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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 Pawn when they cannot see they are being played. They believe they are accomplishing their own goal, but find out they are simply furthering another party's scheme. Agendas can be subtle or grand in nature, and anything from simple trickery to Mind Control can be involved.


Any character type can be played like this, from heroes to villains to secondary characters. Often, the Wide-Eyed Idealist is manipulated because the world is simple in their eyes. Other times, the Knight Templar and Well-Intentioned Extremist fall prey when they solely focus on their outcome. The Hero, horrified at what they helped accomplish, often works to undo it if they can.

As with The Pawn, examples need four parts to work:

  1. Who took action?
  2. What was their goal?
  3. What agenda was furthered?
  4. Who created the agenda?

Compare Out-Gambitted, Unwitting Instigator of Doom, My God, What Have I Done? Contrast the Spanner in the Works, who just as ignorantly harms these schemes.

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.
    • 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) as Unwitting Pawns 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: Shinji Ikari went from being manipulated and forced by Gendo Ikari against his will to being forced to bring about The End of the World as We Know It.
    • Rebuild 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.
  • 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 will be making 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 pretty much 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • 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.
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • 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, pretty much 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
    • Queen Amidala in The Phantom Menace when Palpatine manipulates her into calling for Valorum's resignation.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 transform his bones into adamantium to avenge Kayla.
  • 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 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.
  • Robert the Bruce becomes this at the end of Braveheart, when his father uses him to lure the hero William Wallace into a trap.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • As Malacoda said to Shroud in Dis Acedia:
    A decent puppeteer can manipulate pawns, yes… but a true master pulls strings on string-pullers themselves.
  • In the words of the fake Mad-Eye Moody in the fourth Harry Potter book,
    Decent people are so easy to manipulate.
    • Ginny Weasley in Chamber of Secrets, though she eventually became suspicious and tried unsuccessfully to destroy the diary.
    • Harry Potter himself in Order of the Phoenix, when Voldemort tricks him into going to the Department of Mysteries. Especially notable given that he told Snape (who at this point he believed loyal to Dumbledore) that he'd had a vision of Sirius in danger there, and still rushes in to do the Dark Lord's dirty work for him.
    • Horace Slughorn is the main reason Dumbledore needed to come up with such a complex plan to defeat Voldemort in the first place. Voldemort, a student at the time, played up his "eager young star student" act to goad Slughorn into revealing some crucial knowledge of how Horcruxes are made. Horace actually realized later in life that he had been a pawn and that he was thus indirectly responsible for a great deal of harm, and edited his own memories out of shame.
    • For the kind that helps without any prompting from the villain, see Cornelius Fudge and everyone else who was complicit in denying that Voldemort had returned.
  • In Stephen Marley's book Spirit Mirror, Chia Black Dragon tries very hard to dodge Nyak's plan by taking a third option. She fails, and ends up releasing Nyak from his can. Then in the next book, Mortal Mask, she does it again.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • When Grand Admiral Thrawn from The Thrawn Trilogy is involved, characters become suckers by being so afraid that they play right into his hands through their caution, the best example being that when they need a certain device from one of two locations, they leak info that they will go to one, therefore showing him they are actually going to the other. Some characters in the Hand of Thrawn duology are wary of doing anything lest they be doing what he wants.
    • The Rebel clones in Galaxy of Fear. They're friendly enough, if kind of vacant, and tell our heroes to stay around, their leader is out right now but he'll be back soon and they should meet him. Turns out their leader is an actual Darth Vader Clone. But they have no idea that he should be their enemy—he's the one who gathered the skin and hair samples they were created from, and they have no memories about what being a Rebel means or what the Empire is.
    • In Dark Lord—The Rise of Darth Vader, rather than capture the fugitive Jedi quietly, Moff Tarkin allows them to slip past an Imperial checkpoint in their disguised stolen shuttle, so that when they land on Kashyyyk he can accuse the Wookiees of harboring fugitives as a pretext to invade the planet and round up thousands of Wookiee captives—perfect slaves for his Death Star project.
  • In the Wheel of Time series:
    • The entire point of Elaida is to further the plans of the Forsaken by either doing what a servant says or just being an idiot.
    • The entire Whitecloak movement.
  • Although Ian Irvine has one in every single book, the conclusion to the Well of Echoes series deserves special mention for the sheer scale of it. The main character attempts to stop the Magnificent Bastard from using the most powerful magic in the world to take over said world by destroying the power sources of all magic, thus preventing anybody from using it. Except it turns out that the magic the Magnificent Bastard was using was the only one powered by something else, and what she had actually done was destroyed any and every chance the heroes had of stopping him. Whoops.
  • Most of the Blood Angels in James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novels Deus Encarmine'' and ''Deus Sanguinius. Sachiel in particular; Inquisitor Stele thinks how easy he is to manipulate, and when he realizes at last the corruption, Stele kills him, declares the loyal Blood Angels did it, and starts a battle.
  • In Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, this role is amply filled by King Elias. From the start, Evil Sorcerer Pryrates tricks and manipulates him via promises: first, to communicate with his dead wife, and later, to grant him Immortality, all while turning him into a vessel for the return of the Big Bad Storm King.
    • Ironically enough, Pryrates is an even bigger Sucker. The Storm King manipulated him with the promise that Pryrates would be the "first among men" when The Storm King returned. And he was the die.
    • The entire cast of protagonists are suckers, by the classic definition, as the most basic element of the Storm King's Evil Plan is to trick them into bringing him the Three Swords. It works perfectly.
  • Discworld has Vimes. Oh, dear, poor Vimes. Thud! comes to mind, in which the entire quest he undertakes has been engineered by the very politicians whom he thinks he's going to stop, to give them an excuse to make peace with each other, which is what Vimes wanted all along, except that he's been their unwitting pawn...
    You can't bribe Sam Vimes, but why bother when you can just pull the wool over his eyes?
  • The Dale Brown book Act of War has many characters play into National Security Adviser Robert Chamberlain's hands.
    • Shadow Command sees US President Joseph Gardner playing right into the hands of Russian President Leonid Zevitin. The former's egoistic desperation to control the Chaotic Good protagonists leads him to steadily feed information that should have stayed classified. Fortunately for Gardner, he does not end up outliving his usefulness.
  • In Flora's Dare, Flora is sent off by Lord Axacaya to Bilskinir House to recover Georgiana Segunda's Diario so as to determine how to free the Loliga. Little does she suspect that the his primary reason for sending her was to confirm his suspicions that she's the last Hadraada, and thus have her killed.
  • In the Mistborn trilogy, everyone is an Unwitting Pawn for Ruin and its plan for complete...ruin. And in true Chess Master spirit, that's not even the end of it it, since Preservation made a Unwitting Pawn out of Ruin by making humans in ITS plan for offing Ruin. DANG. For the record, "everyone" includes the Big Bad and the Chess Master. No mind goes unscrewed.
  • In Hunger, the second book of the Gone series, the Gaiaphage does this to Caine and Lana. Caine thinks he's messing with the nuclear power plant for revenge and power, and Lana thinks she's actually trying to destroy the Gaiaphage. It may also be doing this to Brittney in book 3. Drake is corrupt enough that he actually works for it willingly.
  • Kronos does this to everyone in Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Furthermore, especially in the second book of the new series, The Heroes of Olympus, many characters, among which the Big Bad herself, state that Percy will be Gaia's pawn, and that he'll bring about the destruction of the gods.
  • In the Warrior Cats novel The Forgotten Warrior, Sol shows up in ThunderClan for a visit and Firestar decides to let him stay for a bit, despite his evil acts. Later, when Lionblaze is on patrol, Onestar, leader of WindClan shows up and tells the ThunderClan cats to drive out Sol, which they had already been planning to do. However, since Onestar told them to do it, doing so would make ThunderClan look subserviant to WindClan and weaken it, so they are forced to ally with Sol against Onestar rather than driving Sol out.
  • Spartacus Kilroy in the first Erec Rex book. He thinks he's just trying to help the sick King Piter get better. He doesn't realize that the coffee he's giving the king actually contains the poison keeping him ill.
  • In The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin, Húrin ends up as one after he is released by Morgoth. Driven mad by 28 years of Mind Rape he ends up unwittingly leading the enemy to the Hidden City of Gondolin, causes a civil war and the ultimate destruction of the last free tribe of Men, and sets events in motion that lead to the fall of the largest kingdom of Elves, all in an attempt to avenge his family's deaths . He only stops when Melian tells him that he's not helping anyone, and effectively acting as a tool of Morgoth's malice. Then he kills himself.
  • In Death: William from Rapture In Death doesn't even know that his wife, Reanna The Sociopath, has manipulated him in more ways than one to help her commit murder.
  • Under the advice of his dead wife's spirit and Big Good Kil'jaeden, the old orc shaman Ner'zhul in the Warcraft novel Rise of the Horde convinces his people to put away their differences and prepare to defend themselves against the Draenei. Except his wife's ghost was an illusion, Kil'jaeden is The Devil and this book is the Start of Darkness of the orcs that explains how they became the Always Chaotic Evil horde of the first two games. Oops.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, EVERYONE is this to Petyr Baelish. By various schemes and plots, he deepened the conflict between Stark and Lannister families, which escalated with Ned's execution. This got the North to take arms against the king, which started an entire war for the Seven Kingdoms. That's just in the first book. And he's not even nearly done. Even Tywin Lannister, a Magnificent Bastard through and through, is only another piece in the game.
    • To Littlefinger, or to Varys. Varys pushed Cersei towards paranoia so she would think every competent adviser who dared criticize her bad decisions to be a traitor and plot their demises. All so the Targaryen prince he hid away can reclaim the Iron Throne.
  • In Fred, Alice and Aunty Lou, a Robert Westall short story in his anthology Break of Dark, author Peter Wingfield plays into the hands of vengeful ghosts; giving them a conduit to the real world and the energy of his dislike for his old school-mate, Roger.
  • In The Doctrine Of Labyrinths, Felix thinks he severed his tie to Malkar years ago, as he continued to climb the Mirador's political ladder. Turns out that Malkar still has enough of a tie to steal Felix's magic for the destruction of the Virtu.
  • Amara in Knowledge Of Angels- even though the orchestrator of the plot is not the villain, the plan does end up causing the death of a main character, as Amara has technically proven his guilt in rejecting God.
  • The entire Solarian League and its navy is this in the Honor Harrington series. The Mesan Alignment has several well placed naval officers in its pocket, up to and including the fleet admiral, allowing them to basically send whoever they want wherever they want. They use this power to set up a war between the League and the Star Empire of Manticore. Standout among their pawns is Admiral Josef Byng. Where every other Solarian officer they used was at least being bribed and/or blackmailed, Byng was just useful as an anti-Manticore bigot. They put him into position and let his personality do the rest.
  • In Dragonvarld, the Sisterhood of Seth play this role. They think that their efforts are keeping Seth free of dragons, but they're actually only repelling all dragons except the one they unknowingly serve and whose predations the "attacking" dragons are trying to end.
  • In the Robert Ludlum novel "The Prometheus Deception," Nick Bryson is an operative for the Directorate, a top-secret division of the U.S. government. Five years after his forced retirement, he's tracked down by the FBI director who informs him of the truth: The Directorate was founded by the KGB, Bryson's parents were killed to set him on this path, his foster "uncle" an enemy operative and even his beloved girlfriend was in on it. Every single mission he risked his life for and felt proud of actually was working against U.S. interests and thus his entire life has been one grand lie to be used by the enemy.
  • Subverted in the last book of Counselors and Kings. Kiva has released her former captor and Evil Mentor Akhlaur from his imprisonment with the intention of manipulating him into destroying The Magocracy of Halruaa and its King Zalathorm for her. Said manipulations across most of the book go off without a hitch. Then Kiva tries to convince Akhlaur to destroy his and Zalathorm's shared Soul Jar so they can fight it out evenly - and he all but laughs in her face. Seems for most of the book, Kiva had been "manipulating" Akhlaur into doing things he wanted to do anyway, but he's not about to put his immortality on the line for anything, even his own revenge and certainly not Kiva's, and he's far too powerful for her to do anything about it; Kiva has to go into a mad scramble to salvage something of her plans that doesn't end with Akhlaur on the throne, and she fails to do so. This, people, is why Evil Is Not a Toy.
  • A heroic case in Noob. Big Bad Tabris was initially created by scientists from the Empire, but rebelled against them. However, upon his creation, certain objectives were implanted into him. They includes fiding more rosaphir, the limited resource that the Empire needs to fuel its technology instead of the abundant but not completely reliable magic. In the fourth novel, his biggest move had the side effect of doing just that, indicating he's still guided by these objectives to an extent.
  • Wolf Hall portrays Sister Elizabeth Barton as a young woman whose desire for attention made her an easy pawn of ecclesiastic and Plantagenet enemies of Henry VIII. She helps them by publicly prophesying against Henry without understanding that she's made herself liable for treason by doing so, and she ends up hanged after Thomas Cromwell exposes all the plotting.
  • Jean de Vrailly of The Traitor Son Cycle is trying to save the kingdom of Alba under the advice of his guardian angel. Predictably, the angel is not what it says it is, and it's playing de Vrailly like a fiddle for its own purposes.

    Live Action TV 
  • The entire cast of Angel in season four. They spend a whole whack of time chasing down Jasmine, hoping to free the world from her version of lovey-dovey mind-control. At the end, their victory is entirely spoiled when evil law firm Wolfram and Hart contact them saying how happy they are that they've averted instant world peace. Nearly everything they had done in the past seasons had led to Jasmine's rise to power to begin with. Ironically, in the next season, the entire Wolfram and Hart becomes a sucker when Angel fools its higher-ups into thinking he is corrupted. And for giving him the means to do it, as a reward.
    • In season 5, Gunn is manipulated by a W&H employee into signing off on allowing a sarcophagus to be delivered to the office, which allows on of Illyria's worshippers to resurrect her in Fred's body.
  • In Babylon 5, this is how Ambassador Londo Mollari gets revenge on Lord Refa, his erstwhile ally, for his deadly political maneuverings. Londo makes it appear as though he is laying a trap for G'Kar to leave sanctuary at Babylon 5 so he can arrest him and thus gain political favor, and makes sure that the information is leaked, knowing that Lord Refa will try to undermine the plot by reaching G'Kar first so he can imprison and kill both G'Kar and Londo. However, the real trap is different: G'Kar was in on it the whole time and the guards were loyal to House Mollari, meaning that this Unwitting Pawn just walked into his own death trap, via No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from a group of angry Narns while a lively gospel song plays.
    • Unfortunately, Londo's attaché and friend Vir is also something of an Unwitting Pawn during the scheme; even though he wasn't a victim, he had to believe the fake version of the plot because there were telepaths involved, and the information had to appear genuine. He wasn't happy to be made a fool of.
  • Doctor Who: Companions have unwittingly aided the villains before. In fact, the revived series sees the Doctor himself doing it. Examples of this include:
    • "The Long Game", in which the Ninth Doctor leaves Satellite Five after defeating the Monster of the Week, without bothering to help guide humanity back onto a "proper" path. By the time he returns 100 years later in "Bad Wolf", things have actually gotten worse, since he was playing into the hands or, more accurately, plungers of The Man Behind the Man.
    • "The Christmas Invasion", in which the Tenth Doctor manages to cause the downfall of Harriet Jones by whispering "six little words" in her assistant's ear. It was stated during the Ninth Doctor's reign that she would be the "architect of Britain's Golden Age", but the power vacuum left in her wake seemingly allowed the Master to gain power and eventually become Prime Minister. This indicates that the 10th Doctor did change history in "The Christmas Invasion", and worse, he changed a time line he had previously talked about in glowing colors. There was supposedly a deleted scene explaining the entire concept. Russell T Davies, the writer of the episodes and then-Show Runner, mentioned this in his Doctor Who Magazine column as an idea he'd had, and that as far as he was concerned it was the case — but also said he had never scripted it, let alone shot it.
    • This was somewhat alluded to in "The Sound of Drums", where Vivien Rook tells Lucy Saxon that her husband first became "real" (and subsequently launched the Archangel network) around the time of Harriet Jones' fall. How much of it can be attributed to the actions of either the Master or Tenth Doctor, however, is unknown. He does seem to blame himself for the Master's return by "The End of Time", as when Wilfred Mott tries to console the Doctor by saying it wasn't his fault, he sadly replied, "Isn't it?"
    • The Daleks are admittedly pretty good at suckering the Doctor. In "Victory of the Daleks", the Daleks use the Doctor's hatred of the Daleks and love of Earth to not only create five retro-style Daleks (a net gain of two), but also for once, survive the events of the episode.
    • In "The Pandorica Opens", the Doctor goes to the Pandorica when it opens to see what's inside... only to realise he's been suckered by every alien in existence and it is in fact him that's meant to go inside the Pandorica in order to stop the TARDIS exploding. Needless to say, it does anyway. "The most dangerous warrior in the world" indeed.
    • In "The Doctor's Wife" it is revealed that the Doctor has been being manipulated for a very long time by the TARDIS, who was waiting for a Time Lord crazy enough to try and steal her so she could see the universe. The Doctor protested that he chose her because someone had left the door unlocked. The TARDIS, briefly able to speak, replied that of course "someone" had.
  • Dollhouse: Paul Ballard gets suckered into finding a way into the Dollhouse to rescue Caroline, thereby distracting all the security measures, while Alpha puts his actual plan into play and cheerfully sacrifices Ballard to DeWitt's not-so-tender mercies.
    • And at the end of season two, it's revealed that Boyd Langton is secretly the head of Rossum and has been manipulating everyone at the Dollhouse all along.
  • House of Anubis has Eddie and KT. They were manipulated by the villain into believing that the Staff of Osiris would stop Ammit from being unleashed. They only learned too late that it did the opposite. Eddie's vision didn't help...
  • In House of Cards (UK), Francis Urquhart uses as many people as he can for his own political gain - be it reporters, colleagues or even the prime minister. He makes sure to have as many people in his pocket as possible, so that they can be made useful when needed. If any one goes against him or can be of benefit when their public image is ruined - he will destroy them. Murder is not out of the question.
  • Juken Sentai Gekiranger: At the end of the series, Evil Overlord Rio goes down with a Villainous BSOD when he finds out that his entire life has been masterminded by Manipulative Bastard Long.
  • Averted in Kamen Rider OOO, if it was played straight, Eiji would have just been used by Ankh as a means of farming Cell Medals. IF it was played straight that is... Instead, Ankh explains why he needs him, which was not a good move on his part, as it leads to Eiji refusing to transform when Ankh needed him to in episode two, and in the next episode, the tables turn and Ankh is forced to do what Eiji says or else he will throw away his Transformation Trinket.
    • And in Kamen Rider Wizard, it gets played straighter than straight. Yes, it's another instance of Evil Mentor having a massive hand in this trope, though what sets said mentor apart from the others was that he's not only the Big Bad, but he was setting up not just Haruto himself, but the entire Phantom race. See, his plan involves using Wizards to power a ritual, but in order for Wizards to be created, they need to hit their Despair Event Horizon, but come back before they fully cross it. He already had one Wizard in the form of Haruto, but he needed to get other Wizards. This is where the Phantoms come in, as they are able to get these people to cross the horizon with the intended goal to make even more Phantoms. Needless to say, once his commanders find out about this, their reactions ranged from being unable to comprehend the idea of being used to downright plotting against him.
    • In Kamen Rider Gaim, Mitsuzane discovered this out the hard way when the villains he had been "manipulating" for his own plans are actually the ones manipulating him all along. This was further lampshaded by Ryoma Sengoku/Kamen Rider Duke after he dissects the Golden Fruit from Mai, then came along the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown being dished out on Micchy.
      Ryoma: Hey, Kureshima rich boy! Didn't Takatora teach you? Why you shouldn't be a naughty boy? (grabs him and pushes Micchy against the wall while strangling him) Liars... cowards... It's because naughty boys fall prey to actually evil adults!
  • The "rich and powerful" marks Nate Ford mentions during the opening credits for Leverage are usually these. At some point along the way, their Mooks will often fall to this trope or Elliot, whichever one hits first.
    • The team usually ends up making their targets into unwitting pawns, but they themselves end up as the Suckers (briefly) in "The Ho-Ho-Ho Job." They quickly caught on to the fact that a hacker has set up a scam at a local mall that will net the credit card numbers of nearly everyone who makes a purchase, and realize the only way to stop it is to cut the trunk line. They do so... only said trunk line also enables the security measures as the local branch of the Treasury, which was the hacker's real target.
  • In Lexx, captain Stanley Tweedle's backstory, in which he was supposed to deliver what amounted to blueprints for the emperor's superweapon to the rebel forces, and instead ended up providing the emperor with the codes to deactivate the rebel's planetary defenses. The rest of humanity in the Light Universe were pawns as well, to the point that they willingly fed themselves to the Big Bad when he demanded it.
  • Lost
    • Poor John Locke is now the king of this trope. In the course of the last seasons he has been a pawn used by a supernatural being who apparently planned Locke's whole ordeal, his reputation as someone "special" and then his final sacrifice so that he could take John's form and ultimately kill his own enemy, Jacob. The sheer number of episodes in which this Gambit Roulette at his expense has unfolded makes him something of a Unwitting Pawn Marathon Man. Also, Ben manipulated him into blowing up the submarine.
  • Once Upon a Time: Belle was completely manipulated by Regina/The Evil Queen into trying to depower Rumplestiltskin with True Love's Kiss. Rumplestiltskin flips when he realizes that she can take away his powers, assumes that Belle is working for Regina, and tells her to leave. Poor Belle honestly wasn't working for Regina, but the Queen wins either way- either Rumple is depowered, or she can abduct Belle and use her as a trump card against Rumple at a later date. (She instead tells Rumple that Belle is dead and abducts her, so she not only has a trump card but has one that Rumple would never expect.)
  • Orphan Black: DYAD is good for setting these up. One of the biggest ones is their former mole, Delphine, who Rachel manipulates into unknowingly helping with the abduction of Kira.
  • Both Sam and Dean Winchester on Supernatural have played right into the villains' hands, making the apocalypse possible. Grief-stricken Dean's Deal with the Devil leads to him going to hell where he finally gives in to the offer to torture others to spare himself, breaking the first seal holding back Lucifer. Similarly screwed in the head, Sam is seduced to the The Dark Side by Ruby just enough to get him to kill Lilith, which they all expected to prevent the last seal from being shattered; in reality, she was the last seal. What neat little bookends, guys.
  • A lot of Suckers have come and gone in Survivor, but the biggest of them all would probably be Erik Reichenbach from Micronesia. In what many considered to be the dumbest move in the show's history, Erik gives away his Individual Immunity and is promptly voted off by the conniving female alliance, after being conned in a transparent ploy for redemption.
    • The Samoa season was full of Unwitting Pawns. Most of Foa Foa and almost every member of Galu, except Brett and possibly Kelly and Monica, fell into this trope. Knowing that Kelly was just brilliantly blindsided, Monica saw the writing on the wall and just decided to antagonize Russell in the end, and Brett was fully aware that he couldn't have won because he lost the final immunity challenge. Is it any wonder Russell did so well, what with all the suckers who were practically lining up for the slaughter? (Genre Savvy players would have voted him out way sooner... or dragged his arrogant ass to the end and made him take all the nasty shots from the angry jury like Natalie did.)
    • Russell pulls this off again in Heroes vs. Villains, this time using Tyson to break up what should have been a foolproof plan to get either Russell or Parvati out of the game by tricking him into switching his vote to Parvati, which broke up the even distribution of votes that Boston Rob's alliance would have used to get either Russell or Parvati out depending on who Russell used his Hidden Immunity Idol on. Instead, with Tyson's vote switched to Parvati, she now has four votes to Russell's two... and Tyson's three. Russell gave the immunity idol to Parvati, and bye bye Tyson.
  • Chris, Victoria and Allison Argent in Teen Wolf, along with the rest of the hunters, have no idea that they are just enabling Gerard's plot to become a werewolf in order to survive terminal cancer. The ultimate however is Jackson, who does not even remember transforming into the Kanima, much less the murders that it commits at the direction of Matt.
    • Throughout Season 3B the Nogitsune plays the rest of the cast like a fiddle, using its possession of Stiles to win their trust. Best example comes in "Letharia Vulparia", where the Nogitsune spends an entire episode impersonating Stiles, with Scott not doubting him for second.
  • Bradford in season 2 of The Apprentice did the same, waiving his exemption, and was immediately fired by Donald Trump, SOLELY because he was an idiot. This is a rare example of someone becoming the victim of their own Batman Gambit. Bradford wanted rid of the terribly ineffective team leader, Ivana, but knew that he wouldn't be brought back into the boardroom since he had immunity; therefore he surrendered it, so that she'd bring him back. Unfortunately, he didn't consider what the other possible outcome of that decision might be...
  • Nick Hanway in The Thick of It. The spin doctor is convinced that the appointment of a new Prime Minister will also require a new chief spin doctor, but he seriously underestimates Malcolm Tucker...
  • In the last episode of Season 3 in Person of Interest it is revealed that the entire group of Vigilance was this for Decima. Decima created the group solely so Vigilance would out Northern Lights to remove the competition for their Samaritan project, then Decima framed Vigilance for a terrorist bombing to get the US Government to hand over the feeds to make Samaritan operational. After that, Decima then uses this to wipe out Vigilance when they have outlived their usefulness.

    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, 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 Ruinous Powers 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.

  • Jesus Christ Superstar portrays Judas as a man who unwillingly advanced the agenda of Caiaphus and the Council, as well as fulfilling prophecy.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • N of Pokémon Black and White. He was raised by Ghetsis to believe that all humans were bad, sheltered all his life around abused Pokémon. He genuinely had good intentions to free all Pokémon, but in the end of the game, we find out that he was just a pawn to advance Ghetsis's plan of dominating Unova. Poor guy doesn't take it lightly.
  • In the original Guilty Gear, after you defeat the sub-boss, Testament, he reveals that this was all part of his plan, since he can now use his blood to awaken Justice.
  • The player character in BioShock. However, this is justified, as the player character is being mind controlled by Atlas/Fontaine from the very beginning, so he had no control over his actions. At least, until Dr. Tennenbaum snaps him out of it.
  • Serge of Chrono Cross defines this trope. The guy can't go to the bathroom without furthering someone or something's plans. The fact that everyone's plans revolve around him trying to get out of someone else's gambit does not help.
    • Here's the short version: First, Lynx manipulates him into coming to Fort Dragonia so he can steal Serge's body and release the lock on the computer system FATE (which Lynx is a Wetware Body for). The Dragon Gods and Harle get him to kill FATE to release the seal on their power, then merge into their original Eldritch Abomination-ish form and start work on annihilating all human life. Except that all of this was planned by Balthasar, because only by awakening the Dragon Gods would it be possible to create the Chrono Cross, which is the only thing that can save Schala from Lavos's hold over her. Confused yet?
  • There is sort of a subversion played on this in Spartan: Total Warrior The game, like the movie 300 which it shares many similarities to, consists of ridiculously epic One Against Billions battles and sweeping, one-button-per-5-victims decapitations like a living lawnmower, all while listening to the god of war Ares's evil laughter and bloodlusty encouragement ("Hahaha, kill and kill again!"). It appears blatantly obvious to anyone familiar with button-mashing spells and swordplay epics that he will turn out to be some sort of enemy in the future, and that his plan all along was to get you to kill every Roman and his mother, but it turns out that it's only half true; while Ares does indeed to turn out to be the Big Bad, your genocide on the Romans was merely a distraction so that your homeland of Sparta could be destroyed while you were away. We are treated to multiple more tropes during Ares's Hannibal Lecture, such as the fact that he is your father and Tiberias was merely a puppet. You technically did fulfill his plans for mass murder, but it was of both your enemies AND your friends.
  • The Global Defense Initiative (okay, mostly Boyle) in Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars walks right into Kane's Gambit Roulette, and their only hint that they were even hit by it is when the Scary Dogmatic Aliens arrive. The expansion pack then explains that Kane specifically planned for Boyle to be the only surviving GDI leader after the nuclear strike on the Philadelphia specifically because Boyle is easily predictable. If you play the Scrin campaign, even the Scary Dogmatic Aliens are suckers in Kane's roulette.
  • Diablo: This trope is played painfully straight when the player character gets possessed by Diablo. Downer Ending for sure.
    • Even more so Diablo 2: The entire game is the tale of how Marius gets manipulated by Baal into rescuing his soulstone from destruction at the hands of the player character, escaping the fate that his brothers suffered. Poor Marius dies in asylum cell as the horrible truth comes crashing down on him.
    • Diablo III: Diablo's unwitting pawns? Everyone. Except Adria, who wasn't unwitting, and may not have actually been a pawn.
  • Inuart in Drakengard. He submits to the Big Bad's mind control to become The Dragon, attains the power to sweep Furiae off her feet and defeat Caim, so finally she has to love him, right? Well, he forgot that the Big Bad's plan was to kill her, and predictably realizes this too late to do anything.
    • It gets worse in the lead-in to Ending Four, where, after the Gods die and he gets everything he wanted as a result... he decides, apropos of nothing, that it's up to Furiae and him to become the new gods and finish their plan to destroy and recreate the world. This entire route being something of a bizarre Mind Screw...It's not clear whether the giant flying man-eating babies are related to this, or just a consequence of the Gods being dead, although the game more implies the latter. Yes, really. Giant killer babies.
  • The Final Fantasy series. Multiple times.
    • Terra and her comrades fall for this hard when the Empire in Final Fantasy VI insists that it wants to commence peace talks. Granted, a few party members are suspicious enough to prepare a backup plan, but Terra, Locke, and General Leo swallow the plot hook-line-and-sinker and deliver a whole bunch of Espers for Kefka to turn into Magicite. Worse, this enables him to enter the Esper World and raise the Floating Continent, where the Three Goddesses are hidden away. It turns out that Emperor Gestahl was also a Unwitting Pawn: Kefka uses him and the Empire to get to the Goddesses, and then uses their power to kill him and take all of it for himself.
      • Sephiroth was also implied to be one throughout the whole game. No, not the fanon about him being used by Jenova. It was by Hojo. Hojo was implied to have set up all the events for Sephiroth to go berserk, and then was trying to aid him upon his return without Sephiroth knowing it, not simply because Sephiroth was his son, but also because Hojo wanted to see his (amoral) research blossom to full fruition. The Novellas also implied that Hojo actually ended up possessing Sephiroth to give him more power after he was killed by AVALANCHE so he can bear witness to the final results of his creation, due to not being able to properly diffuse into the lifestream. What's worse, he doesn't stop there. He also ends up digitalizing his mind into the worldwide network and later possesses Weiss, making most of Deepground unwitting pawns as well for his final, final experiment, the revival of Omega, which was also implied to be concurrent with Sephiroth's revival and ascension.
    • Tidus and Yuna from Final Fantasy X. They get bounced like ping-pong balls back and forth between Yevon's plan to continue the spiral of death and Auron's plan to destroy it and free Spira. Final Fantasy X-2 seems to imply that Yuna, at least, never figured it out.
    • Bartz is this, aside from being an Idiot Hero. He and his companions Head into the Great Forest of Moore, in order to stop Exdeath from taking what's sealed inside. Turns out he waited for them to get to that world's crystals... And destroy them. Wow.
      • Bartz and Krile go to seek Ghido for help after Exdeath is defeated and the worlds fuse together and at that point, an innocuous-looking splinter that Krile has enables Exdeath to return. Having overheard the converstion, he sets out to take control of the Void.
    • Oh Cecil. We love the guy, but he's got a bad history with traps. First he delivers a trapped ring to the village of Mist (which, is known as the "Bomb Ring" in some versions). Then later he's approached with a Hostage For Macguffin deal, and he hands over the macguffin (assumed at the time to be the last one Golbez needed) before seeing the hostage. Then he and his group have the door to the second-to-last Underworld crystal opened because of some disturbance inside, and end up giving Golbez a way in. And then, after failing to secure the (seven!) lost Crystals, they go and unseal the door to the last one, and trudge through the Scrappy Level both ways to bring it outside, only for Golbez to re-control Kain and take it at the last second. And if you include the crystal that he retrieved for Baron in the backstory, that makes him directly responsible for Golbez getting fully half of the Crystals. Sometimes, you wonder why Cecil keeps doing things, considering that the situation gets worse every time he gets close to a macguffin.
    • By the time Final Fantasy XIII rolls around, the main group is being told that they're Unwitting Pawns.
      • And in the sequel, it comes up again when Noel kills Caius, destroying the heart of Etro, killing her with him, ensuring his plan succeeds. The most infuriating part is that Noel and Serah already knew this but Remembered Too Late.
  • Golden Sun I and II has Alex, who uses both parties in a massive Unwitting Pawn. While they fight amongst each other about lighting the lighthouses Alex twiddles his thumbs for when they finally do and cause the Golden Sun to rise and shine down massive power down on Mt. Aleph, where he happens to be waiting.
    • Only to discover that he himself was the Wise One's Unwitting Pawn in his plan: he knew lighting the lighthouses would allow someone to gain enough power from the Golden Sun to conquer the world, so when all but one of the gems required to light the lighthouses was removed from their chamber, the Wise One transferred just enough of that power (which was originally split evenly between the gems) from the remaining gem to Isaac without telling him, meaning that if the lighthouses were all lit, anyone who wanted the Golden Sun's power would not get enough of it to conquer the world.
      • And in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn it's shown that he one-upped The Wise One, and is doing the same thing again. He's so good at this that in his very first appearence, he even says to the characters they're pawns, and they can't do anything about it. By the end of the game, it's clear that he's been using almost everyone of importance throughout the whole plot, including Those Two Bad Guys. And the player still doesn't have the slightest idea what his long-term goals are, as he remains The Unfought.
    • Gloriously subverted in Agatio's intro scene in The Lost Age, in which he flat-out tells Alex to his face that he knows he's being used, and just doesn't care as long as his goals get accomplished, too. Definitely Agatio's personal Moment of Awesome, since he's otherwise one of the flattest major characters in a series known for Flat Characters.
  • The Metal Gear series:
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater shows Naked Snake being used by the United States government into achieving their goal of gaining Russia's portion of the Philosophers' Legacy. Portable Ops has Zero use Big Boss to defeat Gene and scare the Philosophers enough that Ocelot can gain control of their whereabouts and the American portion of the Philosophers' Legacy.
    • Metal Gear Solid 4 retcons many of the events previously established in the franchise. It is explained that the events of the first two Metal Gear games involved Big Boss trying to create a place where individual liberty is guaranteed for everyone, instead of being a soldiers' haven. The Patriots have Solid Snake tear down both Outer Heaven and Zanzibar Land to destroy Big Boss' dream of freedom. The first two Metal Gear Solid games are changed to have Solid Snake again being used by the Patriots and possibly Zero to defeat anyone who stood in their way. The Patriots by MGS4 (set in 2014) are now an AI system which was supposed to continue Zero's legacy by gaining control of all of mankind using the Sons of the Patriots (SOP) system. Snake is sent in to stop Revolver Ocelot from destroying the Patriots AI system. At the same time, Snake and his allies are used by Liquid Ocelot in his goal in destroying the Patriots AI systems, Liquid Ocelot pretending to plan to hijack the System using the AI named 'GW' and Snake and company countering it by using a virus to destroy the it, not knowing the virus as written by Naomi would destroy the remaining Patriot A.I.s as well; even if he didn't know about it or plan for it to happen, it certainly fit his goals. Somewhat averted in that his own post-Patriot vision was averted by Sunny Gurlukovich, who wrote the virus to destroy the Patriot A.I.s but preserve key parts of modern civilization, and then, Drebin implies that Ocelot's vision of a war-torn world would still be an inevitable likely outcome despite this, that or the UN becoming a neo-Patriots/Philosophers III group.)
    • In Metal Gear Solid, Liquid's plan hinged on Snake discovering the card keys (Really, 3 keys in one). To manipulate Snake into doing this, Liquid masqueraded as one of Snake's few friends (Snake's support staff apparently figured out the location of his radio calls, but not until the big reveal), locked Snake in a cell with a dead hostage whom a master of disguise had been pretending to be (Snake even recognized that the hostage should not have been as decayed as he was), and left the control room for the card keys virtually unguarded even when Liquid had earlier encountered Snake outside the room. Snake didn't realize he was being duped until after he activated Metal Gear.
      • The sad thing is that, even if Liquid's plan didn't work or didn't even happen, Snake still would have been an unwitting pawn in either case: According to Liquid and his Pentagon spy, the real reason why Snake was sent over to Shadow Moses was to infect most of the people on the island, both the terrorists and most of the people involved in the REX project, so the Pentagon, and presumably the Patriots, would have recovered REX and the Genome Soldiers from the island without any risk of damage, even making absolute certain that FOXDIE was injected into Snake.
    • Arguably in the original Metal Gear, where Big Boss intentionally selected Snake as the agent to send false information back to NATO (and by proxy, The Patriots), not counting on Snake's hereditary ability to kick ass and take names.
      • If Peace Walker is anything to go by (and possibly Metal Gear Solid 4), Big Boss's misinformation doesn't even come close to the fact that the Patriots essentially manipulated Snake into trying to destroy Metal Gear and take Big Boss down as an insurance policy in case they failed to either bring him back into the fold or ruin/kill Big Boss the first time by one of their agents firing a nuke at the East Coast.
    • Speaking of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, other than the brief revelation that Coldman was the deviously cunning strategist that Gene alluded to in Portable Ops, it turns out that most of the game was manipulated by Paz Ortega Andrade, even the KGB agent Zadornov hiring Snake as a distraction to force Coldman to activate Peace Walker so he could hijack it and frame America with an attack on Cuba, and she wasn't even the one who pulled all the strings: Her employers, Cipher, had planned out the entire incident just to get Big Boss to rejoin the fold, and it is also heavily implied that they also ordered Paz to frame Big Boss and MSF with nuking the East Coast when Big Boss refused the offer. They also arranged for Kaz to briefly work with them, although it is also implied that they didn't tell him about the nuke plan.
  • The hero from the Quest for Glory series has a terrible habit of playing right into the game's villain's hands, even though he manages to fix things in the end. In Quest for Glory 2, he gets mind-controlled into releasing the evil djinn Iblis by the game's Big Bad, then is almost trapped forever in Iblis' chamber. In Quest for Glory 3, in an attempt to bring peace between two tribes, he brings their leaders together in front of a third-party king. Then one of the leaders becomes possessed and kills the other, and is promptly killed by another person in the room, almost guaranteeing the war he was trying to stop. In Quest for Glory 4, he falls for a trick by the Big Bad from the second game, back for revenge. As a result, he ends up having to go through the motions to release a monster on the world. However, Elsa Von Spielburg is the Unwitting Pawn in Quest for Glory 5.
  • Vagrant Story: In a very unusual example, Ashley Riot was a Unwitting Pawn for an Anti-Villain, who manipulated him into saving the world from the much more dangerous Knight Templar Guilderstern.
  • The majority of the plot of Atelier Iris 3 concerns three quirky teenagers trying to find eight gemstones so they can open a book which will grant any wish, while helping the even-more-quirky townsfolk with their problems. What could go wrong? How about nearly causing The End of the World as We Know It because you were manipulated by an evil spirit from (almost) the very beginning into wasting the only wish you get?
  • The main characters in Persona 3 spend a good portion of the game fighting a series of powerful bosses that appear once a month only to discover that Ikutsuki tricked them into doing so by doctoring video footage of Yukari's father so that he could summon Nyx. His plan fails when he forgets about the dog.
  • Persona 4: If the player doesn't choose to immediately kill him (and get the Bad Ending), Taro Namatame is revealed to be a Tragic Hero with genuinely good intentions misguided by the true murderer, Tohru Adachi, who manipulated Namatame into throwing Adachi's intended victims into the TV World to try to save them from him, without telling him that throwing them into the TV World and leaving them at the mercy of the Shadows there was how Adachi killed people. When Namatame learns the truth about what happens to people thrown into the TV World from the Investigation Team, he has a My God, What Have I Done? moment. But then it turns out there's an even BIGGER Man Behind the Man...
  • Persona 5:
    • The main characters' rise to fame was orchestrated by The Conspiracy, so that the good guys could eventually become The Scapegoat for all the crimes the villains committed using the Mental World of the Palace.
    • The heroes and The Conspiracy were both being manipulated by the Big Bad, Yaldabaoth the God of Order, who was manipulating both sides to eliminate any "chaotic elements" inside the Mental World that would stop him from removing The Evils of Free Will from the rest of humanity.
  • Castlevania
    • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia has Shanoa seeking out the three pieces of Dominus, a glyph that is to be used on a particular artifact that, according to Barlowe, will bring about the defeat of Dracula when destroyed. Only after meeting certain conditions that allow you to bypass the bad ending do you learn that said object actually resurrects Dracula, as Barlowe demonstrates after Shanoa refuses and defeats him in a boss battle.
    • Leon Belmont and Sara Trantoul (and even Walter Bernhard) in Castlevania: Lament of Innocence. Our man Drac practically lives (unlives?) off of Unwitting Pawns. Trevor, Simon and Richter Belmont have also been pawns in his or Shaft's, in Richter's case plans for resurrection.
    • Celia Fortner in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow tried this on Soma, and depending on the ending, either succeeded or failed. The former ends up with Soma killing her anyway.
    • In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Gabriel and Zobek are the Unwitting Pawns of Satan in his bid to obtain the power of the Mask of Shadows to overthrow Heaven.
  • The World Ends with You
    • Makoto wound up being one of these for Kitaniji, as the whole point of making the Red Skull Pins popular in the first week later comes back to haunt him in the last one when almost all of the Shibuya UG, citizens and Reapers included, gets brainwashed and homicidal toward Neku and Beat.
    • The main characters themselves are pretty severe cases of this as well, especially Neku: Every single thing they did turned out to serve the sole purpose of helping Joshua fulfill his goal of erasing Shibuya. Although failing to defeat Kitaniji would result in Shibuya falling victim to an Assimilation Plot. This is one case in which the pawns don't have any choice but to go along with the scheme.
  • Ironically subverted by Raziel from the Legacy of Kain series. Throughout all three games, every character is constantly waving this in his face, telling him how he has no idea what his true purpose is, and that he's just been their "unwitting pawn" the whole time. In the end, their manipulations buy him time to figure out his actual destiny, which none of them had ever guessed, thus making all of the villains the suckers in their own Gambit Roulette.
  • Thrall and Sylvanas Windrunner from World of Warcraft are good examples. Thrall explicitly trusted Sylvanas, despite the fact that she was using the Horde for her own vengeance against the Lich King. In turn, she believed she had Varimathras firmly under her control, which is what he wanted her to think all along; the Nathrezim are a race of MagnificentBastards.
    • It's implied that Thrall only let the Forsaken into the Horde because they need a presence in the Eastern Kingdoms, and because the Earthen Ring suggested that they could potentially cure undeath. The Forsaken are considered allied to the Horde rather than true members.
    • You suck too. There are multiple quest chains where you're suckered into doing a bad guy's bidding. Unfortunately for the bad guy, once they decide that you've outlived your usefulness, you show up with friends and proceed to beat the tar out of them and take their loot.
  • Speaking of which, the Warcraft franchise is full of these, really. Arthas thought he was fighting against the Scourge right up until they sucked out his soul and made him their champion. The entire Scarlet Crusade seems not to realize it's actually run by demons (those Magnificent Nathrezim again.) And the quests player characters keep getting have led fans to lament "How many times do I have to help the Lich King before I learn better?"
    • The game implies that Thrall doesn't really trust the Forsaken, apparently he flat out needs them because otherwise the Alliance is too much more powerful. (Without the Forsaken and the Blood Elves, the Horde would be entirely on Kalimdor [and then Outland and more recently Northrend] which is also home to two of the Alliance races and a noticeable number of human outposts, including Jaina Proudmoore's city of Theramore Isle.) The other Horde leaders never even mention Varimathras when planning. It's very likely that nobody trusted him at all except Sylvanas. And Arthas was savvy enough to realize he was probably selling his soul and just didn't realize it was to his enemy. After all, it DID give him the power to almost destroy the Scourge. The Scarlets? Morons.
    • Thrall is not fooled though by Neeru Fireblade, who remains only at Thrall's pleasure because he doesn't have enough information to move against the Burning Blade cult, all the while convinced that he has ''Thrall' outwitted.
    • Sintharia, Deathwing's only surviving consort, despises him and plots to make a new Twilight Dragonflight to take over Azeroth. It is implied that she's been manipulated by him all along, as in Cataclysm, he has reanimated her and uses her eggs to create Twilight Dragons to assist him in his plans.
  • BioWare loves this one to death:
    • In Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, your whole party is this, killing off the other Bhaalspawn for Melissan's scheme to ascend to power.
    • Knights of the Old Republic, anyone? You're the ex-Sith Lord? Captured, mind-wiped by the Jedi Council, and with Bastila holding your leash. Jedi Truth on par with Obi-Wan and his "certain point of view."
      • Although not made by BioWare, the player character from the second game counts too.
    • In Dragon Age II, Hawke becomes an Unwitting Pawn of Anders, a party member in a scheme to start a war between the Templars and Mages; to be fair to Hawke, Knight-Commander Meredith, the leader of the Templars, gets suckered just as effectively. Since Dragon Age II is Darker and Edgier than other Bioware games, the scheme works regardless of Hawke's actions afterwards.
    • In Mass Effect, so many of them. Notably Saren Arterius and Matriarch Benezia for the Reapers. Commander Shepard is an interesting case, as they voluntarily ally themselves with the Illusive Man despite his questionable morals, but can also turn on him and screw over his plans in the Paragon ending of Mass Effect 2.
      • And in Mass Effect 3, as brilliant as he was, the Illusive Man was no match for the power of the Reapers and ended up being their pawn.
  • The protagonist in almost every Touhou installment. Blatantly obvious in the later installments, where Reimu is used by Yukari to counter Kanako's influence.
    • Silent Sinner in Blue manga: Remilia Scarlet realized she was a pawn of another character after a while, but decided to go along with it anyway. Partly to relieve some boredom and partly because, by then, she had actually started to care for the path she was being manipulated into following. Even worse, the ostensible "winners", the Watatsuki sisters, are completely fooled by both Yukari and Eirin's plans, tricked out of a rare bottle of wine by the first and getting extorted out of considerable favors by the latter.
    • And in Double Dealing Character, Shinmyoumaru Sukuna exemplified the "unwitting" part of this trope when she became Seija Kijin's pawn. Seija is an amanojaku, a kind of youkai notorious for being pathological liars, and Sukuna was aware of this fact when she bought into Seija's lies. "Horrible Judge of Character" doesn't even begin to describe it.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Throughout the first half of the game, Link ventures across Hyrule, gathering the three Spiritual Stones which will allow him access to the Master Sword and the Sacred Realm... only to allow Ganondorf to get in and grab the Triforce in the process!
    • Link has a tendency to fall victim to this trope. In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, he accidently lifts the seal that keeps Ganon's power sealed, in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords he releases Vaati from his prison by pulling out the titular sword, and in Oracle of Ages, he moves a sacred rock that is supposed to keep Veran from getting close to Nayru. Every time this trope happens, it's because Link is following the orders of Mission Control, who's supposed to be on your side but every damned time just ends up having you go help out the enemy.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: Link is this to Hilda. He goes about rescuing the Sages and eventually getting the Triforce of Courage under her direction supposedly just so he could defeat Yuga-Ganon and rescue Zelda. Turns out that Hilda actually wanted to take all three pieces of the Triforce in order to replace the Lorulean Triforce that was destroyed ages ago, and she had Yuga kidnap Zelda for the Triforce of Wisdom and revive and fuse with Ganon for the Triforce of Power. But after all this, it turns out Yuga was using Hilda as his pawn, planning to use the Hyrulian Triforce to remake the world in his image, Hyrule and Lorule be damned.
  • Kingdom Hearts II - Sora. Organization XIII urged him to destroy heartless so they could collect the hearts released, in order to build Kingdom Hearts. Kinda justified here... once he figures it out, he still has no choice but to continue slaying them.
    • Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories: Everything he does until the 13th floor is part of the Organization's plan to wipe his memory. It would have worked, too, if not for, well...
    • Also, The Heartless took advantages of both Maleficent and Organization XIII by playing on their darkest desires while pretending they were the mooks. Maleficent never figured it out but the Organization did, but kept playing the game for their own purposes.
    • Most of the cast of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep are thoroughly manipulated by Master Xehanort, Terra being the biggest sucker of them all, but Vanitas is at the top of BBS trickery list for playing Xehanort just as he was being beaten over the head with Terra's Keyblade...By Terra's AnimatedArmor, no less. And all of this trickery was simply for the X-Blade . And during the game Terra gets suckered by Maleficent, Jumba, Hades, and Captain Hook. Genre Blindness doesn't begin to describe it.
    • Then Dream Drop Distance rolls around... hoo boy. Turns out The entirity of Organization XIII were Unwitting Pawns of Xehanort, or specifically his Xemnas incarnation. He lied to them about the Organization's true purpose and made them think bringing back Kingdom Hearts would give them all their hearts back. In actual fact, most of them were already beginning to regain their hearts on their own, but he did everything in his power to ensure they never found out and believed they had no hearts in the first place. The reason? He wanted to hook them all up to Kingdom Hearts and turn the ALL into HIM!! Oh, and he's been planning this so long that even his teenage self may actually be an Unwitting Pawn to HIMSELF. (Time Travel is involved, as is copious amounts of Mind Screw) Oh, and Sora unwittingly plays into his hands once again.
  • In Mitadake High, you are either this or the Manipulative Bastard themselves
  • In Tales of Vesperia, Harry Whitehorse unwittingly falls into Alexei and Yeager's plot to cause tension in the guilds by helping cause the death of Belius, and by extension, his grandfather, the Don. Belius gets better, the Don does not.
  • Captain Gordon (Defender of Earth!), from Disgaea, thinks he is sent to defeat you in order to defend Earth, but soon discovers he's being played like a piano by his superiors and that his mission is merely a pretext for an invasion of the Netherworld.
    • Trumping that is General Carter, who himself was played like a fiddle by Archangel Vulcanus, who really wanted the Netherworld razed as part of his ploy to become a god. He (along with everyone else in the plot) was being used as a tool to fulfill Seraph Lamington and King Krichevskoy's combined Gambit, and had no idea how bad his own scheme fell into the puzzle until the curtain fell - on him. HARD.
  • Kirby himself (and the other player characters, if you use them) in Kirby's Return to Dream Land. Once you beat the apparent final boss (though anyone familiar with the series would know otherwise as there's always a True Final Boss), it turns out that it was actually a Big Good and that the person you've been helping all game is the Big Bad...and manages to retain the usual surprise by giving you a boss stage even if you haven't reached True Final Boss levels.
  • In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, General Shepherd is revealed to have set up a five-year gambit to pit the USA and Russia against each other, so that he may lead the USA to the status as permanent ultimate world power, and be known worldwide as a "hero" for it. And he doesn't give two shits over how many millions of innocents get in his way. The man made all of the US, UK, & Russia into his Unwitting Pawns, including the player characters, one of whom (Roach) he kills after sending him to retrieve the evidence that would have exposed him as the mastermind behind the plot. Even though Price & Soap managed to kill him, it's not stated if Shepherd's plan has already succeeded. Hints suggest that it did. The third game subtly reveals that Shepherd was also this to Makarov, who had been feeding false information to the former and had actually caused Shepherd's Start of Darkness via the nuke detonation that he ordered.
  • Copy-X, and, to a lesser extent, Zero and his La Résistance allies in Mega Man Zero 3. Dr. Weil played them all for fools, orchestrating the new conflict between Neo Aradia and the La Résistance, which was just after an unofficial truce made by Zero and the Guardians. Zero goes off to fight Copy-X to stop the conflict, and when the latter tries to go One-Winged Angel, a booby-trap which Weil installed earlier on Copy-X, was activated, killing him. With Copy-X gone, Dr. Weil, the one next in power, is now the new dictator of Neo Arcadia. It was pointed out by Zero himself:
    ...It's all going according to his plans.
  • Prometheus and Pandora in Mega Man ZX Advent. At first, they backstabbed Albert and then fights Grey/Ashe. After s/he defeats them, suddenly their anguish, hatred, and despair are absorbed by Model Ws in the background and then they collapse. The real Albert then appears, stating that the body that everyone think by "Albert" is actually a decoy, and that those negative emotions are necessary to revive and activate the Model Ws.
    Albert: Just as I planned! Soon all of the Model Ws will begin to merge! I will become the ultimate Mega Man and the plan will be complete!
  • In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Starkiller/Galen Marek is shown to have been one when Vader reveals that everything up to that point had been planned by himself and Palpatine to have Stakiller assemble a proto-Rebellion. It didn't matter if his goal was to stay loyal to Vader and "distract" the Emperor, or if he thought he was fooling Vader and genuinely attempting to form a rebellion, his only purpose was to get them together in the same place at the same time. It only fails because Juno and PROXY are jointly the Spanner in the Works, one sacrificing himself to distract Vader as he's about to kill his apprentice and the other rescuing him after his fall. The ending also implies that Vader was also an Unwitting Pawn to Palpatine all along. He wanted to see if Starkiller had the potential to surpass Vader and become Palpatine's new apprentice.
  • General Morgahn during much of Guild Wars: Nightfall. Once he learns the truth about Varesh, however, he helps defeat her and joins the player character's team as an NPC. The PC also spends a fair bit of time being this during various schemes in Guild Wars: Prophecies.
  • Harry spends most of Silent Hill being Dahlia's Sucker, but his unwavering love for his daughter is also what causes him to be the Spanner in the Works. Depending on which of the Multiple Endings you get, you can argue the same for the protagonists of the other games: passively taking directions from everyone and their dog at every turn, but fully capable of killing the local Eldritch Abomination when push comes to shove.
  • StarCraft: Brood War was already a pretty confusing Gambit Pileup to begin with. Every character who isn't directly opposed to her ends up being one of Kerrigan's UnwittingPawns as time goes on, with the exception of Samir Duran. He used her rise to power to speed up and hide his Protoss-Zerg Hybridization project. It can be said that the biggest Unwitting Pawn of all is Jim Raynor, who despite being one of the more heroic characters in the game, often ends up directly or indirectly helping villains, and in the grand scheme of things, is almost powerless. This tendency has unfortunately carried on into the next game. To his credit, he spends the Wings of Liberty campaign openly bemoaning the fact that he's probably either being openly played with, or just being set up to be used later. He spends nearly as much time trying to figure out how as he does trying not to have a bunch of Zerg chew his face off.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War ends with Gabriel destroying Maledictum, which turns out to be prison of Daemon of Khorne. Forces of Chaos used unknowing Gabriel as an Unwitting Pawn in their scheme to free the Daemon.
  • In [PROTOTYPE] Alex Mercer spends most of the game unknowingly aiding the plans of people who want him dead. First, he frees Elizabeth Greene, thinking she's just another victim. As it turns out, she's the Hive Queen behind the virus. Then, he tries to help his ex-girlfriend, Karen Parker, by providing her with biological materials from the infected. As it turns out Blackwatch has coerced her into working for them, and that genetic material Alex collected gets turned into a parasite which almost kills him. Then, Blackwatch Captain Cross tricks him into going to a location where they hit him with both Bloodtox and D-Codes. Finally, the Supreme Hunter consumes Cross, and uses that form to get Alex to kill off the Blackwatch leadership, and in an attempt to catch Alex off-guard so that the Hunter might eat him. Our sociopathic hero manages to overcome all this because he's a badass, but he does come across as a bit of a gullible idiot.
    • Part of the reason is because the amnesiac Mercer, even though he's eating people left and right in order to understand what the hell is going on, is often in the dark about what the hell is going on. As the game progresses he knows he's probably being played, but due to a lack of options he has to play along anyways if he's going to have a hope of accomplishing anything. He even says it outright to Cross.
    Mercer: Why do I get the feeling I'm getting the short end of this deal?
  • The new leader of Team Plasma, N, is shown to be this in Pokémon Black and White when his father, Ghetsis, reveals that he was using N to make pokemon illegal for everyone but himself. What an asshole.
  • The Tribunal expansion of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind gives us the power-maddened (literally) pseudo-god Almalexia. Centuries of wielding power that is unfit for mortals has left her more than a little crazy, and she has the protagonist carry out her increasingly insane orders (whether or not the character is aware that he's being manipulated is impossible to tell.). When she finally lays out her cards, she embarks on a long monologue about how nutty she is and how stupid you are, and there isn't even a Talk to the Fist option.
  • Yuko Takao in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. In the middle of the bleak Death World that the Conception has made of Tokyo (and which she is semi-directly responsible for), she's contacted by a goddess capable of giving her the power to undo said horrors, with only the small caveat of adding her into the ruling pantheon when it's done. Said goddess isn't a goddess at all, and she never had the means to restore the world. The part about being in danger if she's not incorporated into the new reality is entirely correct, though.
  • The four Prentice Samurai, and indeed, the entire Eastern Kingdom of Mikado are used as puppets by Gabby, who is the Archangel Gabriel in disguise to kill Kagome Tower's guardians and spring the captive Archangels.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, Lucifer (and, to a much lesser extent, Merkabah) is revealed to be one to YHVH, being used by YHVH as a scapegoat to prolong the people's suffering and maintain his power. Also, earlier, every human is played like a fiddle by Shesha and Krishna after their supposed defeats in Ikebukuro and Tsukiji Konganji. Under the guise of Flynn, Shesha gets Nanashi to kill Merkabah and Lucifer so the Divine Powers can re-emerge at the last moment.
  • In the old FPS/RPG Strife you get hit with this in the bad ending, Blackbird, your Voice with an Internet Connection, is revealed to be the Entity and has been using you to free her.
  • Last Scenario, in its grand quest to break RPG plots, couldn't possibly leave this one alone. However, unlike most of the tropes it targets, it's not subverted- it's exaggerated. Not only is Hilbert doing exactly what the Kingdom wants him to do for the first half of the game, he was set up as a hero purely for this purpose. The entire Heroic Lineage spiel was lies, and in falling for it hook, line, and sinker, Hilbert was doing exactly what they wanted.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale it's revealed at the very end that your questgiver was The Starscream to the Big Bad Rezlus, and she had you kill Rezlus so she could take over the tower for herself.
  • In Fable II, the protagonist spends his entire LIFE trying to stop the Big Bad Lucien from rebuilding an ancient tower of magical doom. Once Lucien is dead, Theresa, who guided him through this quest, reveals that she was just using Lucien to rebuild the spire and using you to defeat Lucien so she could claim the spire herself.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas the reason that you're told to try and keep President Kimball and General Oliver alive if you're working for Mr. House or Yes Man is that after the NCR gets the boot from Vegas their citizens will be quick to blame them for waging a costly and unpopular war while still capable of being on decent enough relations with Vegas to do trade.
  • Edge in Panzer Dragoon Saga spends the whole game being used by the Seekers, the Empire, and by Craymen, since he's the only dragon rider aside from Azel atop Atolm Dragon.
  • Patroklos Alexander from SoulCalibur V is the son of legendary Holy Warrior Sophitia Alexandria and has pledged himself to hunting the 'malfested' who slew her and kidnapped his elder sister. So he winds up killing the human enemies of Graf Dumas, an alias of what amounts to the grand-daddy of all malfested... the Azure Nightmare himself.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    "Even if the count dies, the Chaos Heart won't disappear if I continue to control it! But I needed the power of the Pure Hearts to beat him. I couldn't do that on my own. So I had you do all the sweaty labor for me. And you even used your Pure Hearts to defeat Count Bleck! If they make greeting cards to thank people for helping with evil plans, I owe you one."
  • Raguna is a massive one in the first Rune Factory game. Going by hours spent playing the game, you will spend over 99% of the game actually supplying the enemy with energy for their final plan. Going by plot events, it depends on how large a percentage you want to give to the final boss fight end endging cutscene, because up until then you're playing into the Sech's hand.
  • The trope comes up a few times during the course of the Dark Parables games. In the third game, the villain turns out to be one for Snow White's Wicked Stepmother's equally evil magic mirror. The detective is one in the fourth game; the Big Bad needs an artifact from a shrine that she's not allowed to enter, so she simply waits until the detective goes in to collect it.
  • Messiah has Bob guided by a mysterious voice to kill the dictator that rules Earth with an iron fist. Turns out, the voice is Satan, who was earlier captured by humans, and now with the dictator dead can take over the world.
  • Both the Judge and the player him/herself in OFF get played by the Batter. By the time they get to find out and correct their mistakes, it's far too late, as he already plunged almost the entire world into white void.
  • Assassin's Creed has many of these throughout the historical stories, but The Reveal at the end of Assassin's Creed III is that the entire Assassin-Templar conflict throughout history was both sides being the Unwitting Pawns of Juno, and the historical story of that game concludes with the reveal that Connor had been Juno's Unwitting Pawn for over a decade.
    • Word of God on Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is that Olivier Garneau alone "does know who his bosses are" — namely, Abstergo Entertainment being a Templar front — while "most people at AE just work for Templars without even knowing it."
    • By the time of Assassin's Creed: Rogue, Mélanie Lemay has been made aware of the Templar order, as she gets inducted during the course of the game.
  • BlazBlue: Tsubaki is used as a pawn by Hazama many, many times over. He has manipulated her into fighting her best friends Jin and Noel by inspiring feelings of jealousy and inadequacy, telling her that she was meant to be with Jin and Noel took her rightful place at his side. As a bonus, she's also obstructing Takagamagara's surveillance by using the Izayoi, and she serves as a sort-of hostage to Hakumen, who has feelings for Tsubaki because he's Jin from another timeline and watched her die there. As for Tsubaki, she follows the NOL's (and by extension the Imperator's, and by extension Hazama's) orders loyally. This continues through to the end of Chronophantasma, where the Mind Control Hazama puts her through is broken and she becomes one of the good guys.
    • Worth putting down that although Litchi is also working with Hazama, she is NOT this trope. She's advancing his evil agenda knowingly, because he has Arakune.
    • In a supreme bit of irony, Terumi and Relius were also the pawns of someone who they believed was their pawn Imperator Saya who was the host of Izanami the goddess of death. She ditches them the moment they stop being useful and puts in motion her own plans to create a "world of death".
  • In Dark Souls II the protagonist is the pawn of Shanalotte. From the opening cutscene to the very end of the game, Shanalotte had been guiding/aiding/manipulating the Bearer of the Curse to free Drangleic from Nashandra and Link the Fire. She only begins to admit her role in everything near the end of the game.
  • The premise of Battle Garegga revolves around the Gadgeteer Genius Wayne brothers, who produce highly advanced military machines for the federal government in exchange for riches as part of the contract. When the government goes on a rampage of conquest, the brothers discover that the very machines they developed for the government are being used for such malicious acts, and set off in their secret Super Prototype aircraft to destroy the machines they helped create.
  • DoDonPachi presents itself as your usual "human military vs. alien invasion" Vertical Scrolling Bullet Hell shooter. That is, unless you unlock the 2nd loop and your commander reveals that the "mechanized aliens" he had you think you were fighting were actually your own comrades that he tricked you into destroying, then declares his intent to kill you with his special forces.

    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.
  • 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:
      • Naegi 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 - Naegi 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 Byakuga are the Unwitting Pawns of Nagito. Nagito sent a note warning Byakuga of his murder plot to get Byakuga 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 Byakuga to set up the Closed Room 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 Byakuga to die, however.

    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 too little 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: Yang becomes this in "Fall" when she is tricked into attacking Mercury unprovoked after defeating him in the finals. This results in Team RWBY being disqualified and left demoralised and without their best fighter, and also results in a huge negative public backlash against Beacon. The crowd's negative reaction also attracts vast hordes of Grimm including the Goliaths to Vale, and the military struggle to contain them. This turn of events has unfortunately furthered Cinder's plans immensely.

  • 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 s/he attacked Xykon with his newfound power, knocking him off his throne, exactly as the fiends who granted hir 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.
  • 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.

    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.

    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?
  • 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.
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, Omi ends up playing right into Chase Young's hands in the second season, temporarly 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 didn't win, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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."

Zero Context Examples

    Anime and Manga 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Naruto:
    • Sasuke was the Unwitting Pawn of both Itachi and Tobi. No wonder he developed Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
    • Itachi 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.
    • Then there are 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.
    • Rin and Kakashi were both pawns in Madara's plan to create a successor by driving Obito to despair.
    • Madara was being manipulated by Black Zetsu until his plan had proceeded far enough to take control of it.
    • The entire world, but especially the Uchiha Clan were this to Black Zetsu in his pursuit to revive Kaguya.
  • 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.
    • A lot of villains like to trick Touma and others into defeating their enemies for them.
  • Almost the entire cast to Head in Star Driver.
  • In Nanatsu No Taizai entire Holy Knights order (especially Jericho and Vivian) was used by Hendrickson, who himself used by Dreyfus.
  • In Toriko entire conflict between good guys (IGO) and original bad guys (Gourmet corp) was controlled by NEO organization.
    • Tons of differenr characters (including Midora, both in his youth and in present time) was manipulated by Acacia and blue nitro.
    • And Acacia himself seems to be manipulated by blue nitro. At this point is difficult to pinpoint ultimate bad guy in all of this.
    Comic Books 
  • Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan and to a lesser degree all the other main characters become suckers for Ozymandias.
  • The Knights of the Old Republic comic writer love these. Usually one or more of the main characters, but often the villain.
  • 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).
  • 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, even though we the viewers are Genre Savvy, 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. One can only assume that in universes in which things like Saw and all such are set, no-one watches thriller/horror movies, because the only Genre Savvy character is often the killer.
  • Star Wars:
    • In Attack of the Clones, Jar Jar Binks's only two lines of dialogue put him square in this category.
    • In fact, almost everyone in the prequels not named "Palpatine" is this.
  • 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.
  • Tom Ludlow in Street Kings
  • 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.
  • Vail from Primal Fear.
  • Justin Hammer, to Vanko in Iron Man 2.
  • Kirk to Admiral Marcus in Star Trek Into Darkness. He later worries that he might be this for Khan as well.
  • 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.
  • In Zootopia, Judy Hopps was manipulated by the Big Bad Bellwether for most of the movie before catching on pre-climax.
  • In the words of the fake Mad-Eye Moody in the fourth Harry Potter book,
    Decent people are so easy to manipulate.
    • This hits Harry hard in books 4 and 5. Given how badly these stories ended for everyone, the best thing Harry could have done was nothing.
    • Ultimately, almost every major character in the series is revealed to be, to some extent, pawns for either Dumbledore or Voldemort (or both). It's ultimately revealed that their decades-long game of wits to destroy each other is effectively the central keystone of the series. Harry himself is pretty much the ultimate piece in the game, being played by both sides at various points. Snape, however, is a willing pawn for Dumbledore.
  • Everyone except Iago from Othello.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • When Grand Admiral Thrawn from The Thrawn Trilogy is involved, characters become suckers by being so afraid that they play right into his hands through their caution, the best example being that when they need a certain device from one of two locations, they leak info that they will go to one, therefore showing him they are actually going to the other. Some characters in the Hand of Thrawn duology are wary of doing anything lest they be doing what he wants.
  • In the Wheel of Time series:
    • The entire Whitecloak movement.
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson. Lord Foul is a Chess Master and Manipulative Bastard extraordinaire, and his plan to destroy the Land involves not just conquering everything, but continually engineering situations where the protagonists become Unwitting Pawns. Thomas Covenant is saddled with the role of Unwitting Pawn for the entire duration of the first and second trilogies, knowing that Lord Foul's plan hinges on the destructive and harmful actions he takes, but helpless to do otherwise because there are no good alternatives.
  • In the original Foundation trilogy, everybody except for The Mule. And even he doesn't actually succeed in the end. Even the Second Foundation themselves are just pawns in a larger game.
  • The Pendragon Adventure: Poor Mark and Courtney. Every time they try to help out Bobby and his friends, they usually just end up playing into Saint Dane's hands.
  • In several works by Stephen King, Randall Flagg, aka the man in black, sets forth plans of conquest almost completely dependent on the efforts of Unwitting Pawns.
  • At the end of Suzanne Collins's Catching Fire, Katniss learns that she was central to an enormous plot that no one let her in on.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia, Edmund is the White Witch's Unwitting Pawn.
  • In Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle, Angela and Newt Hoenikker are suckered by agents of the American and Russian governments, respectively.
  • King James in Harald, who makes war on his father's allies on the advice of his Evil Chancellor, who is in the pay of the real Big Bad.
  • In The Coffee Trader by David Liss, Miguel Lienzo discovers he is the unwitting pawn of Alonzo Alferonda rather than Geertuid all along.
  • Trapped on Draconica: All of Team Evil is this for Kazebar.
  • Aspen and (to a lesser extent) Snail in The Hostage Prince by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple.
     Live Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Pearl and Nash were pawns of Twilight. And they were none too happy when they found out.
    • Roden in Twilight's real grand scheme.
    • Genevieve to both Twilight and Roden.
  • In the fourth season finale of Chuck, it's revealed that every major plot point that has happened since the pilot has been part of a bigger scheme, with Chuck and possibly everyone involved with those major plot points as the unwitting pawns. Whose pawns, exactly, and in what game, has yet to be revealed.
  • The "rich and powerful" marks Nate Ford mentions during the opening credits for Leverage are usually these. At some point along the way, their Mooks will often fall to this trope or Elliot, whichever one hits first.
  • Lost
    • He also kept juggling Idiot Balls, Villain Balls and Conflict Balls all throughout the series, while every single flashback has portrayed him as a gullible loser. It's a testament to Terry O'Quinn's acting that, in spite of that, he has consistently been one of the most interesting, popular and badass characters of the show.
    • For a devilish Manipulative Bastard and a supposedly wise ageless man, Ben and Richard too came across as total dupes; Locke, Ben and Richard, The Three Stooges?
  • In the Merlin (1998) series, multiple characters (Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere) end up as Mab's suckers at one point or another.
  • Any given Star Trek crew will become this at one point or another
  • Much like 24, almost everyone in Heroes has taken a turn as a Unwitting Pawn.
  • In 24, everyone takes turns being the Unwitting Pawn, up to and including Jack Bauer. Somehow even the Big Bad will end up a sucker either in his own scheme or be Out-Gambitted by the good guys. It's not a good idea to play Jack Bauer for a sucker though, 'cause that will only make him mad.
  • The X-Files: Mulder and Scully. It's pretty much their job description.
     Video Games 
  • Gordon Freeman and Adrian Shepherd in Half-Life. We don't exactly know what the plan is but that G-Man keeps laughing at us.
  • Practically everyone in the Chzo Mythos is a Unwitting Pawn in some way. Practically a testament to how incredibly good Chzo is at this Magnificent Bastard business.
  • The Final Fantasy series. Multiple times.
    • Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. One of the main points of his character is that Sephiroth can make Cloud do anything by manipulating him just the right way, and he makes sure Cloud knows it.
      • One can argue that, for a brief, shining moment, Sephiroth himself could be considered one, depending on whether or not Aeris knew she needed to die to make Holy work.
    • Almost everyone ends up this way in Final Fantasy Tactics after the dust has settled from the Gambit Pileup by the story's end. Except Delita. And Ramza..
  • Non-FF Squaresoft example: Surlent from Treasure of the Rudra. Being fooled by a thief is one thing, being fooled about once every thirty minutes by the very forces of Creation is another. Although it quickly becomes clear that Surlent helping the game's Gambit Pileup along (and losing his body thrice in the process) is actually his destiny (by failing hard but consistently, he accidentally brings all of the Mac Guffins to the right people at the right time), it still occasionally starts looking like a case of Just Eat Gilligan.
  • Radiata Stories. Jack does Lucian's job for him. All he has to do is provide the tools and the directions.
  • The Metal Gear series:
    • Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops also implies that the main villain, Volgin, was himself an Unwitting Pawn to a deviously cunning strategist.
    • Solid Snake was manipulated throughout the entire series. The most affecting part of the MGS4 ending might be Big Boss promising Snake that there is no one left to manipulate him anymore.
    • Metal Gear Solid: the first game that comes to mind when you hear the words "unwitting pawn".
    • The ending to Metal Gear Solid 2 implies that Solid Snake and Otacon may have ended up being Unwitting Pawns of the Patriots all along.
  • In System Shock 2, this happens often enough through the game's plot that it's practically the player's full-time occupation. However, those who had played the first game, and knew who they were dealing with, walked into the Gambit with open arms.
  • Fei Fong Wong of Xenogears. Not only was he a sucker for Solaris, the Wave Existence, his split personalities and his own prior incarnation, but even his friends manipulated him without reservations.
  • Virtually every single named character in the Xenosaga trilogy is a Unwitting Pawn. This is not an exaggeration.
  • BioWare loves this one to death:
  • Happens to the player in several Runescape quests.
  • The protagonist in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. And with the Gambit Pileup that's going on, it's at time hard to tell exactly whose plan.
    • Possibly also anyone who tried to use the Ankharan Sarcophagus to gain power.
  • Knuckles the Echidna, and to a much lesser extent, Shadow and Silver.
  • Onaga's manipulation of Shujinko in Mortal Kombat: Deception is actually the namer of the game.
    • He's got it bad? Poor Kitana has been a victim of this multiple times, throughout the whole franchise. The first time was by Shao Khan in Mortal Kombat II. Then it was by Onaga in Mortal Kombat: Deception, and then by both Mileena and Jade in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. Even in the non-cannon Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, she was an Unwitting Pawn of both Dark Khan and Quan Chi.
    • In fact, this has happened to a lot of characters in the franchise. It's hard to find one who hasn't been tricked, brainwashed, and/or magically enslaved by one or more of the main villains at least once.
  • Vhailor in Planescape: Torment by the Practical Incarntion. And then, yourself fall for it, by the aptly-named Trias the Betrayer.
  • Zelenin from Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. Manipulative Bastard Mastema and The Three Wise Men play her like a fiddle all the game, playing on her insecurities and fears like a cheap kazoo, which she always blissfully ignores, until either their plans come to fruition or she's been reduced to holy dust.
  • Happens to the player characters in The Elder Scrolls games way too often. Then again, the only manipulators who you can't get bloody revenge against in these games are the untouchable Daedric Princes, and they at least compensate you for your work with cool artifacts.
  • The Player Character is this in Dark Souls. No matter what you do, by beating the game you're just a pawn in an Ancient Conspiracy and Forever War regarding whether the Age of Fire should continue or end. Though at least the ending that isn't an And I Must Scream scenario gives you the chance to be something other than a mere pawn.
  • Valdo, the protagonist of the PC game Secrets of da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript, falls squarely into this territory. He's on a mission at the behest of an unknown employer, unaware that doing what his boss wants will lead to either him either being killed or thrown in prison for treason (which would probably lead to his death anyway).
  • Clive Barker's Undying: Patrick Galloway.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tower of God: Rachel, Koon and Baam all play into Yu Han-Sung's and Headon's hands in their plot against the ruling system.
  • 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 realising the purposes they were being put to.
    Western Animation 


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