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When a character decides to sacrifice himself or herself in order to save their friends or the world, but knew perfectly well that the opportunity to do so would occur. Sometimes, they even plan out the situation so that their own friends will end up killing them.

Maybe they're an Apocalypse Maiden, Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds or Person of Mass Destruction. Maybe they committed a horrible crime and could never get it out of their mind. Either way, they're convinced that their death will make things better, whether it be for them or their friends. Just before they die, the good guys usually discover his ploy and begin to panic, one of them usually saying "You planned this all along, didn't you?"

This trope is specifically about one character that believes their death will make things better and tries to go through with it - not about someone who decides to take others with them when they die.

Whether they survive or not depends on the kind of story.

Related to Driven to Suicide, Thanatos Gambit and Heroic Sacrifice. A specific variant is One-Way Trip. When a character has died long before and is revealed to have done one of these, they're a Silent Scapegoat.

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

Examples of Self-Sacrifice Scheme include:


Anime and Manga

  • In Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden, Urumiya Tegu's plans to release his imprisoned brother Urumiya Hagas and let him inherit the full Genbu Senshi position involved pulling this. And it worked.

Film

  • In Stargate, Jack O'Neil reveals toward the end that the reason why they brought a nuclear bomb with them was so he could detonate it and destroy the Stargate from the other end in case they encountered a hostile world that wished Earth harm. The reason he's willing to nuke himself? His son accidentally killed himself with his gun and he spends the whole film dealing with it.

Literature

  • The Bittersweet Ending of the second Nightrunner book had one. At the climax, it's revealed that Nysander, the only one who knew the full prophecy, has to die in order for the Artifact of Doom to be destroyed. He knew this all along, and set up Seregil to kill him. Cue Heroic BSOD on Seregil realizing this.
  • Dumbledore's plot to have Snape kill him in Harry Potter.
  • Of course, Jesus.
  • A Tale of Two Cities Sydney Carton
  • A lot of the more sympathetic Sith in the Star Wars Expanded Universe try to grasp at power so that the current government will be stronger for defeating them.
  • In the second book of The Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss goes into the Quarter Quell fully intending to protect Peeta for as long as possible, die, and let him win and survive, both because she feels that she owes him (since he and Haymitch worked to keep her alive in the previous Hunger Games) and because she thinks he would be more useful in uniting the rebels and aiding the revolution against the Capitol. As it turns out, the rebels manage to get both of them, along with a few others, out of the arena alive.
  • In The Vampire Diaries Elena makes a bargain with Elijah, with him carefully phrasing the agreement to exclude her. It turns out the specific terms were noted, and accepted anyway.
  • Kelsier gets one of these at the end of the first Mistborn novel - planning to make himself appear godlike by allowing a shapeshifter to take his place after being very obviously killed in battle.

Live Action Television

Manga and Anime

  • Code Geass Lelouch takes over the world and becomes an oppressive dictator who violates human rights like he's going for a world record. Then his (former) friend assassinates him publicly and becomes a hero to literally the entire world for freeing them from Lelouch. Little do they know, it was his plan. By uniting the world under his friend, Lelouch ushers in world peace.
  • In Naruto it turns out this was part of Itachi's plan to protect Sasuke and make him stronger.
  • Nabari no Ou: Raikou tells Gau that he'd kill him if Raimei was told the truth about their clan's annihilation. Gau decides that it's worth it.
  • Saint Seiya Shun comes up with this when he was possessed by Hades. However, his plan was adverted due to his brother not willing to bring himself to kill his brother.

Videogames

  • Tales of Symphonia had two. The first happened when Colette tried to sacrifice herself to become an angel and save Sylvarant. Lloyd and co. saved her. The second one happened later in the game, in the Tower of Salvation, when there is a trap and Genis helps Lloyd to escape.
  • Irving in Wild Arms 2 does this. Heroic Sacrifices are a family legacy for him, and the entire game is a Thanatos Gambit so that he can seal a living universe in a person-shaped can and then have the heroes step on that can. Bonus What the Hell, Hero? points for dragging his sister along with him. The heroes are not happy when they find this out.
  • Adam in Metroid: Other M. He even incapacitates Samus so she can't overpower him and object to him doing so! In the postgame, this is given slightly more explanation when a flashback to Adam in the control room is shown and Samus is talking to MB about going to the control room to destroy the Metroids, which Adam soon decided to go in her place.
  • Stocke spends the last part of Radiant Historia with one of these, knowing that as the ritually prepared sacrifice he is the only one who can halt the Desertification. If you get the Golden Ending it's subverted, however, as Heiss (who would have been the last sacrifice if he hadn't run away) willingly makes the sacrifice in his place.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2: Serah finds out that saving the timeline would have side effects due to her seeress abilities, but goes ahead anyway. Guess what happens after the Big Bad is defeated.

Webcomics

  "And in case it wasn't clear, I won't be coming back."

    • It turns out that Rose just intends to use her dreamself. As Dave says, "those fuckers are all kinds of mad expendable". (Although, if you ask Jade...)
      • Things just got a lot worse for Rose. Her realself was killed by Jack Noir, so if she uses her dreamself that way, it's curtains for her..
      • Eventually Rose and Dave (who also lost his real-self) argue over who gets to sacrifice themselves to destroy the Green Sun. Ultimately they both get stuck doing it, but then it's completely subverted. First is the timely appearance of their Quest Beds, which let's them Come Back Strong. Second is that they actually create the Green Sun.
  • Cassandra Kam, a graduate student Tales Of Gnosis College, arranges to feed herself to an exotic creature, possibly a Blob Monster. She implies in a final statement that she has a serious and beneficent reason for doing this, although it isn't specified to the audience.

Web Originals

  • In Survival of the Fittest, Ethan Kent manages this by rigging up a power system that would activate the island's only computer, but upon realising he could do it, he also realised that doing so would alert Danya. What he does is insult Feo Smith, his only travelling companion, into leaving him, writes down the instructions on how to turn on the computer, and smashes all the cameras in the location, thus provoking Danya into blowing his collar. Feo and another group of intended escapees manage to find the location of the island, manages to signal it out, and eventually, counter-terrorist group STAR, who have been searching for the island this entire time, manage to hold the terrorist headquarters hostage, get to the island, and rescue most of the students left alive.
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