The Guards Must Be Crazy

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Elite security

"All this constant turning my back on the dark woods really makes me miss my wife and family."

Being a guard for an Evil Overlord is a low-status, low-pay, high-risk job in an unsafe workplace, with very little long term job security, but hey, they normally have a brilliant pension plan. So it's hardly surprising that most applicants aren't exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer (not that their bosses tolerate incompetent underlings), and could be fooled by tricks that wouldn't bother an average six-year-old.

Common issues are:

The trope name is a pun on the film The Gods Must Be Crazy.

Examples of The Guards Must Be Crazy include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Britannian guards in Code Geass frequently wait until Lelouch has geassed them before actually doing their job. Twice they have waited for Lelouch to give a long pretentious speech before he geassed them into killing themselves. Reaches its peak when Lelouch just walks up and waits more than a minute while the guards attack him with spears before geassing the entire room. Britannia has got to have the dumbest guards in fiction. At least stormtroopers bring blasters.
    • The Chinese Federation are even worse: while they do have guns they just stare dumb founded as Xingke fights them off with a sword since the only Chinese soldiers to fight are the ones with spears, and then they watch as Lelouch gives a speech before finally Lelouch has the sense to take his gun and hold Tianzi hostage with it.
    • In one episode, an unarmed Lelouch and Kallen find some Britannians on a remote island and effortlessly steal their ridiculously powerful prototype mech. The mech itself was unguarded, and the "guards" left the keys in the ignition. Kallen has to beat up a few guys, but they don't make use of their firepower advantage.
  • In Mazinkaiser, Baron Ashura's mooks are this trope, as exemplified in a scene during the beach episode that so utterly ridiculous that you wouldn't believe it unless you see it.
  • In Naruto, the nameless ninja mooks are usually dumb brutes, masked and, in a world filled with powerful techniques, normally attack with kunai rather than, you know, throw a massive fireball or do any other flashy attack to blow the opponent to dust! Worse is that even the Red Shirts can be defeated by a single attacker and barely fight using any jutsu. It seems like that only the main characters, villain or hero, are trained in anything other than holding a kunai against the opponent who can pick one technique of his ARSENAL and shoot fire hotter than the sun, create tornadoes, open the ground beneath them and bury them, or throw rocks the size of buildings at them...etc. Yeah. That's the guy you want to try and take prisoner with your dinky little knife.
  • In Windaria the key to Lunara's floodgates are guarded by an old man that sleeps most of the day in a guardhouse without a door. At the start of the film, a spy walks in there, takes the keys, and no one realizes anything until he opens the flood gates. Considering this could have flooded the entire city it merges with Too Dumb to Live.
  • The Impel Down Arc in One Piece made one wonder about the competence of this so-called inescapable prison in more than one way:
    • First off, Boa Hancock is able to sneak Luffy inside under her dress (leading to many jokes by fans about Luffy being a lucky SOB) and despite dozens of ways this could be botched, succeeds in doing so. Many of the rank-and-file Marines can't help but gawk at Hancock (maybe a little justified); Vice Admiral Momongo is slightly more wary than his men and suspects her of being up to something, until Hancock blatantly invites him to strip search her. He declines and lets her proceed inside.
    • Hancock has another planned goal, delivering a message to Ace, but Magellan and his subordinates are very Genre Savvy, requiring her to wear seastone shackles and making sure they are in the same cellblock when she does so. Hancock makes full use of her "natural" powers, causing all the other inmates to react with loud catcalls, forcing Magellan to put effort into quieting them, and as a result, what she tells Ace is drowned out and not heard by them.
    • Also, once Luffy's infiltration starts, the guards go into Shooting Superman mode, turning their weapons on Luffy's reluctant ally, Crocodile - not only are bullets ineffective against him as he can turn his body into sand, he has the reputation deserving of one of the cruelest prisoners in Impel Down. Crocodile simply grins at them in amusement with a Slasher Smile while smoking his cigar as the bullets harmlessly pass through him for a minute or two, then he proceeds to cut them down.

Comic Books

  • Fantastic Four
    • An old story saw the government imprisoning them in specially designed cells. (Why? Well, a Skrull in disguise told the army they FF were bad guys, and at the time, the team had yet to gain much notoriety, so they bought it.) Reed Richards and Johnny managed to find tiny flaws in the prison design. The Thing found that the door was strong enough to take one punch from him, but not multiple blows, which makes the prison designer crazy. Sue Storm turned herself invisible. And yes, guards set to guard The Invisible Woman (who even addressed her by that name) opened the door because they couldn't see her.
    • A not so old issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four uses the same idea, only it was evil zombie versions of the entire team in one cell together, and the Reed Richards counterparts prepared the trick by claiming he had built a teleporter from a ballpoint pen and a string of hair. Zombie Susan even lampshades how amazed she is that the guards were tricked by the Invisible Woman.. turning invisible. This one is especially pathetic, given that even if the teleporter claim had been true, there would still have been no earthly reason to open the doors.
    • A case of "The Security Designers Must Be Crazy" happened after Reed and Doom were apparently killed. The rest of the team and Llyja was captured by the Skulls who thought they had designed a cell and shackles that could nullify their powers. Well, the stuff worked... For about an hour. After that, escaping was pretty easy. (Not to mention that the four of them were very angry at the Skrulls for humiliating them with their version of a "perp walk" beforehand, so to speak.)
  • In Asterix the Gladiator, Asterix and Obelix find a guard who works at the prison where they are holding Cacophonix prisoner. Asterix tells Obelix that they have to ask him some "clever questions" to find out his exact location. Obelix, to Asterix's astonishment, simply asks "Hey you! Where is Cacophonix imprisoned?". The (overly tired) guard replies in detail adding "but it's a secret" while Asterix sits there befuddled.
  • The guards at the Batman-verse Arkham Asylum. Whether it's letting the Joker substitute all their real guns for popguns, allowing him access to janitorial chemicals that let him mix together some Joker Venom, or constructing a hot air balloon that allows him to fly over the walls, the increasingly ridiculous, contrived and unbelievable ways that the Joker and the other Bat-villains escape from Arkham would be construed as painfully bad in any other franchise. For the Batman comics, on the other hand, it's par for the course.
    • Justified in-setting: no one with the slightest amount of sense will voluntarily take a job at Arkham Asylum if they can find work anywhere else. Arkham's staff is all there because they are too incompetent or crazy to be employable by any reputable establishment.
  • In an early Johan and Peewit story, a bunch of guards abandon all common sense for a barrel of mead, leaving the guard room empty (and allowing Johan to sabotage the drawbridge).
  • In the very first story of Diabolik it's mentioned that he had broken out of the supposedly inescapable prison of Asen. More recently a flashback showed how he did it: he killed two guards who gave him a small opening, stole the uniform of one of them and ruined his face to slow identification, then took off his perfect mask and walked out dressed as a guard. Granted, that was before the police knew of his masks or his true face, but the guards still failed to notice a man in uniform who was not one of them...
  • In the Tintin adventure The Seven Crystal Balls, Thompson and Thomson are assigned to guard Dr. Midge. They are suspicious of a package addressed to him which turns out to be a harmless present, but neglect the windows, which were the point of entry for previous attacks and the one that claims Dr. Midge.

Fan Works

  • Parodied in Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Abridged Series when Tristan is sneaking up on a guard in a suit of armor. "CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK." "Must be the wind." "CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK." "Yeah, that's definitely the sound that wind makes."
  • When Feliciano rescues Ludwig from the American base in the Axis Powers Hetalia fanfiction, Auf Wiedersen, Sweetheart. The plan involved getting all but two American guards to leave by telling them that their counterparts had gotten into a Bar Brawl in town and then convincing the remaining guards to drink the drugged flask of bourbon.
  • legolas by laura features a scene described thus by a sporker, caused by sheer incoherence:

"Looks like Legolas has just asked the guards – sorry, the gards to keep an eye on Laura's room while the orcs are kidnapping her, and... it all gets a bit confused."
"So the gard walks into the room and sees the orcs, and does nothing. Legolas runs off down the hall, then runs back and asks the gards where Laura is. They say that the orcs took her, neglecting to mention that they stood by and watched..."
"And by that time, the orcs have apparently already returned to Mordor. I think we can safely assume that all the characters have gone insane."


  • The ultimate and truly memorable subversion in Titan A.E.: Preed, Stith, and Korso are trying to free Akima from a slave prison. They see a large, brutish guard around a corner, and Stith offers to take him out. Preed refuses, saying, "This requires cunning and deception." They then walk up to the guard, and Preed spins a tale that he and Stith are traders, and that Korso is his slave. After delivering his story, the guard says these exact things: "You're lying. He's [Korso] not a slave and you're not traders. Look at the way he stands. He doesn't carry himself like a slave. Probably ex-military." (Korso is a former Earth Space Marine.) "Akrennians [like Preed] always threaten before asking a favor, it's tradition." (Which Preed apparently completely forgot.) "And your [Stith] robes are made out of bedspreads!" Preed then asks if they have a Plan B. Stith promptly reverts to her Plan A by kicking the crap out of the guard.

Preed: An intelligent guard! Didn't see that one coming.

    • The commentary reveals this is one of the very few complete relics of Joss Whedon's pass at the script.
  • Double subversion in Monsters vs. Aliens. The heroes (who consist of an amorphous blob, a fish-man and a human/cockroach hybrid) adopt Paper Thin Disguises to bluff their way past an alien clone. He recognises the fake clone as "defective beyond repair"... and immediately orders the other two to dispose of him. And gives them a key card. And a gun.
  • The Guards in Tangled. They cannot find an old lady who has kidnapped the baby princess for almost two decades, when she happened to be in a tower within riding distance. Then said princess' crown gets stolen right under their noses. Then one of the thieves comes back to Corona later with a girl with 70 feet long of hair and they don't notice it, even though he is dancing around. The only competent member is Maximus, and he's the only one to make crime virtually disappear.
    • Not to mention that the same thief was able to walk up to the palace and meet the King and Queen face to face.
  • The guards in The Incredibles fall prey to a few of these. They're decent enough at their jobs when they're in action, but it's the boring surveillance part of the day that always slips them up. At one point in the movie, they all leave their posts to check on a colleague who's just collapsed. Later, they don't notice Helen when she's right behind them. She even talks. Later still, nobody is paying attention to the security cameras and are all partying in the background. Only Mirage notices the escapees that don't even bother to avoid the security cameras. Most notably, though, is later in the same scene where it gets absurd enough that Bob lampshades it. They enter a large room with no one in it and he absently wonders, "Where are all the guards?"
  • Consistent in all the Austin Powers movies. One even manages to fall into the lava flow when he's outwitted by Felicity Shagwell's boobs.
  • In Mom and Dad Save The World, a guard, despite being from a planet of idiots, doesn't assume Dad is a guard just because he's wearing a uniform... however, she unquestioningly accepts the laughable answers he provides in response to her questioning and lets him go on his way.
  • Played with again in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, when the racist white prison guards attack a peaceful African American prisoner, thus allowing Kumar to escape with an enormous bag of marijuana.
  • The security guards on the Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope. Ben uses a Jedi Mind Trick version of this after turning the tractor beam off. This is actually an inversion of It's Probably Nothing. Presumably, Ben made the guards think they heard something off in the distance, and like intelligent guards they go to investigate. Unfortunately for them, it really was nothing.
    • Truly intelligent guards would have called in to say they were investigating possible contact and then left to investigate, but we can forgive people under Jedi Mind Trick influence for not thinking of everything.
    • Also, about halfway through the Death Star sequence the guards are given new orders to deliberately allow the Rebels to escape after harrying them just enough to make it not look too obvious. Even then, Leia rapidly catches on that that many stormtroopers cannot all be failing to capture them unless it was a setup.
    • The novel Death Star turns this on its head. One of the normal human Stormtrooper commanders was sensitive to the Force and really hated his bosses. He mislead his own troops and thus allowed Han and the others an easier path to freedom.
    • Additionally inverted in that a rather large number of competent major and minor characters all at some point had Imperial guard training or at least Imperial pilot training (which does include some guard training) as the explanation.
  • The guards of Swamp Castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

"Now, you're not supposed to enter the roo-- ARRGH!"

  • Justified in THX 1138, in that, though the guards are glaringly incompetent, the general population (with the sole exceptions of the hero and his girlfriend) are too stupid/strung out to notice. For example, the guards routinely leave the doors to a high security prison unlocked, but none of the prisoners had ever bothered to check.
  • Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981). A mook standing on the edge of a cliff catches the hero sneaking up, intent on braining him with a lump of wood. Instead of grabbing his rifle the mook begins waving his arms about and howling in a highly exaggerated martial arts style. The hero gapes in astonishment then, as the mook turns to deliver a spinning kick, boots him down the mountainside.
  • In Charlotte Gray, which takes place in Nazi-occupied France, the eponymous heroine and a member of the French resistance are being held in a house by Nazis, and manage to distract the guard who's supposed to be watching them by making out, then jump him and run for it when he comes over to separate them.
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Wallace lets Tuco go relieve himself. Big mistake.
  • Idiocracy "Hey, uh... I'm actually supposed to be getting out of jail, not going back in..."
  • Goldfinger. Played straight with the foolish guard who enters the cell alone while James Bond is performing a Ceiling Cling and subverted by later multiple guards who's more watchful such as staying in the same cell with one having a pistol trained on Bond at all times.
  • In Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Larry's escapades in the various branches of the Smithsonian along the National Mall go completely unnoticed, as if the entire area is devoid of any human presence save Larry himself. Ironically, Larry is a guard.
    • Of course, would you stick around once the dinosaur skeletons and such started moving?
  • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the Enterprise manages to fly deep into Klingon territory to rescue Kirk and McCoy despite a listening post picking them up and demanding to know their identity and destination. They manage to fool the completely incompetent guards despite having to resort to using an English-Klingon dictionary to look up their answers and making several grammatical errors during the conversation.


  • The Discworld books have a lot of fun with this.
    • In The Last Hero, Evil Harry Dread (the archetypal Evil Overlord) hires his henchmen on the above criteria. "Butcher" is the archetype of the trope.
    • Guards! Guards! opens with a dedication to those people "whose job it is, round about chapter three, to rush at the hero one at a time and be slaughtered."
    • In Thud!, the text mentions how when Sergeant Colon is on guard duty, he "kept the cell keys in a tin box in the bottom drawer of his desk, a long way out of reach of any stick, hand, dog, cunningly thrown belt, or trained Klatchian monkey spider (making Fred Colon possibly unique in the annals of jail history)."
    • Seemingly averted in The Last Continent, where the guards at Bugrup Prison are wise to every escape trope, but haven't worked out how Tinhead Ned (and later Rincewind) did escape (the jail door can be lifted off its hinges). Possibly because they reckon it makes a better ballad if the prisoner escapes and then gets killed in a last stand at the Post Office.
  • In one of the Get Smart novels, one guard is particularly immune to this. Instead of entering the cell when Max sets fire to the bed as a diversion, the guard merely opens up on him with the fire hose.
    • However, just a few pages later the rest of the guards in the prison are fooled by Max writing "out of order" with a piece of chalk on a death ray!
  • Subverted in The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy: Ford attempts to save himself and Arthur from being chucked out an airlock by talking a Vogon guard into questioning the purpose of his life, but the guard is too dumb for Ford to get through to him.
    • Actually it's just that the guard really enjoys his job. Including the whole throw people out of the airlock part.
  • Both fiercely subverted and then played straight in An Oblique Approach, the first book of the Belisarius Series by David Drake and Eric Flint. The Kushans guarding Princess Shakuntala were so highly disciplined, effective, and intelligently led that Raghunath Rao, greatest assassin in India, knew he could never rescue her from them. So Belisarius tricked Venandakatra into replacing the Kushans with "guards" so inept that Rao had no problem wiping them out -- except for two killed by the princess herself.
  • The guards at the "best guarded keep of the stoutest castle" in The Wind in the Willows apparently can't tell the difference between a washerwoman they see every day and is the sister or sister-in-law of the chief warden, and their main prisoner, who is an anthropomorphic toad.
  • John Carter of Mars. Dear GOD, if a strange man climbs up to the roof you're guarding, tells you what a difficult and dangerous climb he had, and invites you to take a look at how precariously his rope is dangling off the edge, DON'T DO IT!
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian novel The Hour of the Dragon, Zenobia gets the keys, to the Tailor-Made Prison no less, by getting them drunk.
  • Subverted in the novel Where Eagles Dare. The German soldiers searching for the commandos don't check the ladies toilet where they're hiding. When one commando mentions how stupid that is, his superior points out the soldiers were eager to think up excuses to avoid searching places where desperate men might empty a submachine gun into them.
  • In Syren, the fifth book of the Septimus Heap series, Septimus gets past a guard in the Trading Post by claiming that he is someone important.
  • Late in the Wooden Ships and Iron Men novel The Black Cockade by Victor Suthren, a British ship's crew guarding the mouth of a port fails to realize that British-style cheering — "Huzzah!" — in response to "What ship are you?" is not proof that the ship sailing out in the dark of night isn't crewed by escaping French prisoners of war.

Live-Action TV

  • The Chaser's War on Everything proved this was Truth in Television at the APEC summit, getting to George W. Bush's hotel, past two security checkpoints in a fake motorcade, with "insecurity passes" that stated they were not official delegates. And a guy dressed as Osama bin Laden in the back seat. See it here.
    • The motorcade had runners with handheld cameras. Even the Chaser boys themselves started to get scared at how easy it was for them to get in—they'd been expecting to be stopped at the very first checkpoint! The were finally nabbed when their motorcade began turning around, and "Osama" decided to exit his vehicle and began asking guards why he hadn't been invited. As one commenter pointed out, it appears that day the world's leaders were mainly under the protection of the honour system.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Played with in the episode "Dragonfire", when the Doctor distracts a guard by engaging him in a philosophical discussion on the nature of existence, a subject about which the guard is particularly enthusiastic.
    • Both averted and played straight in "State of Decay"—one of the guards recognises that the man claiming to be a guard is, in fact, a known deserter. But the other doesn't... and falls for "the old prisoner trick".
    • Lampshaded in the episode "Deadly Assassin" by Security Chief Spandrell's criticisms of Commander Hilred for allowing the Doctor to escape:

Spandrell: Well done, Hilred. An antiquated capsule, for which you get adequate early warning, transducts on the very steps of the Capital. You are warned that the occupant is a known criminal, therefore you allow him to escape and conceal himself in a building a mere 53 stories high. A clever stratagem, Hildred. You're trying to confuse him, I take it?

  • The A-Team. Many a villain has been laid low by not paying attention to machine sounds after Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard. There was a particularly Egregious instance where Hannibal and Face are arrested. Hannibal seems to have escaped, so the sheriff unlocks his cell and checks inside, then both he and the other officer in the building leave to find him... when Hannibal turns out to be hiding under the bed and promptly lets Face out and escapes.
  • Hogan's Heroes is pretty much entirely built around this trope.


  • Merlin
    • In the first episode, two guards go chasing off after some enchanted dice.
    • In the fourth episode, they fail to notice a servant girl riding off into the night. What temp agency do they get these guys from?
  • Subverted in Dark Angel when Max tries to distract a guard with a rock, but he isn't fooled. She laments, "Why did I get the smart one?"
  • Star Trek
    • In the Original Series, one particularly ridiculous scene has a guard of an enemy installation watch calmly and without taking action as Spock walks up to him and informs of an imaginary "multi-legged creature" on his shoulder.
    • Also seen in the episode "Space Seed" in which Khan, a man described as being strong enough to lift two men with one hand, has but a single guard keeping him prisoner. Suffice to say the guard doesn't last long. To their credit, when Khan is defeated and tried, he has multiple bailiffs on him holding him at phaser point.
      • Possibly averted in that at the time Khan is being guarded by only one security officer, he is not a prisoner and he's also in the hospital. It's actually more security than Trek average to keep the distressed castaway you just pulled out of a cryo-capsule under a full-time security escort. Of course, the instant Khan proves himself to be hostile by attacking his escort the next step involves the aforementioned squad of guys pointing phasers at him.
    • The M.A.C.O.s in the next Trek series Enterprise acted a bit more professionally.
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    • In "The Killing Game," two guards find Harry Kim suspicious and stop him to for questioning. He convinces them to let him go with this line: "All right! You'd better call the bridge. Tell your superior I'm going to be late, that I'm working under your orders now, not his. Go ahead, make the call. I don't want to take the blame for this."
    • Standard procedure for security personnel on Voyager is to stand in the formal "at-ease" position, looking straight ahead (not at the person they're guarding) so they can be knocked unconscious at a suitably plot-related moment.
  • From a review of the Blake's 7 episode "Bounty".

" say nothing of the guards' color codes, which include Red Standby Alert (apparently meaning stand around and do nothing), Red Mobilisation (wander around outside the house), and Blue Mobilisation (allow the President and his daughter to escape in a vintage car accompanied by two terrorists)."

  • Averted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Why do I always get the smart ones?"
  • In season 3 of Lost, Sawyer tries the whole "prisoners making out" thing to get the guards to come over when he kisses Kate, then overpowers them and takes their gun. It doesn't work, though.
  • Subverted in the 2004 reimagining of Battlestar Galactica, in that when someone escapes from a cell it's either (Bulldog, and later Ellen Tigh escaping from the Cylon basestar) or because the guards are in on things (Laura Roslin in Season 2, and Tom Zarek during The Mutiny). Probably the least plausible occasion is when Gina escapes from the Pegasus brig, makes her way to Admiral Cain's quarters and shoots her, and then slips off the battlestar unnoticed. Although she had the help of Baltar, a uniform and things were chaotic in the aftermath of a major attack, it still stretched the bounds of credibility.
    • And played straight when you consider that with all the little accidents happening there, no one comes up with the bright idea of placing a guard at the airlocks. This is justifiable in the beginning when Galactica is massively understaffed, but not so much in the later seasons.
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "Between the Darkness and the Light", Garibaldi plays on his recent media fame in capturing Sheridan to break him out again. This gets him past the outer guard, but the cell guards aren't so impressed.

Guard: I don't watch TV. It's a cultural wasteland filled with inappropriate metaphors and an unrealistic portrayal of life created by the liberal media elite.

    • Of course, he's also working for a regime that's anything but liberal and, by that point, all media in the Earth Alliance is government-controlled (except for the Voice of the Resistance).
  • Subverted in the Knight Rider episode "Indecent Little Town," when the corrupt police arrest Michael Knight and impound KITT. Specifically, when the Mooks try to secure the robot car, he resists by backing up each time they try. Although obviously surprised at this, the head Mook calmly advises one of his minions to simply provoke KITT into backing continually until the robot car inadvertently rolls onto a car garage elevator platform and they elevate it, trapping KITT.
  • The team on Leverage regularly talk their way past security but they usually have fake IDs and the guards are standard office building rent-a-cops. However, in one episode Hardison talks his way past security to get into an airport's control tower. He has an employee ID but it is for a female employee so he makes a big deal of how he is in the middle of a sex change and the guards are too embarrassed to pursue this further. The danger of their negligence becomes apparent when Hardison almost causes a plane to crash. There is a reason why security at airports is supposed to be very tight. Also, the man in charge of the tower, apparently, doesn't know who's supposed to be working for him.
  • Played straight in episode 6.21 of Supernatural. The mooks who guarded Lisa and Ben heard fighting noises outside the room, and went there one by one.

Tabletop Games

Board Games

  • Older Than Print: In Xiangqi, the checkmated General/King's own Advisors/Guards are often part of the reason it's checkmated; there would be escape if they weren't there, and sometimes the one the enemy Cannon is using as a gun mount cannot move because it's in a corner of the Palace and the other Advisor/Guard is in its way.


  • Lone Wolf: Although even smart guards would have a hard time against a psychic hero specialized in infiltration and camouflage, some over the series display the typical incompetence associated with this trope.
    • For example, in Shadow on the Sand, two Vassagonian gaolers believe their prisoner has escaped when they can't see him through the peephole, just because Lone Wolf is sitting against the door. And he isn't even doing it on purpose, but still gets the opportunity to ambush them when they open the cell.
    • In Dawn of the Dragons, the Eldenorian guards capturing Lone Wolf and bringing him before Prince Lutha take his gold, backpack and weapons... but not the weapon-like special items. Including the Sommerswerd!

Tabletop RPG

  • Most classes that would traditionally be used as guards in Dungeons & Dragons don't have Spot, Listen or Sense Motive as class skills. This essentially makes them partially blind, hearing impaired, and incredibly gullible.
    • Depends on the DM. Most play the trope straight because guards tend not to be treated as more than minor enemies. Those skills are mainly intended to counteract Hide, Move Silently, and Bluff. In addition, those skills are not infallible unless the DM hands NPCs the Idiot Ball. For example, no matter what your Hide skill is, if you walk in front of a guard without some form of cover, he sees you, no matter what.
    • In 3.5 Scouts used as guards can avert this trope hard. The class is much like Rogue in this regard (Spot, Listen and Sense Motive as class skills, 8 base skill points per level; Hide and Move Silently are class skills, so they can stand guard without being readily visible), but better in head-on melee if there is some room to move around as Skirmish ability still works when Sneak Attack doesn't, has better hit die, and more combat and mobility improvements, starting with initiative bonus at 2nd level.
  • Time Lord RPG (based on Doctor Who) main rules, "Curse of the Cyclops" adventure. If the entire PC party is captured and there is no one to rescue them, the guards will demonstrate their usual stupidity and allow the prisoners to fool them and escape.
    • In the Journies supplement, a captured PC could use "The Daft Guard Effect" to distract any guards present so the prisoner(s) can escape.


Dogberry: You are to bid any man stand, in the Prince's name.
Verges: How if a' will not stand?
Dogberry: Why, take no note of him, but let him go.

Video Games

  • It's a convention of MMORPGs in general that the aggro radius of the mobs is much smaller than their line of sight. It always lead to Egregious situations where the guard twiddle their thumbs while you slaughter their colleagues in front of their eyes, waiting for their turn to die.
  • World of Warcraft made a commendable effort to give the players the impression that they were really storming an enemy stronghold in the Shattered Halls instance, with constant reinforcement coming to face you and guards lining up in formation. Sadly, they still included a room where a bunch of guards kept training rather than facing you, and another where they managed to sleep through the whole ruckus.
    • And in another dungeon the boss greets you when you get close to him, but makes no attempt to stop you slaughtering his remaining guards, who all just stand there.
    • This is lampshaded by a boss in the aforesaid Shattered Halls dungeon, who will actually comment as you individually kill his henchmen. "Go ahead. I was going to kill him anyway." In fact if you don't attack them he will kill them, one by one, then attack you.
  • Very heavily averted by the guards in 1998's Robin Hood game by Red Ant. The guards were extremely clever. They even noticed if one of their partners was missing. Basically, the way it worked was that the guards would walk in a predetermined path, and if they did not meet up with their partner after a few laps, then they got frustrated and would go looking for their friends. If they did not find them, then they would curse loudly, and tell their immediate superior. If the Lieutenant got at least three "My mate's vanished!" reports, then a man would be sent to ring the alarm bell. On top of that, If a group of guards spotted you, some would stay while one or two ran off to set off the alarm. On top of that, these guards would often surround you and your men, and while one held you, the other would stab into you repeatedly, often resulting in death. They fought dirty, they played dirty, and if you were spotted just once, patrols would be sent out to find you. Pretty amazing for a game made in 1998, huh?
  • Shinobido‍'‍s guards are not really clever, but they're smart enough for some nasty (for you) actions, including:
    • Going on "Alert" mode if they spot a dead fellow.
    • Ring the alarm bells if they spot you.
    • Try to attack you in large numbers whenever is possible.
    • Chase you around even on roofs and inside buildings.
    • Call for help if they're alone.
  • Another aversion comes with the Guard Dogs in King's Quest VI. Alex has to get creative, either by magic or by using his small build and what amounts to a burqa to get past. Even then, he'd better not get busted. Saladin, true to his namesake, is not an idiot.
  • Another aversion from Sierra: most of the Space Quest games. In the third, the Scumsoft guards have their eyes locked on Roger, waiting for a screw-up. If Roger passes a wastebasket without cleaning it, the gig's up. The Puckoids in the fifth are trigger-happy and extremely nasty, and only screw up by leaving their engineering section under light guard - but justified as the they totally were not expecting anyone to break in through the hull. The Sequel Police in the fourth (or 10th and 12th) vary wildly between straight and aversion, as they leave a time pod unguarded at one point, but are very dogged in hunting Roger down, and shoot on sight, leaving Roger to get creative in dodging them. Another line-straddler is the opening scene of the first game. Roger needs to go a lot of dodging to get past the Sariens that have brutally massacred everyone else on the Arcada. Still, they do forget to check obvious hiding places.
    • Then you have the two thugs who capture Roger in Space Quest 6. Roger is able to quickly remove his handcuffs and neutralize the one who wasn't even watching him. Then you walk out into the other room, where the other thug is unconcerned with you roaming free, simply telling you not to bother him. Partly (with a stretch) justified in that the exit is blocked by a force field that can only be shut off by a remote on the second thug's belt.
    • Also, attempting to knock out one of the guards to the SCS DeepShip 86 shuttle bay results in the other one (a bigger one) punching Roger out and throwing him into the brig (which is also ridiculously easy to escape by building a likeness of Roger out of food and hiding under a food cart). No one also bats an eyelash at Roger stealing medical supplies at sickbay.
  • Played completely straight in Metal Gear Solid, where you can take out guards one by one trigger alarms as often as you want, but after 90 seconds everything is back to normal, with dead guards not being replaced.
    • Starting with Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, however, it gets averted very hard. When guards notice something odd, they will call in immediately before going to investigate. If they don't report back in time, more guards will be dispatched to look for them. And even when everything is clear, guards are required to report in every few minutes, or a search team is dispatched to investigate. And when full alarm is triggered, it takes just a few seconds for reinforcements to arrive with riot shields, shotguns, and grenades. Unless there's an opportunity for an Air Vent Passageway escape nearby, you can prepare to load an old save by that point.
    • And yet, throughout the first game of the series, all guards have tunnel-vision and are practically near-sighted and half-deaf, so even walking slowly from a little bit to the side will let you go unnoticed. It was even worse in the original Metal Gear on the MSX, where the guards' line of sight is literally just a straight line. They'll also never suspect something's up when they find their squadmates dozing off with a tranquilizer dart on their forehead, or reading Playboy magazines they found on the ground.
  • In the various games of the Thief series, guards are notoriously brain-challenged. They carry obviously important items dangling from their belts, they take a remarkably short time to go from "I saw something" to "must've been a rat", and they ignore fires and candles that get doused by water arrows (that would presumably leave a mess all over the floor). Heck, they don't even try to relight them. At least they go into full-alert mode if they notice a dead mate lying on the floor, which is more that can be said for some other games. And even then, in some of the titles, all you have to do is hide out for a while, and they'll conclude that "The murderer must be long gone by now" and resume their patrol, without even calling for assistance.
    • Lampshaded in the first of level of Thief 2: The Metal Age, where dousing one of the torches prompts a pair of nearby guards to argue about who should relight it, and then ultimately doing nothing as it transpires that they forgot their tinderbox.
    • And lampshaded in the Gold and Platinum releases of Thief 1, where one of the added levels has you infiltrating a thieves' guild: you watch two people go up to the guard at the front door (you'll probably use the back) and be challenged for a password. One points out that they've known each other for years—no dice, the guard wants the password. The first visitor recites it exasperatedly, tries to enter and is stopped, as the guard points to the other man (who is standing right there) and complains, "Well, now he hasn't given me the password!" And yes, the first man comments on this.
    • Occasionally the game goes to the opposite direction with the guards, as they recognize the main character as a thief even when he's walking in public areas (such as city streets) and doing nothing suspicious.
  • In a memorable early-game sequence in Breath of Fire III, your characters must sneak into a mansion guarded by a wide variety of inept guards. It's a puzzle sequence, so almost every single one of the types listed is played with, including a few who just don't care and will let you go by if you bribe them or even find their lost wallet. So hard to find good help these days. One Egregious example is a guard who admits he would be completely unable to stop the party, then orders them to go kill a guard dog to cover him, or he wouldn't let them pass. Wait a minute, couldn't we just kick you?
    • One of the guards justifies this, saying that their wages are too low to properly motivate most of them.
  • The Assassin's Creed series has an explicit justification for its extensive use of this trope. Specifically, the Animus that the player character is using to relive his ancestors' Genetic Memory renders the whole thing as a VR simulation. To improve his ability to "synchronize" with said memories, it eschews certain aspects of realism in favor of simplicity. In the actual past that you're reliving, Altaïr and Ezio were masters of stealth and disguise. In the Animus simulation, not so much. Specific examples include:
    • Guards failing to spot or recognize a hooded, heavily armed man walking around openly in the streets while numerous people have recently been murdered in broad daylight and their bodies left lying about. Similarly, the inability to spot said hooded, heavily armed man in a crowd of people who look nothing like him.
    • Guards failing to look in obvious hiding spots for the Assassin whom they were recently chasing. However, in Assassin's Creed II and subsequent games, guards will search hiding spots near to your last location and will attack you if you're found there.
    • Guards failing to realize that the patrol they're in has mysteriously lost a few members, if they don't see the bodies.
    • Guards who lose sight of you in a chase and go back to their patrol spots will not recognize you if you walk right up to them a short while later.
    • The guards also engage in Mook Chivalry across all the games, waiting politely for their turn to attack you and get a Counter Kill to the face. This is so prevalent that the rare times when they do attack more rapidly are surprising and challenging. The games do a certain amount of Lampshade Hanging of this, in that the Enemy Chatter will occasionally reveal that they're carefully planning their attacks because they're scared shitless of you.
    • By contrast, there are also scenarios where the guards are absurdly and unrealistically alert. In Assassin's Creed I, galloping on your horse in sight of any Templar soldiers will make them recognize you almost immediately. High Profile actions such as running after killing someone will also alert them, in contrast to strolling casually away, even if all the civilians around you are screaming and panicking.
  • Similarly, the NPCs in Oblivion have an amazing ability to mistake loud clanking sounds and arrows sticking out of their head for the wind, or their own imagination. The last words of many a bandit have been, "Damn rats, always sneaking about in the shadows, making me-ARGH!"
    • Also, guards will only ever react to a corpse by muttering to themselves about a killer being on the loose, and resume patrolling. They'll also not react much to seeing their buddies being assassinated right beside them other than blankly staring and said muttering.
      • That said, kill someone out of the way with no witnesses outside of sneak mode, and every guard for miles around will rapidly converge on you with cries of "STOP RIGHT THERE CRIMINAL SCUM!"
    • Even better is when two NPCs are talking, and you shoot one while sneaking. The other one turns and walks away, mid-conversation.
    • The guards in Morrowind are never sure what to do with a naked (wo)man with a large pile of stolen goods at his feet except fine him a few septims and leave him to his business.
    • In Skyrim, some of the same problems that were in Oblivion return. If you attack an enemy while sneaking, they will look for their attacker for a few seconds, then stop looking and go back to whatever it was they were doing. This may include sitting down to return to dinner...with an arrow in their head...that was poisoned...and on fire...
      • Skyrim lets you do crazy things with high skills and the right perks. It's quite possible to find two people talking, walk (not sneak) over to one, behead him/her with a battleaxe, and have the other just stare at you.
      • There's also a quirk in the programming which that means sometimes the character can see you even though the AI cannot. Successfully sneaking past a person while their head slowly swivels to follow your every move is... weird, to say the least.
      • The famous "they can't see you if you put a bucket on their head" Good Bad Bug.
      • Trying to arrest some fish.
  • In City of Heroes, mobs of enemies will usually ignore fights with automatic weapons going on in plain sight halfway across the room.
    • There are a couple CoH missions where you are given a temporary power that is basically a guard suit. You can walk past any guard and get the objectives of the mission completed without anyone being the wiser. This wouldn't be bad if it didn't work on any enemy NPC in the game. Including a faction that actively hates the faction you are dressing up as.
  • In Beyond Good and Evil, the heroine can shoot a projectile into a guard's air tank—and unless she's in plain sight or really unlucky, the other guards present will just fix the tank, then declare "false alarm" and get back to their business.
    • And even if she is seen, she can just run around a corner where they can't see her, and after a few seconds they'll do the same thing. Repeatedly.
    • Perhaps the only (moderately) justified action they take is when Jade runs out of sight, they dispatch a droid to clear the area. Of course, they usually clear the area just out of sight and ignore any areas slightly farther out of sight.
    • In many areas, but particularly notable in one guard-riddled passage in Alpha Sections HQ (roughly 6 guards in a 50-foot stretch of open balcony, plus about 4 more immediately above and below it), the guards will look around everywhere except entrance points. In the referenced area, one guard faces in a direction no attack could possibly come from, and if he stayed in place but turned around the mission would be impossible.
    • Even if their suicidal lack of curiosity didn't earn them a Darwin Award, their general behaviour would. They spend most of their guarding time walking or turning in slow circles or standing in one place facing a wall. And their commanders aren't any more intelligent. One happily reports to his superior that all intruders in the area have been captured... while one stands in the middle of an empty room in his direct line of view.
  • The Legend of Zelda examples:
    • In the early stealth portion of the Forsaken Fortress in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Moblins patrol small areas of the fortress, and if they see you, it's into the prison with you. However, there are barrels that you can hide in. You can even move about as long as they're not looking, because the fact that a barrel is somewhere that it wasn't tells them absolutely nothing. This is possibly justified by their being explicitly stated to be really, really stupid. Even worse, the cell they throw Link into has a tunnel leading out of it concealed by a clay pot, as in, an object that Link is prone to break when he sees it.
    • Speaking of Zelda, the guards in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time don't react unless you're several feet in front of them.
    • The smartest one in the game is an automated statue that spits lasers at you with alarming accuracy (well, alarming when you account for the fact that they're only about a second slow, and in real life, that would be close enough to scare the crap out of most anyone. Certainly a twelve-year-old like Link).
    • It's pretty much established that also the guards of Hyrule castle are, well... dumb, without exception. No matter what time period the game in question plays in (not that we would know)), the guards never seem to notice anyone walking by, if he's not right before their eyes. Even Princess Zelda has been mentioned to frequently sneak out of the castle with no problems. The only time the guards actually keep something from going in- or outside is in Majora's Mask. And this almost ensured the Termian apocalypse.
    • One of the most blatant examples is the Gerudo Fortress section in Ocarina of Time. For some reason, even after the 20th time you escape, they still can't be bothered to take away your hookshot...
      • Or care to act when Link shoots one of the guards in the open. They just ignore the fallen body. Their pirate counterparts in Majora's Mask do the same plus will completely ignore Link if he's wearing a certain mask despite following him with their eyes, partially justified in that said mask's ability is to make Link as uninteresting as a stone.
    • Speaking of Majora's Mask, the guards are very diligent about keeping children from wandering out of town to the 'dangerous' wilds, to the point that they will do nothing to stop a little old lady from getting robbed in plain sight, by a thief who makes no attempt to conceal his identity. Even assuming there was some pressing issue preventing them from stopping the robbery, there's no reason they wouldn't recognize him when he walks back into town the very next day to sell the stolen goods to the curio shop next door.
    • The Phantom Guardians, as cool as they might look, are not even the tiniest bit smarter than any other kind of guard in the series. They fail to realize that a kid just took refuge in the Safe Zones, even though they chased it right until it did. They fail to dodge any eventual trap that Link sets up for them. They fail to realize that one of the collegues has just been possessed with what is quite obviously a female (and over the top girly) ghost.
    • The Gerudo have a similar problem in Breath of the Wild while trying to keep Link out of their city, where no men are allowed. They're pretty good at stopping him from entering if he isn't disguised or nabbing him if he ditches the disguise while inside. However, no matter how many times he's thrown out, that's all they do; one would think they'd find a way to deter repeat offenders. Even worse, Link can apply the disguise right in front of the pair guarding the door and get by them with no problem.
      • As the game progresses, this gets ridiculous, because more and more Gerudo who Link allies with (including the Queen and her second-in-command) see through the disguise but still insist he needs it.
    • Also in Breath of the Wild, the evil Yagna clan provide the enemies for the game's Stealth Mission, and it's pretty easy to distract them using Mighty Bananas, something they seem to solely subsist on. Even worse, after Link completes this mission, the Shrine is activated allowing him an entry to the place that they don't even bother guarding.
  • Vaan has to infiltrate Rabanastre palace early on in Final Fantasy XII. In advance it sounds like an annoying Stealth-Based Mission. Then you get there and the guards are apparently blind, as they never notice you unless you bump into them or yell at them.
  • Pokémon games all have an evil team of some sort. You can infiltrate their base, but the guards will only see you if you walk in front of them.
    • People only see you if you are directly in front of them... so groups of trainers are like a laser wire maze.
    • Also, no-one in the Pokémon universe ever has any sort of weapon or armament except for a team of Pokémon. You can blatantly walk around the suspiciously Mafia-like organization's lair, and all the guards will do is challenge you to a trainer battle. Once your Pokémon beat theirs, they just kind of go "aw, shucks, well, the leader will beat you for sure" and then let you go on your way.
    • Not only that, but the random guards usually have completely awful Pokémon. Whatever Mafia don decided it would be good security to give their patrol guards standard-issue Magikarps deserves to have his entire syndicate taken down by a single ten-year-old. At least this was lampshaded in Diamond/Pearl, where the grunts complain about how useless their issued Pokémon are after being beaten and before letting you continue.
    • Don't forget the totally idiotic guard who goes, "Who has the lift-key?! I'm not telling you who!" and battles you, and after the battle he goes, "Oh NO! I dropped it!" and he... lets the player pick up the lift-key... WTF?
      • Because he doesn't want to get mauled by your dragon/wolf/devil dog/tame metal SCP-682.
    • Wes and Michael have brassier balls than the other protagonists by far as a result of the methods Cipher includes in its peon training. They are trained with good Pokemon regularly, a larger variety is made available, some are armed with Shadow Pokemon, they ignore the tripwire mentality, Ceiling Peon is watching you infiltrate, they disguise themselves as civvies on occasion, they come in groups... need I go on?
    • One pretty blatant example occurs in Gold/Silver, where infiltrating Team Rocket's base involves disguising yourself as a Grunt, the disguise provided for you by another Grunt who thinks you're a recruit. While many Rockets you talk to afterwards remark that you don't look evil enough to be a Grunt, they don't question the disguise, and it works up to the point your Rival shows up and blows your cover.
  • The guards in the Tenchu series are not the brightest folk in medieval Japan. While they will look around for you for a while if they spot your shadow or see you moving just out of clear sight, the fact that a dead guard causes no more than a few minutes searching, and no call for backup, seems to indicate that broken necks and gaping sword wounds weren't considered too unusual in an average night's work.
    • Although, to be fair, in the Tenchu universe, it's sort of implied that this happens all the time.
    • Most hilariously is the animal whistle. Throw an exploding shuriken at any enemy. They grunt in pain as it hits them. Then they explode. Then you blow the animal whistle. "Oh, it was just a chicken."
      • The animal whistle also works to pacify a guard who has discovered a dead comrade. "Who killed Joey? Oh, just a dog." And on enemies who have already found you and are actively chasing you.
      • Furthermore, in the original game the animal whistle makes a different sound on each mission, some of which are wildly inappropriate. On some levels enemies are put at ease by the sound of a growling bear, a howling wolf, or a screaming woman. The final level takes place in a lava-filled cavernous maze beneath a castle, and the enemies can be fooled into thinking you are an elephant.
    • Don't forget the poisoned balls of rice. If you leave one on the floor eventually a guard will stumble past, pick it up and chow down, didn't their mothers ever tell them not to eat food off the floor?
      • It doesn't have to be on the floor when they find it. In the original game especially, rice balls could be thrown from rooftops at such a trajectory that they would bounce when they hit the ground. The guards would not even wait for it to come to a complete stop before they began to approach it, their heads locking onto the ball and following it up and down as it sailed through the air.
      • Try to throw a rice ball at a guard performing his yawn animation. Upon collision, it will immediately pop into the guard's hand, giving the illusion that he randomly, accidentally caught a rice ball while yawning, then decide to eat it.
    • A particularly noteworthy scene in the original game involves a sleeping guard with three or four dogs patrolling around him. One of the simpler ways to take care of him is to go up a nearby hill and throw a shuriken at one of his dogs. The dog will die, causing the other dogs to bark in alarm and the guard to wake up. Simply roll backwards, however, and none of them will see you. After a short while, the guard will go back to sleep. Even as his dogs are picked off, one by one, he still decides that this is a perfectly good time and place to take a nap.
  • The guards in Splinter Cell are a pretty surprising aversion of this; they can be remarkably thorough, especially when they've detected the player, and if entering an area of low light, they'll often whip out flares or flashlights. Later in the series, enemy troops also start carrying night vision goggles, and in Chaos Theory Douglas Shetland's personal bodyguard are equipped with thermal goggles. They even notice broken lights, cameras, locks, or anything else you broken really. Speaking of cameras, the cameras will detect any dead body left in their vision, and some of them are bullet proof. Strangely though, whoever is watching the monitors of these cameras doesn't seem to notice them going out one by one through rooms that'd leave a very specific trail of which room Fisher is hiding in.
    • However, they still call a false alarm after searching for a while. Yep, definitely a false alarm. All those dead bodies, shattered lights and eye witness viewings of the mysterious commando running around? Guess it was the wind. To be fair though, they do spend a lot more time searching for the player than most other games do, and after the alarms are turned off, the guards still tend to be more alert.
    • Not in the later games. A guard who finds a dead body or sees Sam Fisher will not forget even when he returns to his post, and when confronted with a suspicious sight or sound, is more likely to investigate with bullets instead of a flashlight.
    • Also in the later games, any alarm raised on a level will cause all of the guards in the level to be more alert, jumpy, and trigger-happy. They'll also whip out the bullet-proof vests (who knows why they weren't wearing them in the first place?).
    • In Conviction the guards are better and worse in a sense. When they know Fisher is in the area they'll scout the area, but other times they'll wait in the same position facing the same direction. Usually this is when they have a chokepoint, but other times if you've been killing them they'll wait you out rather than run into close quarters. A smart move if they didn't leave their flanks unprotected.
  • Wolfenstein examples:
    • Averted in Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. If the guards see you with a weapon out, they start shooting. In Beyond, you can sneak up behind them with a knife and stab them; if the other guards see the corpse before you drag it out of sight, they'll head for the alarm and set it off. They'll also ask you for a pass periodically.
    • In the original Castle Wolfenstein, you could steal a uniform and wear it; the regular guards would generally ignore you, but the SS would find you out.
    • Fast-forward to more modern games in the franchise, at the beginning of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz is caught by the enemy and tossed in the Jail Pit. Fortunately for him, there’s a pipe he can climb to the top, where the stupid guards have left the grate open. Unfortunately, the pipe breaks when he tries it. Fortunately, he can then use the broken pipe like climbing spikes to scale the wall, and find the gate in front of the pit has also been left wide open. Unfortunately, there’s a nasty-looking robot patrolling the area. Fortunately, all B.J. has to do to defeat it is throw a switch on a generator that shuts it off. Then the game truly begins, and he can start busting Nazi heads.
  • Guards in Golden Eye 1997 must be blind and extremely nearsighted, because a patrolling guard will not bother to investigate the sound of gunfire even if you are using the loudest weaponry and they don't seem to notice you until you're almost right in front of you.
    • You can also shoot their hats off their heads without getting a response.
    • Likewise, you can unload on the helmeted ones and they won't notice all the metallic clanking noises happening right at their head, nor feel the force of the gunshots.
  • In Deus Ex, you can shoot someone in the face with a tranquilizing arrow (which usually takes two or three hits to knock them out) from a small pistol crossbow, and they will, if you're not in plain sight in front of them, briefly run around waving their arms... then go back to whatever they were doing.
    • Not to mention they can walk to the source of a noise, look straight at one of their colleagues' body lying dead on the floor and promptly declare it was "probably just a cat".
    • One of the worst situations is in the MJ12 facility underneath UNACTO. You are stripped of your entire inventory, but your captors think nothing of taking away your key ring or your ammo. Granted, the cell you were in would have been escape proof, if it wasn't for Daedalus.
    • The worst part in all of this is that the Majestic 12 armored troops will notice said colleagues' bodies... so it's not an engine limitation. Other guards are just * that* stupid.
    • The AI has improved significantly in the third game. The game still plays with the trope though with some guards being programmed to be incompetent. For example, there are a number of guards that are easy to sneak up on because they are talking, watching TV, smoking, napping, or engaging in some other activity that is distracting them.
  • In Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse in one of the first levels the player may gain control of a policeman by using the protagonist's arm. Other policemen won't notice the odd one unless he has a gun out, despite wearing a zombie arm as a hat.
  • The guards in Perfect Dark 64 are pretty smart. Blast a couple, the survivors will run for the alarm button. Snipe one, his buddy will run up and yell in despair (at which point you slay him also). But the good guy guards aren't always the smartest. You can tranq a stewardess for Air Force One (!) with a crossbow bolt (huge, works if it goes in her brain) and steal her uniform. Nobody checks your ID, even though your guard detail is long gone. In an earlier level, helicopter pilots will shoot through their (female) colleagues to get to you.
    • Even funnier, if you shoot a guard who is not aware of you, they will occasionally say in a curious tone "Was that a bullet?"
  • In Mother 3, at one point Lucas and his dog attempt to get into a nightclub, only to be informed by the bouncers that "No Dogs Allowed". The two slink away and seconds later, Lucas and his Dog (now wearing human clothes and walking upright) walk up and try to enter. The guards aren't fooled, and even mention that Lucas was just here with his dog, and now walks up with a dude who looks suspiciously like a dog. They only get in due to one of the staff members vouching for them, and even then the guards seem suspicious. But after that they do admit that even if Lucas did just get lucky pulling a fast one on them, the dog is freaking awesome.
  • The Krimzon Guard in Jak II: Renegade will forget about the Guard-slaughtering Phlebotinum Rebel the city's supreme ruler considers Public Enemy Number One if you enter a safehouse for two seconds. You can also walk down the street with gun raised, distinctive haircut and Team Pet sitting on your shoulder (almost impossible to fake, not that anyone wants to try), and they won't give a piece of crap. Rule of Fun applies, because being gunned down by KG every time you step out of a safe house would produce an even more frustrating game.
    • It's implied that many of the actual guards (as opposed to their commanders) are lazy and corrupt, so they probably just didn't care (and didn't want to get killed).
    • Daxter lampshades this in the second mission after the first act, the heat from their direct assault on the palace dies off after one mission and he says in a shocked tone; "How hard is it to get noticed in this town?!"
  • In Okami, the Imp guards outside the main part of the Moon Cave dismiss Amaterasu as a normal wolf (perfectly reasonable though, in that only a few can see her markings), but when she comes back wearing a piece of paper over her face, they immediately let Ammy through, telling her to "Get back to [her] post!"
  • The military in Prototype takes this to ridiculous extremes. Random Marine jumping off a skyscraper, flying into the base, landing hard enough to make an impact crater, and proceeding to run up the walls? When it's well-known that your highest-priority target is a Voluntary Shapeshifter? Perfectly normal, apparently.
    • One assumes that the individual soldiers on patrol do realise that it's you, but really, what would you do in this situation: an insanely powerful shapeshifter (who is perfectly capable of soloing whole platoons of tanks and helicopter gunships, not to mention the not-unusual 10,000+ onomnom count on the random infantry schmucks exactly like you) runs past, not stopping to eat or eviscerate you. Him not stopping makes you the luckiest man alive at that moment in time. If you try and stop him by yourself, what chance exactly do you have against someone who tanks missiles to the face, and can jump off a helicopter he tore apart mid-flight, land on a tank, pick up said tank and throw it into another helicopter? If you call in backup, you only draw attention to yourself and/or place yourself in the middle of what will turn into a bloody warzone with artillery strikes, carpet bombing and airstrikes all over the place, not to mention one suddenly-pissed-off One-Man Army. The solo guards who don't call in the insanely overpowered, flying, super mutant are simply showing an advanced sense of self-preservation.
    • Need to get rid of a soldier, but he and a buddy have covering fields of vision so you can't stealth kill either of them? If you disguise yourself as a soldier and bump into one enough, he'll turn toward you and shove you away, then remain facing that direction. Even if there's just a wall right in front of his face.
    • You can also use a combination of the "Patsy" power and the "stealth consume" to stealth-kill an entire combat base full of Marines and Blackwatch personnel. This causes much humor when you realize that an entire base full of heavily armed guards is slowly disappearing and nobody notices. Even if it's just you and another guard left. But whatever you do, don't try Patsy on him. Because only then will he think something is wrong.
  • Evil Genius plays this absolutely straight and quite deliberately. Your Evil Minions will outright ignore any agent of the forces of justice unless they've been tagged for execution or capture. These include squads of heavily-armed soldiers, thieves in brightly-colored Spy Catsuits, Highly-Visible Ninja, and musclebound super-soldiers Dual-Wielding machine guns.
    • The infiltrating agents showcase an unusual variant of this. Locked doors are understandably much more interesting to them than an unlocked door. However, the end result is that if you lower the security level on the door an agent is trying to break through, they will usually lose interest immediately and wander off.
  • Super Mario Bros..: Why Princess Peach still pays her guards is a source of continual mystification to video game fans. She'd have better luck with a "Do not kidnap the Princess" sign than her usual group of Toads.
    • Also, the kings in Super Mario Bros 3. They have, in the entirety of the royal castles, one guard for each king in each country, and being as that guard is a Toad, said guard gets instantly knocked out by a Koopaling just charging at it.
    • On the other side of the conflict, the Koopa guards in Paper Mario are also pretty pathetic. If they catch Peach sneaking around the castle, they'll usually just escort her back to her room and go back to whatever they were doing beforehand without ever questioning how she keeps getting out. At one point, they decide not to take her back, because they're about to hold a quiz show and still need one more contestant.
      • And when she wins that show, they hand her a magic umbrella that lets her shapeshift.
      • Just escorting her back to the room makes sense since the castle she's being held captive in is effectively in orbit. Where's she gonna go? They could probably at least tell Bowser that Peach keeps getting out of her room, but then again Bowser is also kind of an idiot in the RPG games.
  • In Black Sigil, there's an instance where your party "acquires" some Empire soldiers' outfits to sneak onto an airship. As you're doing so, the guards stop Aurora and ask her a couple questions. They then have this following exchange after you've boarded the airship:

Guard A: That slim guy sure had a girlish build...
Guard B: And a girlish voice...
Guard A: And a girlish face...
Guard B: You thinking what I'm thinking?
Guard A: The military will toughen him up.
Guard B: Yeah...

  • The guards on The Bouncer always follow their job so loyally, in fact even if the place is gonna sink they'll stop at nothing to stop our heroes.
  • Guardia Prison security in Chrono Trigger. They throw you into the dungeon... while letting you keep your sword. That doesn't turn out well for them.
    • You can thank Yakra XIII for that oversight. He didn't think taking over as the modern Chancellor all the way through.
    • When your party is captured later in the game due to extreme Cutscene Incompetence on their part, the villain takes your weapons, inventory and money. At least he is a bit smarter about how to handle prisoners. It really helps if you have Ayla in your party at this point.
    • Even then, the guards on the Blackbird aren't much better. For one thing, they fall for the fake-being-sick-so-the-guards-come-into-the-cells-and-you-punch-them-out ploy, which is pretty much the oldest trick in the book. When you escape your cell, you can also run around the ship right past many of the guards, and they won't notice unless you get within sneezing distance of them. It's arguably Justified later on by one of the guards you can talk to in the commons after you defeat Dalton, the guards' boss. The guard tells you that Dalton treated his employees badly and didn't pay them well, which means they probably weren't inclined to work very hard in the first place.
  • Many guards in Sly Cooper carry flashlights. If you stand just outside their circle of light, they can not see you at all. There are similar guards with good hearing, which Sly automatically tries to sneak up on/past. Occasionally you run into both.
  • In the fourth chapter of Tales of Monkey Island, Guybrush must escape from jail while awaiting trial by asking to speak to his lawyer (he's representing himself). When Guybrush is ready to stop conversing with his "client", the guard will let him out.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, one has to wonder why the hell none of the guards on the Cargo Ship bothered to continue the search for the intruder (Sephiroth) after Cloud & co. defeated Jenova. There's no way they could have known that he was gone at that point, so why bother calling off the search? "Yeah, just ignore all the dead bodies and the undiscovered intruder. Just dock as planned!"
    • Heidegger was in charge of ship security at the time, so he's just as much at fault as the rest of the incompetent guard. Rufus comments on the failings of command when the ship docks.

Rufus: So Sephiroth was on board...
Heidegger: Yes.
Rufus: And it seems Cloud and his gang were on board, too.
Heidegger: ...Yes.
Rufus: They slipped through... you messed up big this time, Heidegger.

  • In Final Fantasy VI, you can literally stand in the way or in front of the guard in the imperial base, and he won't notice you unless you talk to him.
  • At one point in Cave Story, Cutscene Incompetence results in you getting curbstomped and thrown into a jail cell. The guards don't bother to take anything away from you, so you still have all your weapons when you wake up in the cell.
  • Subverted in Sanity: Aiken's Artifact. The main guard blocks you pretty well, until you read the guard's mind to find out the employee password.
  • According to some playthroughs, the AI in Civilization IV will occasionally remove defending units from its capital city which you are currently besieging. You weren't actually going to attack, right?
  • In RuneScape, This is acknowledged during a cut-scene in the "Garden of Tranquility" Quest, where a "veteran" guard explains to a new recruit that the life expectancy for a Falador guard is about 30 seconds, which upon saying that a high-leveled "player" comes and slaughters both of them.
  • In Dragon Quest IX, Your character is imprisoned some time into the game. At first glance, you would think this was averted. However, press Y and open your equipment menu... This results in a few funny instances, such as guards bossing someone in full plate armor and carrying a sword that shoots fire.
  • The Fable series has quite a bit of this. In Fable I, should you break a window, someone nearby will tell the guards, which they will charge after you and proceed to hack you into little bits should you decide not to pay them. Same thing if you just committed total genocide on a village, but should you apologize to the guards, they immediately forgive you and continue on their merry way.
    • In Fable II, should you accidentally or on purpose, murder ONE villager, the guards will then constantly say, "I won't let you murder anyone else!"
    • Spire guards will too proceed to be dumb as wood, never mind the fact that this guy (or girl) broke out of an unbreakable collar, probably killed about 50 of your mates with powerful spells, just hacked them to pieces or shot their balls off. Charge to certain death! Doubly so after the most powerful will user on the planet gets his powers back.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Near the end of Dragon Age: Origins the Warden and Alistair can be captured and thrown in prison. A persuasive Warden (of either sex) can ask the guard for company, and the guard will immediately lock himself in the cell with two prisoners accused of regicide. Then you can jump him and steal his keys. Or you can tell him you sense darkspawn nearby and you have to be let out to fight them (more justified, as Wardens are the only ones who can effectively fight them, and everyone is justifiably scared of them), or you can pretend you're sick and convince him to open the cell.
      • You can also wait for the rest of the party to come to your rescue, in which case they prove breaking in fits the Trope too. Each party member (even the War Dog) has a plan, most of them using a Delivery Guy Infiltration plot of some sort, and all prove laughably easy. In fact, it's a shame you can't choose both options, given how fun both options are.
    • The Dwarf Commoner origin of Dragon Age has a sequence where both you and your NPC ally are left in prison cells, with one guard to watch you. This guard can be easily baited to approach within arm's reach of the bars while the key to your cell is openly hanging on his belt. At this point you can a) pretend to be sick, which will cause him to (of course) enter the cell to check on you, b) pickpocket him for the key (if you have the right skill) or c) grab him by the collar and pull his face into the bars hard enough to crack his skull (if you have a high enough strength score). Apparently the idea of not having the guard carry the key openly on his belt, training him not to go too close to the bars, not caring if a prisoner already scheduled to be executed in the next couple of hours dies a little sooner, or just having two guards watch the high-value prisoners was entirely beyond the mental capacities of anyone in the Carta.
    • Dragon Age II's Mark of the Assassin DLC includes a Stealth-Based Mission in which Hawke must sneak past the guards of the Orlesian Chateau Haine. Fortunately, the guards are easily convinced by whatever ridiculous story Hawke can come up with, are highly susceptible to distraction by thrown pebbles, apparently have very poor night vision, and are remarkably unconcerned about waking up on the floor in the middle of their patrol after being tapped on the back of the head: "Damned blackouts..."
  • At one point in the 1989 computer RPG Dragon Wars, the party gets captured and thrown into a jail cell (for the second time) and this trope comes into play, as the guards seemingly forget to lock your cell door! It turns out to be a subversion when you enter the next room, where the guards happen to be waiting for you. It seems these guards got into a lot of trouble for beating prisoners in their cells. But if the prisoners were trying to escape...
  • Marines in the 2010 Alien vs. Predator are remarkably blasé about having all their mates disappear one-by-one only to show up again as scattered corpses lacking in skulls/spines, or with a rather telling hole in their head. They also decide to check out on strange distorted verbal taunts originating from nearby isolated corners alone, without bringing backup, and will stand around with their backs turned mumbling "I'm sure it came from over here..." for a good few minutes. Even if said isolated corner already contains three to four corpses of previously mentioned dead marines with their skulls missing.
  • The Hitman series has what can only be described as highly jittery bunch of guards, often resorting to gunfire at the slightly infraction or social gaff. While the series has steadily improved with each release (giving warnings, pushing you out when entering a restricted zone), it is still often the case that being seen entering the wrong room without the right outfit, playing with a light switch or running will cause all the guards to immediately open fire on your shiny-bald self. Clearly, social niceties are Serious Business in the Hitman universe.
    • The Hitman guards are odd overall and tend to have an All Crimes Are Equal attitude to everything, i.e. they shoot on sight even if the room is full of screaming civilians. And, in one mission, if you alert the police (say by trying to enter a nightclub wearing the wrong costume) then they will proceed to gun you down as you flee through a crowded street during a parade (the civilians make nice bullet shields). But just to Hitman, case point being the last mission in "Blood Money"; sneak a gun in a briefcase yourself? The guards shoot you full of holes. Sneak the gun in in someone else's case? Said civilian is escorted for questioning and said case is conveniently left for your retrieval.
    • Oh and the general stupidity. Step one, flick the lights off. Step two, strangle the guard as he comes to switch them back on. Step three, wait for guard to find body. Repeat.
    • Also, in "Blood Money" they are fairly *ahem* unceremonious with the bodies of their dead buddies. The standard treatment is bag and tag in a black body bag and then *drag* said body bag across the floor, up stairs, through water, past civilians, sometimes leaving a blood trail on the carpet, and no one seems to care or be the slightest bit concerned.
    • Anyone also notice that, except for a few rare occasions, they never do something like, say, call for backup? Dial 999 even? Granted the leader of the Triads living in his remote mountain castle is hardly going to put a call into the police (even if they were in his pocket) but when the guards find 6 bodies littering the lobby at the casino? Nope...
    • And they down upon contact with water. Even if they were just swimming in it earlier.
  • In Dark Messiah lots of guards fall under this trope, they stand around near obvious hazards such as a wall about to collapse, when fighting the hero they stand close to spikes, pits, fires which they can easily be kicked into and they don't bother checking for traps in front of them when they spot the player, leading to a line of guards getting killed by the same trap.
  • Possibly invoked by the party in Knights of the Old Republic, when captured on the Leviathan. Several of the schemes floated to break your crew out of the ship's prison involve making the guards crazy, including Jolee's (which uses a Jedi Mind Trick on them) and Mission's (which involves good old-fashioned head games). On the other hand, three of these plans involve the "it's probably nothing" ploy: you can convince the Sith to take a "dead" body, "disabled" droid, or perfectly functional but "harmless" astromech into their ship. Juhani's plan is the only one that doesn't count, because Jedi ninja catgirl response drills are probably few and far between.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the guards everywhere are very nice about only attacking you one at a time and not noticing what's going on around them.
  • In Dubloon, a map important to finding a sea serpent is on an island tightly guarded by the Navi, so what does the player's crew do? Why, send in their Team Pet that guards don't even suspect for anything. One of them even tells him the location of where the key to the house is hidden.
  • Subverted in the first Call of Duty game. In one of the missions of the British campaign, Cpt. Price and Sgt. Evans (the player) are given the task to sabotage the German battleship Tirpitz from inside, and in order to do that they've to kill two German seamen on shore and take their uniforms. Once they arrives to the ship, they were allowed onboard thanks to Cpt. Price's fluent German, but when they arrives to the armory, one of the guards stationed outside is suspicious of them (likely due to Cpt. Price's lack of German accent) and phone call the command about Captain Price's false ID-card to see if it's realible. Their covers soon about to be blow up, Cpt. Price shoots the guards, and cue to an firefight.
  • In the first Commandos game some of the levels had prisons. If one of your men was spotted then he would be held at gunpoint, and as long as he didn't move or perform an offensive action then he would eventually be marched off to the jail where his buddies could later break him out (or, more likely, you could just reload). However, in maps with no jail the lone guards would never, ever fire on one of your men as long as he remained perfectly still, and only the arrival of a patrol would cause them to shoot. If there were no patrols nearby then you have a man crawl to a chosen spot and then suddenly stand up, ensuring that a guard spotted him and stood there with his cone of vision fixated on the one spot. Any other guards that could see the commando or another alerted guard would join in, potentially causing a chain reaction where dozens of enemies would converge and look towards one point. If your squad's brave volunteer was carefully positioned then it was fairly trivial for another squad member to then methodically stab everyone whilst they were distracted. This troper called this the 'Sniper tactic', since the Sniper was the most useless squad member, making him an ideal candidate for the job.
  • Maple Story is a rare example where this Trope applies to the good guys HQ, at least the Resistance. At the beginning of the Evolution quest line, Orchid wakes up briefly and somehow manages to sneak away to Gelimer's lab, which is in a cave system in the mountains outside of town; she no longer has her powers, remember, is injured, and is wearing only a hospital gown. The player has to rescue her before she's killed in a confrontation with the AI. Also, in one part of Black Heaven, the player assumes control of Francis, and is able to sneak past the guards and surveillance system in the Resistance HQ by doing nothing more than hiding under a box and inching past.
  • Honkai Impact 3rd: Mooks in Stealth-Based Missions have only a roughly 90-degree field of view, take a few seconds to investigate your presence and a few more to be properly alerted, and are deaf to their comrades dying to Back Stabs even if done right next to them. In all fairness, "don't be seen" is almost the only avenue for stealth.

Web Comics

  • This is a running gag in Exiern, starting from here and getting worse, with the various guardsmen falling for almost every single trick listed above at some point throughout the strip.

Tiffany: So that is the only key to the cell?
Guard: Yes Ma'am.
Tiffany: I am going going to need to hang on to that.
Guard: Wait you can't take the key. What if he gets sick and I need to check on him.
Beat Panel
Tiffany: And that is why you are not allowed to keep the key.

  • And of course, El Goonish Shive has an example: even by the ridiculously low standards of this page, Guineas FAIL. He doesn't like his boss and is not very motivated, though, to the point of constantly playing dumb to lower expectations and shirk the work.
    • PTTAPUTASF guards have open windows - with lights on, various dangerous magic toys and things like a huge diamond lying in the open like in a museum, but without as much as a working alarm, and react only when a fight breaks in the storage. Might or might not have been mentally manipulated, though.
      • Later it was revealedspoilers! that PTTAPUTASF is a "mousetrap". It contains inert or mostly harmless artifacts to both serve as bait and mask magic of a better hidden serious storage. The guard isn't supposed to catch trespassers on the way in at all. That time Elliot got caught prematurely for making noise, but when this trap activated more or less normally, it was much more impressive.
  • The Guardbots in Gunnerkrigg Court were apparently designed to keep obedient robots in line. Hence, they're at a complete loss when Antimony runs away. Similarly, Doorbot is supposed to insure that only robots enter one entrance. Annie convinces him to let her pass by wearing antennae and repeatedly pointing out that she's obviously a robot.
  • Spoofed in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, where in one strip the good doctor attempts to disguise himself as a guard, but leaves his mask on. The guards catch on immediately.
  • Averted in Goblins here: the titular goblins try to sneak into the city and random low level town guards have enough sense to both check where the rock came from and summon help, resulting in a city riot about an army of goblins hiding in the sewers.
  • The Order of the Stick pulls this several times:
    • In the prequel book On the Origin of PCs, Haley breaks in to a building to steal a large diamond. She accidentally wakes the guard up, but he buys her story that she is just a rather Freudian dream.

Guard: You look hot in leather, Mom...

Web Original

  • In episode 8 of Code MENT, Lelouch/One spends about a minute and half firing roughly 70 bullets from a pistol without reloading. The two guards outside the room casually converse over and throughout the clearly audible gunfire. They then kick the door in and rush in guns blazing when they are alarmed by Lelouch's cough.
  • The LifesBlood Labs goons in LG15: the resistance are pretty incompetent. The "Mace in Yo Face!" and "Done Dirt Cheap" incidents are particularly shameful.
    • Although the "Mace in Yo Face" incident is justified because those weren't real LBL henchmen.
  • The Evil Overlord List has all sorts of tips on how to turn the guards from this sort of behaviour and turn them into a ruthless fighting force prepared to guard anything anytime.
  • In Clear Skies 2, the team are able to spring an informant from a prison outpost (admittedly, a very backwater one) by posing as guards for a prisoner transfer. It works, despite their credentials being stolen and very, very out of date, because the local guard was expecting a prisoner transfer at around that time. He gets chewed out later.
  • The How It Should Have Ended‍'‍s Assassin's Creed parody.
  • In the animation Guard by Birdbox Studio, the protagonist leaves his post to get his helmet.

Western Animation

  • Jonny Quest used this one a lot.
  • Used, played with, subverted and lampshaded frequently in The Venture Brothers, most often through the misadventures of Number 21 and Number 24, two guards who somehow manage to survive the carnage of the series, and give plausible voice to the wit and social skills necessary for career henchmen.
  • Subverted in the Gummi Bears episode when trolls are holding the Gummi hostage in Gummi Glen, to force the colony to recover a treasure hidden in a tree they uprooted and put in Castle Dunwin. Unfortunately, when Gummis get to the tree they find it empty, because the castle guards were apparently smart enough to discover the treasure and moved it to the castle treasury.
  • Used and slightly lampshaded in an episode of DuckTales where Huey, Dewey, and Louie are imprisoned in a room with a guard looking in at them once every hour or so. While two of the identical triplets work on the means of their escape, the third one sits in front of a trifold mirror, giving the impression—sort of—that there are three boys sitting there. Lampshaded in that one of the boys asks whether the guard won't notice that they're all wearing the same clothes, only to be told by the one devising the plan that "he's so tired, he's not going to care WHAT we're wearing, just so long as there's three of us." Improbably, this turns out to be true.
  • The Trope was played with in Stroker and Hoop, when Stroker has to knock a guard out to get deeper into a complex. After dressing as the guard, he gets into the next room where the guard is seemingly fooled by Stroker holding a clipboard over his face and using a bad falsetto... until he starts to continue, at which point the guard asks him if he thinks he's an idiot, and that he was on the monitor. To which Stroker asks if he's even supposed to be watching the monitors.
  • In the Earthworm Jim episode "Conqueror Worm", Jim, Peter, and Snot have to get Jim's supersuit back from the labs where it was put after Jim was arrested, (It Makes Sense in Context) but first have to get past the security guards!... Which they stroll right past. The sight of a giant worm, talking dog, and living booger spurs only one reaction from the guards.

Guard: (on phone) Hello, DNA lab? Whatever you guys are doing in there-- Cut it out!

  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers had several examples of Queenie's Mooks being either thoroughly incompetent... or very competent, Depending on the Writer. With the first examples, Doc could hijack their communicator signals and pull lines of BS on them ("New Frontier," "Badge of Power"), sending them on a wild goose chase... or right into Goose's blasters. The more competent ones, like in "Tortuna", could be bribed or needed to be fought.
  • The guards of the "high security" prison in the Avatar: The Last Airbender episodes "The Boiling Rock". Sokka and Zuko somehow obtain uniforms and pass themselves off as newbies. The "Alone with Prisoner" Ploy occurs in the first of the two episodes. Strangely enough, Zuko slips up and is caught - but Sokka, who was the one alone with Suki, isn't suspected at all. Later on, Sokka pulls up his mask and goes to the side to talk to two prisoners. They're obviously not hiding particularly well because they are another prisoner. The second episode is rife with its own examples of The Guards Must Be Crazy as well.
  • Parodied in Family Guy, where one of Peter's Manatee Gags has him claiming it is easier to escape from Canada's Alcatraz. Cue the scene where an inmate simply walks up to a guard and asks if he can leave through this door. The guard simply says sure, just be back before bedtime, and letting the inmate leave.

Real Life

  • Alcatraz's guards were fooled by one oldest trick in the book after another: dummy heads in the bed, digging a hole with spoons, and climbing up the ventilator shaft, making this trope not only Genre Blindness but Truth in Television. Since the Alcatraz escape was done decades ago, it might be Seinfeld Is Unfunny too.
    • To say nothing of It Only Works Once...
    • Thing is, this isn't a bad escape plan, which is why it worked. Basically it relies on the fact that it simply isn't practical to monitor prisoners too closely, so if you're clever enough... plus, after this happened I suspect it became a lot more popularized anyway.
    • The Guards were also relying on San Francisco bay's freezing, and Great White infested, water doing the hard work for them. Which may have happened.
      • Exactly one prisoner who escaped from Alcatraz Island is confirmed as having survived the swim to shore—and he was immediately recaptured on the beach. Alcatraz was considered "inescapable" not because of the quality of the guards or the building, but because even if you could get out of the prison you'd pretty much need to be Superman to get off the island.
  • Truth in Television: A convict in a US prison was able to escape by dressing up as a guard, because the guards were more familiar with the prisoners than each other.
    • There has also been at least one case where an accomplice faxed realistic-looking release papers from a nearby McDonald's fax machine, resulting in a convict walking out scot-free, without anyone thinking about double-checking even the clearly visible fax-number.
    • During the Cold War a couple of East Germans made their own uniforms mimicking those of the East German Guards and simply saluted the guards on duty, then walked through the checkpoint to West Berlin.
  • There is a Ninja technique, the name of which translates as "throwing the toothpick", to distract guards. To be fair, if it's done properly, the guards never see anything, they just hear a sound.
  • During World War II, there were plenty of stories of people hiding in basements from the Nazis and not being captured. (Nazi troops invading other countries were ordered to kill any Jews they saw but many didn't because it wasted bullets and took too much time.)
  • Recently[when?] in Germany, an inmate managed to get out of prison by climbing into a cardboard box and getting shipped out. Apparently no-one checked to see all the prisoners working that detail came back or why the package was unusually heavy.
  • In 1982, an unhinged man climbed the wall of Buckingham palace. Someone saw him and reported it, but by the time guards came to look, he was gone and they decided he must have left already; they raised no alarm. When he went through a window, the security system alerted a policeman on duty, who assumed it was a malfunction and silenced the alarm twice in a row. Wandering through the halls, he passed a housekeeper, who greeted him. He eventually made it to the Queen's chamber, where she was sleeping unguarded, woke her up, and chatted to her as she tried to get help by two different methods (a button and the phone); nobody came for ten minutes. As Hollywood writer William Goldman said it, if you would put this in a movie, people probably would throw rotten eggs at the screen for breaking their Suspension of Disbelief.
    • He also got cigarettes upon request.
    • Even better, they only crime he was charged with was stealing a bottle of cheap wine, because, at the time, trespassing was a civil offense rather than a criminal one. The charge was dropped when he was committed to a mental hospital.
  • Gilber Galvan escaped an American prison by waiting in a rec area until the guards left for coffee, then using a pool cue to open the drawer of their desk and fish out the keys. He later went on to be known as Canada's "Phantom Bandit".
  • The Obama White House was crashed at least three times by uninvited guests. The first and third cases took advantage of a Bavarian Fire Drill, while the second gatecrash was a result of some misguided tour organizers sending the tourists to a White House luncheon instead of on the tour.
  • Mas Selamat bin Kastari, one of the most influential terrorists in Southeast Asia escaped Singapore's most well-guarded prison by going to the toilet, changing quickly, and climbing out the window. When he was recaptured more than a year later, it was revealed that he climbed into the storm drains, went 20+ kilometers north in 3 days, created improvised flotation devices from trash, and swam across from Singapore to Malaysia and met up with other operatives. Apparently, it was so unexpected, that theories ranged from his escape a cover for the fact that he had died in detention, he used black magic to get out, or he was allowed to escape so that he could lead authorities to other terrorists.
  • A notable aversion when the Green Bay Packers went to the White House to be congratulated on their Super Bowl Victory in 2011. Linebacker Desmond Bishop lost his photo ID on the plane and was thus denied entry to the White House. Before you say "But he was on national television in the Super Bowl! He was with his team! How could they deny him entry?!!?", remember how often in fiction the "lost my ID" ruse works - and it works in Real Life too, due to this trope - and obviously no place should have better security than than the headquarters. So good job, guards!
    • As noted above, the Obama administration had already had three unauthorized entries to the White House. It's already crazy security didn't get tighter after the first incident, let alone the fourth.
  • In 1987 a 18-year-old West German aviator named Mathias Rust managed to fly straight through several supposedly impregnable layers of Soviet air-defense systems and land his Cessna near the center of Red Square. What made this worse was that he was spotted on several occasions by air defense crews and interceptors, but most of them either assumed he was friendly, thought he had crashed shortly afterwords, or otherwise failed to gain permission to shoot him down. The event ended up irreparably damaging the credibility of the Soviet military and led to the firing of many senior officers.
    • In one regard, he was either brilliant or very lucky: his aircraft was so small that radar registered him as a helicopter.
    • He was incredibly lucky several times; one air-defense battery asked for permission to shoot him down but bureaucratic delays left them with no answer until he'd already vanished off their scopes, another one mistook him for a Soviet air force training flight, and a third mistook him for one of several rescue helicopters responding to a forest fire.
  • Czechoslovakian hairdresser-turned-soldier-turned-Nazi-POW Horace Greasley repeatedly broke out of the POW camp he was transferred to so he could have sex with his previous camp's quarry director's daughter. And then sneaked back into his current POW camp as if nothing happened. He did this three times a week for five years. Then the war ended and he was set free.
  1. Although this may be Justified Trope for the New Meat
  2. Stealth-game guards also tend to have very limited peripheral vision and a very predictable sweep of the head while patrolling, although it's a smidge unfair to call someone "stupid" for what are obvious physiological or psychological problems. Whoever hired them, on the other hand...