Magnetic Plot Device

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Peter Venkman: What? I guess they just don't make them like they used to.

Ray Stantz: No! Nobody ever made them like this. ... The whole building is a huge super-conductive antenna that was designed and built expressly for the purpose of pulling in and concentrating spiritual turbulence. Your girlfriend lives in the corner penthouse of Spook Central.

The justification of the Weirdness Magnet. A normal person living a normal life will likely not get involved with adventures unless it comes upon them. To explain why these things happen week after week a storytelling device will be created, often multiple devices, with the sole purpose of polarizing the weirdness in the direction of the heroes.

Many times the device is uncontrollable, or the hero acts as a guardian of it, protecting it from misuse or limiting the damage it can do. Often it is an obscurely defined and rarely actually seen or used, but whose presence permeates the entirety of the saga.

Without this item Fridge Logic will start to kick in with viewers, mostly in the realm of a Contrived Coincidence. Why doesn't fate just leave this guy alone?

It can be considered a standing, perpetual Chekhov's Gun, Plot Coupon or MacGuffin. Usually a good excuse for why they have a City of Adventure. Compare closely the Regular Caller, which in many cases is the individual and repeated methods of utilizing the Magnetic Plot Device.

Typical versions include:

Compare Green Rocks.

Examples of Magnetic Plot Device include:

Anime & Manga

  • The Brand of Sacrifice borne by Guts in Berserk draws demons to him like a lightning rod, making his life (and the life of his lover Casca, who also bears the Brand) a literal living Hell. The two of them are only alive because Guts is an unstoppable demonslaying Badass.
  • The shattered Four Souls gem in Inuyasha. At least in the beginning, Inu-Yasha and Kagome are trying to collect the scattered shards of it... and running into a lot of monsters and assorted beasties who are also trying to collect the shards.
  • The main character himself in Bleach, who attracts the demons he fights due to his exceptionally strong spiritual presence, as well as Karakura City itself, which for whatever reason has an unusually high concentration of spiritual energy.
    • It also helps that Ichi does such a bad job of containing said spiritual power that he ends up Super Empowering a lot of the people who hang out around him.
  • The Dragon Balls in Dragon Ball always draw a lot of characters essential to the plot together, especially near the beginning of the series. For example, Bulma first meets Goku, because she is searching for a Dragon Ball that he owns. This also works especially well as a Magnetic Plot Device, because there is more than one Dragon Ball, which allows for a more seamless move together of a higher variety of characters.
    • It wasn't until the Cell saga, mid-way through DBZ, that they had a Big Bad whose plans did not involve the Dragon Balls in any way. (Tenshinhan was never a true "Big Bad", only a Rival, and the Piccolo Jr. saga flowed directly from the King Piccolo saga, which did involve the Dragon Balls.)
  • In Kekkaishi, there are spiritual hot-spots (like Karasumori) that attract Ayakaishi (demons) who are hungry for power. In the beginning, this was the source of almost every Monster of the Week.
  • In Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Stand users apparently attract other Stand users. How or why this happens is never explained.



Delirium: The things we do make echoes. S'pose you stop on a street corner and admire a brilliant fork of lightning. For ages after people will stop on that corner, stare up at the sky, they wouldn't even know what they were looking for. Some of them might see a ghost bolt of lightning. Some of them might be killed by it. Our existence deforms the universe.

  • One of the many variations of Supergirl (written by Peter David) had her move to a small town. Naturally, crazed super villains followed. This was partly explained by a mystical river that ran underneath the town, it attracted oddness like deer to a salt lick.


  • Ghostbusters actually made a plot point about how busy they were being related to an apartment building that attracted supernatural energy. This building was specifically designed as a dimensional portal to bring in Gozer the Gozerian, an ancient god not seen for the last 7,000 odd years.
    • The river of slime in the second movie also filled this role.
    • The video game also does this as it's revealed Ivo Shandor, the cult leader/architect who rigged the apartment building, also rigged the library and hotel from the first film, and the museum from the second, as nodes for this city wide apparatus meant to fuel Gozer's Destructor form, with the apartment building being the door. His old estate was a castle/laboratory where the slime river was first made before it was pumped into the sewer. Also it was revealed one of Ivo's henchmen killed Eleanor Twitty, who became the librarian ghost.
  • In the Transformers Film Series, the Allspark takes on this role. The first film it was an object that both Autobot and Decepticon wanted and would cause unpredictable things to happen around it (mostly creating mini-robots from nearby mechanical devices). Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen used leftover fragments of the Allspark to cause more chaos, the big one being that it downloads a Cybertronian database into Sam's head. While Sam says I Just Want to Be Normal, The Call Knows Where You Live and this is the only reason why he is involved with the events of the movie at all.
    • Supplimentary Material suggests that the AllSpark was attracted to Earth because of the Solar Harvester, and that the meeting between Sentinel Prime and Megatron, both of whom get sidelined in DOTM was to take place on Earth also because of Earth's previous history with the Cybertronians.
  • Throughout the Terminator franchise, John Connor is the Magnetic Plot Device for both himself and his mother, as well as his uncle and robot sister in the series.


  • A perfect example is in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series in which the main characters are ta'veren. The ta'veren are people who inexplicably create outrageous coincidences and shape the world around them simply by existing.
    • "Outrageous coincidences" are putting it mildly. On one ordinary day while Rand is in the city, a baby falls out of a high window onto cobblestones and crawls away unhurt; a freak wind blows a tiny feather into a man's open mouth and suffocates him to death; and a basket of roof tiles falls off a tower, shatters into a million pieces, and its shards happen to randomly (but perfectly!) form the image on the city's new flag.
    • This sort of thing becomes really important in Mat Cauthon's development, once he becomes Genre Savvy. Since he's aware his presence skews probability, Mat takes bets on being able to do impossible things, and then does them—such as when he throws a knife into a tiny block of wood in midair, a long distance away, while blindfolded.
      • Though he forgot to put any money on that one...
  • In the early Discworld novels, Rincewind is a walking magnetic plot device due to being possessed by one of the most powerful spells in the world. He's rid of it at the end of the second book, after which... he's still a magnet for everything weird that Terry Pratchett wants to throw at him. If it ain't broke...
  • Teela Brown, from Ringworld, in a rare science fiction take (and yet another instance of Niven being an imp and poking fun at his own story). See what the luckiest girl ever can do! (particularly her ending...)
  • Cloakmaster cycle:

David Shepheard: There is a lot of interesting stuff that happens to Teldin Moore in space, but it all boils down to three basic facts:
1) He is stuck with an Ultimate Helm,
2) Anyone who has come into contact with the Ultimate Helm wants to get hold of it and
3) The Ultimate Helm wants to get onto The Spelljammer.
The cloak is the ultimate Railroading device. You could give the Cloakmaster Cycle one book, three books, six books or nine books, but you would still end up with the end of the adventure being set on The Spelljammer and Teldin's cloak trying to turn him into its next Captain.

  • In the Eternal Champion series, Elric (in his various incarnations) is always being summoned to do battle in various worlds without rest. So he is always in an Adventure Town.
  • The One Ring in The Lord of the Rings, as the Nazgul are constantly searching for it and it calls out to servants of the Dark Lord to try and get back to his hand. Also the Silmarils in The Silmarillion for more temporal reasons - everyone seems driven mad with the desire to possess them, meaning anyone who holds one can never rest easy. Even if he's Morgoth.
  • The Caves in the Quentaris series. They connect the City of Adventure to alternate universes, and are a large source of profit as well as danger as adventurers go questing for treasures or random monsters come and attack the place.
  • It is frequently said throughout the course of the Liaden Universe series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller that "the Luck" moves strangely about Clan Korval—hence the clan is one great big Coincidence Magnet. It is never explained why exactly this is so, but everyone who believes in "the Luck" seems to regard it as an immutable fact of life. Also, it is shown to be every bit as genetically heritable as the famed Clan Korval piloting ability, regardless of whether its inheritor is officially in the clan or not.

Live Action TV

  • The Hellmouth of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They only actually go into the Hellmouth in the first and last seasons, but everything in between is still blamed on it.
    • And justifiably so, as it shoots out enough evil-ness to attract demons from miles around. Plus, the town being built expressly for demons to come and eat the squishy humans.
    • The title of Slayer. Demons sometimes run off to see how they would match up against the legendary demon killer, à la Spike.
    • The Origin comic introduced the concept that the Slayer is a "creature of destiny", which is sort of an inversion of this trope. The reason Buffy could never escape her destiny is not because supernatural stuff is attracted to her, but she is guided by destiny to it. That's why her high school in Los Angeles was attacked by Lothos, why she encountered a demonic cult at the mental hospital she spent a few weeks in, why she ended up moving to Sunnydale after leaving LA, and why she stumbled upon a demonic labor operation when she spent a summer there trying to hide from her destiny.
  • Wolfram and Hart of Angel. A multi-dimensional demonic law firm. The possibilities practically drip off of that sentence.
    • Similar to the Slayer, Angel has 200 years of old enemies to deal with.
    • And The Powers That Be got directly involved with Angel's life to ensure it was never calm.
    • And with the help of Doyle/Cordy's visions when trouble doesn't come to Angel...
  • The Rift in Torchwood - introduced in the 2005 series of Doctor Who, it became the focus of the first two seasons of the spin-off. It provides the team with all manner of time / space weirdness to deal with, and occasionally draws the Doctor back there when he uses rift energy to refuel the TARDIS.
  • The TARDIS from Doctor Who. Seriously, how often is the Doctor actually looking for the plot of the episode? Nearly every time, he trips over the plot while sightseeing.

The TARDIS was ancient and obsolete even back when the Doctor stole it in his first incarnation, so it doesn't always land where it is supposed to land. Naturally, it sometimes lands in the middle of trouble.

Also, the TARDIS is stated multiple times to be alive and can sense things in the timeline. In "The Doctor's Wife", the TARDIS herself claims that she lands wherever the Doctor needs to go.

  • The Stargate of Stargate SG-1 and everything else in the Stargate Verse. Understanding the Stargate's potential for weirdness, the military installed the iris to limit what could come through.
    • The city of Atlantis in Stargate Atlantis. There always seems to be some Ancient experiment that they discover that messes with the team from time to time.
  • The actual ships in the various Star Trek series. It allowed them to find a Planet of Hats and a Negative Space Wedgie.
    • The holodeck. A lot of fans have wondered that with the holodeck so prone to malfunctions and become dangerous, why is it left on?
      • Even besides its tendencies to malfunction, the holodeck allowed for almost any story to be told. Film Noir, sure. Sherlock Holmes, why not? The Wild West, yippe ki yah.
    • Deep Space 9 and the Celestial Temple/Bajoran Wormhole. It was responsible for everything that went on there.
    • The non canon Next Generation novel, Q-squared, lampshades the Enterprise D's constant encounters with time travel and other anomalies and attributes all (or, at least, most of) their problems to Q messing with them.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise introduced the "Temporal Cold War" story arc to both stir things up with the ship and crew but also to make things a little more surprising for the audience because the show was a Prequel. The fact it was a prequel and people in the future knew of their importance in history made them a target.
  • The Nexus in Charmed.
    • The status of the Charmed Ones also made them a frequent target for nefarious plots.
  • The anomalies in Primeval.
  • The Lost Room All of the objects attract one another. One object-wielder eventually got tired of being targeted by collectors and gave his up willingly to the hero.
  • Inverted with The X-Files. The files are a constantly growing folder of the unexplained, meaning the characters themselves are searching out the unexplained. This in turn adds to the X-Files.
  • On Lost, it's the island itself.
    • Literal magnetism is involved as well. A huge magnetic discharge from the Swan station caused Flight 815 to crash.
  • For Smallville, the Magnetic Plot Device is not the Green Rocks, but instead is the Kryptonian influence of Jor-El. The Green Rocks were just a side effect of that.
  • A big criticism towards House is the number of medical mysteries that get thrown his way, mentioned at being about one a week. The show has made some remarks in that regard, giving most patients a unique set-up as well as doctors all around the region would send patients to House because he was just that good.
  • Merlin's two main characters are examples of this—Arthur, being Crown Prince of Camelot, is the target of numerous assassination plots and is expected to go forth and smite various evil creatures with mighty smitage; Merlin is an incredibly powerful sorcerer, which in itself attracts some opposition.
  • Immortals in the Highlander series are always drawn to each other because of the Quickening and The Game.

Tabletop Games

Web Comics

  • Sparks in general in the Girl Genius universe are prone to having very weird stuff happen. Even more so if they happen to be of the Heterodyne family.
    • Jagers, by contrast, tend to be the direct cause of weird things happening. On top of having weird things happening around them.
  • The War of Winds The Key shapes events around it and in turn whoever currently possesses it.

Western Animation

  • In Ben 10, as soon as Ben gets the Omnitrix a lot of aliens show up specifically to take it from him.
  • The Allspark from Transformers Animated. Even with its Gotta Catch Them All status, it certainly keeps things interesting for everyone.
    • Of course, said status mostly stopped during the third season, but enough weirdness had already happened for the third season to involve the return and development of earlier weirdness instead.
  • Code Lyoko's entire plot is about the Supercomputer and XANA's plottings. The computer is near magical enough to make whatever story you want to tell happen.
  • After capturing so many ghosts, The Real Ghostbusters eventually had ghosts coming to them, for better or for worse (the "worse" usually being freeing some other ghosts from the containment unit).
  • Jonny Quest's father, Dr. Benton Quest, is a scientific genius and professional Magnetic Plot Device.
  • Beast Wars had the presence of the Vok, aliens with some vested interest in the planet. The Maximals and Predacons stumbled upon a lot of ancient artifacts and called attention to themselves. This mostly provided a third party to mess around with things, including leaving around bizarre technology and including having a doomsday weapon that eventually led to the transmetal upgrades.
  • The ghost portal in Danny Phantom kept releasing ghosts into the human world, at which point Danny would have to deal with them. It's also the source of the Freak Lab Accident that made Danny half-ghost.
  • Gargoyles has an inversion of this during the World Tour arc. According to Tom, the magical island of Avalon does not take you where you want to go, it sends you where you need to go. Thus Goliath, Eliza, Bronx, and Angela travel all over the world saving the day. At one point they are even sent right back to Avalon. Even when they finally return to New York, it's only because Avalon knew they would be needed there.
  • Megas in Megas XLR is either used to transport the characters to alien places, draws aliens to it, or causes major problems, justifying why two guys from New Jersey encounter so many aliens.