The Omniscient Council of Vagueness

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Excellent, my sufficiently vague plan is nearing its completion. Soon our diabolical goals will be accomplished via the least revealing and most circuitous path possible!

Mayor: Er, Master Betty, what is the Evil Council's plan?
Master Pain Betty: It is EVIL. is so EVIL! It is a bad, bad plan...that will hurt many... people...that are good. I think it's great that, 'cause it's so bad!

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist

The Omniscient Council of Vagueness is the group that appears, usually early in the plot, when the Hidden Agenda Villain or the Powers That Be gather their peers or most trusted servants and talk about what's going on. Don't expect anyone to be clearly lit, though.

A magic ball or screen on the wall showing the hero's every move is a required accessory.

Keep in mind that, plotwise, they should know most of the details, including spoilers that should be kept from the audience or details the writers themselves haven't decided on. This often is the setup for a Gambit Roulette. Anything that happens, even unlikely combinations of luck and choices that seem to destroy the Council's plans, are "just as planned".

The result is a lot of vague and pretentious doubletalk about how they know everything that's happening but don't actually mention what any of those things are, not even to themselves. Expect comments like "Everything is going according to Plan." and "Great Darkness is coming. We will see if the hero can handle it." Except for what little tidbits the writer feels obliged to reveal, as little detail as possible is given. Also, as The Hero (and by extension, the audience) finds out more of "The Plan", The Omniscient Council Of Vagueness will have no problem discussing those parts directly, even when it was apparently taboo previously. (Though, of course, people tend not to talk in detail about things they all already know. Makes wiretapping a frustrating business.)

If action is demanded, the leader will insist, "We Wait", "All pieces are not yet in position in the Divine Chessboard", or "Let Him Grow Stronger First, content in believing that his destiny is his own!" (Evil Laugh).

If they're pretending to be good, or only the head(s) of the organization are evil, then the organization may undergo a Conspiracy Redemption.

It could be that they simply believe You Have No Chance to Survive, and so permit you to Take Your Time. Expect them to be secretly displeased as the Hero approaches closer and closer to their permanent hideout. He won't ever find them: the Council is always located someplace you'd never think to look. The Council also has a penchant for the The Plan and its subtropes.

May be a Cosmopolitan Council and can server as a Mysterious Backer. See also Vagueness Is Coming, You Know the One, He Who Must Not Be Seen.

See also The Illuminati, one of the most famous names for an Omniscient Council of Vagueness. Often overlaps with the Secret Circle of Secrets, Ancient Conspiracy, and One World Order. Compare Sinister Silhouettes. Contrast Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering.

Examples of The Omniscient Council of Vagueness include:

Anime and Manga

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has an Ancient Conspiracy doubling as a Government Conspiracy. The first time they meet is as the UN's secret Human Instrumentality Committee, which meets by holographic video conference with color-coded representatives. They then agree to meet for the rest of the series as SEELE, appearing as 2001-style black "sound only" monoliths to save (the animator's) money. In both forms, they are massively opaque.
    • In the Rebuild of Evangelion they've only appeared as monoliths so far, and are, if possible, even more vague about their actions and motives.
  • The future Japan of Ghost in the Shell is ruled by one that is so vague, that it never makes any appearance at all, or gets defined in even the most basic way. The entire government and administration is full of their pawns, both knowing and unknowing, up to and including the prime minister. The Powers That Be put her into that position mostly because she looks good in public and lacks the ambition to interfere with their plans. Sometimes Section 9 gets ordered to capture certain people without asking for the reasons, or someone decides to send a hit squad from another agency to stop them from putting their noses into places they are not supposed to. Nobody knows what the people in charge actually want, and few people even seem to care. They just try to protect the people of Japan from harm as well as they can.
    • They're not that mysterious; just party heads, industry leaders and lobbying groups with goals that sometimes coincide and sometimes not. They don't have a unified agenda or any formal structure.
    • Arguably Truth in Television.
  • Eureka Seven does the same thing with the Three Sages Council, kicking the pretentiousness of the members way up: while SEELE was actually nigh-omnipotent and omniscient, even if they severely underestimated Gendo Ikari, the Sages are in fact revealed to know much less about the world that they liked to believe, and also get completely screwed by their supposed Dragon Dewey Novak
  • In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, Fei Wang Reed is very fond of monologuing in this manner to his henchwoman, Xing Huo. Likewise the Dimension Witch Yuuko talks to herself this way. She's actually bound by a rule that says she cannot tell anyone valuable information unless they pay a price "of the equivalent value."
  • The conversations between Mashiro, Fumi and Nagi throughout My-HiME — even after the Grand Finale.
  • The country of Lacryma in Noein is ruled by such a council, which apparently includes a doll.
    • One of them is apparently catatonic, and most of the table is empty chairs. There are really only three people left, and their glowy ball is the interface with their Quantum Computer. All they know about our heroes is what their steadily decreasing numbers of 'birds' bring back, and they don't know anything about Noein at all. Not even his name, only the traitor knows that until the finale. But they're sure shooting for the image.
  • Pretty much everybody in RahXephon other than the main character gets a shot at this, but Bähbem and anybody he's talking to at any given moment are the champs.
  • Les Soldats' high council in Noir shows up in this fashion in the later half of the series, though they're pretty much more worried about Altena than the main heroines.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 had one meeting of an Omniscient Council Of Vagueness with the Surveyors deciding if the Gundam Trinity should be acknowledged. Instead of silhouettes, they used various pieces of art to represent different councillors.
  • Macross Frontier has it in form of a bodyless voices engaging in a vague, but ominously sounding dialogues inside Grace's head. Or not.
    • It's just an Hive Mind actually, the council linked themselves with each other
  • The nameless Time-Space Administration High Council of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, who are revealed to be the very founders of the Bureau themselves, complete with audio-only monoliths they're hidden behind whenever they converse with Regius and Jail.
    • This is subverted a little later on in the series when it is revealed that they don't know nearly as much as they think they do, including that Jail had snuck a cyborg in disguised as the one who took care of them so that she could kill them at the drop of a hat.
    • For once, it's perfectly reasonable that they're shown as monoliths only - seeing as they're brains in jars
    • Also, because it's a Shout-Out to Neon Genesis Evangelion.
  • The "Book Men" of Princess Tutu are shown towards the end of the series in this way—a group of members with their faces hidden by cloaks, gathering in a torch-lit room to gasp and worry over the "awakening" of a mysterious someone. They're talking about Fakir remembering his Reality Warper powers. It turns out they're an Ancient Conspiracy that cut off Drosselmeyer's hands...and will do the same to any of his descendants who abuse their powers.
  • Death Note Inverted this a bit in the Yotsuba arc, where there is a shadowy council of eight people at the top of an organization, secretly killing enemies of the corporation—and our main characters spy on, manipulate, suspect, and use them as pawns in in their own investigation while the council mostly has no idea they're being spied on.
  • The first we see of the Akatsuki in Naruto are Itachi and Kisame in or near Konoha. A while after Sasuke defects to Orochimaru, we get a page and a half of this featuring the Akatsuki.
  • The closest thing One Piece has is the Gorosei. They're just a bunch of old men who allegedly run the World Government, but between the Council of Kings handling international affairs, and Sengoku controlling the Navy, there's really no telling what they do.
    • The Gorosei really are the heads of government, with authority over everything and everyone under them, including the Kings and Sengoku. They have the larger goals which include ensuring that the government remains in control and continues to grow, dealing with those that seek to topple the government, and covering up their own history.
  • In the third round and second Revival Round of Liar Game, the masked LGT officials (I forget their names) are watching the game via videoscreens while making incredibly vague comments about the players' schemes and aptitudes.
    • In the third round, it's Leroniro and Nearco, but Solario inexplicably takes their place in the second Revival Round.
  • Ergo Proxy had a group of well, proxies taking the shape of classical statues which the "benevolent dictator" of Ramdo, Re-l's grandfather would speak through.
  • The Letztes Bataillon is one of these for the first 2 volumes of Hellsing.
  • Whoever Enma is plotting with for whatever vague reasons he is plotting it regarding Tsuzuki in the Yami no Matsuei manga. Bonus points for their casual twist reveal that they offed Muraki's grandfather for knowing too much about Tsuzuki.
  • The Homunculi in Fullmetal Alchemist initially appear this way, but are fleshed out more as the series progresses. Their leader Father doesn't even appear until around a third of the way through, though he is first namedropped in the first volume.
  • The very first people shown in The Third are the members of the "Council of the Third". For bonus points, they are initially shown as Sinister Silhouettes.
  • "The Order" of Towa no Quon.
  • Zatch Bell has the Faudo Cult
  • Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo has the block leaders from the third era of the Maruhage Empire
    • As well as the First Hair Lion's Resolve 16
    • There is also IXEX in Shinsetsu Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo.
    • One Piece has the CP 9.
    • Battle B-daman has the Neo Shadow Alliance.
    • Rave Master has the Oracion Six of the Demon Card.
    • Sonic X has the Metarex Army

Comics Books

  • The original |GI Joe: Real American Hero" comic included a secret Pentagon faction that directed the Joes to serve their own ends.
  • DC comics had The Quintessence.
  • Marvel Comics had the Illuminati, and Osborn's Cabal.
  • Star Wars Legacy subverts it in that the Moff Council is neither omniscient nor vague. While they have some information, they have been reduced to executors of Sith orders, and discuss matters without Cryptic Conversation, since they mostly gather to bitch about their powerlessness.
  • Nick Fury vs SHIELD gives us the SHIELD Executive Council.
  • Marvel introduced The Comission on Superhuman Activities in Captain America (comics) as one of these. Later we see who's in it. That doesn't stop them from meeting in a giant not well-lit conference room though.

Eastern Animation

  • The eponymous Time Masters are a group of strange space aliens who have vague but sinister reasons of sending a ragtag bunch of space travelers in time. They have a planet made up of Sinister Geometry to boot.

Fan Works


  • The example at the top of the page is from Kung Pow, where the evil council turn out to be French aliens with ships shaped like pyramids. Yes. In a kung-fu movie.
  • Eraserhead's Man In The Planet manages to be a one-man council of vagueness. Theories on just what he is range from Satan to God.
  • Early on in Zoolander, main villain Mugatu receives his instructions from some kind of Legion of Fashion Doom (Georgio Armani is apparently a member). The whole group remains cloaked in shadows.
  • Harlan Ellison's Movie (never filmed, but the script is published) subverts this beautifully. The hero explores a strange building intercut with commentary from the council, then he opens one last door and steps into the council chamber.
  • The Bellarians, in Mystery Science Theater 3000 target Space Mutiny, apparently do nothing but dance around a room, worshiping plasma globes and telepathically sexing up some of the villains, though why they do this is unknown. They also have no impact on the plot, but the lead Bellarian eventually teleports to speak to the Commander and apparently impart knowledge on him - which amounts to a great pile of nothing. The film still treats them as if they're extremely important characters even though their subplot could have been cut from the film completely and made no impact on the plot.
  • The literally shadowy committee which appears at the beginning of The Parallax View, proclaiming that a Presidential candidate had been assassinated by a single, insane gunman (who probably would have had three names, if his name had been important enough to mention). Somewhat familiar: not in all its details, but overall. A similar (identical?) committee appears at the end of the film, making eerily similar pronouncements that the death of the hero didn't involve any sort of conspiracy, of course.
  • In the Matrix Trilogy, the Architect and the Oracle together form an incredibly opaque and confusing two-man Omniscient Councils of Vagueness ever seen in any form of media. They even spell out the entire plot right there, but its way too confusing for someone like Neo (or most of the audience, for that matter) to understand.
    • And possibly even the writers.
  • The Jedi High Council engages in this quite frequently, to the point that other characters accuse them of being out of touch. Turns out they were right.
    • Yes, Qui-Gon insists that Anakin be trained as a Jedi, despite the fears of the Council (and of Obi-Wan) that Anakin is older than their normal students, and therefore has an unacceptably high risk of turning to the dark side. The audience is expected to sympathise with him… except that Anakin then does turn to the dark side, proceeding to kill all the Jedi. I think that there's a youtube video Lampshading this, saying Qui-Gon: Best Jedi Ever.
  • The "Feather Men" from Killer Elite are a Secret Society of retired SAS Operators whose self-appointed job is to protect other SAS Operators, retired or in service.
  • The Avengers has the 'World Security Council' of American, British, Chinese and Russian members, who are running SHIELD. They seem to know a lot about alien technology, advance weaponry and can order a nuclear strike on New York at will. Nick Fury seems to know how to handle them when they make the wrong decisions.
    • Spoony dubs them "The Shadowy Council of People Who Sit in Poorly-Lit Rooms and Rule the World".


  • The Arisians of E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman saga may be the prototype; in several scenes, they discuss the progress of Kimball Kinnison and other major characters in terms of their "Visualization of the Cosmic All"—making this Older Than Television.
  • The Volturi in Twilight.
  • The Second Foundation (Asimov's Chessmaster extraordinares) take this to an extreme. One chapter ends with two Second Foundationers summarizing everything that just happened: "Intersection point?" "Yes! May we live to see the dawn!"
  • Discworld:
    • A council of conspiring nobles in Terry Pratchett's The Truth is one of these. They call themselves "The Committee To Unelect The Patrician."
    • There's another one in Feet of Clay, though their goal there is more like "Incapacitate The Patrician".
    • The Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night in Guards! Guards! would like to think they're one. In reality, they're a flock of utterly incompetent Black Cloak mooks being guided by one villain who (sort of) knew what he was doing.
    • The Auditors tend to play out this trope in novels where they're the antagonists, making cryptic remarks about their intentions while avoiding the first-person singular.
  • The Spinner's End scene in Harry Potter, even for being based around a notoriously un-forthcoming character, is simply uncanny in not showing any details about "the plan".
    • Interesting in that J.K. Rowling actually does have a plot-based reasoning behind it: they were ordered (separately) not to discuss "the plan" with anyone, not even other Death Eaters, and Narcissa didn't even know Snape had been informed about it when she came to him for help.
      • YMMV on how much Snape actually knew, and how much he simply pretended to know. Hints in the narrative suggest he was either stringing Narcissa along to learn the plan, or was already regretting what he knew he had to do.
    • Dumbledore is chairman, secretary and treasurer of the Omniscient Council all rolled into one.
  • The Camberian Council in the Deryni series gradually devolves into this trope. Originally founded to preserve Deryni magic and lore in the face of persecution and to take an active (if behind-the-scenes) role in the affairs of the Eleven Kingdoms, over the centuries it has become tradition-bound and priggish, just as prone to Fantastic Racism as the Deryni's human persecutors, and given to endless debates over the actions of the series heroes without taking much at all in the way of action themselves. Council of Vagueness, indeed.
  • The White Council from The Lord of the Rings is essentially this for the good guys. The Valar (demi-gods) from The Silmarillion fit this trope even better.
    • Notably, the White Council's vagueness seems to have ultimately hampered their effectiveness. Several decades before the story begins properly, the Council informally disbanded as an ultimate failure.
  • Replica: The Omniscient Council of Vagueness was always plotting insignificant things, such as stealing the heroin a piece of fingernail to make sure she's actually the clone. Because, yes, kidnapping some people and releasing them after cutting fingernails is the best plan not to be spotted. In the end, after being defeated for the zillionth time, they ended every action, because some government organization watched them. Duh.
  • In the sister series and, there exists the Council of Evil. We more of it in, obviously, and it's revealed in the first book that it exists to make sure the various supervillains' plots don't overlap. After all, what's the point in robbing a gold vault in Switzerland if at the same moment, some other guy's going to roast the city with a death ray? The COE issues permits to supervillains, provided that their plans are officially approved.
  • Happens at the end of The Maze Runner and its sequel The Scorch Trials. By the sequel, however, the council decided to tell them that they were being watched and that they had to do this challenge, but not why.
  • The organization V.F.D. in A Series of Unfortunate Events is mysterious and splintered into noble and ignoble factions. This is played for humor in Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography during the transcript of a Builder's Committee, during which the narrator was in attendance and even he didn't know of some of the issues being discussed.

Live-Action TV

  • Up until "The Deadly Assassin", the Time Lords in Doctor Who were sometimes presented as The Omniscient Council of Vagueness, most blatantly in "Colony In Space". In "Assassin" they were Retconned as The Blinkered Council of College Infighting, and they never really recovered. Russell T. Davies decided the revived show would be better off without them..... until they were brought back in "The End of Time, Part One", in which they served simultaneously as an Omniscient Council of Vagueness and an Unseen Audience.}}
  • In the early season of Babylon 5, the Grey Council fit this to a tee, though they weren't villainous.
  • In the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise, the Xindi Council make a rather good attempt at being one of these. Somewhat undermined by the fact that almost their entire plan is revealed to us in the first episode.
  • The X-Files had about six of these over the course of the show.
  • The Others. Just the Others. After 4+ seasons of lies and doublespeak, the sum total of our knowledge concerning their origins and motives is as follows: 1) they're all manipulative little bastards, 2) they claim to be the good guys, and 3) apparently some guy named Jacob gave them a list at some point.
  • Latnok in Kyle XY. Played straight, complete with shadowy figures sitting around a table watching Kyle on TV screens. Later in the series, it becomes less shadowy as Kyle actually meets some of the members.
  • On Charmed, they had The Triad as the evil version and The Elders as the good.
  • The Powers That Be in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
    • As well as the mysterious, presumably government affiliated group seen in the penultimate episode of season 4 after the failure of The Initiative. They claim they will keep an eye on Buffy and her pals, but are never mentioned again. Until the comics, that is.
  • The Cylons. "They have a plan..." But the writers won't tell us what.
    • Word of God finally admitted that there was never a plan, but "they have a general set of goals, an agenda, if you will," didn't make for a very good tag line.
    • Eventually, a movie called "The Plan" was released that was supposed to Retcon the situation, but instead just ruined the vague sinister mystique of the Cylon nation. The plan in "The Plan" turned out to be kill all humans, including the remnant in the fleet. What, were you expecting something more elaborate?
  • 24 loves this one: sometimes there will be multiple Omniscient Councils of Vagueness in the same season.
    • "Loves" is an understatement. There's the so-called "Bluetooth Illuminati" in Seasons 5 and 6, the super-secret council of private military companies in Season 7... not mentioning the dozens of others.
      • Although most of these either got scrapped, were resolved offscreen, or specific members were thrown into random storylines just to be Killed Off for Real. The one involving Jack's long lost father and brother was even seemingly retconned altogether (though it was replaced by another). Despite all of these plotlines flopping, they constantly continued them. Many fans were particularly pissed by Season 7's Omniscient Council of Vagueness, because they were sick of this trope being used all the time, among various other things.
  • The Kougami Foundation in Kamen Rider OOO plays this straight. It isn't spelled out until the very end what their chairman wanted.
  • Also, Kamen Rider Double, who have Foundation X, who plays this straighter, right down to the lack of any clear motive.
  • The villainous organizations in Chuck are always up to evil stuff with all kinds of evil goals and. . . stuff. But their actual agendas are never made explicit.
  • The Observers in Fringe.
  • The Pretender...holy crap. The show's protagonist Jarod is pursued by The Centre, which throughout the show's four seasons reveals itself to be a centre for moral ambiguity, betrayals, shifting alliances both within the organization and with Jarod and a whole lot of evil plotting.
  • Nikita: Oversight, the group of high-ranking politicians and military officials that Division nominally reports to. They're mentioned several times throughout the first season, and in one of the last scenes of the finale, we finally see them (or at least, a group of them) in a meeting; naturally, they're all sitting at a table in a half-lit room, with only the members we'd seen previously being in the light.
    • Then halfway through season two, all of them except Senator Pearce are revealed, then assassinated a couple of episodes later.
  • The burned spies organization in Burn Notice.


  • The Priests of the Temples of Syrinx in the song 2112 by Rush, a strawman communist government.
  • Sarastro and the other Priests in The Magic Flute by Mozart fall under this category. Of course the whole opera is about Freemasonry, so it's no wonder there is a secret society...
  • There is a song titled "Whatever You Say, Say Nothing." The song is about a man telling the listener about you know who and you know what. Never once is any actual name give for the group that will take you to you know where if they find out you know about them.

Tabletop Games

  • The Illuminati in Paranoia, who end up giving their blackmailed minions tasks ranging from "kill this man" to "place a bucket full of paint in a dustbin in HPL Sector.
    • It's little more than a front for High Programmer activities in secret societies that need a lot of discretion. It's not an actual secret society and more of a joke between ULTRAVIOLETs... probably.
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons setting Eberron, the vast human empire of Riedra is ruled by the Inspired, a caste of wise and just humans bred to perfection. Who are in fact all vessels for demonic spirits from the Dimension of Nightmares. But these spirits are but a small fraction of their race and follow the orders of the mysterious lords of their home dimension.
    • There is also the more traditional Aurum, an organization of wealthy families dedicated to increasing their own wealth.

Theatre / Musical

Annas: Good Ciaphas, the Council waits for you. The Pharisees / and priests are here for you.
Ciaphas: Ah Gentlemen. You know why we are here. We've not much time / and quite a problem here...
Priest #1: We dare not leave him to his own devices / His half-witted fans would get outta control.

Priest #2: But how can we stop him / his glamor increases / by leaps every minute, he's top of the poll.
—"This Jesus Must Die"


  • Bionicle's Brotherhood of Makuta can be considered such a council, but some of the sillier aspects of the trope were averted by not even showing the council at first. The Brotherhood got merely name-dropped for about three years (real-time) before some of them became the main villains for an arc; at which point the audience was given names, faces, the works. The fact that some parts of their plan are still left vague are justified in that they're focused on their current mission and not concerning themselves too much with what is happening elsewhere (and therefore not discussing it).
    • And why would they discuss the plan, after all? All of the Makuta know nearly every aspect of it, and the writers don't want the audience to know any more than the heroes do. Luckily, they also avoid too much Expospeak this way.

Video Games

  • Pretty much everyone other than the three playable characters in Fahrenheit (2005 video game) (known to some of you as Indigo Prophecy) are part of an Omniscient Council of Vagueness. Yes, including Agatha, the wheelchair bound old woman. And, she's actually a holographic robot computer virus. But don't worry, because it's Better Than It Sounds
    • The Orange Clan in particular is practically the video game equivalent of SEELE.
  • Likewise, the Playstation game Xenogears is riddled with lengthy purposeless conversations between members of the Gazel Ministry, a group of barely visible and largely indistinguishable talking heads on video screens whose relevance to what's actually going on for the player won't be revealed until much, much later—40 hours or more—in the game.
    • This example is shamelessly spoofed by the flash movie, Shadow Government Puppet Show, right down to the dialogue. It turns out that these talking heads are just really, really bored.
    • It's worth noting that the Gazel Ministry isn't teleconferencing. They actually are talking heads on computer screens attached to a giant rotating sphere. They pretty much can't do anything but rotate and make evil plans, and get killed by basically hitting the "off" button.
  • Its creative descendant (not quite a sequel), the PS2 game trilogy Xenosaga, kicked it up a notch — literal hours of dialogue were dedicated to this.
  • In Assassin's Creed II, the Templars are a group of power hungry nobles involved in a conspiracy with the Assassins.
  • The Legion of Doom presented in the PS2 game Kingdom Hearts early on met this way as shadowy figures standard to the trope. However, their distinctive body shapes and iconic voices make easy for anyone familiar with Disney to identify them.
    • Forget "distinctive body shapes"; turning up the brightness all the way makes it even more apparent who they are.
    • In Kingdom Hearts II, the Beta Baddies of Organization XIII form a similar omniscient council (though are only seen meeting together in the Limited Special Collectors' Ultimate Edition.) Enhancing the effect was the fact that the members each wore a hooded Black Cloak, which concealed their face until they became part of the story directly.
  • Throughout Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, scenes show Seraph Lamington and an obscured individual discussing their plan in this manner. However, not only is the plan not particularly evil in any way, but the other man involved is the comic relief character Mid-Boss.
  • The X Hunters appear this way in the beginning of Mega Man X 2, including a "digital screen ball" thing scene.
  • Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter had one of these, in the form of the Regents. They are, however, apparently at cross-purposes with each other, and its leader is running plots so convoluted that he's trying to help you and kill you at the same time.
  • The final scene of PC game Baldur's Gate 2 shows one of these vaguely debating and deciding on the Player Character's doom. It's really left to be nothing but a pure Omniscient Council of Vagueness, as no group like this ever appears afterwards. They could be an early concept for The Five, though, who appear in the expansion.
    • It might also be the council that rules the nation of Amn, (the setting of the game) whose identities are secret.
  • In Half Life the sinister G-man makes passing references to his employers. Said employers are never revealed, but it is heavily implied that they're some sort of dark, omniscient cabal pursuing a mysterious agenda.
    • Or are they? Many fan speculate that G-man's employers are part of an inter-dimensional alliance of sentient beings devoted to the destruction of the Universal Union through the hiring of extraordinary individuals which they use to sow seeds of destruction on planets taken by the Combine. I guess that's kinda good.
    • Some of us just think it's Valve.
      • Some of us think it refers to the players who are literally controlling Gordon's every move.
    • According to this wiki, comment of G-Man's model states: "// Purpose: The G-Man, misunderstood servant of the people", thus making it improbable that his employers, or at least G-Man himself, isn't evil.
      • That doesn't specify which people.
  • The Philosophers of Metal Gear Solid, and their successors The Patriots. Except that the actual Patriots are disguising themselves as an Omniscient Council Of Vagueness. In truth, they are a network of four super computers that have almost complete control over the digital infrastructure of the entire world, and have become impossible to control by their creators long ago. Mildly subverted in that they are never actually seen meeting.
  • There's one of these in Wild ARMs 4, but it turns out that they were completely out of touch with the reality of the situation and they end up being betrayed by The Dragon.
  • Final Fantasy VII has the meeting of the Shinra executives where they discuss their plans for Aeris and Neo Midgar.
  • The Mass Effect series has both the Shadow Broker and Cerberus/Illusive Man. Helping or following direct orders/requests from either group generally rewards renegade points.
  • The Inner Circle from the Max Payne games is mostly depicted as one of these. However, when questioned about what he knows about the organization in the second game, Vlad dismisses the idea of many of the characteristics integral to this trope as being characteristic of the Inner Circle; to him, they're just the next peg up the ladder in organized crime.
  • In Two Worlds, the player character is tasked by one Omniscient Council of Vagueness to recover an artifact that will bring about the revival of a dead god. These men are invariably represented with sweeping cloaks, hooded faces, and black armor. Throughout the game, the player encounters several opposite types of men in every major city in Antaloor. These men wear white armor, wear helmets, and are all referred to as "Stranger". These fellows mention the player's destiny and the like, and the main character is noticeably disturbed by them. Only after The Reveal does this mysterious group reveal itself to the Player: The Paladins, another Omniscient Council of Vagueness, but a good one. If the player chooses the Evil Choice at the end of the game, they wind up having to fight the entire Paladin council for their final battle, which is MUCH harder than the fight if you choose the Good Choice, in which you kill the remaining member of the Evil council after spending the latter half of the game killing off the other members.
  • Subverted in Skies of Arcadia with the Valuan Admirals. They meet several times throughout the game, and no attempt is made to hide who they are -in fact, their first meeting serves to introduce the player to most of them. Other than not being faceless, however, they follow the trope pretty closely.
  • Deus Ex starts with a sequence like this, where Bob Page and Walton Simons discuss their plans in veiled terms. It contains references to most of the major plot points in the game, but they can't be appreciated until after the fact.
    • The prequel, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, begins similarly, with Bob Page and the rest of the Illuminati Council of Five discussing their latest scheme for world domination via distorted voice teleconference. None of the members' faces, except Page's are shown, and only two (Zhao Yun Rhu and Hugh Darrow) can be definitively identified via their distinctive (and thus not completely distorted) accents.
  • Takamagahara from the story mode in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift fall under this.
  • The Three Wise Men from Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, an explicit Council of Angels that acts in lieu (and, they claim, in the name of) God. The appearance of the Schwarzwelt provided them an opportunity to guide the world into a land ruled by Law, and the Protagonist and the rest of the Schwarzwelt Investigation Team are the perfect pawns to fulfill their desires. Unlike the true originator of the Schwarzwelt, however, going against their wishes doesn't set them against the Protagonist, as they're quite confident that he will fail and they, as eternal beings, can just try again with someone else.
  • In Age of Empires III the Circle of Ossus are an antagonistic group out to find the Fountain of Youth and have some powerful connections, with everything else about them completely unknown.
  • The Data Pads in Halo: Reach reveals that a secret council of Artificial Intelligences formed called "The Assembly", and have been secretly running many of the events in human history, including pushing forward the Spartan-II program, initiating first contact with The Covenant, and sacrificing colonies for survival in the war.
  • The Hitman "World of Assassination" trilogy centres around "Providence", a shadowy organisation controlling the world's affairs behind the scenes, with 47, his fellow clone brother Lucas Grey, and their allies as they take on the society and eliminate key members.

Web Comics

  • MAG-ISA -- They appear in almost every intro chapter of MAG-ISA. Their faces aren't seen. But they're the one pulling the strings. Big Bad is probably among them lurking in the shadows. They cannot be seen but they see all that is happening.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • The heads of Hereti-Corp in meet this way on a regular basis. They also parody this all to hell.
    • Though the set-up is different, the Fate Spiders discussing the lines of fate getting tangled and leading to potential disaster very much fulfill the role.
  • The Eternal Council in Adventurers! functioned this way at first, complete with fire-bordered silhouettes. Later, as its members were introduced one by one, they dropped their ominous shadows (save for Eternion, who having already been introduced, didn't get one; it was explained that this was his "punishment" for his behavior earlier).
  • DMFA has one of these in the form of the Creature Council. Amongst the various ominous silhouettes, a phoenix complains about being the only source of light.
  • Antihero for Hire has the "council of all-consuming fire" show up in this strip to hang a lampshade on this trope.

Brother Southeast: He has proven receptive to the idea of the power, plus he has the resources to recover the items.
Brother Northeast: That is quite good, but can we be less vague? We could finish these meetings in half the time if we were just straightforward.

  • Order of the Stick has had a few moments of this, including Lord Shojo's chat with Miko early on, and more recently, the three fiends.
  • The Rabbit Council in Kevin and Kell, up until Kevin was appointed and he convinced the others to hold meetings in full light
  • MSF High: The newest arc as introduces a circle of students in cloaked hoods talking about Donovan's progress after the Lana arc. Time will tell if they remain as this.
  • The Eight or Nine Guys Who Secretly Run Everything in Argon Zark. Guess what they do?

Web Original

  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, TAROT's Ruling Council is (with the single exception of The Emperor, the leader of the organization) a faceless group of ruthless billionaire businessmen that work from the shadows to further the organization's goals. None of the heroes have ever met a member of the ruling council... that they know of.
  • The Shadow Men in Broken Saints, Lear and Palmer.
  • According to Little Kuriboh and Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series, 4kids is this. Turned Up to Eleven. They just pop up every now and again, standing up in sync dramatically/observing everyone/making sure that nobody says Disney. Ah! I said it! Noo!
  • In the Whateley Universe, we've seen The Faceless group known as 'the Syndicate'. We might even know who the head guy is. But it seems like they don't even want each other to know who they are. And they do seem to be the superpowered version of the Mafia.
  • The Supreme Council of the eponymous village in The Questport Chronicles never seems to do much, despite their title.

Western Animation

  • Parodied in Metalocalypse. Dethklok is observed by The Tribunal, with its members continuously asserting that Dethklok is incredibly dangerous to the world, and how their latest antics could be disastrous. For almost half a season, they carefully review their tactics, and the president of the council invariably opts to do absolutely nothing, claiming that "it's too soon" or "we must observe them" or "we will let this play out".
  • The 2000s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series has two mysterious warriors led by three even-more-mysterious Omniscient Council types who look nothing alike but all speak with the same voice. They turn out to be the good guys, more or less.
  • Clone High was created by the (self-proclaimed) Secret Board of Shadowy Figures in an attempt to create Super Soldiers because Lamarck Was Right.
  • The Season 3 premiere of The Venture Brothers features the Guild of Calamitous Intent's Council of Thirteen as they interrogate the Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend, in the process parodying this trope about as far as it can go. Over the course of the episode, they trip over each other's sentences, argue about what to call themselves, make gestures that can't be seen by their subjects, and complain about their lack of Surveillance as the Plot Demands.
    • And their voices and silhouettes gave out some (most are old cartoon villains)
    • A later episode heavily implies that two of them are Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.
  • In Beast Wars, Tarantulas' superiors (The Tripredacus Council) only appeared as three robots in shadows discussing about what had to be done about Megatron.
  • Futurama has the council of robot elders. Their main goal is to instill a fear of humans into the populace to distract them from the crippling lug nut shortage... and the fact that they are being ruled by incompetent robot elders.
—Silence! I concur.
    • Not to forget the Nibblonian council.
  • The Observant High Council in Danny Phantom would count. Interestingly, they've only been hinted at and barely-more-than-cameod in two episodes. They have been shown as a jury of ghosts judging one ghost in particular and also have sworn to "watch but never act"... a code they've violated in a roundabout way by asking Clockwork, a Dungeon Master, to interfere. Danny is apparently aware of their existence but has only referred to them once.
  • On Young Justice, we have the Light, a shadowy group of high-profile villains who are responsible for most of what the team has gone through. Recent events have confirmed Lex Luthor and Ra's al Ghul are members.
    • Episode 14 confirms the rest of the council as Vandal Savage, Ocean Master, Queen Bee, The Brain, and Klarion the Witch Boy.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, Cadmus serves as one of these initially, though their membership is exposed over the course of the season

Real Life

  • Some people have theorized that such an Omnipotent Council exists on TV Tropes. I don't know where they got this idea. Everyone knows that's a lie. Tropers are much too busy editing pages to form a cabal. Yes, the idea is appealing, but it's just not true.
    • The TVT admins can sure seem this way when you don't particularly know or care to know about admin politics. That is; unseen, incomprehensible, usually irrelevant.
      • More plausibly, all that's happening is a combination of stand alone complex due to TV Tropes being a large group of fairly like-minded people and social interactions that no one person can be totally aware of.
  • When editing larger Wikis, the editors who wind up peer-reviewing articles (deletion discussions as a prominent example) are an essentially arbitrary group assembled from such a large pool of motives, goals, and expertise they might as well be an Omniscient Council of Vagueness. You get the impression that a cabal of uncaring, misinformed twits is running the whole show with the sole intention of pissing you off. Really, there is no cabal. It's just the universe which hates you.
    • The (tabletop) wargaming pages suffer from a one-man council, much the chagrin of some wargaming message boards where he has become a ridiculed hate figure. He has his own set of unknown rules by which he deletes entries on games that 'aren't notable enough', with no explanation or reference to either the popularity outside his personal circle or new ideas a set introduces.
  • In the Japanese education system, the PTA fills this role, being made up of mainly highly respected members of the local community (school principals, chiefs of police, etc) and having enormous sway with the Board of Education and individual schools. They can easily get a teacher they don't approve of fired or transferred, and their complaint about the Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo anime being "too violent" supposedly was one of the factors that caused its cancellation.
  • The UseNet Cabal. Yes, it did exist at one point, and all members had to repeatedly say that "There Is No Cabal." Of course, ironically, the Cabal's control over Usenet collapsed with the rise of the alt.* hierarchy.
  • Subverted in the British and Australian political systems with the Shadow Cabinet, who consist of the current government's opposite numbers in the opposition party and exist entirely to criticize and annoy the people trying to do things. However, it makes the news much funnier to imagine that they are this trope.
    • Seriously though, how many of the people in the Shadow Cabinet joined just so that they could say that they are a member of the "Shadow Cabinet"?
    • This is not helped by their tendency to say one thing and then completely contradict themselves a week later.
    • The President of the United States supposedly has a "Shadow Government" that can swing into action in event of a disaster wiping out much of the leadership of the Executive Branch, which has fed some conspiracies despite the fact that it's just a list of names to speed up the process of restaffing the offices the President has appointment authority over.
  • Happens when feedback cycles run too far beyond inside jokes into fully self-feeding content. Like in terminal cases of Fan Wank. "Some people (i don't know who they are) for some reason have something to say to someone. No, if you don't get what the hell i mean, it's not you!". When something becomes full of these "somethings", this means it's time to apply something... Something incendiary.
  • The Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.
    • Officially, ISI handles and coordinates the intelligence from military branches. Unofficially, though...
  • Various decision making bodies of the United States Federal Reserve and other central banks tend to operate in total secrecy and without oversight from anybody accountable to the people.
  • The documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated argues that the Motion Picture Association of America operated in this fashion when it came to rating movies, at least at time of filming; secretive and quasi-anonymous but with incredible power and influence, with clear ideological motives frequently coming down in harsh and at times seemingly random judgment on those who failed to meet their standards without providing any explanation why.
  • There is a Facebook Group for this trope, apparently.