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No, no, not that infamous rule of the internet. The OTHER thirty six stratagems, used both in real warfare and by "corporate warriors", attributed to Sun Tsu (of The Art of War fame), though he probably never came up with such a list (especially since the names of several strategies reference events from long after his death). That said, quite a lot of these are either included in The Art of War or immediately deducible from it.

Alternatively, and slightly more credibly, attributed to Zhuge Liang. Yes, that Zhuge Liang. Apparently he was such a great strategist that a book of strategies naturally had to have his name on it (he was also such a great strategist he got retconned to being a full-on sorcerer).

Strategy 36 most likely came first as the advice of a strategist: "Of the thirty-six (i.e. various) schemes, a tactical retreat would be the wisest course of action". Later generations would then fill in the other thirty five using famous battles from Real Life or Historical Fiction.

More than a few of these may be considered dirty fighting.

The stratagems are traditionally divided into six groups, for the situations in which they are best used. This page uses the translated names for the groupings taken from Lure the Tiger Out of the Mountains: The Thirty-Six Stratagems of Ancient China, a compilation of the following in full-length book form written by Gao Yuan (and sadly now out of print). The names of the stratagems themselves have varied translations.

These strategems are some of The Oldest Tricks in The Book.


The List:

Strategems When Commanding Superiority

  1. Deceive the heavens and cross the ocean: Mask your real goals with a fake goal until your aims are achieved; the enemy will be so annoyed with the constant false alarms that they will consider future alarms Somebody Else's Problem. (This rule is also used as a Chinese aphorism for "to pull the wool over someone's eyes".)
  2. Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao: Avoid a head on battle with a strong enemy, and instead strike at his weakness (for example, a weaker ally) elsewhere.
  3. Kill With a Borrowed Knife: Cause damage to the enemy by getting a third party to do the deed or causing an Enemy Civil War.
  4. Substitute Leisure for Labor: Have your troops well-prepared for battle, in the same time that the enemy is rushing to fight against you, ideally resulting in their exhausted troops running into your fresh soldiers on the terms of your choosing.
  5. Loot a Burning House: The best time to attack an opponent is when they have their own problems to deal with. But do not linger too long, lest you be trapped inside that house.
  6. Clamor in the East, Attack in the West: Get the enemy to focus his forces elsewhere, and then attack a position that would be weakly defended.

Stratagems for Confrontation

  1. Create Something from Nothing: Make somebody believe there was something when there is in fact nothing, or vice versa (i.e. lie like a rug).
  2. Openly Repair the Walkway, but Sneak through the passage of Chencang: Deceive the enemy with an obvious approach that will take a very long time, while surprising him by taking a shortcut and sneak up to him.
  3. Observe the Fire from the Opposite Shore, or Sit on the Mountain and Watch the Tigers Fight: Delay entering the field of battle until all the other players have become exhausted fighting amongst themselves, then go in at full strength and pick up the pieces.
  4. Hide a Knife behind a Smile: Charm and endear yourself to your enemy. When you have gained his trust, move against him in secret. (This rule is also used as a Chinese aphorism for someone with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.)
  5. Sacrifice the Plum Tree to Preserve the Peach Tree: Sacrifice short-term objectives in order to gain the long-term goal. (Peaches are associated with immortality; see eg. Journey to the West.)
  6. Take the Opportunity to Pilfer a Goat: While carrying out your plans, be flexible enough to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself, however small, and avail yourself of any profit, however slight. (This is also used as an aphorism for Stealing From the Till or the Five-Finger Discount.)

Stratagems for Attack

  1. Beat the Grass to Startle the Snake: Do something without aim, but make it so spectacular to provoke a response of the enemy, thereby giving away his plans or position, or just taunt him. Do something unusual, strange, and unexpected as this will arouse the enemy's suspicion and disrupt his thinking. However, an imprudent act will give your position or intentions away to the enemy.
  2. Borrow a Corpse to Resurrect the Soul: Revive something from the past by giving it a new purpose, or reinterpret it to your advantage.
  3. Lure the Tiger Down From the Mountain: Lure an opponent away from his field of advantage, thus separating him from his source of strength.
  4. To Catch Something, First Set it Free: Cornered prey will often mount a final Desperation Attack; to prevent this, you let the enemy believe he still has a chance for freedom.
  5. Toss out a Brick to attract Jade: Bait someone by making him believe he gains something or just make him react to it and obtain something valuable from him in return.
  6. To Capture the Bandits, capture their Leader: If the enemy's army is strong but is allied to the commander only by money or threats, then take aim at the leader; the rest of the army will disperse or come over to your side. If, however, they are allied to the leader through loyalty, then beware, the army can continue to fight on after his death out of vengeance.

Stratagems for Confused Situations

  1. Steal the Firewood from under the Pot: Take out the leading argument or asset of your target, denying your enemy the resources needed to oppose you.
  2. Stir up the Waters to catch a Fish: Create confusion and use this confusion to further your own goals.
  3. Slough off the Cicada's Golden Shell: Create an illusion to fit your goals and distract others. (A secondary meaning for this rule would be Faking the Dead.)
  4. Shut the Door to catch the Thief: If you have the chance to completely capture the enemy then you should do so, thereby bringing the battle or war to a quick and lasting conclusion.
  5. Befriend a Distant State while attacking a Neighbour: When you are the strongest in one field, your greatest threat is from the second strongest in your field, not the strongest from another field, and thus the distant neighbor will make a good ally, however temporary.
  6. Obtain Safe Passage to conquer the state of Guo: Borrow the resources of an ally to attack a common enemy. Once the enemy is defeated, use those resources to turn on the ally that lent you them in the first place.

Stratagems for Gaining Ground

  1. Replace the Beams with Rotten Timbers: Disrupt the enemy's formations, interfere with their methods of operations, change the rules which they are used to following, go contrary to their standard training.
  2. Point at the Mulberry tree, but curse the Locust: To discipline, control, or warn others whose status or position excludes them from direct confrontation; use analogy and innuendo. Without directly naming names, those accused cannot retaliate without revealing their complicity.
  3. Feign Madness but Keep your Balance: Hide behind the mask of a fool, a drunk, or a madman to create confusion about your intentions and motivations.
  4. Remove the ladder once the enemy has ascended to the roof: With baits and deceptions, lure your enemy into treacherous terrain, then cut off his lines of communication and avenue of escape; to save himself, he has to fight both your own forces and the elements of nature.
  5. Deck the Tree with False Blossoms: Through the use of artifice and disguise, make something of no value appear valuable; of no threat appear dangerous; of no use appear useful.
  6. Exchange the roles of Host and Guest: Usurp leadership in a situation where you are normally subordinate. Infiltrate your target. Initially, pretend to be a guest to be accepted, but develop from inside and become the owner later.

Stratagems for Desperate Straits

  1. The Beauty Trap: Send your enemy beautiful women to cause discord within his camp. This strategy can work on three levels: First, the ruler becomes so enamored with the beauty that he neglects his duties and allows his vigilance to wane; second, other males at court will begin to display aggressive behavior that inflames minor differences hindering co-operation and destroying morale; third, other females at court, motivated by jealousy and envy, begin to plot intrigues, further exacerbating the situation.
  2. The Empty Fort Strategy: When the enemy is superior in numbers and your situation is such that you expect to be overrun at any moment, then drop all presence of military preparedness and act calmly so that the enemy will think you have hidden reserves and want to trap them into the fort.
  3. Let the Enemy's own spy sow discord in the Enemy camp: Undermine your enemy's intelligence-gathering abilities by using his own spies against him or planting your own agents among his.
  4. Injure yourself to gain the Enemy's trust: Pretending to be injured has two possible applications. In the first, the enemy is lulled into relaxing his guard since he no longer considers you to be an immediate threat. The second is a way of ingratiating yourself with your enemy by pretending the injury was caused by a mutual enemy.
  5. Chain Stratagems: In important matters, one should use several stratagems applied simultaneously after another as in a chain of stratagems. Keep different plans operating in an overall scheme; however, in this manner if any one strategy fails, then the chain breaks and the whole scheme fails.
  6. If all else fails, Retreat: The best battle is one fought with your side never having to mobilize, but if it becomes obvious that your current course of action will lead to defeat, then retreat and regroup.
Examples of The Thirty-Six Stratagems include:


Anime and Manga

  • Light Yagami of Death Note fame has used AT LEAST #3. He manipulated events so that Rem would kill Watari and L in order to protect Misa. Because of this, Rem died, too. The end result was that Light removed three obstacles from his way, one of which was the 'borrowed knife' part of the equation. L and Near seemed fond of #26, too.
  • Sousuke Aizen of Bleach has done so many of these it's scary.
    • 1 is what he attempted to do to Soul Society when Orihime was captured, claiming that her powers were "interesting" to him. However, they anticipated this and refused to save her. Unfortunately Leeroy Jenkins Ichigo and his True Companions didn't catch on, and so they took the bait, and charged on to Hueco Mundo, leaving Soul Society to lose a military asset Made clearer when revealed he's the only one powerful enough to challenge Aizen directly because hasn't seen his shikai, and the former having to send four Shinigami captains to bail him and the others back, only for Aizen to reveal he's after Karakura Town anyway, so it was good that Ichigo decided to save the Distressed Damsel, and Soul Society to halve its military might.
    • 2 again is the capturing of Orihime, and as outlined in 1, this was Serious Business for the good guys.
    • 3 is what he did to Soul Society (make all the captains suspicious of each other and focus on the invading Ryoka) and diminish their forces during the Fake Karakura town arc by using the Espada.
    • 4 is why he told the Espada to stay in their rooms when Ichigo and co invaded. Kinda-sorta worked.
      • More accurately, alongside the top three Espada (and their Fraccion) he brought to decimate Karakura Town/battle Soul Society, he revealed he had more Arrancar threats in the form of Wonderweiss, who in turn brought Fura with him. Keep in mind that it was a challenge in itself simply of Soul Society to defeat the Fraccion, let alone the Espada alongside them (by then they were still not killed) and Soul Society was already worn out. This was somewhat rectified with the appearance of the Vizards. However, their appearence just about allowed SS to kill the Espada (Apart from Harribel), and they're beginning to tire out as well, and now have to deal with Aizen himself and his Dragon Gin. This also works for Ichigo, his Nakama and the four captains in Hueco Mundo who had taken out six Espada together. The former is definitely running low on batteries as he heads back. But he's receiving help in that department as well...
    • 5 definitely is shown when he just walks up and takes the Hogyoku out of Rukia while all the captains were busy fighting each other, and just realized he was a traitor.
    • 6 was attempted, but failed. It was his ploy for trapping four captains in Hueco Mundo, but then he found the other six waiting for him.
      • Succeeded during the Soul Society arc, however, where Aizen took advantage of the Drifters invasion to create distractions and false alarms, thus splitting and confusing the captains. By the time the captains became aware of Aizen's treachery, it was too late, he was able to assemble on Soukyoku Hill, capture Rukia, steal the Hougyoku and enable Hueco Mundo to break into Soul Society at that point to ensure Aizen's escape via negaccion. The captains caught on just in time to save Rukia's life and shout impotent threats at him as he departed.
    • 7 is the entire basis of his Zanpaktou. Plain old lies and deceptions are also well within his repertoire.
    • 8 is his strategy with attacking Karakura Town before the Hogyoku fully awakens and he finds the Vasto Lordes.
      • He also did this in the Sereitei, which was somewhat successful, in the sense while didn't get the spoils of killing any Shinigami, he did gain his objective, the Hogyoukou.
    • 9 is his entire strategy with the Arrancar. The only people he showed any concern for were himself, Gin and Tousen and not even those two since he murders both.
    • 10 is Aizen's lifeblood. Everyone loved him and was shocked to hear that he defected. Gin seems to subvert this, as he's always smiling, but he just creeps people out. Of course, this is later reverted when it turns out that Gin's knife was for Aizen the whole time.
    • 11, attempted by Aizen with Momo. Interesting when you consider the name of her Zanpaktou (based on plum trees) and her given name (based on the peach)...
    • 13 was his verbal attack on the Vizards after the Espada is eliminated, though Shinji warned everyone to stay calm, Hiyori fell for it by losing her temper and charging, thus getting slashed into two by Gin from the back.
    • 14, Oh yeah! Did he EVER! Stealing an obscure MacGuffin from an exiled Shinigami, which was used to save people's lives by integrating them into complete Shinigami/Hollow hybrids when they were infected lost for 100 years, and hidden in the most unlikely of places, to use to create an army of Arrancar and in his words, "take himself to a higher level".
    • 15 was tried when Aizen attempted to use Wonderweiss to separate Yamamoto from his zanpakutou, seen as the major source of Yamamoto's strength. Failed because Aizen underestimated just how offensively strong Yamamoto was without his zanpakutou. He was able to defeat Yamamoto but his intention had been to kill him and that he couldn't do.
    • 19 was done against Barragan when first recruiting an arrancar army in Hueco Mundo. Aizen distracted Barragan with talk while bringing him under his shikai's sway rendering Barragan incapable of noticing that Gin and Tousen were taking out Barragan's army. When Barragan (as Aizen expected) rejected Aizen and demanded his death, Aizen revealed that Barragan's army had been slain and he was now a ruler with nobody to rule over, leaving him with no choice but to join Aizen's cause. Barragan never forgave Aizen for this.
    • 20 was the entire basis of the Soul Society arc.
    • 21! It even says in the description that it can mean Faking the Dead.
    • 22, while the actual definition was not used, the spirit of the name was definitely in effect after he shut and locked all the passages between Las Noches and the World of the Living, thereby trapping Ichigo, his friends, and four captains away from the main battle.
    • 23 is also in effect with the Arrancar.
    • 25 was part of why Aizen could create so much chaos during the Soul Society arc. He secretly wiped out Central 46 and issued orders in their name. By demanding the death penality and a captain's execution for a crime that didn't usually receive the death penality and for a shinigami that wasn't a captain, it caused unrest and confusion amongst the captains who were obliged to follow without question the Central 46's orders. He even lampshaded this by taking aside one of the most rebellious-natured vice-captains (Renji) and telling him this had to be a conspiracy and needed to be investigated thus sowing the seeds for some of the highest ranking shinigami to completely disobey their training to obey without question the orders of the Central 46. Chaos ensued.
    • 28 was attempted and failed. He thought that by having the fight over Karakura Town, he would force the shinigami to hold back. Yamamoto anticipated this, and replaced Karakura Town with a fake.
    • 29 is why he captured Orihime.
      • Though, if the gamble had not worked, she would've been far from useless in the war - she's a valuable resource for extreme healing and resurrection, but Ichigo also brought his entire set of Nakama along to save her, which includes at least two people who are captain-class, one who is the last of his kind and hence, a valuable specimen for someone and one noble, which in turn justified four captains joining the rescue effort, and made the gamble exponentially effective.
      • In the end, the espada themselves were an example of Aizen's use of this rule. The espada were deemed such a huge threat that the entire captain force was lured out from Soul Society and split between Karakura Town and Hueco Mundo. What nobody knew was that Aizen viewed the espada as fodder. He was more disappointed in their performance than he had expected to be but his only use for them had always been to present the impression of a great enough threat to lure out the captains, allowing him to defeat them all and kill Yamamoto. He was able to defeat all the captains who went to Karakura Town but he wasn't able to kill Yamamoto.
    • 34, Aizen faked his own death to deposit apparent blame on Gin's shoulders allowing him to get on with his work unnoticed. Also, while Gin injured Aizen more than Aizen had planned, it had been part of a strategy to ensure a power upgrade and so his injury allowed him to catch Gin off-guard as Gin had expected the wound he caused to be the end of it.
    • 35, never settle for one plan when a multitude will do. When he finally gives up his reliance on his plans and strategies believing himself to be beyond the need for them, that's when things finally began to unravel for him, leading to...
    • 36, the one strategy Aizen failed to apply when he should have, a decision that ensures he ends up losing. He may have been able to escape Ichigo when he got too powerful, except that his earlier actions has ensured that half of the Gotei was there, including a scientist who used what he found to develop the technology to open Gargantas.
    • In the filler, Zankaputo Tales arc, Muramasa showed he's capable of #17, by using Ichigo to free Captain-Commander Yamamato from his prison...except in doing so, he released his zankaputo, Ryuujin Jakka, the strongest fire-based zankaputo, to be under Muramasa's control.
    • Aizen's apparent successor, Tsukishima, seems to be a fan of these, as well. He's a deadly combination of 7, 11, 29, and 33.
  • #32 is used by the Earth Alliance in Gundam Seed when they deceive ZAFT into attacking JOSH-A, a major military fort that has been mostly abandoned. They then activate a Self-Destruct Mechanism and destroy most of ZAFT's military power.
  • Detective Conan uses #32 in chapter 685.


Comic Books

  • These rules formed the basis of a Shi comic series.


Film

  • Rising Sun quotes #13 directly.
  • Equilibrium's John Preston has #3 with Brandt's gun.


Literature

  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms is the Trope Namer for the (Chinese version) of several strategies:
    • #14 was used somewhat literally. The enemy had found out about Zhuge Liang's death and started to attack, but he had a life sized wooden statue made of himself to fool the enemy into thinking he was still alive, which causes them to hesitate enough to allow Shu to retreat and live to fight another day. In Dynasty Warriors, this is sometimes turned into a #21 (pretending to be dead in order to set up an ambush) and sometimes not.
    • #16 is named for Zhuge Liang's campaign against Meng Huo, in which Meng Huo was released after every capture until Meng Huo had a change of heart and totally capitulated.
    • #22 was a failure on Zhuge Liang's part--after dealing Cao Cao a catastrophic defeat at Chi Bi, he orders Guan Yu to capture Cao Cao and put an end to their greatest threat. The problem is that Guan Yu still personally owed Cao Cao and let him go to repay the debt.
      • Not quite. It was a Batman Gambit where Zhuge Liang counted on Guan Yu and Liu Bei doing the honorable thing: he knew that the threat of Cao Cao's force in the north would prevent the Wu "kingdom" from entirely turning against Liu Bei, allowing Liu Bei's force to snap up Jing Province, while Cao Cao's force had been devastated too badly for it to (quickly) check Liu Bei's subsequent move to and eventual conquest of Yi Province.
    • #24 was also after Chi Bi, Zhuge Liang used resources from Wu and the momentum following that battle to help Liu Bei take Jing and Yi prefecture, the former being quite a sore point in Wu. Sun Ce (one of the founding fathers of Wu) himself did this, using troops borrowed from Yuan Shu to carve out his own land, in exchange for the Imperial Seal which his father obtained in a use of rule #5.
    • #28 happened to Zhuge Liang literally - he was talked into visiting one of Liu Bei's relatives on the pretext of reading some valuable ancient scrolls; the relative had his underlings move away the ladder and refused to let Zhuge Liang down until he got the badly needed advice on how to deal with an Wicked Stepmother.
    • #31 is named for the Beauty Trap laid by Wang Yun and his adopted daughter Diao Chan, who seduced both Dong Zhuo and Lu Bu and played them against each other until Lu Bu murdered Dong Zhuo.
    • #32 is named for Zhuge Liang's successful gambit to scare away Wei troops during a general retreat. Specifically, in the novel the Wei troops see no Shu troops, just Zhuge Liang playing an instrument by himself to greet them. This freaks out the enemy commander Sima Yi (who was well aware of Zhuge's reputation) enough to go into full retreat, rather than take the city that had less than a tenth of his own troops defending it.
      • of course, this worked only because Sima Yi had fought many times with Zhuge Liang and had become rather paranoid of the latter's intricate plots. Sima Zhao, Sima Yi's son, immediately saw through the ruse, but was overruled by his father.
    • #34 is named for the bluff Zhou Yu pulls on Cao Cao by pretending to rebuke, and then punish by a public flogging, one of the veteran generals of his own unit.
    • #35 is named for the chain of schemes that lead up to the death of Dong Zhuo; a different chain of schemes is used against CaoCao at the Battle of the Red Bluffs.
  • In Atlas Shrugged, Francisco d'Anconia uses #7 with the San Sebastian copper mines. When the People's State of Mexico expropriates the mines from his company, they discover that there was no actual copper on the site, and all of the facilities were poorly made. This not only leaves Mexico twisting in the wind with nothing to gain, but also leaves the other companies that tried to jump aboard d'Anconia's bandwagon without thinking in dire straits. Exactly as planned.
    • Actually, there WAS copper there, quite a lot of it, in fact. However, the mine was operated by a man deliberately selected for his total incompetence at operating a mine, and so he had done everything wrong. The mine not only did not produce copper, it COULD NOT produce any, and wouldn't be able to for years. This was done because Francisco knew that the Mexican government was going to seize the mine, and wanted to ensure that it couldn't provide support to them once it did.
  • Done many times in A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Tywin Lannister employs #3 and #5 these to bring about the demise of Robb Stark (with the "Borrowed Knives" being Robb's treacherous bannermen, Roose Bolton and Walder Frey).
    • Robb Stark himself manage to pull #15 on the Lannisters by luring Jaime Lannister into attacking prematurely and on Robb's terms, allowing him to take Jaime captive. He latter tries this again, but it doesn't work because Edmure Tully got impatient and decided to engage the enemy before Robb could spring his trap.
      • Robb didn't lure Jaime into attacking, he caught him offguard away from his main army. It's more #6, with the attack on Tywin to keep him distracted.
    • Lord Varys cozies up to Tyrion Lannister in an attempt to recruit Tyrion's help against his rival, Littlefinger (#23). Unfortunately, for Varys, Littlefinger is better at this sort of thing than he is, (see below).
    • Tyrion Lannister cripples Stannis's navy by luring it into sailing into the mouth of Blackwater Rush, only to cut off their escape with a giant chain and light the trapped ships on fire (#28).
    • And, of course, there's Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, who is the absolute master of this, employing at various times:
      • #3. Uses Olanna Tyrell to assassinate Joffery Lannister.
      • #7. Manages to convince Catelyn Stark to abduct and torture Tyrion Lannister by telling him that Tyrion was behind an attempt on the life of her son, Bran. Not only was he making this up whole cloth, Tyrion was actually one of the few people to display genuine kindness towards Bran. Latter, he convinces Eddard Stark that the Goldcloaks will side with him if he moves against the Lannisters. Eddard does, only to be captured and executed by the Goldcloaks.
      • #9. His entire M.O. is based on provoking his enemies into fighting amongst themselves.
      • #10. He even tells people that they shouldn't trust him. But of course, he's such a likable, charismatic guy that everyone he meets promptly ignores this advice. (Not so much likable as non-threatening)
      • #12. The number of times he's altered his plans to take advantage of some new opportunity are too numerous to count.
      • #20. He thrives off of chaos, and the confusion that it brings. The entire War of Five Kings is an example of this.
      • #23. Forms an alliance with House Tyrell as a part of his plot to bring down his fellow chessmasters Tywin and Tyrion Lannister.
      • #24. Probably what he has in mind for the Tyrells now that he's gotten the Lannisters out of his way.
      • #27. You know that spineless coward who you manipulated into betraying his ally? Turns out he was planning on doing that all along. And now you're his ally.
      • #30. Convinces everyone he meets that he's either their loyal subordinate (Eddard), or at least at the very least that his loyalty can be bought (Tywin). They're dead wrong.
  • Hilari Bell's Farsala Trilogy has examples of:
    • #3. Jiaan asks the swamp bandits and a Kadeshi warlord to help out.
    • #4. Jiaan does this to Patrius in the third book.
    • #9. Various groups plan to wait it out and pick up the pieces, but are drawn into the fight anyway.
    • #10. Kavi and Soraya, with varying degrees of success.
    • #14. The rebellion is rumored to be led by Sorahb, and the main characters use it to their advantage. The rumor becomes real enough that, in the third book, Garren challenges Sorahb to a duel. Fasal accepts the challenge.
    • #15. The Hrum don't fare so well in the swamps or desert.
    • #20. Used to great hilarity when Kavi gives the Hrum camp dysentery via poisoned beer, and uses the resulting pandemonium to steal barrels of Hrum supplies and drive them through the gates of Mazad.
    • #24. Jiaan gets topographical help from the Suud, but does not turn against them afterwards.
    • #28. The Suud and Jiann lure the Hrum into the desert and use false trails to keep them there. If you're not Suud, it's pretty hard to find your way out of the desert.
    • #33. Kavi.
  • #27. King David, while on the run from Saul, pretended to be a madman so the Philistines wouldn't consider him a threat. (1 Samuel 21:13)
  • Harry Potter: Voldemort obviously studied these:
    • He used the Ministry of Magic to pull a huge #3, with a bit of #9 and #20 thrown in for good measure.
    • #17 is most of his gambit in OotP.
    • #18 is his goal all through HBP (by taking out Dumbledore
    • Dumbledore, on the other hand, favored #27, but also used #33 with Snape.
  • An especially hilarious example of #13 shows up early in The Lions of Al-Rassan, where Rodrigo has Jehane start shouting a wide variety of rather crude and embarrassing things in order to distract Count Nino, prevent him from thinking clearly, and get him to run straight into an ambush.
    • Both the northern Jaddite kingdoms and the Muwardis make full use of #9, waiting until the kingdoms of Al-Rassan have fallen apart before invading.
    • The Muwardis also attempt #3 when they attempt to assassinate the Queen of Valledo to turn the Esperanian kings against each other, but it backfires spectacularly after she survives.
  • It's the policy of the Royal Manticoran Navy from David Weber's Honorverse that whenever possible they go into battle with full stomachs, an example of #4. Since the battles usually occur in space, they usually have time for this.


Live Action TV

  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Used extensively by both sides in the Dominion War.
    • The Founders used the Klingons for a #3, leading to a #5.
    • #6 was the reason Deep Space Nine was taken over, since the Federation was off destroying an undefended shipyard (this was also a bit of #11.)
    • The Romulans were trying to use #9 until Garak dragged them into the war via #7/ #21.
    • The Dominion did their best early on to pull a #10, which Sisco saw right through.
    • #12 - Sisco stealing the Jem'Hadar attack ship in "The Ship".
    • #19 - Destroying the Dominion's supply of Ketracel White.
  • Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor tricked the Daleks into believing a biscuit was a self-destruct button for the TARDIS (temporarily).
    • The Doctor is especially fond of #27; most of his enemies think he is a mad fool right up until their plans crumble underneath them. Most of his allies too, come to think of it.


Tabletop Games

  • Paranoia includes a few of these in the "Tips for Traitors" section:
    • #5 - "...plug him when he is relatively unable to return your fire-- when he has his hands full of some other kind of trouble, like attacking hostiles or a malfunctioning weapon or a berserk bot. At the least, his weapon should be still in its holster and his attention elsewhere. Ideally, he should never even know it is you attacking him."
    • #10 - "...licking the metaphorical boots of The Computer is the primary survival skill."
    • #17 - "Always present orders that entail certain death for subordinates in such a way as to suggest that you are graciously offering them an opportunity to distinguish themselves..."
    • #22 - "'I speak without fear of contradiction...' is the opening sentence of the ideal debriefing. You get dinged for being the only one to make it back alive, but this is a minor inconvenience compared to the alternative."


Video Games

  • Marisa's diary mentions #36 in reference to Reimu's Fantasy Heaven attack.
    • In Labyrinth of Touhou, Nitori uses #36, bringing up the strategems while she does so, on floor 7.
  • In the Final Fantasy Tactics games, the "Defeat the Boss" mission objectives could be seen as #18.
  • One of the ways you can play Master of Orion is to Beseige Wei to rescue Zhao. That is to concentrate as much as you can on destroying the computer's planets. The computer is programed to look after its own empire naturally enough but hasn't the flexibility to ignore attacks and finish your planets off so its fleets will turn back. Moreover the AI cannot handle more then about two attacks every few turns whereas a player can usually get off at least one per turn and if he has enough ships, as many as half-a-dozen.
  • #14: In Galactic Civilizations II, a random event from an Unknown Phenomenon involves "adapting" an ancient story to increase your faction's overall happiness/morale.
  • The Europa Universalis III AI is programmed to take full advantage of #5. When a major power, such as France, gets into a war with another major power or coalition, its enemies (those who the Great Power has trampled on its way to Great Power status, plus those who have ambitions of their own that involve trampling on that state) will declare war. Of course, these enemies will themselves look weak to their enemies, who will themselves employ this stratagem. A Gambit Pileup is certain to ensue. (This is Truth in Television; see the Thirty Years War and World War One.)
    • A variation on #4 and #28: If you break an enemy army and have your own forces in the province the enemy is retreating to, they will rout almost immediately, resulting in #22.
    • #30 is used in alliance mechanics. If you answer a call to arms when you have superior power to the alliance leader, you can become the alliance leader.
  • #9 is nearly universal in 4X games, especially those with a Tech Tree. War leads to expenditure of resources, while peace allows you to build up more; often, the winning power in the endgame is that guy over in the corner who let everyone else fight it out while they climbed to preeminence.


Web Comics

  • Lord Shojo from Order of the Stick is a master of #27, but also uses #21 ( creating a fake trial to distract the paladins), #23 (befriending the Order in order to act behind the back of the paladins), and #30 (acting at Eugene's behest until it no longer served him to do so).


Real Life

  • Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud founder of Saudi Arabia once employed strategem nr 2. He dodged behind an Al-rashid army and began attacking the herds of all the tribes loyal to the Rashids. Being Bedouin they quite sensibly didn't give a hoot about who was to be Sultan and cared quite a bit about their families and their camels. So the Al-Rashid army simply scattered and the close of the campaigning season left the Sauds the victors and Ibn Saud well on his way to becoming a Bedouin Magnificent Bastard.
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