Cosmic Plaything

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    "God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players,[1] to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time."


    Most of us like to think that our decisions have some influence on our lives. That we have control, at least to a point. But sometimes, there's the sneaking suspicion that maybe an influence doesn't like us very much, or maybe likes us in a very abusive way.

    On some series, a particular character doesn't just suspect. They know. For some strange reason, they find their lives governed by events and rules that defy either coincidence or logical explanation. They might figure out some of the "rules," like the what and the where, but the how and the why is a complete mystery.

    The nature of such a situation allows a certain flexibility to writers, as they don't have to think too hard about why this is happening, or even if the character's belief in their situation is correct, allowing them to focus on the immediate story.

    Often includes a Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!. May overlap with Powers That Be, but generally, there is no real confirmation or sign that a specific entity or group is working on the character. It may also overlap Can't Get Away with Nuthin', if the character interprets the situation as an active, immutable force on them personally, rather than "how the world works" for everyone. If there's more than one cosmic entity and the other one guides another character into antagonizing the first, it's a Cosmic Chess Game.

    Compare Born Unlucky, Weirdness Magnet and No Fourth Wall. May be caused by a Truman Show Plot. For a solely abusive version see The Chew Toy. For a more subjective version, see Designated Monkey. If the character arguably deserves mistreatment by the universe, they might be the victim of Call It Karma, an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, or a Jerkass Woobie. For when the Powers That Be treat the characters as pieces in a game see Cosmic Chess Game. May lead to God Is Evil.

    Opposite trope of Karma Houdini on the karmic scale.

    Examples of Cosmic Plaything include:

    Anime and Manga

    • While he does actually live in a painfully mundane world, it is the mental illness of the main character in Welcome to The NHK that he thinks he is the target of this type of cosmic conspiracy.
    • Perhaps the most extreme example is the titular character of Suzumiya Haruhi, who causes this trope for her entire circle of friends. Though the truth is stranger yet...
      • Mikuru Asahina. You know the universe hates you when getting groped by God is actually one of your lesser problems.
    • The cast of Haré+ Guu were in a strange place metaphysically already, but then the god-like Guu shows an interest in them, and it gets much, much weirder.
    • Keiichi Morisato of Ah! My Goddess starts this way, having literally been born under an unlucky star (the Star of Misfortune). Even after getting a goddess for a girlfriend, his luck is still remarkably poor; it's just that Belldandy is now around to smooth out the worst parts.
      • This was even stretched into a plot point about a thermodynamic-like Conservation of Happiness, where any unnatural attempt to shift luck is dangerous because it has to go to or leave somewhere else.
      • It is worth noting that "Urd", "Skuld" and "Verdandi" are the names of the Three Norse Goddesses of fate.
    • Moroboshi Ataru of Urusei Yatsura is similarly marked, as he was born on the second unluckiest day in the Japanese calendar: The thirteen of April, the fourth month of the year, as well as the day remembering the death of Bhudda. His name literally means "hit by a shooting star", which would take phenomenally bad luck.
    • Used several ways in ×××HOLiC: main character Watanuki is a Weirdness Magnet, as his blood is apparently delicious to supernatural creatures and thus draws them to him, much to his displeasure. Doumeki is the opposite of this, as his exorcism/purification powers are so strong his mere presence is a deterrent to the types of creepies that plague Watanuki. Pity Watanuki claims so strenuously he HATES Doumeki...
      • All of this is eventually justified. Turns out the supernatural creatures are attracted to him because he's subconsciously suicidal for remarkably spoilerific reasons, which attracts them like a lightbulb attracts moths.
      • Even worse, and not so justified is Himawari, who turns everyone she touches, apart from her parents (or she couldn't have been born), or even looks at towards very bad luck; she's never directly affected, and she herself isn't supernatural. Being associated (or even seen) with her has caused: a girl who liked her to commit suicide, a compulsive liar to get hit by a bus, her grandmother to die, her teacher to get stabbed, her neighbor's house to burn down, a kekkai to be broken during a ritual, a college student to discover {and eventually be killed by) a monkey paw, and Watanuki to fall out of a window and require two trades to save his life and he still loses movement in his finger. No one can say why she's like this, and wish-granting sorceress Yuuko tells Watanuki that the only thing that can take away her curse is by trading all the happiness she will ever feel.
        • And if he tried to trade something to get rid of her bad luck she would still be miserable because of the huge price involved.
      • It's kind of the exact opposite of the way Hellblazer's John Constantine uses karma to be in the right place at the right time, for instance when he needs to slip onto an air plane without being seen. JC intentionally uses karma to help himself, while Himawari unconsciously exerts her effect on others (minus her own parents, her pet bird, which is from another dimension, and Doumeki, who wouldn't care anyway).
    • In Princess Tutu everyone but Drosselmeyer is a Cosmic Plaything. Drosselmeyer is the writer that happens to be pulling the strings.
    • Naruto from Naruto. Had the most powerful demon in the world sealed in him as an infant, grew up a neglected orphan not knowing why the entire village shunned him, finally made some friends only for his best friend to Face Heel Turn and try to kill him. He has an organization of super powered psychos out to get him. He can't use too much of the demon's power without it killing him or driving him mad and until recently his ultimate attack was useless as it nearly destroys his arm and he couldn't get the sage power up because of the fox demon. Oh yeah, and his home town was just blown up because they wouldn't tell the Big Bad where he was. Yet somehow ends up a case of Angst? What Angst?.
      • Although he found the source of his problem in this regard and punched the Fourth Hokage really hard in the gut. Sort of. So it looks like he did care!
      • Also Nagato. unlike Naruto, he did not take it well, becoming a Fallen Hero in the process.
      • Gaara has been hated since he was born because, just like Naruto, his father sealed a demon inside him and his uncle tried to kill him out of hate.
      • Sasuke's entire life has been manipulated by Madara, Itachi and Orochimaru, starting with the massacre of his entire family. All three play upon his hatred and his determination to get revenge, though only Orochimaru makes it clear why (he wants a strong Sasuke so he can pull off an effective Grand Theft Me). Itachi seems to have been a Well-Intentioned Extremist who just wanted to make Sasuke strong to defend himself against Madara, who wants to use him for some unknown end. Sasuke is vaguely aware of this but since he's just underwent a hard Face Heel Turn, he no longer cares and just wants Madara to give him power.
    • In A Certain Magical Index, Touma's power to negate supernatural/magical effects also negates his luck. Definitely Blessed with Suck with that one.
    • How much does the universe hate Lelouch? So much that he has to mind-control God just to get a Bittersweet Ending... that he doesn't even live long enough to experience.
      • The writing staff of Code Geass has often proclaimed their love for the show's protagonist Lelouch...and then they smack him with Diabolus Ex Machina after Diabolus Ex Machina, causing everyone connected to him to suffer, including Shirley (loses father, goes through severe emotional torment, dies), Euphemia (accidentally mind controlled, reputation destroyed, killed), and C.C. (loses powers and memories up to the age of 10). They insist that they do this out of affection, wanting Lelouch to learn An Aesop about appreciating what you have in life; the Japanese fandom responded by coining the term "Lulu Quality" to refer to such treatment.
      • And considering what happens to him during the final stretch: his sister is feared dead, his worst enemy Schneizel turns his comrades against him, ultimately leaving him with practically nothing... except for both Britannians and said comrades hot on his trail, leading him to eventually choosing to off himself via the Zero Requiem for world peace. Even worse, a few of the people responsible for what was just spoilered get the happiest ending.
      • Suzaku Kururugui have his share too. Seeing his father was about to drive Japan into a war they coudn't win he decides to kill him to stop the war and save lives. Of course, this haunts him as he grows up and he becomes very suicidal for it. Then he meets Euphemia who is revealed to be a princess of Britannia and they quickly fell in love, which leads to him stopping being suicidal and forming a plan to make the world a better place but at the day this plan was initiated (the creation of SAZ) she gets ordered by Lelouch (althrough accidentally) to kill all the japanese people present. After the massacre Lelouch kill hers sending Suzaku into despair. The last nail was the F.R.E.I.J.A. inciddent which was caused due to his "live" geass being activated and making him fire a nuclear weapon killing millions of people. In the end one can arguee tha he didn't get a happy ending because Susaku Kururugui is now a dead man and he is trapped into the Zero persona.
    • In Ranma ½ where the main character Ranma Saotome ends in such hilarious situations that he could only be part of a cosmic joke. Well, also Ryoga Hibiki.. and Akane Tendo... and.. oh who am I kiding, everyone in the cast are cosmic playthings.
    • Berserk: In this world, is the destiny of mankind controlled by some transcendental entity or law? Is it like the hand of God hovering above? At least it is true that man has no control, even over his own will.
      • As if the Eldritch Abomination Godhand (which can warp reality if needed) weren't enough, a chapter removed from the main storyline states that The Idea of Evil, aka God, is the sole driving force behind every single horrible event in the series. He is very good at that, because in the manga there's like at least 10 horrible events each chapter, ranging from an absurdly huge amount of explicit rape to misery beyond belief. He might not be a case of God Is Evil though, since he sadly needs evil to exist.
    • Death Note: Despite dismissing the possibility that Kira is a god early on, L repeatedly ponders the possibility that he is this.
      • Hell, the entire plot of Death Note was kicked off because Ryuk got bored.
    • The universe in Rave Master literally exists to screw over a particular bloodline.
      • Oh, it goes deeper than that. The universe exists to screw over the Raregrooves AND pit them against the Symphonias, and the Raregrooves are always destined to lose. Just read the series if you don't get it.
    • Hayate isn't quite sure why the universe hates him so much, but he knows it's true. His friends know it's true. His poor luck is so infamous that Wataru is able to successfully gamble by betting on the exact opposite of what Hayate would pick. Part of it's the demon pendant he got from Nagi's grandfather. Though after it gets purified by Isumi in, like volume 3 (out of 23 or so now) it can no longer be cited as a reason. It certainly caused a near-fatal spike in his bad luck but everything before (i.e. just being born to his parents) and after (the remaining plot of the series) is all just Hayate's horrific luck and may eventually be explained. A major contributing factor can actually be his tendency to say the wrong thing at the right moment to get him brutally assaulted. This may actually come from Athena giving him a 'lesson' which 'his body never forgot (hint: it involved swords and it wasn't fun) after neglecting to tell her about his kiss with Izumi when he left the castle. Since then his compulsive habit to be stupidly honest overrides his sense of self preservation.
    • Poor Pedro of Excel Saga ends up literally a Cosmic Plaything. After getting killed early in the series, he's revived and spends several episodes as the boy toy for the Great Will of the Macrocosm. Cue a few of his many Big Nos.
    • Edward Elric of Fullmetal Alchemist. Big Time. The poor kid had a really crappy childhood, losing both his left leg and his little brother's body in an attempt to bring his mother back to life. To bring Alphonse back, he had to sacrifice his right arm, and even then he was only able to reclaim his soul.
      • Arguably, the Edward of the 2003 anime version had it worse. This Edward is not only killed but Al dies to revive him. Then when Ed sacrifices his life to bring Al back, he succeeds but Al is 10 years old again and missing the memories of the past 4 years. To top it off both brothers end up separated with Ed Trapped in Another World for 2 years. When they are finally reunited for good, they are still trapped in our world and will never see Winry or their friends in Amestris again. (Note the Distant Finale Kids OVA hints Winry somehow joined them but still...)
    • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, everyone except Kyubey is this.
    • Mitsuo in Daily Lives of High School Boys, who eventually had all other Butt Monkeys' mishaps misattributed to him; even one of those "other Butt Monkey" sincerely believed it was Mitsuo, not him, who did it.
    • Miyuki in Smile Pretty Cure for the entirety of episode 13.

    Comic Books

    • In The DCU, Animal Man is a combination of this and the Meta Guy; he realizes that he's a fictional character, at the whims of his writers. However, this awareness decreases and increases over time (naturally, due to the aforementioned whims).
    • Charles Brigman from PS238 has officially become a Cosmic Plaything. Paradox is one too, but in the sense that he has "duties to perform" -- among the other things, he is sometimes used as a "wild card" doppelgänger of people who cannot be present (in certain unusual circumstances, like time travel), but their absence could cause, well, paradoxes.
    • Whether it be in video games or comic books, Spider-Man is Marvel's ultimate Cosmic Plaything.
    • Deadpool doesn't really mind being a Cosmic Plaything so much when its Death wanting to use him as a boytoy. He's not so happy when its Thanos making him immortal so that he wouldn't steal the Mad Titan's girlfriend.


    • Inverted in Bruce Almighty, in which the titular character treats everyone else this way after being given the power of God. Even if he likes you, he's still going to screw with you, albeit in ways that might be fun. And if you've made him mad...well, "God help you" doesn't exactly cover it.
    • Larry Gopnik of A Serious Man. It is based on the Book of Job after all.
    • The trailer for Vamp contained the following litany of the protagonist's experiences that evening:

    "Tonight, I was nearly hung. I got into a fight with a psychotic albino. I ate a cockroach, my best friend disappeared, and just now I was almost assassinated by a runaway elevator. I've had a bad day!"

    • When Jack Slater, the titular Last Action Hero, finally confronts the actor who plays him (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in the real world, he gives the actor a long, angry rant about how Schwarzeneggar ruined Slater's life by putting him through hell. It might have been entertaining to the audience, but having his son die, having his marriage ruined, and being subjected to gunfight after gunfight after gunfight was less than fun for the fictional character.

    Jack: "Let us push his son off the building. You will have eternal nightmares, but you are fictional, so who cares?"



    • Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein takes "Job" to a new level, you could rename the trope after this book.
    • Happens a few times in the Tortall Universe; probably the most blatant example is in the Daughter of the Lioness books where the Trickster God Kyprioth causes Aly to be captured by pirates and sold into slavery in order for her to safeguard the lives of two girls who have a secret claim to the crown, and ultimately, lead a rebellion against the evil Rittevon dynasty.
    • Rincewind from the Discworld series is knowingly favored of The Lady (that is, of Luck), resulting in an amazing capacity for survival... but also what he calls "preemptive karma;" if it even looks as if something good will happen to him in the future, his karma will ensure that something bad happens immediately, and continues happening so the good things never come around. It doesn't help that being the Lady's favored puts you on the top of Fate's most-hated list. A side-effect of the conflict between Luck and Fate is that even Death himself does not know when Rincewind is going to die.
      • The only reason that the last statement is true is because of this: Due to the machinations of the Lady, and counter-machinations of Fate, Rincewind has been bounced through time and space so often, the most impressive fact of his life is that he has yet to run into himself. Finding the start, let alone end, of a life like that is damnably hard, even for Death. (Although Rincewind would be (dis) pleased to learn that Death has taken such a personal interest in him that his lifetimer is kept on Death's desk, much as a butterfly collector would keep an interesting specimen. The shape is akin to what you might expect if a drunken glassblower went about making a normal egg-timer, and had a continuous case of hiccups.)
      • So, when the wizards bring him back and make him comfortable, it scares him more than anything. Because things only stop going wrong when Fate is lining up an even bigger punch.
    • Much of Michael Moorcock's work, and all his Eternal Champion stories, are focused on this concept. The Champion labors, usually unknowingly, toward a balance between the opposing forces of Chaos and Law. Ultimately, the Champions actually destroy the Balance, sort-of, creating a supposed world free of destiny, where people have free will. At least, that was the version in the Count Brass books. The most famous Champion is Elric, who is dedicated to a god of Chaos, carries an intelligent sword that doesn't always do as he wishes, and generally is the focus of all the higher-up manipulations. Hell, in Stormbringer he gets missives from Fate every so often, telling him to just do stuff, including killing a dead god.
    • Turin from The Silmarillion (Children of Hurin). Morgoth cursed his entire family. Actually, Tolkien claimed it wasn't precisely a curse, since Morgoth was the source of all evil in the world anyhow.

    "Sit now there, and look out upon the lands where evil and despair shall come upon those whom thou lovest. Thou hast dared to mock me, and to question the power of Melkor, Master of the Fates of Arda. Therefore with my eyes thou shalt see, and with my ears thou shalt hear, and never shalt thou move from this place until all is fulfilled unto its bitter end."

    • Stanley Yelnats of Holes, thanks to his no-good, dirty-rotten, pig-stealing great-great-grandfather.
    • Cazaril, the hero of The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. A god using you as a tool isn't nearly as fun as it sounds.
      • Then there's Ista, heroine of Bujold's Paladin of Souls, who knows she's a tool of the gods, and resents it deeply.
    • The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Arthur Dent is the epitome of this trope, being laughed at as an absurdity by the man who once knew all the truth in the universe, having his home (both house and planet) destroyed by Bureaucrats, having his girlfriend blip out of existence for no reason, accidentally killing the same man in each of his reincarnations, the list goes on.
      • "Oh, that's just perfectly normal paranoia. Everyone in the universe has that."
      • Also Rob McKenna, the trucker who was a rain god and had absolutely no idea? All he knew was that he constantly had a literal raincloud over his head. And had catalogued two hundred and thirty-one separate types of rain. The clouds loved him and want to be near him, but he didn't see it that way.
        • His status as a rain attractor was recognized internationally, as several nations and major airports paid him to stay the hell away at all times.
    • Subversion: Dolorous Edd in A Song of Ice and Fire constantly complains that he is one, but compared to what's happened to the other characters in the story he's actually better off...
    • Almost a staple of any literature or other works rooted in Classical Mythology or Greek Mythology, making this Older Than Feudalism. It helps that the latter has Jerkass Gods ahoy, as well as a sister theme in You Can't Fight Fate. It's basically a requirement for tragedies that the "Tragic Hero" deserves it, which often leads to rather extreme punishments for their perceived crimes, such as Oedipus' case.
      • Oedipus Rex seems to have been randomly picked out specifically by the gods to be their toy: Oedipus' father captured a prince who then killed himself rather then be a slave; his father then cursed Laius to be killed by his own son. After hearing Apollo's Oracle prophesy that Oedipus would kill him, Laius nails his baby son's feet together and leaves him to die on a mountain. Luckily(?) for Oedipus, he's found and brought up in Corinth, where rumors begin to spread that he's a bastard. He goes to the Oracle for proof, and hears that he'll kill his father and marry his mother; not knowing he's adopted, he decides to do the decent thing and run as far as possible in the other direction...
        • ...whereupon he unwittingly ends up killing Laius and marries the Queen, Jocasta. And just when everything seems to be going well for him, a plague starts up in Thebes - he tries to fix it by returning to the Oracle, who tell him to find Laius's murderer. To cut a long story short: he does, Jocasta hangs herself, Oedipus stabs his own eyes out with the pins from her brooches, then becomes a beggar. All because he tried to defy a prophecy made shortly after he was born.
      • For another example, take The Aeneid - written between 29 and 19 BC, as much a political publication as an entertainment one. (Aeneas founding Rome was an attempt to justify the invasion of Greece; Romans were good at these sorts of stories.) After a giant storm scatters and damages his fleet, Aeneas survives and pulls into the newly founded city of Carthage. The beautiful queen of Carthage, Dido, rapidly falls in love with him, and everything seems hunky-dory, with his tiny band of Trojans being accepted into civil society. However, the gods send a messenger telling him to go to Italy already, twit. Naturally, he complies, but Dido is driven mad by his abandonment of her and commits suicide, lighting an eternal enmity between Carthage and Rome. This all results from the conflicting schemes of Jupiter, Venus and Juno.
    • Ganoes Paran in the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Luckily for him, the Malazan universe seems to have a sick sense of humor. The guy who was yanked around and killed multiple times by the gods ends up being the guy who makes the rules that they have to follow.
    • FitzChivalry Farseer of Robin Hobb's Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies. Described as Fool's "Catalyst," which means he exists largely to Screw Destiny. As Fool puts it, the world is like a wheel caught in a circular rut, and will follow that rut, digging itself in deeper; only a White Prophet like the Fool can see this course of fate, and more importantly, where a wedge -- the Catalyst -- can be placed to pop that wheel out of that rut and onto a new path. Coincidentally, and to stretch the metaphor a little further, that means the wedge gets run over by the wheel. Hard. And repeatedly, if the first attempt didn't work, making it worse as the rut gets deeper. Fitz definitely has the worst time overall of pretty much anyone in the series, getting at best a Bittersweet Ending at the end of Farseer, though he just manages to scrape something better out of Tawny Man, which Tastes Like Diabetes.
    • K.J. Parker's The Scavenger Trilogy. Events are possibly being manipulated by the god Poldarn to teach the mortal Poldarn a lesson, out of jealous love or for revenge.
    • Eugenides of Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series is one of these. The eponymous Thief, he is named for - and protected by - the God of Thieves, and is generally jerked around by the gods to serve their ends. Sometimes he finds it frustrating, and other times he is more pragmatic about it; as he says himself, "If I am the pawn of the gods, it is because they know me so well, not because they make my mind up for me."
    • Deconstructed in Thirsty. It blows having your entire life written by a sadistic Eldritch Abomination.
    • The basic premise of the children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
    • Randolph Carter from H.P. Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is this. It turns out the city Carter had been searching for the whole time was actually just jumbled up memories of Boston.
    • Labyrinths of Echo has many of these, in different ways. Max himself is one, rather obviously (in his case it's a part of immortality-via-being-repeatedly-created "deal", among the other things). Practitioners of the Invisible Magic usually slowly turn into these long before they "stop being human", due to playing with the powers of Multiverse and learning that the best ways to do it amount to "jump up, then just let the winds carry you along". Dopersts are sort of one-shot doppelgängers, driven to appear on someone's way in reality or dreams while looking like whoever will elicit a momentary emotional response -- typically by being "recognized" or momentarily mistaken for someone important to the victim, and/or enacting suppressed fears (including too many bicycle riders' fear of driving into a pedestrian, as it turned out).

    Live-Action TV

    • Boy Meets World: Cory had an interesting take on why he couldn't get away with things.
    • The Drew Carey Show: While not a central premise, Drew once famously theorized on-show, "I always get screwed by the system. That's my place in the universe. I'm the system's bitch."
      • One episode revealed that the source of Drew's misfortunes might not be so cosmic after all, as he discovers several men from his work have formed a conspiracy to make his life miserable. And even apart from that, there was always Mimi…
    • Early Edition: The main character receives a cat and tomorrow's newspaper for no known reason.
    • My Name Is Earl: The central premise of the show.
    • Joan of Arcadia: This is precisely how Joan sees her relationship with God. She would be thrilled if He stopped popping in into her life for rarely-explained reasons. For proof, two of the six WMG spectulate that the 'God' of the show is some kind of trickster.
    • Quantum Leap: In later seasons, Sam theorizes strongly why he keeps appearing in situations he must correct for the better.

    Sam: I don't know who's runnin' this show. I don't know why I was chosen. I bounce around from place to place. I do everything I'm supposed to do, at least the best way I can, but I don't know how to do this one. I mean, you gotta help me. I figure you owe me, for a couple of times, anyway. You make it rain. You hear me? You make it rain!

        • The truly bizarre thing here is that if you stripped away the Wangst, this is a remarkably standard (and recommended) form of prayer. Namely, (1) admission of helplessness and abandonment of control, (2) doing his part when he knows how (3) asking God for help. Yep, standard recommended form of prayer—at least if you're a sinner. Only thing missing is asking for forgiveness/salvation. Which, in context, is kinda obvious...
    • Strange Luck: The central character, named Chance, appears to be at the center of a vortex of extreme improbability both good and bad, beginning by being the sole survivor of a freak plane crash as a baby.
    • Wonderfalls has "Heroine as a Cosmic Plaything" as a main theme. As Jaye whiningly describes her situation, "I don't have a choice. I'm a puppet. The universe sticks its hand up my butt, and if I don't dance, people get hurt."
    • The X-Files episode "The Goldberg Variations" has a man with incredible luck, but he's aware that for him to benefit from it someone else has to suffer. When he picks a winning scratchcard, he says it's too much for his purpose. Despite his warnings, someone else is happy to take it, and is immediately run over by a bus.
    • Married... with Children's Al Bundy sometimes addresses God in the context of being a Cosmic Plaything, usually in a sarcastic way whenever God seems to be inflicting misery on him for fun, or tearfully asking just why God is picking on him in particular when nothing seems to be going right. He attributes this to The Bundy Curse. Supposedly, it only affects male Bundys but it appears to have the ability to rub off onto family, friends, and passers-by when it's narratively convenient.
    • Journeyman: This show owed a great debt to Quantum Leap, and it's no surprise that Dan Vasser is also a Cosmic Plaything.
    • Definitely Seinfeld. Few episodes passed by without one of the character's getting involved in some sort of misfortune, ultimately insulting someone and ruining something. The very last episodes looks back on all of the misfortunes they've caught themselves.
    • Sam and Dean Winchester on Supernatural seem to have been brought into being for the sole purpose of being playthings for Heaven and Hell. Every single event that has happened in their lives has been orchestrated so that they would release Lucifer from Hell and start the Apocalypse. This knowledge has taken a toll on the brothers, especially Dean, whose jokes and banter with his brother and friend Castiel hide the fact that he is basically "dead inside," as Famine described him.
    • From Doctor Who, Rory Williams definitely. It really seems like the universe just wants him to roll over and die. But it enjoys screwing with him too much to allow him to do that. First- his girlfriend/fiancée and later wife, runs off with another man. Later, he has died at least once, debatably twice, had his stag party ruined by the man with whom his fiancée ran off, was erased from existence, turned to plastic, had his fiancée forget him, shot his fiancée against his will, then guarded said fiancée for almost 2000 years. He then dies another three times. Then his wife gets kidnapped. And then their daughter is stolen, and becomes a psychopath. On the other hand, all this cosmic torture turned him into a Grade A Badass capable of facing down and intimidating a battalion of cybermen without flinching.
      • A casual viewer could be forgiven for assuming that the writers had some kind of deep-rooted sadistic hatred for the Tenth Doctor. And they might be right.


    Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

    • Literally true in Greek mythology. If some mortal caught the eye of a god, he/she was seduced by them, or just flat out raped. Worse yet, if the god had a spouse, they could make life very bad for you, up to and including being chased by a giant snake across the continent of Europe. Or worse, if their talents outmatched the gods, or they gave a god an answer they didn't like or gave an award to someone else, they were screwed. And if there was more than one god involved...well, they were screwed either way (just look at The Trojan War). How can it get worse you say? Well, remember the gods could take on any form, including that of any person.
      • The worst thing about Greek mythology is that praying to a god wouldn't get you that god's favor. At best, you'd be ignored. At worst, another god might notice and be offended that you weren't asking him for help and dish out some petty vengeance.
    • Job. The Devil makes a bet with God that Job only loves Him because he's got it so good; and if it were all taken away he would Rage Against the Heavens. Job, of course, persists in his faith, believing that God works In Mysterious Ways, and is rewarded by getting back 3 times what he lost.
      • Humorously the only people in the entire Bible Satan directly kills are Job's family during his bet with God. God, on the other hand, kills hundreds of people.

    Tabletop Games

    • In Warhammer 40,000, anyone who worships Tzeentch, the Chaos God of trickery, does so with the constant knowledge that despite his patronage they are nothing more than pawns in one of his elaborate schemes. Beyond that, the lousy state of the galaxy is often attributed to the sheer number of entities - the Chaos Gods, the C'Tan, Eldar farseers, and even the God-Emperor - playing at Chessmaster and getting tangled in each others' plots. For more specific examples...
      • The Lamenters chapter. The only Space Marine chapter formed during the so-called Cursed Founding to not display obvious mutations or other defects, they nevertheless suffered distrust and prejudice - to the extent that during their debut campaign protecting a world from the forces of Chaos, an allied chapter actually abandoned them, leaving the Lamenters to suffer 80% losses before being rescued by the Ultramarines and White Scars. The surviving Lamenters were then lost in the Warp and presumed dead for two thousand years. After rebuilding their strength, the Lamenters were redeployed to the other side of the galaxy as part of a brotherhood of chapters guarding another warp storm. Unfortunately one of their allied chapters went renegade and dragged the Lamenters onto the wrong side of a civil war, where the Lamenters once again suffered crippling casualties. After the revolt was put down, it was decided that the Lamenters had acted out of misguided honor, and were given the chance to atone through a century-long penitent crusade... right into the oncoming Hive Fleet Kraken. Their last report before further contact was lost mentioned that they were down to three heavily-wounded companies.
      • Commissar Ciaphas Cain has repeatedly stated in his private memoirs that if the Emperor is truly watching over him, He has a twisted sense of humor.
    • The GURPS RPG has two Disadvantages that sum up this trope: "Weirdness Magnet," which attracts inconvenient strangeness to the character (the given example includes a talking dog and aliens making a base in the TV set); and "Cursed" which explicitly states "the GM can hose you any time he feels like it, and you have nothing to say about it, because you are Cursed."
    • In Scion, each character has a "Fateful Aura" that turns them into walking Weirdness Magnets. Also, the more they use their awesome powers, the more likely they are to tie innocent bystanders into their growing legend. The stronger their Legend, the easier this happens and the more pronounced the effects, which is the main reason the Gods left the mortal world in the first place.
      • It's somewhat more complex than that. Fate is in essence the human desire for things to operate based on rules of Narrative story. Being Fatebound offers benefits... one binds oneself to a particular role, and becomes more likely to succeed when acting in it... while becoming less likely when trying to defy it. The Gods gathered the power of being Fatebound as Heroes to the Mortals to defeat the Titans... then withdrew from the world to let those mortals die out so that they could be who they wanted instead of who the Mortals expected them to be.
    • While we're here, this is no doubt the feeling that afflicts anyone who takes the "Things Don't Go Smooth" disadvantage in Serenity: the RPG. As outlined by Mal:

    I want it to go smooth. Why don't it ever go smooth?

    • Prometheans were brought back to life with the Divine Fire. The catch? The Divine Fire is innately hostile to life... and living things know this. Maybe not innately, but deep down, they know it. So a Promethean's life really, really sucks, seeing how every human it meets will eventually flip out.

    Video Games

    • Maggey Byrde in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is convinced this is her lot in life, dating back to when she fell out of her family's ninth-story apartment at six months old. As she notes, her luck is bad to the point she's never even tied at tic-tac-toe. Being one of the three characters to be the defendant in two separate cases (the others being Maya Fey and Phoenix himself (who wins the Most Reoccurring Defendant award with three times in the hot seat)) goes a long way towards backing up that claim. She also gets accused murder in Ace Attorney Investigations.
    • The Great "Worrier" Susano from Okami becomes convinced over time that his feats of skill are a result of the gods toying with him. Given that the player is a god and assists him throughout the game, though, he's not too far off the mark.
    • Curtis Craig of Phantasmagoria 2 is this. Literally.
    • Kratos from God of War exemplifies this trope like no other. In his own words: "I am what the gods have made me!"
      • Kratos is a subversion. He likes to blame the Gods for the things that happen to him, but in reality most of is his own fault. Played straight as well since both Ares and Athena manipulated him for their own plans.
    • Everyone in the Chzo Mythos is Chzo's plaything.
    • Arcanum has a couple of optional character Traits that make the player this. "Born Under a Sign" makes both critical successes and critical failures more likely, and "Nietsche Poster Child" makes critical failures more likely but improves experience gain.
    • In a similar vein, the first two Fallout games have the "Jinxed" Trait, which increase the chance of a critical failure for the player and also for anyone nearby. While generally reviled, walkthrough writer Per Jorner has stated that Jinxed could be useful for a "pure (and weird) Hand-to-Hand build."

    Web Comics

    • K from Blip. It's outright stated that, since Heaven can't foresee her actions, they're "censoring" her to insure that she has as little impact as possible on the world.
      • Worse still - the forces of Hell want her to stir things up and will always make sure that interesting things happen in her life which Heaven will have to squash down, ensuring that she gets her chain yanked her entire life. She will never be allowed the benefit of dull boredom, always standing on the brink of hope and getting denied before achieving anything remotely fulfilling.
    • It was revealed in Housepets that King and Tarot are player characters in a cosmic game of Dungeons & Dragons.
    • In SSDD the Oracle ruins certain people's lives for fun. Tessa Edwards being a favorite.
    • Bob from The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob is a proven weirdness magnet. He can attract monsters and such just by standing there. He has no idea why.

    Web Original

    • In The Gamers Alliance, The Guy Who The Gods Like To Pick On, Sr. has it pretty rough because for some weird reason the gods really do like to pick on him all the time. He ends up from one miserable situation into another and can't even kill himself because the gods like to keep him alive just to humiliate him even more in increasingly cruel yet morbidly hilarious ways. His children, Guy Jr. and Gal, are also suffering from this albeit to a slightly lesser extent.
    • A common pastime of the Archailects in Orion's Arm, some think that the only reason they still allow "lower life forms" to exist is for entertainment.
    • The Nostalgia Critic. Word of God said that he was pretty much created to always get the short end of the stick and be a victim - although he does a lot of crap to balance that out - and the Christmas Special proved that even Ask That Guy would be nicer and better off without him.

    Western Animation


    Sokka: (as it is raining and he is being heavily soaked) Look, I'm gonna make a prediction now. (Sarcastically) It's going to keep drizzling...(Beat.) See? (Everything promptly becomes sunny and sparkly, the clouds vanish, the shine shines warmly and the land is happy again.)
    Aang: Not everyone has the gift, Sokka.

    • While Waspinator of Beast Wars was The Chew Toy, his counterpart in Transformers Animated, Wasp, is a Cosmic Plaything. Instead of getting blown up a lot, his ill fortune lead to him getting framed for being a spy, going to jail for 50+ years, and going insane.
      • And then he is tricked into becoming a techno-organic monstrosity by Blackarachnia, explodes, and winds up in pieces on what may or may not be a version of the prehistoric Earth from Beast Wars. Like his predecessor he lives through the dismemberment, but the scene of him trying to pull himself back together is terrifying rather than comedic.
    • Bill, from The Terrible Thunderlizards, had "When does the hurting stop?" as his Catch Phrase.
    • Homer Simpson instantly becomes one whenever he enters New York City.
    • The four main characters in South Park. Cartman had been anal probed for starters, Kenny has been killed many times, and Stan and Kyle would sometimes get ridiculously short ends of the stick, especially Kyle for some reason.
      • Episodes like "Cartmanland" and "HUMANCENTiPAD" seem to imply that Cartman is literally God's plaything, receiving what he loves and then having it taken away just to mess with him. Definitely a case of Call It Karma, though--"Cartmanland" largely focused on the idea that a universe where Cartman actually got what he wanted would not be just.
    • Timmy Turner, the main character in The Fairly OddParents, is tormented constantly. The writers even going so far as subverting the Wonderful Life trope by letting the character of Jorgen Von Strangle telling Timmy that his very existence causes misery for everyone. He, also, frequently tormented by Francis The Bully, Vicky his evil babysitter, and Mr. Crocker his Sadist Teacher. Even when Timmy wishes for his situation to improve, he is forced to wish everything back to normal, a very notorious Reset Button, thus continuing his ongoing misery.
    • Phineas and Ferb's sister Candace. Her relentless quest to "bust" her brothers and prove their outlandish activities to their parents means she gets dragged through the wringer and usually gets within a whisker of succeeding, only to have it all snatched away at the last moment, leaving her looking crazy. Like Wil E. Coyote, it's only her own obsession that keeps the pain coming, but it does seem that fate has it in for her: even if the entire universe has to expand to rob her of validation, it'll happen.
    • In The Real Ghostbusters, Egon once commented, "Sometimes I think the universe just waits for me to get cocky."
    • Squidward from SpongeBob SquarePants, it seems that the whole universe is out to make him miserable, whether it be his dreams being shattered like glass (no doubt by Spongebob and Patrick, or just being yanked away by pretty much anything), or just being hurt for no reason, it's little wonder that fans of the show have declared him The Woobie.
    • Henry from KaBlam!
    • Gumball Watterson in the episode "The Curse" where he finds himself under a plague of bad luck for no explained reason.

    Real Life

    • Anyone who claims to have never had even a single day where it felt like this is lying.
      • Even if they aren't (most likely due to young age), it is inevitable that they will someday experience just such a day.
    1. i.e. Us