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"The first rule of patrol duty is vigilance, even when people are talking to you. Furthermore, if you hear any suspicious sounds, investigate them at once. Only once you can do these things on instinct will you be a true watchman!"—Anonymous guard, The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks
You're in the middle of a Stealth Based Mission. Your path is blocked by an inconveniently placed patrolling guard; he turns around too quickly for you to sneak past him while his back is turned, and if you knock him out his body will raise suspicion. What do you do?
Easy: you pick up a rock and toss it past him. When it lands, the noise will catch his attention, and he'll go to investigate, giving you ample time to slip past. This trick is what we call Throwing The Distraction. Alternatively if you're making an action movie, you can pass on the low budget rock and use a grandoise explosion instead. It's less likely to be dismissed and looks cooler.
Subtrope of The Guards Must Be Crazy. Closely related to So Much for Stealth, where this is done by accident and alerts every guard to your presence. Both tropes depend on guards being incredibly sensitive to noise, even though It's Probably Nothing. See also Go Fetch when this is done with an Angry Guard Dog or any other sort of animal. Not to be confused with Cat Scare.
Ninjas call this "throwing the toothpick".
Film -- Animated
- Toy Story 2: Very early on, Al does this with a skateboard. Justified in that it does create an audible crash, and the person he's distracting (Andy's mother) isn't a highly trained guard.
- In Bolt, Penny (the character on the show) likes to roll an actual penny into the field of vision of whomever she's trying to sidestep. Eventually, Bolt (in reality) would try the same trick - yes, it really does work.
- In The Iron Giant, Hogarth throws a penny into the kitchen to divert his mom's attention away while he sneaks out one of the Giant's hands, which has detached and is wandering around the house. The penny knocks over the spice rack by accident.
- In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible beans a guard in the head with a rock--all the other guards nearby leave their post to look at the unconscious guard.
Film -- Live Action
- Subverted in Three Amigos. One of the amigos throws a rock to distract a guard they're trying to sneak past, but accidentally hits the guard's head and knocks him out.
- Star Wars: Obi Wan uses the force to pop a gasket to distract two guards, allowing him to sneak away from the tractor beam controls.
- Specifically mentioned in-universe in Batman Begins as a "cheap parlor trick" to distract and confuse one's enemies.
- In The Movie of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, Harry does this to distract a blinded basilisk.
- The Guns of Navarone. Andrea and Mallory have reached the top of the cliff, but there's a German sentry guarding it. Mallory tosses a piton to distract the guard. A variant because they end up killing the guard. Watch it here, starting at 2:10.
- The Decalogue: Majka, while hiding behind a wall, throws a small wooden ball down the stairs, thus distracting an old woman watching over the entrance to the back of the stage.
- Dungeons and Dragons has the heroes distract a patrolling Beholder -- a creature covered in eyes -- with a thrown rock. Note, this might actually be plausable since the majority of beholders are insane.
- In Spider and Web, the protagonist throws a lockpick into a dead end to distract some guards. Except that actually, it didn't happen quite like that.
- Subverted in Vagabonds of Gor: Tarl throws a stone and the guy he's trying to draw away from his position turns towards him - he's Genre Savvy too.
- In the book and film of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Harry distracts some Ministry workers with a rambunctious Weasley toy in order to sneak into Umbridge's office.
- In the first Animorphs book, Jake uses this to escape from some aliens in a dark construction site. As he's doing it, he thinks to himself what a cliche it is and hopes the aliens have never watched any TV or else they'd probably recognize the trick.
Live Action TV
- In Doctor Who Series 4, the Doctor distracts a guard with a wind-up mouse. Almost as soon as he picks it up, he is knocked unconscious by the Doctor's cloned daughter Jenny. The Doctor is quick to call her out on what she's done.
- Mission Impossible: Used in "The Council, part 1", to draw someone away from a buried man that the team needed access to.
- Subverted in an episode of Dark Angel, Max throws a stone to distract the guard, who goes to investigate where the stone came from.
- An episode of Kung Fu: The Legend Continues does this -- earlier, Kwai Chang is showing Peter how to blow a candle out using the gust of air from a palm strike. Later, when facing sentries in the woods, Peter sarcastically asks, "what are we going to, throw a rock and divert their attention?" as Kwai Chang performs a palm strike and rustles a bush instead to distract the guards.
- Lampshaded on Battlestar Galactica Reimagined when Apollo throws a grenade into a passageway, yelling for everyone to clear out (they do). It turns out he didn't pull the pin, and tells Starbuck that she would have thought it was a brilliant idea if she'd come up with it.
- During a Stealth Based Mission in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Link must invoke this trope to distract one guard who doesn't turn around when spoken to. What the guard says when spoken to is immortalized above as the page quote.
- In the first mission of Hitman: Blood Money, you're encouraged to toss a coin to distract some guards.
- 47 seems to have a Mint in his back pocket - a coin is always available in the inventory, no matter how many you've already thrown. You can even carry them through metal detectors s without setting them off.
- All Metal Gear games have some sort of variant. Can even be done with grenades, but enemies will freeze in terror or take cover, depending on the soldier. In Metal Gear Solid 2, you can throw empty ammo magazines to distract guards. The only way to get one is to fire all the bullets in a full mag, which isn't very useful in a stealth game.
- World of Warcraft: The "distract" skill.
- Splinter Cell has this in spades, allowing you to pick up items for no other purpose than to throw them and distract the enemies. However, the AI is smart enough to register not only the point of impact, but also the trajectory they have seen, therefore, doing the same thing as on the image above would actually make any guard run towards you. Even if they don't find you, they'll be more vigilant.
- Of course, if you nail them in the head with the object, they simply get knocked out.
- Thief likewise has throwable objects. It also has noisemaker arrows, which do just that: cause a lot of noise upon impact.
- Even normal arrows can work as distractions. However, trying this trick isn't always a good idea; while it may draw the guard's attention elsewhere, it will make them alert for intruders, which mitigates the advantage to some degree.
- Deus Ex: Can be done, as pointed out in the training mission by Anna Navarre.
- You can do this in Beyond Good and Evil with the disk-launcher, but the guards are so stupid it's usually easier to just walk slowly around them.
- Death To Spies: This stealth game allows you to do this with cutlery and dishes. The mini-map even shows you how far the sound travels.
- Augustus: You can toss coins in this stealth game, thought more often that not it would result in the guards running towards your hiding spot instead.
- No One Lives Forever: One of the gadgets Cate can equip for any mission is a few coins. That's all, just coins. Plain, ordinary currency. Not even enhanced in the usual ridiculous manner other common items are made into spy gadgets in this game. At first, it seems absurd that carrying a few coins in your pocket takes up an equipment slot that could be held by, say, lipstick grenades, until you see just how stupid the guards can be when a coin is chucked across the room...
- Sly 2: Band of Thieves: has the alarm clock gadget as Sly, trigger bombs as Bentley, and other guards as Murray.
- Assassin's Creed
- In any game, kill a guard and other guards will come by to investigate so you can sneak around them or use the hidden blade on them.
- In the second game, throwing money will distract the guards just as well as a body.
- In Call of Duty Black Ops, there is a tactical grenade that is called a decoy that can be used to simulate gunfire and shows up on the enemy's radar, making it seem as if there is someone firing in that location.
- Commandos allows you to throw rocks to distract the guards. You can also throw them on the guards if feeling suicidal.
- Left 4 Dead gives you grenades in the forms of pipe bombs and Boomer Bile. The Infected are distracted by the Loud beeping and/or scent and will chase after them, even if they were just clawing you apart a second ago.
- In Skyrim you can fire an arrow into a room and any enemies present will visible on your compass while rushing to investigate it.
- Escape From St Marys: A thrown bottle of tang does the trick.
- Dragon Age II - One of Hawke's options during the stealth section of the Mark of the Assassin DLC.
Guard: What was that scrabbling noise?
- Princess Peach demonstrates the technique perfectly in this Brawl in the Family strip.
- Subverted humorously in Goblins: the GAP try to distract the Brassmoon City gate guards my throwing a rock, but instead of going to investigate the noise, one of them shouts "Someone's throwing rocks at us from the woods!"
- A recurring gag in Dragon Tails: involves Lemuel throwing rocks in the bushes to distract enemies. The targets found the sound to be distracting but never investigated the noise beyond standing and thinking about how annoying it is, opening a window of opportunity for the other dragons.
- Stardroids: Roll does this. What makes it unique, however, is that she does it in plain sight of the foes. Oh, and did we mention -- she's using a pair of her own panties. Slingshot-style.
- Order of the Stick: This is the subject of one of Tarquin's Tips. "Someone is throwing a rock to distract you. Try looking in the opposite direction."
- Done in Girly to sneak into a women's dorm, with some heavy lampshading:
Lisa: I dunno, Beth. The last eight times that happened, it resulted in men sneaking...
Beth: Lisa, that was a rock! A rock, for God's sake! Are you suggesting we let it be!?
- One Evil Overlord List item is to train guards to tell when someone's doing this.
- Ace Ventura: Toyed with -- Ace Ventura tries this by throwing a rock to distract the Burly Guard. The Guard looks over at the sound, turns to where the rock came from and shouts "I know you're over there and I'm coming to get you!" Oh Crap!
- Jonny Quest TOS episodes.
- "The Dreadful Doll". Hadji throws a rock to distract Korbay so Jonny can free Race Bannon.
- Terror Island". Race Bannon throws a coin to distract some guards.
- SpongeBob SquarePants, "Imitation Krabs": to get Mr. Krabs out of the way, Plankton throws a penny, and the greedy Krabs follows it as it rolls out the front door. The penny eventually rolls back, leading Krabs to Plankton and his robotic Krabs imposter.
- Parodied in Phineas and Ferb Across The Second Dimension. When Perry the platypus needs to slip away without his owners noticing him, he throws a rock, leading to this exchange:
Baljeet: What was that small noise?
Phineas: Let's all go walk over to it!
- A common ploy for soldiers using the M1 Garand was to keep one of the empty en bloc clips on them at all times. Because of the Garand's self loading mechanism firing out the clip when the last round was used, it would make a very distinctive metallic pring! noise. The trick came with having your rifle fully loaded and getting out the empty clip. You fire off a round and throw the clip away so it makes a nice rattle. Your opponent then sticks his head out from behind cover cause he assumes you're out. Dead wrong.
- This is a good way to distract non-trained dogs if they aren't fully on attack mode. A solid object like a small stone will distract them for at least two seconds.