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  • Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg: Otilla can modulate her voice to find the right frequency that will make people listen and obey her. Unfortunately this is what gives Lucrezia the idea to program a specific vocal harmonic command voice for her slaver wasps.
  • In Battle Royale, just as Shinji is about to pull off his plan to escape the Program, a fellow student, Keita Iijima, shows up, oblivious to what's going on, and accidentally ruins the entire plan, getting everyone involved killed.
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  • Cakes In Space: Before her and her family's journey to their new planet home began, Astra asked the food replicating machine in the canteen, Nom-O-Tron, to make her "the ultimate dessert", one "so delicious, it's scary", and "brilliant". She only meant the best dessert possible, but after she went into hyper-sleep with everyone else, Nom-O-Tron took her words at face value, and over the course of a century, started filling up the ship with hostile cake monsters.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: In The Last Battle, Shift the Ape and Puzzle the Donkey find a lion skin in the waters of Caldron Pool, which leads to the former convincing the latter to dress up in it and pose as Aslan. Their actions kick-start the End of Narnia, but the source of the lion skin is casually mentioned as being a hunter up in the Western Wilds who killed and skinned a lion weeks before.
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  • Cat's Cradle has whoever failed to perform proper maintenance on the fighter plane which crashed into the side of the castle.
  • Debt of Honor:
    • A pair of improperly-galvanised fuel tanks explode when the cars they're in get into an accident, starting a series of events that lead to disaster. One character who knows about The Plan likens it to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. For added sick irony, for all the furore they cause over alleged Japanese safety defects, the problem can be traced to a worker at an American factory who smelled a rat but didn't think it was worth taking a second look at and just let the defective fuel tanks be installed rather than giving them a thorough inspection.
    • George Winston, who sold off the Columbus Group to Yamata and unintentionally gave the man a vital foothold for his plan.
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  • Dirk Pitt Adventures: Clement Massey from Night Probe! robs a train station and prevents the conductor from stopping a train from going over a weakened bridge and plunging into the Hudson River. He had no idea that the train was carrying a document that would merge the United States and Canada into a single country. Subverted when it turns out the train was actually rerouted into an underground quarry to be robbed with more time. Doubled Subverted when Massey and the train's crew and passengers are trapped in the quarry with no escape.
  • Discworld
    • When Twoflower, the Disc's first tourist, enters Ankh-Morpork The Colour of Magic he ends up triggering a brutal brawl between the thieves, assassins, and businessmen when he oh-so-innocently begins paying everyone with solid gold coins, unaware of how valuable gold is there (it's a very common metal in his homeland). At one point he sells an insurance policy to the Broken Drum (introducing the concept of insurance to the people of the Ankh-Morpork), and the resulting attempt at Insurance Fraud inevitably leads to a giant fire that consumes the entire city.
    • Twoflower does it again in Interesting Times; after returning home, he wrote a book on his experiences around the Disc. His novel, "What I Did On My Holidays" ends up provoking the oppressed people of the Agatean Empire to revolt. When Twoflower laments that he wasn't trying to stir up trouble, Rincewind the Wizzard mentally notes that Twoflower never intends to cause trouble.
  • Lucy's mother in Dracula is partly responsible for killing Lucy by opening the window and removing the garlic, which allows Dracula to get into the room.
  • For All Time: It's specifically noted that many significant historical events aren't recorded for posterity, and many of the people involved are unwitting instigators of doom who don't realize the significance of what they've done. Consider the following: a Soviet soldier serving in the Congo is injured and saved by a blood transfusion. He later serves in Poland and Bulgaria before returning to the Soviet Union, donating a pint of blood every three weeks wherever he is. Unknown to him, he brought something with him in his blood, and thanks to inadequate testing by the Soviets and the need for blood due to constant casualties, that something was allowed to spread unchecked. In that timeline, it's called SPID. In ours? It's called AIDS.
  • Halo: Contact Harvest:
    • A shard of Mendicant Bias reveals to the future High Prophets that humanity are the heirs to the Forerunners. Realizing that this revelation would cause the Covenant to collapse, the Prophets decide that humanity must be wiped out to cover this up. If not for Bias, the Human-Covenant War would have never become so vicious (or even started), and it's possible that none of the Halo games would have even happened.
    • A Huragok (aka Engineer) invents a farming vehicle as a gift for humanity. His Brute overseers find out what he's been doing, and turn his invention into a weapon; this is the origin of the Brute Chopper.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Bertha Jorkins in Book 4. Doesn't appear 'on-screen', doesn't have any speaking roles, dies long before Book 4, but is absolutely crucial in giving the Big Bad the capacity to put together his Evil Plan for the book—she worked for the Ministry's Sports Department, so she knew about the Triwizard Tournement. She then went on holiday to Albania, where Voldemort was lying low with Wormtail. She happened to bump into Wormtail and recognised him, and then she was subjected to lots of tortures and Mind Rape to make her a source of information to Voldemort. It didn't help that she had coincidentally discovered Barty Crouch Jr.'s existence, either.
    • Remus Lupin in Prisoner of Azkaban. If he'd remembered to take his potion before the climactic confrontation, he wouldn't have been a threat when he became a werewolf, and could have continued to concentrate on keeping Pettigrew from getting away. And if Pettigrew hadn't gotten away, and had been turned in to the authorities, Sirius would have been cleared of his murder charges and would no longer have to be a fugitive, meaning he could have a closer relationship with Harry. And if he'd had a closer relationship with Harry, Voldemort wouldn't be able to use their separation to trick Harry, and Sirius wouldn't have ended up dead. Furthermore, if Pettigrew hadn't gotten away, he wouldn't have been able to play a pivotal role in expediting Voldemort's return to a fully-formed body and enable the tragedies of books 4-7 - including Lupin's own demise at the hands of the Death Eaters.
    • Morfin and Merope Gaunt in The Half-Blood Prince, as shown via Pensieve Flashback, though Merope was a more indirect example. Morfin, a Muggle-hater, hexed Tom Riddle Sr. upon finding out Merope was in love with him. This simple act of bigotry led to him and his father's arrest after they tried to fight the Aurors coming to arrest Morfin, giving Merope an opportunity to trick Tom Riddle Sr. into drinking Love Potion so she would be with him and escape the abusive home life she had to endure throughout her whole life. She got pregnant with a son after raping him during their elopement; said son would grow up to rename himself "Lord Voldemort".
    • Regulus Black in the Backstory revealed in Deathly Hallows. Fresh out of school, he joined the Death Eaters . He had a change of heart and tried to defect after he found out Voldemort's biggest secret, that he had split his soul into horcruxes. He didn't tell anyone else he knew to be against Voldemort (ie his brother or Dumbledore) and decided to destroy it himself. He wasn't able to do it but had created a fake to put in its original location. This delays the eventual finding of the others by almost two decades (since Dumbledore had suspected there were more but didn't have any sort of proof), drags out Voldemort's downfall, and causes countless deaths.
    • Sirius Black blames himself for the role he played in contributing to James and Lily's deaths. Even if he never betrayed them, he was the one to convince them to make Peter Pettigrew their Secret Keeper instead of himself.
    • In the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them textbook, the creature the Quintaped is rumoured to have been created by one of these. Legend has it that one island had two feuding families. One family transformed the other into monstrous five-legged creatures — who then proceeded to massacre their rivals.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy contains Arthur Dent making a comment about his difficult lifestyle... that gets sucked through time and space to the conference table of two armies, is interpreted in their language as the worst thing to ever say, and ultimately sparks a thousands-of-years-long war between the two that devastates all in its path and kills thousands. Then the two realise the problem and team up to attack the Earth where they are promptly eaten by a small dog. Indeed, this sort of thing is hinted by the book to happen all the time, potentially making everyone this trope.
  • The Iliad: Prince Paris violating King Menelaus' hospitality then eloping with the latter's wife Helen, kickstarting the Trojan War that ended with the fall of Troy itself.
  • In Death: This trope has happened a few times. Vengeance In Death had a brilliant plan to catch the murderer ruined by a robot poodle that caused a chain reaction of events that caused the cops to reveal themselves and for the murderer to spot them and run for it. New York To Dallas contains two instances of this. The first one had a brilliant plan to catch the murderer's partner ruined by a dog that caused a kid to almost get run over by a car, a cop having to save the boy's life and reveal himself as cop, causing the murderer's partner to spot them and run for it. That instance got subverted by the partner getting caught despite a chase anyway. The second instance had the cops closing in on the murderer, only for the murderer to get away. How? The murderer was out shopping when he overheard a conversation between staff member and a stock boy about cops. The staff member recognized an undercover cop working in the area and he was just telling the stock boy about how this cop came to a criminology class and how cool he is. The murderer naturally chose to run for it. Clearly these minor characters would not get a lot of sympathy from readers.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle: Trading even a single word with the Cthaeh will turn you into a highly destructive one of these. This is because the creature, which is trapped in a tree and unable to act outside of speech, knows every last outcome that could ever happen, and will pick its words so as to chose the worst possible outcome it can manage. And since it's The Omniscient, it can pick some catastrophic outcomes indeed.
  • Looking for Alaska: Numerous characters blame themselves for the title character's fatal car accident, but the one who initially sets the Butterfly of Doom in motion is her boyfriend Jake, who barely appears in the story otherwise. As Alaska and Miles are about to have Their First Time, she gets a call from Jake. While taking the call she absentmindedly doodles a white flower, as she often does, which suddenly reminds her that it's the anniversary of her mother's death and for the first time in her life she forgot to put white flowers on her grave. The realization that she not only missed the anniversary, but spent the last few hours of it cheating on her boyfriend, sends her into a Freak Out, and she tears out of the school, stinking drunk, gets into her car, and crashes trying to race to her mother's grave to make things right.
  • Curley's wife from Of Mice & Men wanted to have a friendly conversation with Lennie, despite George's orders to Lennie to stay away from her. She eventually took advantage of Lennie's fondness for soft things, and invited Lennie to touch her hair; this soon led up to Curley's wife getting scared and beginning to scream, which in turn made Lennie scared that George would hear her so he squeezed her hair tighter. Guess who winds up with her neck broken. The death of Curley's wife quickly led up to the novel becoming a Shoot The Shaggy Dog Story.
  • In Ollie's Odyssey, a little girl won the Bonk A Zozo game, and claimed the ballerina Zozo loved as her prize. This was what turned Zozo into a toy-stealing villain. That little girl was Billy's mom.
  • Jacob in The Red Tent Because he demands an outrageous bride price for his daughter (after a sarcastic comment by Joseph), because of a combination of greed and Overprotective Dad factor, his sons murder Dinah's True Love, and all the other Shechemite men. Jacob calls his sons out on it and dies full of regrets.
  • In Sarah Beth Durst's The Queens of Renthia trilogy, Merecot is by far the most talented of students in the Northeast Academy of Aratay, a school for magically-gifted girls/women to learn control over spirits. Merecot drops out of school and becomes Queen in a neighboring land, she's also aggressively expansionistic (but not militaristic). Unfortunately the Queen of Aratay kingdom, Fara is paranoid and power-hungry. She already engages in Human Sacrifice to bolster her power, but against the prodigy Merecot, Fara has to greatly increase the number of sacrifices and what people she's willing to sacrifice. From starting with criminals then isolated rurals, against Merecot, Fara targets promising students in the Northeast Academy, her own Heir, Sana, and later the replacement Heirs, leading to the Coronation Massacre where Fara has everyone murdered except for unlikely Heir, Daleina.
  • Almost every adult who ever happened to be the guardian/s of the Baudelaire Children in A Series of Unfortunate Events. The worst example of the lot would have to be Mr. Poe, however, who in every book has been rightfully warned by the children about Olaf performing a new scheme for every book, refusing to believe them, being proven wrong, escorting them to the next available guardian, and repeating the cycle for up until The Vile Village, where the cycle only stops because the Baudelaires are wrongfully accused of murdering Jacques Snicket, who the villagers thought was Count Olaf.
  • In the former trope-naming incident, from the Sherlock Holmes story The Final Problem, a Swiss messenger in Moriarty's employ catches up to Holmes and Watson with a message saying that an Englishwoman at the hotel they're staying at is on the verge of death and wants to see an English doctor. Watson obediently returns to the hotel, unknowingly leaving Holmes to face Moriarty alone at the edge of Reichenbach Falls, apparently leading to both of them falling to their death. However, it is implied that Holmes knew all along what was going down but saw no reason to put Watson at further risk.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Catelyn Stark. Twice, but releasing valuable prisoner Jaime Lannister in an attempt to get her daughters back from the Lannisters is more cited than kidnapping Tyrion Lannister, believing him responsible for the attempted murder of her son on the word of her Unlucky Childhood Friend Petyr Baelish, Despite the fact that the Tyrion incident was the casus belli of the civil war that has made the entire world turn to shit ever since.
    • Fans often cite the release of Jaime as a crucial step leading up to the Red Wedding, but there are parts of the text suggesting that said wedding was already being planned before it happened. Both Lord Tywin Lannister and the Starks's treacherous ally Lord Roose Bolton appear to be planning something around the time of his release.
    • The irony of Catelyn is that, in most other fantasy worlds, she and Ned would be the most sympathetic characters in the entire story, and the clear virtuous protagonists of the piece. In the Crapsack World that they live in, though, they are either directly or indirectly the cause of something like 90% of the tragedy that follows.
    • Also Sansa Stark with the whole Lady affair, or running off to Cersei when she did. Forgiven by many only because of what happened to her after that.
    • When she was a girl, Lysa Tully was in love with her father's ward Petyr Baelish, who was light-years below her in social status so a marriage was impossible. Also, he was in love with her older sister Catelyn. So one night after watching Petyr dance with Cat and get very drunk after Cat wouldn't kiss him, Lysa crept into Petyr's bed in the dark and had sex with him. She told him she loved him and wanted to marry him, while letting him think she was Cat. Shortly after this, Cat's engagement to Brandon Stark was announced and (understandably from his point of view) Petyr challenged him. Short scrawny 15-year-old Petyr nearly died fighting tall strong 20-year-old Brandon and was promptly thrown out for this and for getting Lysa pregnant. This humiliation was Petyr's Start of Darkness, turning him into the villain responsible for the entire civil war - with Lysa manipulated into lighting the first fuse. Well done, Lysa!
    • Rhaegar Targaryen's abduction on Lyanna Stark set the ball rolling on a chain of events that ultimately brought about both of their deaths, the fall of the Targaryens from power and a long generation enmity among several Houses who were affected by the war.
    • There are many examples from the books about single isolated events having much greater effects down the road. Had Edmure Tully let Tywin return to Casterly Rock as Catelyn suggested, Tywin wouldn't have been able to return to stop Stannis from taking King's Landing, which would have ended the war. Had Robb not let Theon return back to his father, Winterfell would not have been captured, which would have left Catelyn less likely to free Jaime as well as making the Freys and Boltons less likely to turn on Robb. Had Theon simply killed or ignored Ramsay, Winterfell would have been quickly retaken, once again helping the Starks' war effort. Had Robert listened to Ned about sending an assassin after Daenerys, she and Khal Drogo likely would have been content to leave the Seven Kingdoms alone. Had Tyrion decided to decisively deal with Littlefinger once he knew the man had set up the conflict between the Starks and Lannisters and set him up as the patsy the war would likely have been resolved much more quickly as well. And on and on it goes...
    • The Tales of Dunk and Egg have quite a few as well.
      • Prince Daeron losing sight of his little brother Aegon "Egg" leads to the death of Baelor Breakspear and the exile of Aerion "Brightflame".
      • Little Walder Frey (yes, the very same Troll that later rules House Frey during the main series) snitching on his sister's lowborn boyfriend basically sparks the Second Blackfyre Rebellion.
    • And, of course, the backstory has plenty more:
      • Had Viserys I been more decisive about who would inherit the crown (or just not married a second time), the Dance of Dragons would have never happened.
      • Had Baelor I either tried to have children with Daena or just betrothed her to someone else, the Blackfyre rebellions would not have taken place.
    • Crown Prince Duncan Targaryen who abdicated his birthright to the Iron Throne to Marry for Love Jenny of Oldstones led to the Mad King Aerys taking the throne and to the fall of the Targaryen Dynasty.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Inverted in Death Star. Two utterly trivial characters from the first film (the guard who says, "Close the blast doors!" too late, and the gunner who says "Stand by... stand by....") turn out to have chosen to let Han Solo and Chewie get away, and chosen not to fire on Yavin, because they'd started to have doubts about the Empire. If not for them, the Rebellion would have been crushed.
    • Supreme Chancellor of the Republic Tarsus Valorum in the Darth Bane trilogy ended up doing this. After the New Sith Wars ended with the Battle of Rusaan, he passes the Ruusan Reformations, which among other things disbands the Republic's military and also forces the Jedi to take a more advisory role in the Republic rather than the protectors that they used to be. This would later play into Palpatine's hands when he took advantage of Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas's contracted clone army to create an army unquestionably loyal to him, rather than thinking men that might form their own opinions. He facilitated the rise of the Empire a thousand years later, though he couldn't have known it at the time.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Eshonai, a Parshendi girl who became their last general, accidentally caused most of the plot of the series by stumbling upon the Alethi while she was out exploring, which led to the Alethi king trying to turn them into Voidbringers, which led to the Parshendi assassinating him, which led to the Alethi declaring war on them, which led to the Parshendi desperately turning themselves into Voidbringers, summoning the Everstorm, and starting the next Desolation. Admittedly, the Everstorm and the Desolation likely would have happened eventually anyway, but she feels understandably guilty about the exact events leading up to it.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Yusef tells Gothon where the Eastern Alliance's HQ is and how to defeat their army. He thinks this will lead end the war with minimum casualites on both sides. This is his only action in the entire story.
  • In Two Years' Vacation, the ship where the students were planning to go on their end-of-school travel was in port when somehow it gets unmoored just to get caught in a violent wind that ends up pushing the ship to a desert island somewhere in the Pacific. With survival being foremost in their minds, none of the teenagers gives much thought to how it happened. Until nearly two years in, when the teens discuss who will undertake a dangerous ride on a kite to find where the mutineers threatening them are, and Jacques (who was The Prankster before the travel but suffered a mysterious personality shift during the travel) volunteers, confessing that he was the one that unmoored the ship as a prank, not expecting the wind to take them so far away.
  • Vertical by Rafał Kosik: The constructors of the climbing "cities" equipped each one with sort of biological computer utilizing a bioengineered microorganism... which turns out to be extremely virulent when released from its container, causing a rabies-like disease. By the end of the book it has already doomed at least two "cities" and spread to all other known human settlements, including the one where it was engineered.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, has his own personal version of this trope in Toren Divas who manages to be both his best and most hated friend. The best example is in the starship at the start of Death or Glory: while Cain and Jurgen struggle to get out of a room where the hull has been breached, Divas' attempts at being over-dramatic knock some guardsmen off balance as they hold open the emergency doors, trapping Cain and Jurgen and forcing them to get into a lifepod, making planetfall deep in ork-held territory. This sets off the whole plot, though as that involved Cain and Jurgen's flight to safety snowballing into liberating the planet, the people of Perlia would probably have thanked him.
  • The Witcher: Ciri accidentally introduces the bubonic plague to The Continent after a diseased flea hitches a ride on her jacket during a space/time jump from Medieval Europe.
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