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EDI: If two AI weapons are pitted against each other, the one with superior hardware will always win. Human misjudgements defy predictive models.

Joker: License to screw up, commander. You heard it straight from the ship!

Some fighters have speed, some have strength.

Proponents of Confusion Fu have unpredictability. Their attacks and motions are random (or seem to be), making them difficult to read and predict. Perhaps their priorities and motivations are so different from your own that attempting to guess their next move doesn't work, or perhaps their bodies are structured in such an unfamiliar way that you do not recognize the movements that foretell a particular action.

They are the natural nemesis of those blessed with Awesomeness By Analysis. Stylish Confusion Fu fighters sometimes double as Dance Battlers. This style is often used by Bunny Ears Lawyers and Crazy Awesome characters.

Sister trope to Spanner in the Works, in a general sense. The reason why something Crazy Enough to Work might actually work. See also Drunken Master and Drunken Boxing. Contrast Strategy Schmategy, where the randomness is unintentional. Not to be confused with What the Fu Are You Doing?.

Examples of Confusion Fu include:


Anime and Manga

  • Aiki: One of the bizarre training regimens involved doing a crazy dance so that your strikes couldn't be seen.
  • Gate Keepers: The Super Prototype beats the Awesomeness By Analysis enemy general because its lack of a Power Limiter makes it impossible to completely control. The general can't predict its random motions and thus can't hit it or defend against its attacks. The downside to not being able to control the prototype exactly is the risk that the attack you want to make isn't always the attack you get.
  • Ginji and Ban, the protagonists of GetBackers.
  • Ikki in Air Gear does this in his battle with Buccha.
  • Naruto has Rock Lee, but when he's drunk off his ass, which is easily accomplished.
    • Naruto himself is often referred to as the "number one ninja at surprising people". This is the main reason he was able to beat Neji and Kakuzu: both times he caught them off-guard by using a Shadow Clones charge in which the real one was hiding where it made the least amount of sense for him to be.
    • A smaller example is Hidan's scythe, which he swings around on a cord making it fly around in a manner that's incredibly hard to predict and thus block (and if you even get a scratch you're pretty screwed). That's probably why the first thing Shikamaru did in the rematch was destroy the cord with an explosive.
    • Bee's swords style (where he wields seven swords in everything but his hands while spinning around) is too damn weird for even the Sharingan to predict.
  • Monkey D. Luffy of One Piece. Case in point when the methods he used to defeat self-proclaimed god Eneru was not just due to having the properties of rubber, but to catch him off-guard even when another of Eneru's godlike abilities is predicting your attacks by reading your thoughts. He did this by ricocheting his attacks off a wall, Luffy himself didn't know which way they'd ricochet, and therefore had no control over his own attack, which means that Enel couldn't read his mind to evade them.
    • Hilariously enough, his first attempt to defeat the mind-reading was to think nothing, but since this consisted of him becoming an idiot for a few seconds, he forgot to attack. A life of badassery, however, gives him an innate instinct that allowed him to dodge every one of Eneru's attacks as easily as Eneru dodged his own... he just couldn't fight back.
    • Usopp, not being one of the (as he calls them) super-powered freaks of the crew, utilizes a mixture of various gadgets and just plain trickery, including calling out the wrong attack name, playing dead and randomly flicking rubber bands at his opponents.
  • Natsu from Fairy Tail tries the same trick against a similar opponent -- only Natsu can apparently fight quite efficiently when his thought processes shut off. Even better, it doesn't seem like he was actively trying to not think -- his thoughts stop rather easily.
  • Not involving fighting, but this is key to all of Tylor's victories in Irresponsible Captain Tylor.
  • Kaori of Saki accidentally managed this by being a complete beginner in her table during the tournament, making her completely unpredictable to everyone else who were deeply steeped in the professional Metagame. Even Mako, who has a Photographic Memory of thousands of past Mahjong games and can therefore decipher what the other players are planning based on them, couldn't get a read on her since she had never seen how amateurs played.
  • Samurai Champloo's Mugen uses a style based on apparently random sword strikes and spinning kicks which make him unable to be beaten by (or to beat) the classically trained Jin, although he eventually gets taken apart by Awesomeness By Analysis master Kariya Kagetoki who works out the patterns underlying Mugen's instinctive attacks while commenting that, because he attacks on nothing but instinct, he involuntarily reveals all his limitations to his enemy.
  • In Shin Angyo Onshi this is pulled off in army level. Seeing how the Big Bad relied heavily on mind reading, Munsu rolls dice to determine the army's strategy.
  • In the second season of Hajime no Ippo (subtitled The New Challenger), Takamura ends up fighting one of these for the World Championship belt -- a crazy american who goes up against Takamura's orthodox boxing-style with a wild, crazy, uncontrolled street-fighting style, including weird sways and punching upwards from a bent-backwards position. Amusingly enough, this resulted in them turning into a Red Oni, Blue Oni matched pair, even though Takamura is usually as crazy as they come...
    • In the manga match-up of Itagaki vs Saeki, Itagaki has a rough start of it largely because he's an instinctive fighter but the quality of his opponent is making him overthink his moves. Once his trainer gets him past that, however, Itagaki is able to grab the advantage, becoming able to repeatedly hit Saeki because there's no trackable rhythm to his movements. In fact, the only thing going through Itagaki's mind is a one-player game of Shiratori.
  • Vigo from Psyren gets frustrated when Shao reads his mind. First tactic- think so much that it's much harder to read him. Second tactic- stop thinking. It works frighteningly well.
  • Jounouchi/Joey from Yu-Gi-Oh! builds his deck around this trope, many of his cards (Time Wizard, Roulette Spider, Graceful Dice, Skull Dice, etc.) revolving around sheer luck of the draw, and can either give him an incredible advantage, or get him into a worse mess than before.
    • Also, the Mind Shuffle Technique or topdecking blindly to counter Pegasus' Millennium Eye. Much like the One Piece example above, mindreading is useless if your opponent doesn't know what the face down card is either.
    • Most duels in the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise end with a character pulling out some "never seen before" card that allows him/her to make a comeback one turn short from suffering a humiliating defeat.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's is an extreme case where in some occasions, the character in question obtains the card during the match.
  • Star Driver: This is pretty much the reason for Takuto's spotless winning streak: he makes a point of never showing a skill or ability unless it's absolutely necessary in surviving the fight so that the Glittering Crux have no idea what their opponent is capable of (and thus have no way to counter it) even a dozen battles into the series. Heck, Takuto still had some items in his bag of tricks for the very final battle.
  • This of course is Bobobobo Bobobo's forte.[1] Its an official fighting style that consists of confusing your enemy until they give up.
  • A few examples in Eyeshield 21. First, there's the Dragonfly formation, which uses two quarterbacks that have to be in synch with one another to allow split-second, unpredictable plays. Second, there's Hiruma Youichi.
  • Majin Buu, especially in his basic (or Kid Buu) form. The dialogue even implies that this form has the weakest power level, but ends up being the most dangerous. Of course, that fact they he's violently insane also helps.
  • Oriana Thompson of A Certain Magical Index is dangerous for, among other things, never using the same magic spell twice due to the nature of her 'Shorthand' flash cards. This makes her very difficult to predict.
  • Kenichi Shirahama attempts this against Siegfried, because Siegfried can seemingly predict every single move Kenichi makes. In a rare subversion, it doesn't work, and Siegfried sees through it and ends up still countering Kenichi's moves.
  • Bleach: Happens during the fight between Starrk and Kyouraku. After it becomes clear there are a lot of similarities between these two reluctant fighters, Starrk is convinced he's fighting a kindred spirit. Then it's revealed that was a red herring and the only thing they truly have in common is that they're both Brilliant but Lazy. Lampshaded by Kyouraku himself:

 Starrk: "I thought I told you not to do uncharacteristic things, Captain-san!"

Kyouraku: "It's not good to keep forcing this characteristic thing, Espada-san. And, if you're going to talk about characteristic, not having a characteristic behaviour is characteristic of me."


Comics

  • Done in Regifted during a hapkido tournament; the main character takes a move from her sparring buddy, that she describes as idiotic, and it works; no one would know to expect it.
  • Deadpool, from Marvel Comics. To the extent that he once defeated the freakin' Taskmaster by sheer unpredictability -- Tasky thought that Deadpool was about to get angry and sloppy, but he really just started on a dance number. True, Confusion Fu has already been proven to be an effective strategy against Taskmaster (for example, Daredevil used a similar trick to goad Taskmaster into jumping in front of a moving car), but Deadpool beat the Taskmaster by being Deadpool.
  • In Watchmen, Dan says that Rorschach was a good fighter because he was unpredictable. Probably related to the fact that he's not quite sane.
  • This is usually the reason given as to why the Joker can occasionally actually win at hand-to-hand combat against Batman.
    • Tim Drake managed to overcome Cassandra Cain's bodyreading ability by throwing out all style and just going with what felt natural. Note that this is the exact opposite of how body language works. While Cassandra takes it to impossible levels, the principle of reading someone's body language to react to their actions faster is completely sound, and something people do all the time. Throwing out all style should have just made him telegraph his moves all the more, as avoiding such a thing takes the greatest amount of skill.
    • Batman himself is sometimes portrayed this way, not due to his moves being random, but due to the fact that he sticks to the shadows and employs gadgetry. You might know Batman is stalking you, but you don't know which direction that Batarang/gas grenade/grapple/fist is coming from. He's been known to, among other things, trick an opponent with super-breath into thinking he was using a smoke bomb to try escaping. She inhales all of the smoke...whereupon Batman informs her that it was anesthetic gas.
  • The Authority: This is one of the three ways to beat Midnighter, as it completely confuses the precognitive computers in his brain. (The other two are "Being better Awesome By Analysis than he is" and "Be so powerful that it just doesn't matter if he predicts your moves or not.")
  • Nextwave famously and hilariously had Schrodinger's Death!
  • 'The Quiz', from the appropriately named Brotherhood of Dada, had the superpower of "anything you haven't thought of yet". A particularly nonsensical example was the ability to turn people into toilets with flowers in them.
  • During a Secret Six / Suicide Squad crossover, Catman explains that he is able to hold up in his fight against Bronze Tiger because Bronze Tiger has "a defense for every style...and styles are for $%#@ing idiots." He then proceeds to take a big bite out if Bronze Tiger's jugular.


Music

  • James Brown doesn't know karate, but he knows ka-razy.


Fan Fiction


Films -- Live Action

  • Wong Fei Hung in The Legend of The Drunken Master. His drunken boxing style is ALL ABOUT doing stuff that seems insane or physically impossible to do.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean : As anyone who's fought Jack Sparrow of more than once knows he's a wicked Chess Master with a one-track mind, sometimes the only way he can win a fight is by being unpredictable.
  • Near the end of Chocolate, Zen gets rather badly beaten by a man with Tourette's syndrome. Her usual method of evading attack, anticipation, is ruined by his tics - she can't tell them apart from his attack tells. Only when she starts mimicking his tics does she get any offense in.
  • Serenity: So says Joss Whedon in the commentary, regarding the end fight between River and the Reavers:

 "My wife often refers to this style of fighting as 'just keep waving things until they go away'.".

  • In Quantum of Solace, this is what lets the physically unthreatening villain stay alive (temporarily - not a spoiler, it's a Bond Film). He flails about so wildly that Bond can't really fight him effectively - that is, until the downside of wild flailing is illustrated, when the villain performs an inadvertent axe-foot interface that is excruciating to watch.
  • In Push, this is how the good guys hide their plan from the precognitive Pop Girl. Nick writes the individual steps of the plan down and seals them in envelopes, which are marked as to when and where they are to be opened. He then has his memory wiped so even he won't know what the group's going to do until he opens the envelopes he carries.


Literature

  • In The Oval Amulet, Paragrin beats Cam by swinging wildly. Kirk, however, knows what he's doing.
  • The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks: The Harlequins are sworn to protect the titular Travelers from a totalitarian shadow government which seeks to eliminate liberty and free choice. To fight these control-freaks, Harlequins "cultivate randomness". They are deliberately unpredictable in battle and go so far as to use random number generators to make decisions in order to confound predictive tracking algorithms.
  • The Elenium by David Eddings: Taking it to other levels, the reason Sparhawk can stick the metaphorical middle finger up to the gods is because he moves outside destiny, and therefore even the gods can't predict what he's going to do next. In one of the few cases of this ever, this is Jossed in-universe. To wit: In The Tamuli trilogy which follows on the heels of the Elenium, one of the fundamental forces of the universe says that even its own path may be thwarted by random chance; lesser beings like mere Gods are just as subject to deviation from their intended plan. The gods are freaked out at Sparhawk/Anakha because Anakha is said universe-shaping powers' son, making him not only a God but a God more powerful than any in the world, unique in the universe - if only he could release his full potential. It's implied (though never directly stated) that the whole "lack of destiny" deal is a smokescreen to help keep him from realizing exactly what all of this implies.
  • Rincewind of Discworld too is a walking entropy generator. Death once said so himself, and his hourglass is equally unpredictable due to its strange shape.

  with him here, the only certain thing is uncertainty. and i'm not even sure of that.

    • This has less to due with Rincewind himself, and more to do with Rincewind being The Lady's favorite pawn.
      • There is a reason that Rincewind is her favorite pawn. Even without her favor (which works against you just as often as for you) he's still capable of achieving victory by a mixture of base cowardice, chance, a whole lot of cunning, and by being very sensitive to danger. Hero of a thousand retreating backs indeed.
    • Also from the Discworld, in Monstrous Regiment it is said the worst opponent a skilled fighter can go up against is an amateur, because there's no telling what crazy thing they will try to do. (Likely a reference to Twain; see the quotes page.)
    • When Mort and Death fight it's noted that while a scythe is not preeminent among weapons of war, once it gets spinning its practically impossible for anyone, including the wielder, to tell where it's going to be next.
  • The Scar by China Mieville: Uther Doul has a probability-altering sword that's this trope at its most literal. It passes through all the paths it could potentially have taken with each swing, and he's taught himself a random, uncontrolled style to maximize the effect.
    • Although, it's not a totally random and uncontrolled style. Complete randomness would cut himself up as much as his enemy. Complete control would leave too few alternate possibilities to be effective. It has to be somewhere in the middle, controlled but not precise.
  • An example occurs in the second book of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, when Vin counters Zane's ability to see the future by using his movements to figure out what she's going to do next, and then doing something else.
  • In Fred Saberhagen's early Berserker stories, the berserkers were omnicidal self-replicating war machines whose combat strategies were driven by a random number generator, seeking to avoid predictability at almost any cost. As the series progressed, this aspect of the berserkers' programming came up less and less often and the berserkers' strategies became much more logical.
  • Honor Harrington once referenced the adage that "The best swordsman does not fear the second best, he fears the worst since there's no telling what that idiot is going to do."
  • The woman known as Schrodinger's Cat in Eric Flint's Joes World series. When she fights it's possible to keep track of where she is, or what she's about to do, but not both.
  • In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, the narrator notes:

 The best swordsman in the world doesn't need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn't do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn't prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do; and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.

  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden often defeats opponents with hundreds, sometimes thousands of years of experience on him, buttloads more magical talent and skill, and vastly superior physical abilities often by doing things that are the exact opposite of sensible. With a bit of every Gambit trope ever thrown in. Yes, even Unwitting Pawn. On Harry.
  • 'Shadow Quartet: Achilles from the is stated to be one of these; though he is not a particularly smart genius compared to others from Battle School, he is able to orchestrate globally significant events by being unpredictable.
  • In Larry Niven's The Ringworld Throne and Ringworld's Children, doing this sort of thing is the only way Luis Wu can stay in the game against the superhumanly smart protectors... until he becomes a protector himself.


Live Action TV

  • In Engine Sentai Go-onger, Hiramekimedes, master of Awesomeness By Analysis, kept losing to Hiroto, who was even better at it... so he went One-Winged Angel and adopted a nonsense-based style, calling himself Detaramedes (detarame = nonsense), fighting crazily and yelling things like "1+1=300!" He was winning until Sousuke, who has the usual Hot-Blooded hero's style of "charge in mindlessly and win via plot convenience," stepped in. Throwing his sword and riding it like a surfboard, he managed to finalize Detaramedes singlehandedly.
    • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger has Gokai Green, "Doc" Don Dogoier. His teammates are all talented sword- and/or gunfighters, but he isn't; instead he (kind of) makes up for it by doing all sorts of wacky things like using a trapeze, wrestling moves, Improvised Weapons like tree branches and buckets, and even tripping and pratfalling. In effect, Don has weaponized being the Comic Relief Butt Monkey. This gets a lampshade in one episode where his teammate Joe asks why he doesn't ditch that "zany fighting style" and get more serious.
  • Doctor Who: The idea is sort-of mentioned in passing in Resurrection of the Daleks. The Daleks, and their enemies the Movellans, are engaged in a war against each other. Both sides are more machine than animal (the Movellans are possibly androids, maybe cybernetically enhanced bio-forms), and each side controls their entire battle fleet from a giant supercomputer. Because both fleets are using purely logical tactics, the computers never launch an attack, as the opposing computer can instantly create a counterattack scenario. They both realise that the only way for either side to win is to turn off their battle computer and do something random, as a totally logical battle plan is doomed to fail due to its own predictability.
    • And invoked by the Doctor in the first season finale of the new series: The Doctor has no plan, and that just scares the Daleks to death.
  • Smart Guy: Child Prodigy TJ is beaten at chess by a computer. In the rematch, he wins by deliberately making bad/random moves, having learned while practicing how hard it is to play against someone who doesn't know how to play well. The computer virtually melts down in response.
  • A variation appears in Star Trek: The Next Generation, where the android Data proves unable to beat a Stratagema grandmaster. For their rematch, he intentionally plays to draw rather than win, and frustrates the grandmaster to the point that he leaves the table.
  • A variation in Glee, when the football team performs the dance from Beyonce's "Single Ladies" to the utter bafflement of the opposing team... which gives them the window of opportunity needed to score a touchdown.
    • Though there is no way a stunt like that would even be remotely legal in an actual game, even at high school level.


Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer's Orcs have the Animosity special rule, meaning that each turn there's a chance that any given greenskin mob might ignore orders and squabble amongst itself, shoot at or even charge a friendly unit making funny faces at them, or let loose a mighty "WAAAGH!" and charge at the enemy. If the army's general can't predict how it's going to behave, how can the enemy?
  • The tradition continues with the Orks of Warhammer 40000. The dreaded Shokk Attack Gun has a lengthy table for both critical failures and critical successes, meaning that whenever it fires something interesting is going to happen. Looted vehicles have a chance of jolting forward each turn when their drivers hit the wrong button. Hitting a ramshackle Trukk dead-on with a lascannon might make it clatter apart comically without injuring its occupants, or send the flaming wreck veering off like a missile. Madboyz might tear the enemy general apart with their bare hands or stand around picking grubs out of each others' noses...
    • If an Inquisitor calls in an orbital bombardment both sides get edgy, and not just because it's starship-grade ordnance being fired at the table. Because the targeting is taking place miles above the battlefield, accuracy is somewhat compromised, so the most you can say is that something within 24" of a landmark is about to have a very bad day.
    • Chaos Daemons deploy after the enemy army is done setting up, or to paraphrase Sun Tzu they can discern the enemy's form while remaining formless. Unfortunately when they do deploy only half of the Daemonic army starts out on the board, with the rest having a random chance of turning up each subsequent turn.
    • Deep Striking in general works out like this. You can set down those drop troops or tunneling monsters anywhere on the board, but there's a chance that they'll deviate from the point you designate, and if they try to land in impassible terrain or an enemy unit they suffer Critical Existence Failure.
    • As a meta-example, certain players. Kids new to the hobby might have picked up whatever units they thought looked coolest (such as half-naked chicks wielding six-foot chainsaws) without having an inkling of what they're actually capable of. Other gamers might be trying out a wonky new army list, thrown together a kit almost at random, or are deliberately trying to baffle their opponents.
    • An in-universe example is found in the 5th Edition Necron Codex - Imotekh the Stormlord is an incredibly skilled general, bordering on prescience of his opponents' tactics, represented in-game to make him three times more likely than anyone else to steal the initiative and take the first turn due to him out-thinking and countering his opponents' plans. However, as an enemy without a plan can never be out-planned, he will always fail to steal the initiative against Orks due to the sheer impossibility of second-guessing total anarchy.
  • An old staple in Dungeons and Dragons, starting with 2nd edition, is the Wild Mage. Conceptually, his casting power level is modified by a die roll whenever casting a spell, and each spell has a small chance of producing a "wild surge", which is something completely random from a long list. The original list had 100 entries, but various fanmade lists on the Internet are far longer. Then he gets a spell that does nothing except produce a random effect. In 4th edition, this is severely toned down. The "Chaos Sorcerer" has numerous random effects (such as attacks that deal damage of a random element) but lacks true wild effects because they don't fit the strict ruleset, or because they would be disadvantageous to the caster. Usually a player character (and this can be highly frustrating to the other player characters), but there's nothing stopping the Dungeon Master from throwing one at you.
    • The new Chaos Sorcerer has an element of unpredictability in most of his attacks. Heck, every attack you make has a 10% chance of moving everyone on the battlefield either toward you or away from you.
    • Before that, there was the Wand of Wonder, which was Wild Magic on a Stick. Best used when desperate... or bored.
    • The Wild Mage in D&D Miniatures also has the Wild Surge, but its effect simply modifies spell damage. Contrasted with the Green Slaad, a chaos monster whose spells also have random effects but could include fireballing your own army.
    • Speaking of Slaadi, as embodiments of pure chaos they do everything this way. This should certainly include fighting.
      • In 2nd Edition Planescape, Slaadi were discussed as having utterly chaotic personalities, but preferring to fight their enemies one-on-one is slugging matches just so each individual would prove how tough he was.
    • Planescape in its various expansions discussed how Confusion Fu was actually a weakness of the tanar'ri (demons). Their unpredictability meant they couldn't get together and make a plan against their enemies, as they'd go off and do whatever they felt like. Even a bad plan is better than disorder, and their enemies (the devils) usually had excellent plans. Every once in a while, the tanar'ri would do something absolutely brilliant out of sheer chaos, but most of the times they simply relied on We Have Reserves.
    • A 3rd edition sourcebook included "Drunken Boxer" as a Prestige Class.
    • In Pathfinder and editions 1-3.5, an inexperienced player playing an illusionist will have trouble figuring out what to do with the class. A good illusionist will have the party's enemies chasing shadows, running into walls, falling off cliffs, and attacking their allies by mistake long before reaching 5th level. Unlike some Confusion Fu classes, the illusionist has to confuse his enemies with well-controlled and clever use of his powers, not rely on randomness.
  • Paranoia has the infamous Probability Grenade, which can and do end sessions in a TCK (that's Total Complex Kill, yup). The list, however, is so off the wall that it can only go here. You will learn to fear result 00 (which puts what happens entirely in the hands of the Game Master).
  • Feng Shui has a martial arts style based upon consuming alcohol. Yes, that's right consuming alcohol. Needless to say, some of those fights can get a little strange...
  • In Magic the Gathering, the flavor text for Spiraling Duelist alludes to this: "I never move the same way twice. The rotters can't grasp chaos."
  • In the game Flash Duel Most characters have abilities that strengthen or debuff their opponents in a fantasy style sparing match. Lum's abilities plays a different game all together. One ability allows the player to win for having a Poker Flush, or his other ability (out of three) gives your opponent a chance to forfeit the match to avoid losing the game!


Video Games

  • As a meta-example, ambiguous cross ups in most Fighting Games. If the player needs to hold the directional stick away from the opponent in order to block, the attacker can cross the opponent up by jumping to the opposite side of the opponent and attacking while the opponent is holding the stick in the wrong direction. An ambiguous cross up is when a player attacks directly on top of his opponent, so neither player can actually tell which direction the victim is supposed to block.
    • To a lesser extent, there is also the entire concept of mixups. Some attacks cannot be blocked in certain positions in order to prevent a player from endlessly holding block without fear of taking damage. Characters who can flow into multiple types of attacks make the defender have at least a 50-50 chance of correctly guessing what will come out next when simple reaction times aren't fast enough. The odds for the defender worsen when the attacker implement throws which must usually be broken with an input within a narrow time frame, delays to throw off any sense of rhythm, and cross ups (ambiguous or otherwise).
    • A simpler example are novice players who resort to random Button Mashing and yet sometimes score wins against more experienced players.
  • MMORPH Eve Online is notoriously immune to this, ship fittings are crucial to attaining victory, meaning ship fits done poorly will simply result in newbies being crushed (this is of course, a game where a group of low experience players can take down a veteran, since combat mechanics are not reliant on experience point total or reflexes). This is part of what makes the game infamous for its brutal learning curve.
  • It's this basic principle that occasionally lets inexperienced button mashers beat experienced players in fighting games (and other games) at least a few times. Skilled players and the AI are generally predictable, but it can be tricky fighting a flailing foe whose moves are often the worst in a normal situation.
  • 3D fighter maker.
  • Voldo in Soul Calibur. Very few characters in the series can keep up a volley of attacks at an opponent while facing the opposite direction. Or while prone. And then there's his variety of interesting grab attacks, the most acrobatic of which is occasionally known by the Fan Nickname of "Where's Voldo Now?"
    • Ditto with Yoshimitsu. Yoshimitsu's repertoire includes propeller-based flight, teleportation, healing himself from the Lotus Position, Seppuku, spinning until dizzy, using his swords as stilts or pogo sticks, and a health-draining face grab, to name a few. Sometimes several of the above occur at once, and the health-drain also unlocks limited usage of a small move pool consisting of an attack borrowed from each Tekken character.
    • Also applies to Maxi: he has seven different stances and different moves from them, making him difficult to read.
    • Can be used when playing Stance Roulette with Siegfried by rapidly switching between his 4 different stances and mixing up the attacks deployed from them.
    • While all of the aforementioned characters are using unconventional stances to make their movements hard to read, nobody epitomizes this trope in Soul Calibur more than Lord Geo "Le Bello" Dampierre, a con artist with a pair of punching daggers appearing in Broken Destiny and V. Dampierre's damage output is pitiful compared to most characters, his range is practically nil, and he tends to take a lot of damage from attacks. What Dampierre has going for him, however, is how utterly bizarre his attacks are. A number of his moves involve him hurting himself and falling over, but Dampierre is one of the only characters who's at his most dangerous sprawling on the ground; characters unfamiliar with his fighting style are likely to eat several dangerous low-line attacks or Dampierre's extremely long and surprisingly damaging attack throw. While virtually all of Dampierre's moves look utterly ridiculous, he can prove himself a Lethal Joke Character very quickly if someone just pays attention to him moonwalking, stubbing his toe during a kick, or russian dancing to air-juggle rather than the damage or ring-outs this can cause.
  • Kefka in Dissidia Final Fantasy. He doesn't shoot fireball at you; he tosses out fireballs that zig-zag to hit from the sides, or stop and change direction at random. He doesn't shoot an ice block at you; he shoots an ice block that stops partway through the air, then explodes into shrapnel. His meteors don't hit you, they hit around you and fly at you after bouncing on the ground. His EX Mode ability makes all of his attacks even crazier--his fireballs multiply after being thrown, that ice shrapnel homes in you on a second time after the initial shatter, and those meteors bounce in place when they land before zooming at you. There's a reason his fighting style is dubbed "Mad Mage".
    • The sequel, Dissidia 012, gave this attribute to Gilgamesh. With every melee attack, he picks a random weapon out of eight, each with varying effects. The Naginata has increased attack range, Masamune gives you double EX Force from hits, Excalibur does double damage and Excalipoor does one damage with every hit. However, unlike Kefka, Gilgamesh becomes more predictable in EX Mode, choosing a set of weapons and sticking with it until he reverts to his normal form.
  • Jack in Power Stone. He walks on all fours with knifes in his hands and feet and has surprisingly long reach despite his main weapon being daggers. His Power Stone form has the longest non-projectile reach and has giant chainsaw hands with unique combos.
  • Claymores in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 online are only dangerous when placed at precise angles around corners... or in the middle of the ground with no rhyme or reason.
  • Mr. Game & Watch and Wario in Super Smash Bros, thanks to his low-frame animations. Also, Game & Watch has genuine unpredictability in his Judgment attack.
    • Luigi, starting in Melee, is a mild case of this. Although he looks like Mario, his moves function notably differently, throwing many people off. Several of his moves are designed to come from nowhere, his Green Missile can randomly launch him at killer speeds, and several of his moves (most notably his forward+A on the ground) are designed to be longer than they look. His floaty nature and low traction make him hard to combo. Finally, his Final Smash move in Brawl is just plain weird, inflicting random status ailments on enemies (and inflicting sitar music on all the players).
    • Sonic is another mild case; the unpredictability comes from the sheer number of his moves that start with very similar spinning animations but do wildly different things and the fact that he can still attack after his recovery move.
      • In particular, the Smash Bros. Wiki has severe trouble in gauging Sonic's Tier level, since, while the character doesn't perform universally well in tournaments (unlike high tier characters, such as Meta Knight) Sonic performs so radically different depending on who is playing him that any kind of tier level is theoretical at best.
    • It also helps that, under certain circumstances, he can instantly shield out of some of his spins (during side-B's charge if it's not fully wound up, and during a down-B spindash if you're in the air and land).
      • Some of the characters, while otherwise predictable, have one or two moves that can mess with people's heads. Mario's cape attack flips the directions his enemies are facing, which can confuse new players that don't know why they suddenly attack attacking backwards. King Dedede's projectile normally is just a Waddle De, but has a small chance being a Waddle Do, a Spike ball, or an Item.
    • One of the reasons Meta Knight is the only one in S class in the tier list is that almost all of his special attacks can be used as recovery moves (on top of his five jumps) so it is impossible to predict how he will get back on the stage. Also his down B teleport move can really mess with people's heads.
    • And Lucario has insanely weird hitboxes.
    • Olimar uses Pikmin in all of his attacks. Each color of Pikmin has different properties, and when Olimar creates them, they spawn randomly. When Olimar performs an attack, the line cycles, so his next attack will use the next Pikmin in line. This means that different strategies open up depending on what order your Pikmin are in. Fun times for both players.
    • A meta-example (not unique to Super Smash Bros., but a good example) if using the random character select in tournaments - provided you're at least competent with all characters, your opponent not knowing who they're about to face until the last second can let you get the drop on them before they have a counter-strategy worked out.
      • Of course, if you run into someone who's Seen It All, expect to get trounced. (That is why most people stick to learning one or two characters.)
  • Brad Wong from Dead or Alive uses Drunken Boxing, making his movements indirect and unpredictable.
    • Due to the nature of the counter system in Dead or Alive, making your character do this is one of the most significant skills.
  • Guilty Gear
    • Faust. Three of his moves are explicitly random, one super involves swimming through concrete, and his Dust (a universal popup attack) has him become a tornado, change into a child with a baseball bat, smash the opponent, and tornado back. In XX, Venom challenges him to a fight on the grounds that he needs to train against someone who doesn't follow human logic.
    • Zappa. He's an ordinary man, who happens to be possessed by no fewer than seven different ghosts, and they do the fighting by using him as a puppet, leading to incredibly strange attacks and movements. He also randomly summons these ghosts one at a time, changing his moveset as he goes. While the player has no way of telling what ghost might pop up next, neither does the opponent.
  • Tekken:
    • Eddie Gordo (and his student Christie Montiero), with his weird capoeira ground-fighting moves, is sometimes impossible to predict unless you know his character inside and out. Not only that, most of the moves those characters use cannot be reversed. A random button masher using these characters is actually much harder to beat then someone who actually trying to do moves they plan on, until they truly master the character.
    • Lei Wulong has several different stances, plus a variety of moves that can be used from the ground or while facing the other direction.
    • Ling Xiaoyu also has two stances, some effective combos that hit someone behind her, and the ability to roll or cartwheel off to the side of her opponent.
    • Dr. Boskonovich from Tekken 3 has an unfortunate tendency to fall over for no apparent reason but capitalizes on it with several ground combos.
    • Mokujin. At the beginning of each round, he randomly chooses the moveset of a random character to fight with.
    • Zafina from 6. Her attacks are similar to Voldo from the Soul series in that her movement is highly unpredictable, full of extreme body contortions and sneaky attacks. Hitting her can also be challenging as she can get her body very low to the ground. Unfortunately, that hasn't saved her from being low tier.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Most Nobodies in have some degree of unpredictability, due to their random stretching and boneless flailing. Organization XIII members (in fact, any Nobodies resembling regular humans) don't have this advantage. Not that they need it.
    • The Mysterious Figure. You never know just how he'll two-shot you. Maybe he'll do his spear-whip two times in a row, or maybe he'll do his blade combos after it, or maybe his tornado attack. Or perhaps he'll use Megaflare and then some unavoidable thing before you can cast Curaga. Or maybe he'll just do a random combo of all of these while having ten copies of himself running around the field doing each their own thing as little balls of light fly around trying to stab you with more spears, lagging your PSP to high-heaven.
  • Pokémon:
    • Some Pokémon do this. Mew can learn all TM and HM moves in the game and has the stats to do fine in whichever archetype it needs. Smeargle takes this even further; while its stats are much worse, it learns Sketch, which permanently copies a move and can be used to learn any move that exists in the game. More subtly, there's Clefable in Gen. IV, whose new oh-so-abusable ability and large movepool allow for a ridiculous number of viable movesets, many of which are completely unique (while being kept from being a Game Breaker by mediocre stats).
    • Similarly, Arceus's ability, Multitype, allows it to become any one of the 17 elemental Pokémon types, providing that it is holding the corresponding plate for each type (i.e., Draco Plate for Dragon-type).
    • Salamence was arguably banned in Generation IV due to a minor case of this combined with being rather powerful in its own right. Its two primary sets, MixMence and DDMence, were almost exactly the same barring one move--Draco Meteor for MixMence and Dragon Dance for DDMence--and possibly different EV spreads. Each set had radically different counters, and its checks generally relied on either a choice item or Stealth Rock. Very little could counter both sets, and the few things that could had their own weaknesses.
    • Zoroark, introduced in Pokémon Black and White, evokes this at times, as its ability, Illusion, pushes players to carefully discern whether they are actually facing the Pokémon they are seeing or a Zoroark in disguise instead.
    • Metronome is an attack capable of causing the Pokémon to use any available move in the game. The move Assist has a similar but more controlled effect, as the Pokémon using it will pull off a random move from any of its party member's current movepools. Sleep Talk is a very minor example of this, as it uses one of the user's other moves at random.
      • Played with in the anime, where May's Munchlax and Skitty probably won more contests with Metronome and Assist (respectively) than without.
  • Bal-Baros in Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram can leave his arms and hip-guns floating anywhere around the stage, meaning his can hit you from unexpected angles if you're not careful.
  • Players in World of Warcraft who make active use of the Engineering profession for combat purposes often succumb to this. Most of their gadgets have a chance of backfiring, so an engineer toting a net launcher may snare a foe for several seconds, or launch themselves headfirst into melee with the foe. Rocket boots may yield a short but powerful burst of speed, or they may explode and hit everyone nearby. The shrink ray is guaranteed to change the size of something, but whether something grows or shrinks, and whether that something is the wielder or the target is up to chance.
    • Engineers fit this trope and the Glass Cannon one as well. Due to high cost and low profit margins, players who specialize in engineering are traditionally some of the poorest in the game, with the crappiest armor and weapons. Fighting one can be a Curb Stomp Battle or you can find yourself turned into a chicken and taking over 5000 damage from a death ray.
    • The randomness to Engineer craftables was eliminated with the second expansion; now everything works and is guaranteed to work. Perhaps to make up for that fact, everything was nerfed to hell.
  • In the online MMORPG Dofus, there's a class based on doing damage on the roll of a die or the flip of a coin called Ecaflip's Coin. Two attacks even go out and heal the target after it damages it.
  • Touhou character Marisa Kirisame does this in the fighting game spin-offs of the series, Immaterial and Missing Power and Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, with quick and annoying attacks that mess with combos, including the dreaded "Butt Attack".
    • The latest sequel added Suwako, who takes this trait and amps it to 11. Her default standing position is ducking, ducking makes her taller by summoning a lily pad underneath her, she air dashes by flapping her arms, she swims through the ground in both her ground dash and several of her moves, and many of her attacks involve summoning trees in various places. She does not even walk. She hops.
    • Both Scarlet Weather Rhapsody and Hisoutensoku involve some random factor because of the weather and deck system: The weather will mess with you depending on which one that comes up, while the deck system allows you to either change your moveset on the fly or use super moves at the cost of cards.
    • We might as well add Hong Meiling's final opponent. You've been fighting against typical opponents, all the while the background gradually becomes more simple in style. Then a giant catfish shows up. You already know the entire battle will be random.
    • Reisen Udongein Inaba has shades of this in both shooters and fighting games. In shooters, she uses bullets that can shift, turn, multiply, stop and/or become invisible mid-flight. In fighting games, her moveset is similarly built around deceptive attacks, like a missile whose explosion appears ahead of the missile itself, two physical attacks that look the exact same on startup, or a movement technique that creates copies of herself.
  • Punch Out's Aran Ryan, Wii version. He never holds still and slides all about the ring throwing in random punches. He's also a foul stinking cheat and incorporates headbutts, elbow strikes, horseshoes in his gloves and perhaps most blatantly of all a boxing glove on a rope that he swings around like a flail, into his attacks. Also, he's fucking crazy. We mentioned the crazy, right?
    • Every Minor (except Disco Kid) and Major Circuit fighter in Title Defense has some sort of feint, delayed attack, or other unpredictable movement, which is the main source of the mode's Nintendo Hard reputation.
  • Blaz Blue has the insane Eldritch Abomination Arakune, who fights much like you'd expect an insane blob-thing to fight. He can teleport, turn invisible, glide, fire out projectile clouds with random properties, and some of his moves are actually fake-outs for teleports.
    • Blaz Blue is made by the people who made Guilty Gear, home of the Trope picture. Arakune is even more crazy than he is. His unofficial nickname is "Where the F*** is he now?" because that's all anyone could say when they fought him after the initial release.
    • Now accompanied by Platinum the Trinity, who has six different modes to switch between. Her randomness is limited by the fact that her next mode can be seen by both players, but anything beyond that is as random as Zappa's ghosts.
  • Virtua Fighter. Shun Di, especially in VF 4 Evo: starts out predictable, but you get enough drinks in him, and there's basically no position he can't be a threat from.
    • Real ife example, certain VF players use a playstyle called abare which emphasizes using an unusual style outside of what is considered the safe way to play a character to win a match.
  • Dawn of War 2: In "Last Stand" mode, the hero Ork Mekboy has two types of teleporter armor. The standard "Teleporta Pack" allows controllable teleporting within a certain range. The other is the "Mad Teleporta Pack"; this grants the Reactive Escape and Reactive Teleport traits. The former trait is a 15% chance to teleport the mekboy to a random nearby location when the Mekboy is hit by a melee attack whilst the latter is a 50% chance to teleport the attacker to a random nearby location when the Mekboy is hit by a melee attack. The result of this is that when fighting a wave primarily composed of melee troops both you and your opponents are being more or less constantly teleported around the arena with absolutely no control over it. Its worth noting that from a practical perspective this is probably not a very helpful piece of equipment as it is just as likely to throw you into danger as get you out of it.
    • This has improved even further lately with the "Juiced up tellyporta" accessory which adds the "Ported!!" trait. Now the act of teleporting anything causes it to explode at the end of its journey. This includes both enemies and yourself. So now not only do melee enemies get randomly teleported away but the majority instantly die at the end of it in an explosion. And if you yourself get teleported you blow up anything you teleport into.
  • Lufia: The Legend Returns Ruby has a few moves that rely on pure chance, such as "Fortune Dice", which simply has randomized effects, and "Double Up", which makes you play a card-guessing game to increase the power of the attack - a good run can be incredibly devastating, but guess wrong even once and you get a laughably weak attack. Of course, she's a habitual gambler whom you meet in a casino.
  • Final Fantasy has the Gambler class. Gamblers use slot machines, dice, and other random factors in their special abilities, which sometimes produce awesomeness and sometimes... don't. Examples include Setzer, Cait Sith, Selphie, Wakka, and anyone using the class in Final Fantasy X 2.
    • Final Fantasy XI 's Corsair is a variation. Like the Bard, his job revolves around giving the party StatusBuffs, but he can make the make the buffs much more powerful with a "Double Down". Bad luck (or just being to greedy) can result in a "Bust", negating the buff.
    • To give you an idea of just how awesome the results can be, and how very far from awesome they can, these abilities typically include a One-Hit Kill attack on the entire enemy party. In some games it even works on bosses. In Final Fantasy VIII it works on the final boss. On the other hand, you can also end up activating a full-party One-Hit Kill against yourself. There are a wide variety of other possible outcomes, ranging from useless to decently helpful, which are all more common than either of the extreme outcomes.
  • Archer of Fate/stay night. He's an archer-class who prefers to Dual Wield swords in melee combat. His dress, weapons, and abilities do not match those of any known mythological hero, his personality is decisively non-heroic, and he has a magus-level knowledge of magical phenomenon, making it impossible to identify him. On top of this, he is shown to use multiple Noble Phantasms belonging to very different myths, in some cases even sundering the Phantasms as part of his attacks, normally a near-unthinkable, one-time Taking You with Me attack -- and no explanation as to where he acquired his Phantasms is forthcoming. Due to this, none of the other Servants can predict him, often giving him the advantage even though he statistically is one of the weakest of the Servants.
    • In addition, Kuzuki is master of an unconventional martial art that incorporates odd, hooked and snake-like movements: while this makes it less energy effective, attempting to dodge or block attacks as if they were straight punches from a "normal" style allows the user to hook back and pierce the opponents' defence, landing telling blows. Once the enemy sees through the unusual movement pattern, however, the style loses its effectiveness.
  • Dhalsim from Street Fighter is quite possibly the first fighting game character to use this style, as his various angled jump attacks and different teleportation moves make him great at screwing with the opponent's head.
    • Gen from the first Street Fighter onward has two different fighting styles that he switch on the fly, even when getting attacked, jumping, attacking, etc.. The fighting styles not only change his attacks, but also change his jump and walk physics, give him multiple supers (four at a time in Street Fighter IV), and change his standing and crouching hurtboxes. If a Gen player uses him just right (much, much easier said than done), the opponent will never be able to predict his next move.
    • In more recent versions, we're given Crimson Viper, El Fuerte and Abel, all introduced in Street Fighter IV, and each one whose primary gameplay revolves entirely around scoring a single knockdown and keeping your opponent in an endless guessing game.
  • Havok from Mortal Kombat Deception and Armageddon is basically Mortal Kombat's answer to Voldo: A rotting corpse that rotates its limbs and neck, making it extremely unpredictable and visually unsettling.
  • In the Mega Man Battle Network games that involve a light/dark system, one side effect of going dark is the ability to pull random Battle Chips out of goddamn nowhere. When you fight a DS Navi (most often MegaMan's own dark side), you can be moments from winning, only to get slaughtered by a GigaChip. But since this is random, DS Navis are just as likely to use low-level chips or miss you completely. If you choose to go dark yourself, you get the same ability in a modified form -- your dark side will take over when your HP runs out, fighting randomly for a while. In this case you'd better hope for good random draws, because you come out of berserk mode with just 1 HP.
  • Runescape has a small version of this; the Vyrewatch are a specific enemy that are normally undefeatable; it's said that they are able to read your mind so that they can predict your moves. Thus, you have to use an unpredictable weapon to land a strike on them. The Ivandis flail is a weapon which can only be controlled in a general sense - "swing it at that guy". Even the wielder can't tell where the blow will land, or from what angle, so the predictive telepathy is worse than useless.
    • Oddly, the more Vyrewatch you kill with the flail, the more skilled you become with it... but counterintuitively, this improves the flail's efficacy, rather than allowing you (and thus the telepathic Vyrewatch) to predict its movement better. A true straight playing of Confusion Fu would have the flail become slowly less effective as its wielder gained experience with it -- green recruits would be the best Vyre slayers, predictable veterans would be dead meat.
  • Battle Capacity has Kitsunoh and Fidgit. The former loves setting up traps with long-lasting projectiles and diagonal headbutts, while the second has insane combo ability with a long range launcher, an equally long range air catcher, and an airgrab.
  • In Defense of the Ancients, most heroes have four skills; three normal and one ultimate. The Invoker hero has three "reagents", which grant minor buffs life increased speed or damage or regeneration, and Invoke, which grants a skill based on which reagents are active. Since there are ten possible combinations and the effects include summoning, buffing, disabling, creating temporary walls, four different attack spells (one with unlimited range), and turning invisible, it's very difficult to tell what an Invoker will do next. Since the Invoker is limited to having two skills readied at a time, it also makes him Difficult but Awesome.
  • Mass Effect 2: This trope is directly discussed by Joker and EDI. While EDI can control the ship all by herself, the Normandy can achieve maximum performance if Joker is manning the helm due to the page quote.
  • The Rogue class in Dragon Age 2, even ignoring their skillset, have an unpredictable, acrobatic range to their attacks that make them impossible to counter. Adding in Subterfuge, Sabotage and Scoundrel gives them more means to sow confusion and keep on the move in battle.
  • The Japanese baseball game 98Koshien comes with an animation editor so players can customize their team's pitching animations. So much more needs to be said, but the words don't exist.
  • Hanataro from Bleach: Shattered Blade is a Joke Character who was given a story mode to fight through. Because of his ability to trip at the slightest change in wind direction, his attacks are completely unpredictable. His sword attacks heal his enemy, and the best way to beat the story mode is to trip and roll into your opponent to damage them, then run away until the match timer is over. He's not meant to be taken seriously, but he's still unpredictable.
  • While he's fairly straightforward in other aspects, Wukong from League of Legends has one move that uses this heavily: Decoy. It turns him invisible, but leaves a copy of him that explodes after a few seconds. If Wukong's opponents are not paying much attention he can make them just waste attacks and spells on his copy then get hurt by the following explosion. Or he can use the period of invisibility to get to cover, change directions after casting it to throw pursuers off his trail, not change directions because they'll think you did, and variations thereupon, or not cast it at all. The ability looks the same as if you had suddenly stopped moving, so some people will stop and their enemy will ignore the real Wukong to chase after an imaginary invisible one.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • The Spy can pretend to be other classes, of both his team and of his enemies, forcing the enemy team to waste ammo on anybody and being paranoid about everybody. They can also use a alternate cloaking items to drop fake body when hit, making it hard to tell if you killed the Spy or he is invisible and about to backstab you.
    • The Scout can double jump. This doesn't sound impressive, but a good Scout is a nightmare to deal with, being able to change direction while in the air and be impossible to hit, or SEE. And because of his high speed, you can never be sure whether a Scout is genuinely running away or circling around to ambush you again.
    • An increasingly common tactic with the Engineer is to put his mini-sentries in random places that make no sense outside of how unexpected they are, and then put up a new one in a different location as soon as the old one is destroyed.
  • Peacock from Skullgirls is an Ax Crazy Toon who uses a huge variety of weapons and absurd objects pulled out of Hammerspace to attack her foe with. She pulls out pies, Bang Flag Guns, mallets, chainsaws and more for close-range hits. She shoots Abnormal Ammo out of her revolver, tosses walking bombs around, and can pull out a full-fledged cannon for long-ranged hits. On top of that, she has a veritable cornuciopia of random items she can summon from the sky to fall on her foe, from flower pots to pianos to steamrollers and more. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • You're practically forced to fight this way in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword; sword-wielding enemies are very good at blocking deliberate sword strikes from any direction. To hit them, you must either fool them into thinking you're swinging in one direction and then actually swing in a different direction (which is pretty tricky), or swing randomly like a maniac until you hit them.
  • In World of Tanks, one of the best ways to use the nimblest light tanks, especially the T-50-2, is being as "random" as possible in maneuvering once shots start firing. Hitting them becomes incredibly difficult, and they're known for their ability to sneak past large columns of tanks to strike at the weak artillery in the rear.
    • Also used by Camoflauge-centeric Tank destroyers, Basically their tactics connsist of picking the most inane spot possible, holing up in there and waiting for someone to pass by so they can blow him/her wide open with a High caliber gun.
      • this includes abusing the physics engine to hang over a cliff and shoot things under it, Blow up a building to use it as cover, and even just sitting somewhere if they have a high enough camo rating
  • Patty Fleur in the PlayStation 3 version of Tales of Vesperia. Almost all of her attacks have random effects, some of which can actually end up damaging herself or the entire party. The things used for said attacks are just random, including a mini rocket ship she can ride out of the battlefield, presents with harmful "gifts" in them, a frying pan, and mahjong pieces.


Web Comics

  • Nemen Yi, the Chosen of Battles in Keychain of Creation, fights using a unorthodox Sidereal Martial Arts style that involves Medium Awareness and Breaking the Fourth Wall, literally. She jumps between panels of the comic strip, breaks off a piece of the gutter to throw at an enemy (which then pins them in place, because the gutter doesn't move), tosses her opponents across panels, and uses the perspective of the comic to hit enemies out of her reach -- the Real Life equivalent of "I squish your head". It's enough to utterly baffle her Abyssal opponents, with whom she mops the floor quite handily. It doesn't hurt that, in Exalted, Sidereals can make themselves impossible to predict by most people.
    • She also looks down towards the following panels of the comic to see what will happen in the future. Yep, Sidereals.
  • Lord Sykos from The Wotch is particularly dangerous because, though his moves are random, each individual move is also incredibly clever and effective, showing a keen understanding of the psychology of most magicians.
  • Vriska of Homestuck is armed with the Fluorite Octet, a set of eight eight-sided dice that "execute a wide range of highly unpredictable attacks" when rolled; the higher the roll, the more powerful and lucky the attack. It's implied this is a bit of a double-edged sword, as getting a low roll against a sufficiently powerful opponent would leave the attacker defenseless. However when she rolls the highest possible number, 8^y (where y=8), she channels the fighting soul of her ancestor and is able to go toe to toe with an omnipotent super being, something NONE of the readers saw coming


Web Original

  • Superheroic teenager Random from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe gains a new set of superpowers every time he wakes up. This makes it impossible for his opponents to plan ahead when confronting him, as they never know what he's going to be capable of.
  • Appears on The Guild. Kwan is revealed to be a champion-level gamer in Korea. He was defeated by Mr. Wiggly, who seemingly picked his spells at random -- including spells so unorthodox that Kwan hadn't bothered defending against them.
  • This Surviving the World comic advocates this strategy for Rock-Paper-Scissors.
  • Crazy Awesome Jade Sinclair (Generator) of the Whateley Universe seems to live this trope. Up against a mercenary in power armor? She beat him by first stabbing herself on his blade. Up against an unbeatable holographic simulation? She invented the Radioactive Condor Girl attack.
    • Although plenty of Team Kimba characters have tried this move at least once. Fey, opposing The Necromancer and a host of prepared spells his minion Nightgaunt was firing at her back, opted for an uncontrolled release of wild magic that manifested as hundred of hobgoblins she had no control over.


Western Animation

  • In an episode of Captain Planet, Dr. Blight's evil computer MAL takes over an environmental simulation and is able to block out the protagonists' attempts to regain control. Then Wheeler steps in to confuse it into submission by randomly inputting commands into the terminal, like he had done earlier in the episode.
  • Darkwing Duck: Crazed toymaker Quackerjack. In addition to his deadly toys, his sheer instability and unexpected acrobatics make him as much of a challenge as the other members of the Fearsome Five.
  • The episode of South Park where Cartman thinks he died plays with this, in that Cartman actually intended to use his ghostly spookyness as the tactic. However, being that Cartman was entirely visible, what the criminals saw definitely qualifies as this trope.
  • In the ThunderCats (2011) episode "The Duelist and the Drifter" Rascally Rabbit and Trickster Mentor the Drifter befuddles opponents with his Dance Battler brand of Not Quite Flight Nonchalant Dodging that involves drifting on currents of wind like a leaf, and also employs Brandishment Bluffs, heavily exploiting the reflexive movements of those who attack him.


Real Life

  • "The world's best swordsman need only fear its worst, because he has no idea what that idiot will do." See the Quotes page.
  • Often seen in the chess world. Many's the amateur who succeeds through offbeat play, and even at the grandmaster level, some players favour bizarre openings like 1. b4. A 19th-century example, William Potter, is described in Lasker's Manual of Chess:

 Potter probably saw through the emptiness and the presumption of the style then dominating and with his style of play he seemed to call out to his contemporaries: "You want to beat me right from the start by force of your greater genius? Look! I make ridiculous moves, and yet you cannot beat me. Become, I pray you, more modest and more reasonable."

    • Though not nearly as often as popular culture would think it happens. While you can certainly irritate grandmasters with offbeat variants in the opening, leading them astray from their vast knowledge (and often crazy preparedness) about mainstream openings, trying confusion fu later in the game will way more often than not lose you the game in a single move without you even realizing it. The problem is that the general knowledge (as opposed to the specific knowledge of Lasker's time) got way more advanced during the last centennium.
  • Douglas Adams invoked this trope when he coined the word "Aboyne", which he described as "To beat an expert at a game of skill by playing so appallingly bad that none of his clever tactics or strategies are of any use to him."
  • Bruce Lee was in fact a huge advocate of this trope:

 Become unpredictable, strike from your subconscious mind, let your moves flow out from your individual essence. Even the most masterful opponent will fall from a strike that has no history or reference, the moves created from your own individual unique essence may surprise even you.

  • "Beginner's luck" may sometimes come from this -- in a game of moves, counter-moves and counter-counter-moves, sometimes the correct move against a professional is the most basic one. Until he dials down his strategy, of course.
  • Chess playing computers play like this -- not bound to any strategy or school, but simply by picking the moves that will, in the long run, have the greatest chance of success. Or should have... Kasparov did win his 3rd and 4th games in a 4-game match against a computer by ensuring that there was no positive history for the computer to rely on in the games they'd played--and going into purer Shrodinger Fu than the computer was designed for netted him a win while playing black.
  • There are a handful of baseball pitchers who throw the knuckleball. Essentially throwing the ball with no spin, allowing the imperfections (mostly the seams) to determine the flight path. Such pitches are so unpredictable (even the pitcher doesn't know what will happen, the catcher usually wears an oversize mitt to help snag them), that some batters take the day off rather than have their timing and instincts ruined for the next several games.
    • A handful? Try 2. Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox, and R. A. Dickey of the New York Mets. And Wakefield is forty-five years old.
    • Even more so is the Spitball. It's actually banned from most professional leagues for its sheer unpredictability, which can kill a man, although that wasn't so much unpredictability as invisibility. It's equivalent is still legal in Cricket, with certain exceptions (gouging the ball with your fingernails, for instance, is unacceptable while spitting on one side and polishing the other is no issue)
  • The Wildcat Formation in American Football. There are four main plays (two rushing, two passing) that can be run from the Wildcat Formation, and all of them look exactly the same until the play is actually executed, making it difficult for the defense to anticipate what they must do.
    • The Wildcat is an interesting example. After seeing Ronnie Brown and the Miami Dolphins paste the recently near-undefeated New England Patriots with the Wildcat in 2008, several other teams misunderstood the reason it worked (the Dolphins simply surprised the Patriots with a scheme they had not thought to prepare for) and began to implement the Wildcat into their normal offensive playbooks. Once defensive coaches had a few weeks to study the Wildcat, defenses adjusted to counter the Wildcat and offenses designed around it were stopped cold. Today, the Wildcat is almost entirely out of vogue... which means that if a team is very careful about using it sparingly, it can still be an effective surprise attack.
    • There are a surprising number of Confusion Fu techniques in American Football, and almost every play utilizes them to some extent. A quarterback can use his eyes to fool an unsuspecting defensive player to think he will throw in a certain direction. The pump fake is often used in the same way. He may also alter his pre-snap cadence to make it harder for the defense to time the snap. Running backs will follow a blocking pattern until the defense adjusts to it, and then cut back and run the other way. Receivers will make moves to throw a defensive back off his coverage. Skilled defenders are just as capable of utilizing confusion by continually moving before the snap, or lining up in an apparent zone and then blitzing through linemen not expecting a strong pass rush. There is no team sport which is as intensely strategic as American football.
  • Maurice "Rocket" Richard was once asked in an interview how he planned his shots on goal. He answered along the lines of "If I don't know what shot I'm going to make, how will the goalie?"
  • Pick a combat sport or martial art, any of them, from boxing to competitive martial arts to fencing, and this trope is partially in effect. To an expert, first-timers are tougher than beginners; first-timers are often so bad, all that expert's hard-won skill is thrown off by helpless flailing. Someone with no training and no understanding of the sport likely will do better (though still lose) than a beginner with some training. Becoming good means passing through a phase of drilling basic movements - and that makes a beginner highly predictable to an expert. This can be a difficult problem for an instructor. "You're really improving," sounds hollow when they did "better" their first time.
    • In addition to using strategies that an expert would find unpredictable, there's also the safety issue. Martial arts vary in how much contact is acceptable, but competitors don't generally try to hurt each other. Whether a beginner will pull a punch and make light contact, miss entirely, or knock his or her opponent on the ground is hard to predict, even for the beginner himself.
    • A completely untrained person relies upon natural athleticism, even if they don't know what they're doing. This grants them a fluidity and lack of hesitation that beginners have to surrender and experts relearn. Once an expert has technique and fluidity, on the other hand...
  • In poker, the most dangerous players at the table are the ones who always call and raise at random. It's impossible to tell whether they have a good hand, so calling their raise is a very risky business – but at the same time, folding means you'll lose your earlier investment when they could easily just be sitting on a high card.
    • Aside from that, online players who sit down at physical tables tend to completely ignore their opponents' physical expressions and focus on their betting patterns, simply because you can't read people online. This tends to throw off live players, though it can also create an exploitable weakness because the online players don't train themselves to get rid of their own tells.
  • Sun Tzu was a proponent of this, though he referred to "orthodox strategies" and "unorthodox strategies"; in fact, he said that implementing orthodox strategies at unexpected times was an unorthodox strategy in and of itself.
  • Retired fighter Genki Sudo owed most of his striking success to this tactic, being primarily a grappler. It was awesome to watch.
  • Fighter pilots during the World Wars remarked that "experienced" pilots were easier to shoot down, as they were in greater control of their motions, making them predictable, while greener pilots tended to skid and flail all over the sky.
  • Mansour Bahrami is a tennis player known for his crazy fake outs and trick shots. It is a sight to behold.
  • The Karate school Genseiryu is a more controlled version of Confusion Fu; while it doesn't employ the outright random attacks of many examples on this page, the style is founded on the idea of the practitioner gaining the advantage over his opponent by making his movements and attacks difficult for his opponent to read or predict.
  • Drunken Boxing runs on this - it's meant to be hard to predict, using flowing movements that emulate a drunken stagger.

Notes

  1. Other than his mastery of Hanage Shinkin, that is.
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