Uriah Gambit

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In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, "Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die."

What to do when you've made an enemy of one of your underlings? Hey, you're the boss. All you've got to do is send him out on a mission that's sure to get him killed. He'll die in action, and you'll have plausible deniability.

In some cases, this can be as subtle as giving the underling in question dangerous tasks that need to be done anyway, resulting in a win-win scheme—they'll probably die, which is great, but if they're successful, that's fine too. Other times, the task might be a blatant setup solely for the purpose of killing them off, often going as far as Unfriendly Fire, deliberately backstabbing or sabotaging them at a key moment to ensure their death. Either way, it's this trope.

If it's the hero who does this, can lead (as in the Trope Namer) to What the Hell, Hero? and My God, What Have I Done?. If it's done to the hero, Heaven help you if they should somehow not only survive but thrive on your Impossible Tasks.

See also Unfriendly Fire for a more hands-on approach that can work in both directions. When you send someone out with an item that attracts danger, that's the Trouble Magnet Gambit. When you do this to yourself, it's Suicide by Cop.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of Uriah Gambit include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • What do you do when your Data Interface gains emotions, but you can't kill her off lest the protective Badass Normal called Kyon convinces Haruhi to recreate the world and wipe you out? You invoke the Uriah Gambit, sending the Interface to meet up with the Sky Canopy Dominion and hope she will Go Mad from the Revelation.
  • In Code Geass R2, Lelouch tries to get Rolo killed several times as punishment for trying to replace Nunnally (and the Shirley incident), but he keeps surviving. For further irony, when Rolo did die, it was through a heartwrenching Heroic Sacrifice to save Lelouch's life after Lelouch admitted he had been trying to kill Rolo... and Lelouch ended up genuinely forgiving him.
  • Askeladd from Vinland Saga uses this gambit to facilitate an even larger Xanatos Gambit to remove a rival from the game.
  • Yang Wenli in Legend of Galactic Heroes was given the mission of taking the impregnable Iserlohn fortress with half a fleet after opposing the Patriotic Corps. He takes it without losing a single ally.
    • Happens to Reinhard quite a few times. The first battle of the series was an attempt to get him killed by depriving him of most of his talented sub-commanders, then sending him into battle and arranging for the enemy to find out he's coming so they'll send a much larger fleet to stop him.
      • The first movie was an even more blatant attempt, where his commander sent his fleet out to the front of the battle unsupported, then gave the rest of his force orders to not worry about hitting friendlies when the shooting started. Just to make this clear, he was willing to kill over a thousand of his own ships and their crews just to see Reinhard dead. Just like Yang, Reinhard turns it around on him.
  • The plot of Area 88 starts with Kanzaki tricking Shin into enlisting in the Aslan Foreign Legion in the middle of a civil war in order to have a shot at Shin's girlfriend, Ryoko.
  • In the 2003 anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist, after Lior's Destruction by Scar's Philosopher's Stone Array and Alphonse telling to Roy that Fuhrer King Bradley is a Homunculus, the main villain has Pride send Roy, his squad and Armstrong to another war, so one of the homunculi can shoot them during the battle and blame it on their enemies.
  • Happens more than once in Detective Conan, with the most spectacular case being the Diplomat Murder Case. The villain, Isao, fancied a lady named Kimie. Kimie was Happily Married to Yamashiro, Isao's rival. What did Isao do? Use Yamashiro as a scapegoat in a fraud (with help of his father Toshimitsu), wait until he died in prison, and the go Comforting the Widow on Kimie! This only backfired years later, when... Isao's son started dating Yamashiro and Kimie's daughter.
  • In Claymore, the Organization reserves its most dangerous missions for its most troublesome members.
  • In Irresponsible Captain Tylor, the Soyokaze is sent to the front several times in an attempt to kill Captain Tylor. It doesn't work.
  • Implied in Pokémon of all things when Giovanni tries to get rid of James and Jessie by assigning them to a really dangerous airplane flight.


Card Games[edit | hide]

  • In Magic: The Gathering you can force this with cards like Wanderlust, which does one damage to enchanted creature's controller per turn. Since this usually puts you on a clock (meaning you've got a constant source of damage or one at an opponent's whim, and no way to deal with it), it's common to send a Wanderlusted creature to a "chump block" if you can't form a block that will survive or defeat the enemy. And then there's Donate. And of course Swords to Plowshares lets you exile not only your opponent's creatures, but your own. Magic loves the whole Xanatos index.
  • A common way of pulling this off in Yu-Gi-Oh! is by taking a weak monster like Treeborn Frog, turning it up into Attack Position, and using Creature Swap to exchange it for one of your opponent's monsters. Not only do you gain a more powerful monster on your side, but you also have the perfect target to cause a lot of damage to your opponent's Life Points. Quite literally an example of making an enemy of one of your underlings and sending them to their death.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Those who encounter Groo keep sending the titular character against impossible odds with little support both to get rid of Groo and sometimes serve as a distraction (This includes his family and "friends"). But since he's a One-Man Army and has the element of surprise (since no one would be stupid enough to attack, except Groo) he succeeds with the unintended consequences on those who sent him.
  • In the prologue chapter of Necrophim, Lucifer sends Uriel to kill the king of the frost giants in order that he will die in the attempt.


Film[edit | hide]

  • In the film version of The Man in the Iron Mask, King Louis XIV, upon finding out that one of the women he desires is already engaged to a soldier, sends him to the front lines to die in battle. Though the plan succeeds, it also backfires since the soldier also happened to be the son of one of the legendary Three Musketeers.
  • In the animated film Antz, the evil general sent the part of the army loyal to the queen to be slaughtered in the war against the termites.
  • Palpatine does this to Dooku and Grevious in Star Wars.
    • One of the major reasons Palpatine orchestrated the Clone Wars, and manipulated it to continue for as long as it did, was to reduce the Jedi's numbers.
  • In Batman, when mob boss Carl Grissom discovers that his mistress has been sleeping with his right-hand man Jack Napier, he sends Jack to go steal the books from a mob front under investigation by the authorities, then tips off the Dirty Cop on his payroll and orders him to kill Jack. This backfires magnificently when Jack is dunked in chemicals and becomes the Joker.
  • Good Morning Vietnam: "I recommend we issue a 24 hour pass..."
  • In Road to Perdition, the Rooneys try to kill Sullivan by sending him out to collect on a debt, then offering the debtor a deal - his debt will be forgiven if he kills Sullivan. In a particularly bold and ruthless twist, Sullivan himself is given the note bearing the offer to deliver.
  • In Iron Man Obadiah Stane arranges to have Tony Stark killed by terrorists in Afghanistan while he is presenting a new missile system to the american troops stationed there. It doesn't quite work out as planned.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • This is named for an incident in The Bible where, desiring Uriah's gorgeous wife Bathsheba, King David had him sent into battle as cannon fodder (or, I suppose, arrow fodder). More specifically, David had first slept with Bathsheba while her husband was off on the front lines. Then when David found out he'd gotten Bathsheba pregnant, he tried to cover it up. The first coverup attempt ("Hey, Uriah! Buddy! Doin' a great job as an officer, my man! As a reward, I'm gonna give you a little vacation. Here, have a drink... or two or three... now go home, relax, enjoy an evening with your wife. You've earned it!") failed because Uriah refused to accept privileges that his men weren't being allowed. Being unable to explain away Bathsheba's pregnancy the normal way, David pulled The Uriah Gambit as a probably spur-of-the-moment backup plan. Joab, the general David gave the order to (who also knew what David had done), was forced to put all of his troops within arrow range, then pull all of them but Uriah back, to make sure Uriah was killed. In a passive aggressive What the Hell, Hero?, Joab returned to Jerusalem to say something along the lines of: "The deed is done. Oh, and by the way, here are the names of all of the other guys who had to die by your strategy for no reason."
  • David might have learned the Uriah Gambit from his predecessor, Saul, who kept trying to kill him with it. Much to Saul's chagrin, David not only survived the crazy missions that Saul sent him on (like collecting the foreskins of 100 Philistines—which meant killing 100 Philistines, or at least administer a circumcision with or without their consent—to win Saul's daughter Michal's hand in marriage), but went above and beyond the call of duty (like bringing back 200 foreskins). It's not too surprising that going from shepherd boy to war hero to general to prince to king went to his head, and he thought he could get away with anything. Then God got the last word, and gave David massive succession issues and a really short time with his family actively on the throne.[1] It is still worth noting: the child whose conception caused the problem in the first place died in infancy, God's way of expressing His disapproval. The next child David and Bathesheba had, however... Well, his name was Solomon.
  • In Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, General MacArthur had used a similar method to dispose of his wife Leslie's lover (who also was his Number Two) during World War I. Afterward he avoided attending church whenever the David and Bathsheba story was scheduled to be read, and Leslie later succumbed to Death by Despair. Otherwise, it went so well that even Scotland Yard detectives, told afterwards that murder is involved, cannot be sure that it really is. Too bad a certain Hanging Judge and' Magnificent Bastard got notice of it and decided to murder him, alongside other Karma Houdinis.
  • In The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Crooked Man", the victim was overheard arguing with his wife, and she was heard to say the name David. It turned out that she was alluding to the Biblical story described above; her husband had done something similar to a romantic rival thirty years earlier.
  • In Honor Harrington, "Honor among Enemies" there is a complicated subversion. Klaus Hauptman a shipping magnate is tired of losing ships(not to mention personal) to pirates in the Silesian Confederation and pulls strings to get Honor who is an old political rival of his, assigned there. The subversion is that he is not trying to get Honor killed-exactly-and in principle would rather she succeeded. Hauptman is just thinking,"better her then my employees", that she is after all the officer with the qualifications he thinks necessary(in other words tactical wizardry combined with utter insanity), and there are in any case naval officers he would grieve over far more.
  • In Shards of Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold, the (failed) invasion of Escobar is used by Emperor Ezar to dispose of Crown Prince Serg and weaken the faction supporting him.
    • Earlier in the book, somebody else tried to kill the hero this way, twice. It didn't work.
  • The Sign of the Broken Sword by G. K. Chesterton. An interesting twist on both tropes: The murderer, General St. Claire, killed his victim first, and then planned otherwise pointless assault so that it would happen at exactly the same spot, thus hiding his victim among other casualties.
  • In the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher done a couple times. First by Lord Aqutaine with the Crown-loyal soldiers. Then Gaius Sextus does this to Lord Rhodes, in revenge for his part in murdering Septimus.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Rand al'Thor only brings his enemies on a campaign to fight the Seanchan. Why waste good men?
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels, this often happens to the entire regiment, usually when someone wants to get rid of "Gaunt and his damn Ghosts". (In the worst cases, they resort to Unfriendly Fire.)
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Fulgrim, when Vespanian complains to Fulgrim that the captains who should have been supporting Captain Demeter didn't, and if it weren't for the intervention of other men, the captain and his men would have died, he realizes that this was exactly Fulgrim's intent. Then Fulgrim kills Vespanian.
  • In The Bone Doll's Twin, the king sends Lord Rhius on suicidally dangerous missions, to dispense with his influence over his son, second in line for the throne.
  • Dark Force Rising, the middle book of the Thrawn trilogy, had an interesting variation. Borsk Fey'lya, going out to the site of the Katana Fleet in a ship crewed solely by his most ardent supporters, following right after some political adversaries, ended up ambushed by a superior Imperial force. He got the ship and its escort to turn around and start to flee, leaving Luke, Han, and Rogue Squadron high and dry. However, he got tricked into an Engineered Public Confession in which he stated his belief that those who weren't with him were his enemies, no one cared if their enemies died, and he wouldn't lose his allies, who were of purely political significance, to anything as outmoded as loyalty. His ship and its escort promptly turned back for a Big Damn Heroes moment.
    • This was also the reason that Palpatine supported the Outbound Flight project. Eighteen Jedi, six of them Masters, heading off on a dangerous mission into the Unknown Regions... why, anything could happen out there. The fifty thousand civilians with them? Too bad.
  • In Strength and Honor, the emperor of Rome packs his space fleet (yes, you read that right) with political enemies. If they win, good. If they lose, good.
  • In Flashman and the Mountain of Light, the Sikh ruling class deliberately starts a war with the British empire so that their unruly and regicidal army will be slaughtered.
  • Felix Cortez plans to do this in Clear and Present Danger, sending Cartel fighters against the American soldiers while building his own loyal group of fighters to take over the Cartel. The plan get interrupted in the story by other events.
  • In Curse of the Wolfgirl The Avenaris Guild of Werewolf hunters have an accountant who just cost them their cushy expenses account. Said accountant is transferred to frontline werewolf hunting activity forthwith. Subverted as it turns out this was the accountant's plan all along as part of his Batman Gambit.
  • In The Hunger Games, Book II, Catching Fire, President Snow has a problem; many districts are beginning to rebel, using Katniss as their inspiration. An obvious death would just incite them further. What can he do? Just coincidentally discover that the Quarter Quell makes her fight in The Games again.
  • In the later bits of the Belisarius Series, the Persian emperor cheerfully allows troublesome and arrogant members of the Persian nobility to partake in cavalry charges against dug-in enemy troops armed with rifles.
  • In The Shahnameh, Gushtasp, trying to renegade on his promise to hand the throne over to his son Esfandiyār, sends him to bring Rostam to the Shah in chains. Luckily though, the curse that will torment the killer of Esfandiyār can see through this.
  • "One-fourth of Rochmont's fighting strength--one battalion of Dorsai--were sent by Rochmont forth alone, to bleed Helmuth, and die." These being Dorsai, it didn't turn out well for Helmuth, and even less so for Rochmont. "No more is there a Rochmont town, no more are Rochmont's men. But stands a Dorsai monument to Colonel Jacques Chrétien."
  • In Tales From the Mos Eisley Cantina, it was revealed that Greedo was set up to face Han Solo alone because Goa knew he [Greedo] wasn't up to it, and had been hired to get rid of Greedo by a tyrant who had condemned Greedo's entire clan to extermination.
  • In addition to Unfriendly Fire, this is one of Tigerclaw's tactics in Warrior Cats when he's still a Villain with Good Publicity before his exile:
    • Tigerclaw sets his apprentice Ravenpaw (who had witnessed him killing the Clan deputy) dangerous hunting tasks: first at Snakerocks (normally avoided by the cats in summer due to poisonous adders - but Ravenpaw actually killed an adder!), and then in ShadowClan territory.
    • He later suspects that Ravenpaw told Fireheart what he had seen. During battle, when Fireheart is fighting for his life and calling for help, Tigerclaw justs sits there and watches; fortunately Fireheart manages to fight his way out.
    • For another attempt at Fireheart's life, Tigerclaw orders him to try and cross a flooded stream using a spindly branch caught in the water. When Fireheart's right in the middle and Longtail isn't watching, he tries to Make It Look Like an Accident by knocking the branch loose from the rock it's caught on. Longtail saves Fireheart from drowning.
  • In the Shadowrun novel Lone Wolf, the undercover cop protagonist mouths off to the war chief of the street gang he's infiltrated, and nearly falls prey to this trope the next time he's sent on an errand for the gang. He lampshades the analogy between his predicament and Uriah's.
  • The Robotech novelization says that War Correspondent Sue Graham was attached to the Jupiter Fleet trying to free the Earth from the Invid by Lisa Hayes-Hunter because she was trying to get too friendly with Rick. Lisa wasn't specifically trying to get Sue killed (though she did that on her own), she just wanted her several thousand light-years away from her husband.
    • Ironically, this happened to the Hunters themselves in The Sentinels, when T.R. Edwards managed to get them both (and their supporters like Max and Miyria) sent off with the Sentinels.
  • Done in the Mirror Universe novel Dark Mirror to mirror!Jack Crusher by Evil!Picard to take possession of Beverly. Original!Picard is horrified to learn this.
  • In Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, both Narcissa Malfoy and Dumbledore think that Voldemort's main goal when he assigned his mission to Draco was to have Draco killed trying, as a punishment for Lucius' past failures.
  • Andre Norton's Star Rangers (alternate title The Last Planet) begins with a would-be dictator getting rid of the local Stellar Patrol by sending them on missions to map long-forgotten border systems, with a vague promise of turning these systems into bases from which the Patrol can be reborn. "Undermanned, poorly supplied, without real hope, but determined to carry out orders to the last," they go....

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • This is tried on T-Bag in Prison Break, multiple times. But he always comes back.
  • Happens a couple of times in La Femme Nikita (the TV series).
  • The usual practice in The Unit for officers who are discovered to be sleeping with a shooter's wife is for the shooters to put the officer on trial and then execute him to prevent this sort of thing. When Mac finds out that Tiffy and Colonel Ryan have been sleeping with each other in the season three premiere, Jonas stops Mac from killing Ryan there and then, and states a trial can wait until they've dealt with the more pressing problem of the terrorists who are targeting them.
  • In the M*A*S*H (television) episode, "The Tooth Shall Set You Free," the doctors discover that a racist officer has a particularly slimy way of dealing with the African American soldiers under his command. Namely, he always orders them instead of white soldiers into dangerous duty in hopes of them earning points to be transferred out faster (if they aren't killed in action of course). The medical staff arrange a sting to force him to resign his commission.
  • A Buffy example: An ally who thinks Buffy is getting a little too inquisitive sends her out to investigate what's presented as a possible low-level threat (maybe just a raccoon triggering their sensors):

Buffy: (speaking through a monitor) That simple little recon you sent me on? Wasn't a raccoon. Turns out it was me trapped in the sewers with a faulty weapon and two of your pet demons. If you think that's enough to kill me, you really don't know what a Slayer is. Trust me when I say you're gonna find out.

  • In Blackadder Goes Forth, when Edmund is court-martialed, and Baldrick and George fail to do anything to save him, he volunteers them to a mission named "Operation Certain Death" (though they apparently manage to survive). However, since we only hear Capt. Blackadder's side of a telephone conversation in which the operation is mentioned, it's possible that he was just making it up, knowing the two dimwits would fall for it.
  • In the 5th episode of Dollhouse ("True Believer"), Boyd attempts to get Echo pulled off of the job she's on because it's become too dangerous. However, Dominic (who believes Echo is becoming a liability to the Dollhouse) refuses to allow Boyd to extract Echo. When it seems that Echo is going to manage to scrape out of her situation after all, Dominic goes above and beyond this trope: he takes a private jet to the scene and slugs Echo in the face while she's in a burning building, and then flees with the hope that Echo will remain unconscious and burn to death. It doesn't work.
    • After a handler is caught raping the Active in his care, Adelle offers him another chance to prove himself by killing Ballard's girlfriend, Mellie. Too bad for him the target was a sleeper active...
  • The Lost episode "The Other Woman" strongly implies that Ben sent Goodwin on a risky mission to infiltrate the tail section survivors because he knew Goodwin was having an affair with Juliet and if Goodwin died then he could have Juliet for himself.
    • And again in "Sundown" where Dogan sends Sayid out to kill Esau/NotLocke/Jacob's Enemy with a knife. Sayid, being the survivalist Badass that he is, knows it's a Uriah Gambit but goes anyway. He lives. Dogan doesn't.
      • He might not have done this actually. He told Sayid to not let "Locke" speak a word, but Sayid didn't stab him until after he'd said "Hello, Sayid". If he had followed Dogan's instructions, perhaps it would have worked.
  • Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation speculated that Picard had done this to his First Officer, Jack Crusher, a notion that the show's producers tried to refute, for obvious reasons.
  • In the ST:TOS episode "Court Martial", Kirk is accused of having done this to Finney who turns out to have faked his own death in order to frame Kirk.
  • On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, during the Dominion War, Klingon Chancellor Gowron felt threatened by General Martok's increasing popularity, so he repeatedly sent Martok on near-suicidal missions (instead of using him where he'd be most effective). It didn't work; Worf killed Gowron in a duel over this and gave Martok the chancellorship.
  • It turned out that future NCIS director Leon Vance was first recruited specifically because he was a loner with no one who will miss him. The original idea was to send him on a suicide mission in Europe and use his death to justify an increase in funding to NIS's European branch. Needless to say, Vance turned out to be a better agent than expected and actually managed to accomplish the mission with help from Badass Israeli Mossad agent Eli David.
  • In Community episode Modern Warfare Jeff discovers the position of the Glee Club by telling Pierce "not" to come over to him.
    • In the Western-motif second season paintball episode, Pierce returns the favor (having become something of a villain within the group), sending Jeff out with blanks instead of real ammo in the hope that he would get "killed" on their mission to find the stash of last year's equipment.
  • In the Tales from the Crypt episode "Forever Ambergris", a jealous war photographer sends his young protege to take photos in a village that had been ravaged by germ warfare, knowing that the younger man would catch the same disease that killed the vilagers and die, leaving his girlfriend free for the older man's taking. Unfortunately for him, the younger guy's girl gets suspicious and deliberately exposes both of them to the same disease in revenge.
  • Dyson's flashbacks in the Lost Girl episode "Brother Fae of the Wolves" ultimately lead to this trope being played out by his King.
  • In the final episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day, Oswald Danes is the guy that ends up acting as a suicide bomber when the team needs one.

Machinima[edit | hide]

  • This starts becoming standard operating procedure for Sarge in Red vs. Blue. Especially when Grif is the one involved, but not always limited to him. One sequence involved storming the enemy base in a single-file line, with Sarge at the back to 'evaluate' how well it goes. Grif is surprised he wasn't in the list ... until he was told his corpse was to be used to jam a deathtrap at the gates.
    • The "deathtrap" moved at about five miles per hour, was easily avoidable, and the cut to what it would look like showed Grif's corpse having absolutely no effect on its movement.


Mythology[edit | hide]

  • The myth of the Greek hero Perseus killing Medusa was because the King of Serifos ordered him to do it so he could marry Perseus' mother. Backfires massively when Perseus learns that he has snagged Danae, thus he rushes back home to save his mom and shows him Medusa's head, turning him and his court into stone as punishment.
  • Bellerophon, also of Greek mythology, was sent to King Iobates bearing a missive that asked the king to kill its bearer. Before reading it, the two had feasted well together and simply killing Bellerophon might bring divine wrath upon the kingdom. Instead, Iobates repeatedly sent Bellerophon on suicidal missions where he continuously succeeded until the hero ultimately earned the wrath of Zeus and was struck down.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Paranoia encourages PCs to throw their underlings under the bus this way, while pretending that you're doing them a favor ("Suck-R, go disarm that berserk scrubot, you'll probably get a commendation for it"). If the underling seems devious enough to actually pull it off, then you may need to pile on some complications ("oh, but leave your toolkit here, we wouldn't want it to get damaged").


Theater[edit | hide]

  • There's an interesting version in Cyrano De Bergerac. At the beginning of the play, the Comte de Guiche is a lecherous evil aristocrat who wants to make Roxane his mistress and is the enemy of Cyrano and his cadets. During a battle with Spain, he sends a spy to tell the Spanish how to attack the Cadets so they will be massacred. What makes this interesting, is that although this scheme results in the death of Roxane's husband, Christian (which is typical of a Uriah Gambit), this wasn't the intent and seems to have prompted de Guiche's Heel Realization, as post-time skip, he admires Cyrano's virtue and is just a close friend to Roxane, who is now a nun.


Videogames[edit | hide]

  • In Ultima V, one can get a spy to join the party; his name is Saduj. If you enter any combat with him in it, he will immediately become an enemy, but until then gameplay-wise is a member of the party. If you avoid combat and are captured by the usurper Blackthorne, Blackthorne always picks the second member of your party, and kills him off permanently. That person's ashes are then shown at the Codex, the shrine of all that is Virtue, as someone who paid the ultimate sacrifice for Good. We'll remember ye, Saduj. Do this before getting the Sandlewood Box.
  • In the first game of the Baldur's Gate series, certain NPCs come in pairs and will leave the party together, as the one kicked out will initiate dialogue and take the other one with them. Dead, booted-out NPCs, however, cannot initiate such dialogue and frees up a slot while leaving their partner in the party. Jaheira used to have a nasty tendency of charging headfirst into marauding hobgoblin bands without armour and weapons on once Yeslick became available... As did Dynaheir right off the bat if the PC was a mage.
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons Video Game version of Temple of Elemental Evil, a temporary party member named Prince Thrommel has a Cool Sword called Fragarach. He will only release the sword if you pry it from his cold dead hands. Evil players can just kill him (and it's required for a quest in the Lawful Evil path). Good characters who want the sword "accidentally" let him die. (You can resurrect him later, he doesn't ask what happened to his sword, oddly and will still give you its counterpart.) You can also marry a (rather annoying) NPC (with subpar stats) for a gift and throw her into the middle of combat naked, her father doesn't care.
    • In Pool of Radiance, the first of the Gold Box games, you could hire NPCs to go with you. Hire until you get two guys in plate armor, then 'accidentally' cast a sleep spell too close to them, which makes them die immediately when hit by the enemy. They have magic plate armor and swords. "Oops, I'm too low level to resurrect you, but I can use animate dead", and get two free fairly powerful zombies you don't have to pay, and once they finally get hacked to pieces, some nice armor and swords...
  • The first mission given to you by Prince LaCroix in Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines is a variation of this trope; once he realizes killing you in public would become a PR nightmare, he gives you a mission that would simply get rid of you... And if you by some incredible good stroke of fortune happen to succeed, well, that suits his purposes just as well. The last mission he gives you, which consists of making you find Nines and then setting fire to the forest next to your meeting place so the werewolves'll get you both, is an even better example.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II, you find out that the Battle of Malachor V was like this too. Revan stacked the fleet with Jedi and soldiers who might oppose his upcoming rise to power. Only one Jedi survived the battle.
  • Pretty much guaranteed to come up at least once per game in the Total War series of games, especially if you choose the longest campaign options. Disloyal generals may be bribed with wives and titles, but your sons can't. And since the consequences of attempting to assassinate your own heirs can be dire (even moreso as they tend to have 0-3 loyalty before you even think of putting the option on the table), this is the more desirable outcome. For those who haven't played it, heir succession follows the actual rules of the eldest son first. This is especially a problem for Ireland where the average loyalty seems to be 1 or 2 and not 4 or 5. Upon crowning the new king, you'll likely have a civil war on your hands if you can't get them killed. May also be used to remove an eldest son who has numerous birth defects, which negatively impacts your economy and general loyalty when he's crowned.
    • You can change the heir in Shogun II, though.
    • Also averted in Rome since, again, you can change heirs freely (though it causes a minor negative "disinherited" trait). Mainly seems to be an issue in the Medieval games given that it follows the traditional feudal system. Sometimes you'll end up with an entire army of disloyal Generals and "useless" heirs which can cause an awful lot of damage to your enemies before they fall. So it can actually be quite a useful tactic to use one of these suicide armies ahead of your main push.
  • The Pariah Dog in Fallout 2 comes with the Jinxed perk, causing everyone in combat to fail spectacularly. (If you've ever played a Jinxed character, you'll be familiar with the lost ammo, destroyed own weapon, critically missed and crippled own arm shtick.) It doesn't aid in combat or even absorb blows for you, uses up a follower slot, and your Luck drops to 1. It doesn't help that doom doggy has 750 hp, runs when you attack it but comes back once you stop, and you're missing half the time (and losing all your ammo). Suggestions for how to off it get pretty interesting... But heaven help you if you critical kill it a zero damage attack, as its negative effects will never leave even though it's dead!
  • There is no way to disband a unit in Dominions, and your units cost you full upkeep even when injury or disease renders them useless. Players will often send the expensive, feeble-minded old wizard on a suicide charge into the nearest enemy territory to get them out of the roster. Just send the player you're "attacking" a note; they'll understand.
  • In StarCraft, Mengsk sends Kerrigan to hold off the Protoss during a Zerg invasion, and when the Zerg begin to overwhelm the Terrans and Protoss alike he abandons her. It's implied the reason he did this was because she and Raynor were beginning to get a bit too defiant to his increasingly extreme methods.
    • Oh no, the Zerg just put a parasite on one of my easy-to-replace marines! That means they'll be able to spy on me and track my army's movements as long as he's alive! On a related note, we need someone to head into the enemy base so we can scout their troop composition. Any volunteers?
    • Also happens in Starcraft 2 multiplayer games. If you get to extreme late game you might end up with more workers than you really want to have and you want that population cap freed up for more combat units. So from starting off as a valuable part of your forces they become a nuisance. Solution? Charge unwanted workers at the enemy ahead of your main army. That way it ensures they die to free up your population whilst simultaneously soaking up some of the enemy fire which would otherwise be targetted at your army. Even more viable with Zerg given how fast their tech switches can happen. Its not uncommon for a Zerg player to simply attack-move suicide "useless" units or even his entire army into an opponent with the aim of deliberately getting them all killed whilst doing as much damage as possible in order to be able to completely rebuild an army from scratch to take advantage of weaknesses in the opponent's composition.
  • Battlefield: Bad Company centers around B Company, an army company seemingly created for this very purpose and to which the most troublesome members of the Army are sent in the hopes that they get killed in their assigned suicide missions. At the time the game is set, the company consists of The Everyman PC, who took an helicopter for a joyride and crashed it on a general's limo; a cowardly nerd who infected a secure military network with a nasty computer virus after using it to look up porn; an explosion obsessed redneck who blew up an officer's latrine with a claymore and an Only Sane Man sergeant who volunteered for the position in the hopes that it will help him retire faster.
  • This is a frequently suggested solution for unwanted immigrants in Dwarf Fortress. Put 'em in a combat unit, send them out to meet raiding parties or down into infested caverns.
  • Happens more than once in Fire Emblem, where several Bad Bosses send out their Anti-Villain warriors into very dangerous missions to get them killed. The most blatant example is Blazing Sword: Evil Matriarch Sonia sends her much-hated Dark Magical Girl daughter Nino to kill Prince Zephiel by promising her to give her the maternal love she craves for when she returns... and then secretly tells Jaffar, her partner in said mission, to kill Nino and use her as a scapegoat. Too bad Jaffar was starting to fall for Nino, so he decided to pull a Last Stand for her instead.
    • Used in Seisen no Keifu too, when King Chagall sends out his knight Eltoshan against his childhood friend Sigurd. Only a very risky Go Through Me from Eltoshan's sister Lachesis stops them from fighting to death.
      • And in the Oosawa manga, Eltoshan's wife is derailed into a Clingy Jealous Girl who gives Lachesis permission to join Sigurd's crew in open hopes to get her killed in battle so she'll be forever away from the older brother she has Brother-Sister Incest vibes with. Lachesis immediately notices and is saddened, but she decides to keep fighting anyway.

Sigurd: "Telling your husband's little sister to go off to war... What is Mistress Iria thinking?!"

  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, one of the Mage's Guild leaders has you go pull a ring out of the bottom of a well. A ring that happens to weigh as much as a full suit of armor. One of your predecessors is floating around in said well when you dive in. Guess which Mage's Guild leader turns out to be working with the Necromancers?
  • In Liberal Crime Squad, Conservative enlightened too late are tagged "wanted for rehabilitation", and if they are arrested, they will spill the bean on their recruiters. So there are 2 ways to deal with them: Send them to a minor and crime free safehouse to do some tame stuff (like legal fundraising), or send them to their death (like ordering them to sell brownies until they run into the Police Gang Units, or better, the Death Squads, and make them fight to the death, or just showing up at a Conservative place naked and armed with molotovs.)
  • Teryn Loghain Mac Tir of Dragon Age Origins is known for this, he doesn't like the way that King Cailan runs things, so what does he do? He withdraws backup in the fight with the darkspawn, letting Cailan, and most of the Grey Wardens, along with a good chunk of Ferelden's army get slaughtered.
  • Over the early part of Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn Brotherhood of Nod campaign, your Mission Control, Seth, becomes more and more jealous of your success. After a few missions of supplying blatantly incorrect intelligence, he unconvincingly congratulates you on your latest victory, then announces that he has a new, secret mission for you, one that not even Kane is aware of:

Seth: You see, power shifts quickly in the Brotherhood. Kane has been loath to attack America, but I think now is the time, and you are the one to do it. This is the Pentagon. A full-scale attack with your strongest forces should render the military control center ino-
BLAM
Kane: Yes. Power shifts more quickly than some people think.

  • In God of War III, Hephaestus learns that Kratos intends to open Pandora's Box, which will require Pandora, who Hephaestus regards as his daughter, to be sacrificed. So he sends Kratos to retrieve an Omphalos Stone, on a promise that he will use it to create a new weapon for Kratos, not mentioning that the stone is inside the guts of the Titan Cronos. It doesn't work.
  • Any soldier that you take a dislike to in X Com will most likely end up being the first one through the doors of a UFO.
  • In Team Fortress 2, apparently the reason Miss Pauling is sending you on contracts to get you killed. Which makes her a bad friend. [1]

Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • In Order of the Stick, Roy's first adventuring party kept sending Durkon on suicidal missions, but Durkon kept surviving. Durkon was actually aware they were trying to get rid of him, but he was resigned to it until Roy stood up for him, at which point the two left to form their own group.
    • Miko Miyazaki overlaps this trope and Snipe Hunt. She's so unbearable to be around that she's repeatedly sent on missions away from Azure City, usually for months at a time; she's so bad that they actually consider it worth the bad publicity of having her representing the city if it means getting her out of their hair. No one ever explicitly says they're trying to kill her, but the other paladins sort of give the idea that no one would be particularly sad if she did die, either.
    • Inverted by Tarquin, who decides he wants to marry a woman from the Free City of Doom who is already married to a Pikeman on the city's south wall. When his soldiers invade, they take special care of her husband. Which he then told her about.
  • It's speculated that Zala'ess pulled this on her daughter Vy'chriel in Drowtales, considering that Vy'chriel's was sent into the middle of an enemy fortress with no visible backup against someone several times her age, resulting in a Curb Stomp Battle that left her dead. There's also the fact that she's not the original daughter, she was the daughter's protector and killed her, only to take her place, and Zala'ess would have killed her herself if her older sister hadn't interfered.
  • Vexxarr was once sent to conquer a bunch of dirt-monkeys in a far away system as an alternative to flushing into space that won't offend his clan — it's a win-win: success would make him the lord of an unimportant place on the very edge of their empire, so he would still get lost and stay lost.

a Shlumpoid: Suicide mission? What makes you think the Supreme Council wants me dead?
Vexxarr: Oh, I don't know... There's just something about being sent against a technically superior enemy without possessing so much as an opposable thumb that sort of sets off my conspiratorial side...

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • ReBoot has Megabyte do this to his own henchmen Hack & Slash because he's sick of their incompetence.
  • In Invader Zim, the Tallest, the leaders of the Irkens, send Zim to "invade" an uncharted area they assume has no planets in it, inhabited or otherwise, because they don't want him screwing up any invasions. It turns out to be Earth.
    • And in a later episode, they send him to a harsh alien boot camp in the hope that he'll be killed, while at the same time holding a betting pool on how long Zim will last. Not only is Zim the only member of his training unit to survive, but the Tallest end up losing an extremely large amount of money to the one guy who bet on Zim surviving.
      • Of course, The Tallest being who they are, they solve both problems by shooting both Zim and the guy who won the bet into the center the sun.
  • The Veggie Tales adaptation had Uriah hold his ground and win the day single-handedly—but suffers from some severe post-traumatic stress. Granted, he was unlikely to be killed by pies in the first place...
  • In one episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, an Earth Kingdom soldier mentions that one way the Fire Nation deals with war prisoners is dressing them up in military uniforms and sending them to the front lines without weapons.
    • It's implied (or at least suspected by some suspicious-minded fans) that this happened to Iroh's son, who died before the series started in battle.
    • Also suspected by suspicious fans is that Ozai sent Zuko away on a Snipe Hunt hoping that he would get killed sooner rather than later, so that Ozai could have him out of his hair permanently without getting his hands dirty. Well, dirtier.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants; possibly the worst thing Mr. Crab has done was in an episode where he tried to bump off poor Squidward by sending him on ridiculously dangerous deliveries, after discovering that his artwork might be more valuable if her were dead. And when it didn't work, he almost resorted to actual murder. Unsuccessfully, thank goodness.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Truth in Television. The Soviets are suspected of taking advantage of the Warsaw Uprising that way (they claim they were just out of gas, but they also refused landing to supply planes from the Western Allies). They allowed the fighters in the city to bleed out, then they occupied the city destroyed by German soldiers. Between the early Soviet failure in Poland, splitting it with Reich (which "officially" started World War II) and "rail war" on Soviet territory, it's reasonable to assume Stalin would expect problems there and wanted the place to be as weakened as possible by the time Red Army's supply will move through it - and setting up one enemy to attack another is something he did all the time.
  • According to one version North Vietnam actually intended that the Viet-cong be wiped out at Tet. In any case that was what actually happened. The VC never recovered and further fighting was mostly with NVAs.
  • In the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945, the Chinese Nationalist government, in an effort to "use space to buy time" repeatedly held back their best-equipped and most loyal forces and left the nominally nationalist-aligned warlords and bands of civilians to fight the Japanese alone and in guerrilla warfare. The Communists did their best to avoid combat and leave the hard fighting to the nationalists, building their strength whilst launching grassroots publicity campaigns emphasizing their comparative willingness to fight the Japanese directly.
    • The Chinese have a long and proud history of playing "let's you and him fight" in war and politPolishics. Initially a very minor player in party politics, Mao originally came to power as the most powerful surviving leader of the Communists; he had left most of his rivals and their followers to face the purges of the Nationalists alone and be massacred, taking care of the remainder himself. During the Vietnam War, the PRC played both sides, sought to prolong the war as long as possible to ingratiate themselves with the North Vietnamese and weaken the US (who they wanted off of their borders).
  • Very popular method as used by Ottoman rulers: Untrustworthy generals were sent to invade Europe, often resulting in win-win situations. For the Sultan, that is.
  • Before World War II started, the Western Democracies, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union all attempted to maneuver their two enemies into a devastating war, so they would be able to walk all over the rump forces that would remain after such a conflict. In the end, Stalin was the one who managed to pull it off - not that it helped him any later on.
    • Another interpretation is that Nazi Regime simply wanted to fight the UK and USSR one after another without these two being allies; USSR wanted to delay the war as much as possible and maybe have an army able to shoot and having guns by then; and the UK would like to be somewhere across the channel from whatever fight would break out (no fight would also be acceptable). All three failed.
    • During the war, one of the key points of contention between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies was what the Soviets perceived as a delay in the Western Allies opening up a second European front to take some of the pressure off the Eastern front. The Soviets pretty much accused the Western Allies of this trope, suggesting that they were delaying as long as possible to make sure that the Nazis and Soviets essentially fought each other to the death.
  • The United States is suspected to do this in the Hungarian revolution of 1956: they encouraged the anti-Soviet revolution by promising help and support. However, when Soviet reinforcements arrived and turned the tides, nobody intervened, letting the Soviets crush the revolution just to make them a bad media reputation.
    • Actually, it was a win-win situation for the US. The revolution broke out at about the same time as the Suez crisis, so the US and the Soviets made a quiet deal that if the US leaves Hungary alone, the USSR leaves the canal's vicinity alone. Basically, the Soviets sacrificed a strategic advantage in the Mediterranean in exchange for keeping US forces out of the communist bloc and preventing a potential escalation to a nuclear exchange. Don't forget, this is the Cold War we're talking about, Mutually Assured Destruction and all.
    • The Prague Spring and following invasion was also a win-win result for the USA.
      • At least 300,000 highly educated people fled the nation and settled in NATO nations.
      • Nicolae Ceausescu censored the invasion, refused to send aid, and maintained his relationships with non-communist nations.
      • The East German military did not truly invade, they crossed the border and then left after a few days.
      • Communist parties in Western Europe began to break away from the Soviet position and formed more independent beliefs.
  • In 1968, the Mexican government manipulated the army into committing the Tlatelolco Massacre by positioning armed agents from one faction of the army within the crowd of protesting students and convincing the rest of the army that the students were firing at them.
  • During the Algerian Civil War of the 1990's, it was suspected that the Algerian military government infiltrated the Islamist GIA and helped perpetuate massacres on both sides to hold onto power.
  • Caligula once sent a woman's husband to die in battle so he could have her all to himself. Hey, it's Caligula, what do you expect?
  • Hiero II of Syracuse was known for it. When the Mamertines decleared war on Syracuse, he only had just some unreliable and greedy mercenaries to fight them with. Aware of their unreliability and half-hearted loyalty, Hiero wanted to replace them with an army made of Syracusan citizens but he couldn't just get rid off them since he didn't had the power needed to, so he sent them to fight in suicidal battles, killing them off one by one while delaying and weakening the Mamertines and their newfound allies the Carthaginians, giving him time to train Syracusan citizens into professional soldiers. Once all the mercenaries were dead, he had a "citizen army" of professional and loyal soldiers. The Mamertines at that point were too tired, exhausted and weak to fight his new army and so they were defeated.
  1. If we're not counting God's promise to make David's successor rule forever - fulfilled by his descendant Joseph passing the legal inheritance on to Jesus, assuming you're Christian. For Jews, it's rather more complex, but the prophecy still has a member of the House of David being the Messiah.