Ball, Goku begins the quest for the Dragon Balls in the Red Ribbon arc with nothing but a magical cloud, an extending stick and some martial arts skills. With them, he wipes out the entire Red Ribbon Army at the end of the story. He's in a similar situation at the start of the King Piccolo arc (a villain who can blow up cities all by himself), only this time he quickly loses the cloud!

    Comic Books 
  • Stanley and His Monster: Played with in the Phil Foglio mini-series. Ambrose Bierce tells Stanley to pack 'whatever he thinks he will need' for an expedition to Hell while casting a spell that ensures that whatever he chooses will be exactly what he needs. Stanley packs a Halloween mask, a bottle of soda, a package of hot dogs, an umbrella, a bottle of barbeque sauce and a little red wagon. This turns out to be exactly what he needs to defeat the forces of Hell.

    Comic Strips 
  • One issue of Hsu and Chan has Arnie as a parody of Master Chief from Halo save the world from the covenant with a plastic serrated knife.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 
  • In Parting Words, Twilight Sparkle finally calls Princess Celestia out on this.
    Twilight Sparkle: I've been thinking about that a while. That having a few soldiers along for a dangerous mission might be a good idea. At least since, you know, that one time you sent me and five other teenage mares up a mountain to evict a giant firebreathing dragon. Or when you sent us out alone to face Discord. Or that time—-
    Celestia: You were in no danger from that dragon—
    Twilight Sparkle: NO DANGER? That dragon nearly had hickory smoked pony for a bedtime snack!!
  • Experienced by the four at the beginning of The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. They're brought back to C'hou and (eventually) told they're there to help save the world, but all they have to live on initially is Ringo's pouchful of money—which turns out to be worth a LOT less than it used to, meaning they have to start finding money just to stay alive pretty damn quick. Rather shabby treatment for champions brought over by the gods...
  • Triptych Continuum: In the setting's cornerstone work, the Mane 6 (plus Spike) are sent on a mission by Discord... and not only does he not provide any explanation of what they're supposed to do beyond "there is a bad thing. Find and fix it", the only resources they have are whatever they happened to have in their saddlebags when he yoinked them to Canterlot and a single one-shot "make any one thing go away" button for Fluttershy. Discord states that this is for some reason necessary if they are doing things "the pony way".

    Literature 
  • Neal Stephenson's Anathem:
    Cord: Do you need transportation? Tools? Stuff?
    Erasmas: Our opponent is an alien starship packed with atomic bombs. We have a protractor.
  • Done in the novel Heroes Adrift by Moira J. Moore. The hero and heroine are professional weather-tamers (organization known as the Triple S) and live on a continent where the weather frequently tries to kill you. All Triple S employees live off the largesse of the government and have free housing provided for them, and they never have to pay for food, clothing, etc—they just walk up with their professional identification and get what they want. The queen sends the two of them to another continent to do a secret job for her. On this continent, weather-tamers aren't needed and the Queen's dictates are pretty much ignored... leaving the hero and heroine stranded with no money and no job skills in order to make money.
  • Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus: The only formal aid the Roman Senate gives Percy, Frank, and Hazel on their quest to save Camp Jupiter in The Son of Neptune is the piece-of-crap dinghy that sinks outside of Seattle. And that alone took a lot of begging.
  • Subverted in Philip K. Dick's Paycheck. The hero has just had his memory of the last two years of working on a top-secret project erased, and when he picks up his paycheck he discovers that for some reason during those two years he decided to ask to be paid not in money but several weird and almost worthless items like a small piece of wire and a bus token. However, it soon turns out that the project was a window into the future, and he picked each of these items for some specific purpose to help him survive the dangerous situations he will shortly find himself in.
    • According to the author, that was actually the main point of writing the story:
      Dick: How much is a key to a bus locker worth? One day it's worth 25 cents, the next day thousands of dollars. In this story, I got to thinking that there are times in our lives when having a dime to make a phone call spells the difference between life and death. Keys, small change, maybe a theater ticket — how about a parking receipt for a Jaguar? All I had to do was link this idea up with time travel to see how the small and useless, under the wise eyes of a time traveler, might signify a great deal more. He would know when that dime might save your life. And, back in the past again, he might prefer that dime to any amount of money, no matter how large.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The two-man British improv show S&M did a skit once where the Yoda-like mentor (Mike McShane) was preparing the local Skywalker-surrogate (Tony Slattery) for battle against the Big Bad. As Tony prepares to leave: "Do I get a lightsaber?" "No, just one of these naff sticks," handing him the flimsy prop cane he's holding.
  • In Brimstone, Ezekiel Stone is charged with tracking down 113 damned souls who've escaped to Earth, some of whom have been in Hell since the beginning of time, and who thus have amassed fantastic powers. To accomplish this mission, he has a handgun and $36.27 (the money on him when he died and went to Hell). Mind you, he begins each day with it, giving him functionally unlimited funds. $36.27 at a time. No saving up.
  • Reaper: The Devil provides Sam with an object capable of retrieving the escaped souls, such as a dust buster or a tennis ball. Funnily enough, these are sometimes quite effective. The bad ones are when he gets given seemingly useful ones like a spear — to fight a Mongol warrior with. Or a boxing glove when facing a champion prizefighter.
    • He also sometimes gets strange powers to catch a particular soul. Of course, these usually end up completely useless and only serve as obstacles. Try catching a soul when anything you try to eat (even toothpaste) turns into an insect.
  • MST3K - in the "The Day the Earth Froze" episode, the evil witch challenges the hero to plow a field of snakes - when he challenges her on this point she replies "Hey, I'm the curse boss here!" In the actual movie, she's deliberately wasting his time.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Fairly OddParents "Wishology" trilogy, Timmy is told he has to fight The Darkness and sent on his way... with nothing, not even his fairies, to help him. He also loses everything at the beginning of the next two parts, forcing him to start over.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Gaming the System", Candace is stuck inside the boys' video game and must Win to Exit. Unfortunately, when she was scanned into the game, all she had was a Modesty Towel and a hair dryer (which somehow works despite needing to be plugged in), which she uses to destroy Mooks.
  • What A Cartoon! Show: In "Gramps", a grandfather tells his grandchildren a tale of how he supposedly saved the world from an alien invasion. The President asked for his help and told him to choose between door number 1 or door number 2. Had he chosen door number one, he'd have received several big weapons but he chose door number 2 and received a mule.

    Real Life 
  • The cause of Improvised Armour.
  • In 1944 and '45, United States tankers in Northern Europe began to feel let down by the M4 Sherman medium tank. Some would accuse the military of not providing them with good equipment, and Belton Cooper's book Death Traps would give the Sherman its Never Live It Down postwar reputation, which is significantly exaggerated and undeserved (only 1,407 or 3% of US tankers got killed, a number so small it's incredible). In fact, thanks to the crew ergonomics and hatch design it was probably the easiest tank in World War Two to bail out of quickly. There was a reason for the backlash, though, and how it came about requires some context.
    • The US M4 Sherman had started development in 1940 as a modern replacement for obsolete tanks such as the M2 and the stopgap M3 Lee. It was based on the same conservative, well-tested running gear and radial aircraft engines as its predecessors, but incorporated an improved cast hull (welded in later models), 75 mm gun mounted in a fully rotating turret, and some neat gadgets including a gun stabilizer. Infantry support and exploitation were its main roles, but it was also made to be capable of killing any Panzer II or III tanks it ran into. Its combat characteristics were more than adequate upon first combat in 1942, and it had great strategic mobility and mechanical reliability throughout the war. However, as Operation Overlord loomed in 1944, the Sherman was growing (in David Fletcher's words) "a little long in the tooth". Among its problems were a high silhouette stemming the use of a radial engine and driveshaft passing under the fighting compartment, narrow tracks that sometimes sank into mud, overall armor and weight limited for the sake of mobility, ammo racks in the high side sponsons above the tracks where they were more likely to take a hit through the side and catch fire, a dual-purpose 75 mm gun which lacked the velocity for penetrating late war German armor, and a small turret that made up-gunning the tank difficult.
    • The Sherman kept its primary place all the way through the end of the war because the policy of Army Ground Forces then was to favor proven equipment and to require thorough quality testing of any new weapons system before they would approve its use overseas. The programs of upgunning the M4 with the more powerful 76 mm in a new turret and producing a heavier tank model (which ended up being the M26 Pershing) were subjected to this process. Ordnance chief Gladeon Barnes claimed during and after the war that Army Ground Forces head Leslie McNair hindered the development of these weapons because of his own ideas about doctrine, but McNair and AGF were actually supportive of prototypes and testing: what they objected to were Barnes' proposals to begin serial production and ship things overseas which had not yet been tested and found "battle worthy". Meanwhile, for those who believed the 75 mm Sherman to be adequate for the time being, multiple factors fostered a false sense of security: the Sherman had been performing well in Italy despite occasional complaints about the gun and armor; the Tank Destroyer Branch was supposed to provide the firepower to take on anything the tanks couldn't handle; and US intelligence was not aware of the full capability and numbers of the new German Panther tank. The Army had conducted armor penetration tests which satisfied them of the 75 and 76 mm guns' continued effectiveness, not realizing that actual German armor was hardened much more than the test plate they had used. To make matters worse, somehow the decision got made to leave behind all 100 of the 76 mm Shermans that had been sent to Britain for the D-Day invasion, meaning that initially they had nothing but the 75. "This," to quote Nicholas Moran, "was something of an 'oops'."
    • Therefore, when the hedgerow terrain of Normandy prevented them from using maneuver and forced them into head-on slugging matches with Panthers, the Allied tank forces had a Mass "Oh, Crap!" experience. They started to up-armor their tanks in any way they could, including using things like spare track, concrete, sandbags, netting, and even wood. Ordnance testing determined that these found materials provided little protection and served mainly to weigh down the tank while giving the crew a false sense of security. In fact, materials such as unhardened steel track could increase damage by normalizing the path of a shell impacting the front slope, so that it would turn into the armor instead of glancing off and encounter less effective thickness because of its more perpendicular path. General Patton cracked down on this kind of low-quality hillbilly armour after listening to his ordnance officers, and Third Army instead came up with the practice of stripping armour plate off wrecks of any nationality and welding it onto their own vehicles. It was distinguished with the official-sounding name appliqué armour and was adopted by several other US Armored Groups. German armour was especially favoured for this purpose, and many wrecked Panthers and Tigers were stripped down to the frame—another reason why so few survived the war to be reconditioned for museums.
    • Lack of firepower was unfortunately something which no field expedient could correct. The 75 mm was ineffective against new German tank models, the 76 wasn't as big an improvement as had been hoped, and the Tank Destroyers were similarly undergunned. The M36 Jackson tank destroyer (gun motor carriage if you want to get technical) with the 90 mm was greatly appreciated when introduced, but like the other guns its effectiveness was limited by the least excusable mistake made by AGF, which is that they initially didn't produce and distribute enough hypervelocity armor piercing (HVAP) ammunition for tanks in Europe.
    • Ultimately, these problems didn't prevent US armored forces from crushing the Germans in battle—even at the times when they didn't get massive artillery and air support—largely thanks to better crew quality, complete motorization of all US divisions, ability to maintain and repair tanks, ability to replace destroyed tanks, and having way more ammunition and fuel than the Germans had. The Pershing came too late to make much of a difference, and could not realistically have been introduced earlier without even worse practical issues than it had, so the Army had no choice but to stick with the Sherman. It was Boring, but Practical, and while some tankers felt like they were taking on the Germans with a herring, they probably didn't realize just how much misery the crews of late German tanks were going through because their Awesome, but Impractical machines had been rushed out of development before they were ready.
  • When the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq starting in 2003, they had the equipment and vehicles to fight a conventional war but proved unequipped for the asymmetric warfare and insurgency that followed. For example, the HMMWV/Humvee utility vehicle was frequently caught in urban combat or blown up with improvised explosive devices despite not being intended for front line combat and having no armor. U.S. troops had to resort to "hillbilly armor", putting sheet metal and other scraps on their Humvees as armour kits. Proper armor kits were soon developed, but the vehicles' performance and reliability were reduced by adding a bunch of armor to a platform that hadn't been designed for it, necessitating the development of purpose-built Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.
  • The greatest problem affecting almost any armed force in history has been logistics and supplies.
    • For example, Generation Kill points out that when the United States Marine Corps was invading Iraq in '03, they were issued MOPPs (NBC protective gear) in forest green camouflage.
    • The British Army had similar problems, as most of their desert pattern equipment had been allocated to Afghanistan. A lot of troops ended up with jungle-pattern fatigues, which were slightly better than nothing as they were at least intended for a hot climate.
    • The Canadian Army had even more issues even before Iraq, but that's because before 9/11 the Canadian Army didn't have desert fatigues.
    • The first half of WWI was another example for Canada given their initial equipment, such as rifles that got easily jammed with mud, disassembled when fired, wore boots with such poor stitching that they fell apart with the slightest wear and a shovel designed with a hole in it. Their early reputation as Stosstruppen, assault troops, partly evolved from a lack of functional equipment for an ordinary firefight.
    • To clarify, unlike the Imperial Storm Troopers from Star Wars, during 1916-17 the Canadian and Australian Corps acquired truly formidable reputations. This was mostly attributable to their determination to overcome their previous logistical failings and freedom to attempt new solutions to them.
    • This is the reason Easy Logistics is an Acceptable Break from Reality: cut off an army's supply routes, and they're pretty much fucked.
  • The first year of the Soviet-German War was a desperate time.
    • In that first year, regular Red Army combat units underwent a more than 300% turnover (4 million captured of whom almost all died or were enslaved and then euthanised when they became Unfit-for-Work, 2 million dead in combat and of wounds, and 4 million hospitalised for wounds of a pre-war strength of 3 million) in personnel. The turnover in Penal Battalion (a Shtrafbat was a unit of up to 1000 men) units, in which deserters and criminals were offered the opportunity to earn their freedom by serving in the thick of the fighting, was even higher. There are even rumours that in this first year, several were used for 'combat reconnaissance' (drawing fire to expose the positions of enemy units) or actual combat when only semi-armed or possibly unarmed. It is unclear whether the pragmatic arguments for equipping these the Shtrafbaty well, as they saw the heaviest combat, won out over the inclination to avoid favouring cowards, criminals, and traitors when the material situation improved in the war's second year and began outstripping the Germans' in the third.
    • All this gave rise to a popular joke featuring the 'Wish-granting Fish' of Russian folklore and humour. A Soviet man finds one, and wishes he was a Hero of the Soviet Union. He finds himself in an open field with two grenades and five German tanks.
    • When Operation Barbarossa swept in, the Soviet Air Force was caught unprepared in many ways, one of them being fighter armament. They had no cannons, only machine guns, so German bombers would just soak up everything they fired without being disabled. One time a KV heavy tank got stuck in a swamp, and to prevent it from being captured by the enemy, pilot Ivan Gaidaenko and his team were ordered to destroy it from the air:
      "Can you imagine? We were ordered to destroy this tank with 7.62 millimeter ShKAS machine guns! They should have known better! Well, we flew to the tank and fired at it. But what was the point of all this?"
  • This was actually common up until the advent of standing armies. Many medieval or Roman era soldiers were expected to provide their own equipment, especially horses. In most cases, it hardly fits the trope, as knights were expected to pay all military expenses of themselves and their retainers, but it was part of the feudal contract. Not to mention that Roman equites and medieval knight were usually quite resourceful and more than often THEY were the authority responsible for adequate equipment, responsibility which was later transferred to centralized government.
    • The term "Black Knight" actually comes from the practice of unbound knights (i.e. no fief to support themselves) covering their armor with pitch to prevent rust and generally cut down on maintenance.
  • The Confederacy was plagued by logistics problems throughout The American Civil War. When it started they had no capability to manufacture artillery (and when they developed it the results were sub-standard and inaccurate), their rail system was badly placed to move troops through the interior of the country, and for some reason, they had a chronic shoe shortage for basically the entire war. Some Confederate re-enactors like to think this was planned, claiming that since the high (c.50%) import tariffs on manufactured goods - like machine parts - kept the South dependent on the North for building up its industry and supplying it with factory-produced consumer and other goods. This is true, insofar as it really was a side-effect of the US' longstanding protectionist economic policies.
  • The FP-45 Liberator was a small single-shot .45 caliber pistol developed by the U.S. Army during World War II, designed to be cheaply mass-produced and then distributed to resistance fighters throughout occupied Europe. The extremely rudimentary design included a 4-inch unrifled tube for the barrel and extensive use of stamped sheet metal. 300 workers at the Guide Lamp Division of General Motors put together one million pistols in a mere 13 weeks, which were priced at $2.10 apiece. The idea was for bomber planes to drop large numbers of them into European cities with a significant resistance presence. With just one shot at a time (and no means of reloading quickly), a maximum lifespan of about 50 shots, and an effective range of no more than 8 yards, the FP-45 was basically good for just one thing: to sneak up on an Axis soldier, kill him with one shot at point-blank range, and steal his weapon. It came in a waterproof box with ten rounds of ammunition, a wooden dowel to push spent casings out of the chamber, and a set of cartoon instructions. Alas, there was a problem: The Americans sent 500,000 Liberators to the British, but the Brits were not ultimately willing to carry fewer bombs in their planes so that they could drop boxes of liberators from the sky. They did end up giving some out to Greek partisans, at least. Most of the 500,000 that stayed in America also found no use, while the few that were distributed went mostly to India, China, and particularly the Philippines. The vast majority of the Liberators that remained in storage after the war were destroyed by the government.
  • The Deer gun was a Cold War follow-up to the Liberator. During the 1950s the CIA was interested in covertly arming various resistance and insurgent groups abroad, and someone got the idea of reactivating the old Liberators. Then they found out that practically all of the Liberators had been destroyed, and they'd have to start over from scratch. In 1962 they gave Russel Moore of American Machine & Foundry a contract of $300,000 dollars for a test run of 1,000 pistols, which was expected to be followed by bulk orders at $3.95 apiece. Unlike the Liberator it was made of cast aluminum and chambered for 9mm; to use it one would unscrew the very short threaded steel barrel, insert the cartridge, replace the barrel, pull back a plunger to manually cock the striker, and pull the trigger. For the sake of deniability there were no markings of any kind on it. For some reason the CIA never did order more than the initial 1,000, and while there's speculation that they'd planned to use it in Vietnam, the CIA has so far refused to answer all FOIA requests related to the Deer Gun.
  • Check out some of the ineffective weapons the Libyan rebels are stuck with.
  • Escapees from behind the Berlin Wall built a fantastic array of escape vehicles with virtually no money or resources. Of special note are a homemade tank, and a hot air balloon.
  • Virtually any escapee from a POW camp has had to face this.
  • A problem for the Italian Army in both World Wars, even if in different ways:
    • Italy started World War I with insufficient numbers of everything, and especially machine guns, due a combination of political interference and incompetence, the first competent commander-in-chief in a long time, Alberto Pollio, having to face serious interference due his political leanings (being favorable to the Triple Alliance in a political climate favoring ditching Germany and the Arch-Enemy Austria-Hungary for the other side) and organize the conquest of Libya before his highly suspicious death in 1914, Pollio's successor Cadorna having to start from scratch as he was his political opponent and couldn't take advantage of his predecessor's connections, and a beyond stupid political attitude about the acquisition of machine guns.note  The problems were mostly solved by 1917, in time to contribute to Italy's successful defense of the Grappa Massif after the Austro-Hungarian breakthrough at Caporetto, and completely solved with American help by the summer.
    • By the time World War II started, Italy was theoretically well-equipped... Except the government had learned all the wrong lessons from the conflicts in the 30s and thus gave the troops inadequate equipment (most notably, the Italian Navy had no carriers even in presence of the technical ability to build and equip them and the existence of a capable torpedo bomber design, and Italy's main fighter design was a biplane), and, as the war was expected to start in 1942 at the earliest, the country was caught before it could accumulate adequate reserves of primary resources and produce the few good equipment in the necessary amounts (as an example among many, Italy was switching to a better infantry cartridge, for which they even had a semiautomatic rifle, but with the war starting three years early production of the new cartridge and the rechambered Carcano rifles was stopped due insufficient reserves preventing an immediate switch and possibly causing logistic complications Italy could not deal with, and production of the semiautomatic rifle had to be postponed to 1943 due difficulties in adapting it to the old round).


...I thee wed.

Alternative Title(s): With A Herring

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report