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File:Karma 9861.jpg

The relationship of cause and effect in Fallout stops just short of Bolt of Divine Retribution. But the cat's relatives will send mercenaries after your blood.

"Karma police, arrest this man."
Radiohead, "Karma Police"

Laser-Guided Karma.png

While in Real Life there is rarely a direct and easily traced relation between actions and their subsequent reward or punishment, in fiction the connection is usually a lot more... direct. Help an old lady across the street? Several chapters later, she'll turn out to be an elite ex-commando who will gladly help you storm the Big Bad's castle. Kick the little dog that's barking at you? The dog will sniff you out and lead the heroes right to your Supervillain Lair.

The vacuum by this non-direct causality in real life can be daunting to fill (whole religions and philosophies have and are trying to, describing them is more of Wikipedia's bag) but in stories, it doesn't matter how tiny a helpful or harmful act is for it to have a meaningful and unpredictable effect by story's end. The Aesop here is that every little action, good or bad, will be paid back in kind with the accuracy and timeliness of a laser guided missile. Whether its payload is sunshine and puppies or irony depends on the karma.

If taken too far, stories with this aesop can turn Anvilicious or into a Space Whale Aesop about always being kind to strangers, never kicking puppies et cetera, or the universe itself will make it its personal mission to make your life a living comedy of errors. It also sort of makes "do good for goodnesses sake" a Broken Aesop since the hero can always be sure that smug virtue will get its reward. It's worth noting that in many stories Laser-Guided Karma is what really topples the villain with unforeseen consequences, while the heroes' good deeds give their efforts that final push to succeed via help from the bleachers. It seems along with Pride and the Villain Ball, random dickery and cruelty are the top causes of villain self-foilage.

On the good side of the karma coin:

On the negative side of the karma coin:

See also Pay Evil Unto Evil and Sexual Karma. Contrast Karma Houdini and Karma Houdini Warranty. For karma punishing a hero for their mistakes, see Tragic Mistake. Also contrast with "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished", which is a corrupt form of this trope; as well as Can't Get Away with Nuthin', where the slightest misdeed committed by the hero results in Disproportionate Retribution.

When you help someone, but Laser-Guided Karma is cruelly inverted, you might be looking at The Farmer and the Viper.

See also: Hoist by His Own Petard, when a villain gets killed by their own weapon.

For sake of trope differentiation, examples should be limited to bad karma, heroic or villainous, and when an opponent's "good karma" combines to double wham the antagonist.

Examples of Laser-Guided Karma include:

Anime and Manga

  • Cell and Frieza from Dragonball Z are perfect examples. Thier own actions always come back to bite them in the ass. Cell is a fine example of the most stupid Kick the Dog to give himself a strong opponent, oopsie. Then we have Frieza, the victim of the age old trope, the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. Hhis plan to stop the coming of the Super Saiyan might have worked, if he'd just finished Goku off quickly instead of attacking Piccolo and killing Krillin just so he could show everyone he was STILL a Complete Monster. Talk about a bad case of Nice Job Fixing It, Villain for him.
  • Probably about 90%-95% of the death toll or sufferers of A Fate Worse Than Death in Franken Fran are the result of this, although some of them are rather excessive. Chapter 10 is probably the worst here. An arrogant germophobe who sees the rest of humanity as immoral, filthy fools who need to be educated and improved by the "elite" gets swarmed by cockroaches, nearly raped, has all her skin burned off, and gets skin grafts made from cockroach exoskeletons. The stress causes her to go insane and try to tear off her skin. An epilogue page in the collection shows her to have recovered from her insanity and attempt to remove her own skin... only for the graft to have gone wrong and her face to be covered in living, twitching cockroach legs.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Nena Trinity initiated a massacre of wedding guests in Spain because she was tired and overworked. One girl named Louise Halevy survived. During the next season, said Louise gets a haxx Mobile Armour and kills Nena who is using an old outdated Mobile Suit.
    • Ali Al Saachez falls victim to this. He gets overpowered and badly injured by the only survivor of a family he almost destroyed. The man, Lyle Dylandy is willing to spare him because he doesn't want to sink to Ali's level. Ali tries to take advantage of this, only for Lyle to beat him on the draw and blow his brains out. Ribbons has his plans collapse around him due to the child he manipulated behind the scenes and who inspired him to try and play god.
  • Everything Lelouch does in Code Geass eventually bites him in the ass. The General he killed, then blamed Britannia for his death in season 1? The men who used to work for the General decide to abandon Lelouch once they find out. The Geass Cult he massacred? His army is appalled once they find out. The army he abandoned? They try to kill him. Sadly, Lelouch never learns his lesson. On the other hand, that General was effectively captured and in line to be tortured to reveal information, then killed in a gruesome manner, as expected of the British. Plus, he had been executing civilians, something his comrades did not approve of. But he could have helped, avoiding that. The Geass Cult... well, considering that all anyone knew about Geass was that it was mind-rape in a can, the problem was they didn't realise that it was a Geass cult. And the army he abandoned? ...Well, it was a little too late to say "I was captured!". Considering everything else that happened to him and the circumstances, it's a mix of this trope and Cosmic Plaything. Considering that he also spares a female enemy officer (probably because she wasn't trying to kill) and then she... well, she sells him out. Twice. She's also responsible for watching over him while his army is in prison, and one of the army members who fell for her during the first season, trusts her over him the second time. (Apparently she left out that little detail.) She causes a chain of events that kills a friend. It would not be inaccurate to say that she makes things much worse for him. So it's mostly Lelouch = Cosmic Plaything. But then, Code Geass being Code Geass, karma has a pretty bad aim.
  • In the first revival round of the Liar Game, interestingly Nao chose the one man who apologized to her after the rest of the contestants turned against her, to get kicked out of the game. When he asked why, she explained this revival round was a chance for one person to escape from the game and be free from debt. So after she won the round, she gave him her winnings, which was enough to pay off his debts and walk away from the game a "free man".
    • Also done more negatively to Yokoya. By bullying and blackmailing his team in the Second Game, he had them all under his rule. However, in the end, three of them turned traitor to the other team and were able to successfully pay off their debts with the help of Nao and Akiyama
  • Hell Girl plays with this exceptionally well. Not only you can get thrown into hell for as much as making your personal stalker angry, but Ai and her subordinates will make you relive your worst nightmares right before doing so.
  • Pet Shop of Horrors demonstrates both sides of the Karmic Coin, though to be honest the dark side more often. However, the episode with the little girl who wants a bodyguard, and treats him kindly and with care, stands out as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming for the series.
  • Happens surprisingly often in the Crapsack World manga Cage of Eden. A group of men who raped and killed Oomori's senpai are eaten by vicious carnivores. Two other students who helped Zaji build a raft and later pushed the others off, claiming to have planned to betray them all along find out that the island they were hoping to reach was just an illusion, and then they get eaten by a large aquatic dinosaur.
  • Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto (despite it not sticking). Abuses his Mangekyo Sharingan so much during the fights with Bee, the Kage's, Danzo, and finally Team 7, his vision completely vanishes just as he completes Susano'o. He was weakened to the point where Kakashi or Sakura could have killed him.
  • Father in Fullmetal Alchemist. Four words: "Despair for the conceited."
    • Similarly applied to a few of the homunculi. Gluttony, who ate his victims, was himself devoured by Pride. Envy killed himself when in his helpless maggot-form the humans started pitying him, and Pride was Brought Down to Normal, made into the human boy whose form he was inhabiting, despite being extremely, well, prideful of his homunculus superiority.
  • Comedic example in Mahou Sensei Negima. Chamo makes fun of Negi in his internal monologue and instantly gets hit by a car. He's an Iron Butt Monkey, so it all works out.
    • Non-comedic example: Quartum cuts Chachamaru in half, then suffers the same fate at the hands of Negi.
  • Digimon's Myotismon gets karmic payback for everything that he did to the Digidestined but more specifically, for murdering Wizardmon. This causes Gatomon to Digivolve into Angewomon, the Digimon predestined to kill him. The karmic retribution for the crap he put the others through comes when they combine their energies with her's to form an arrow she uses to shoot him through the heart and kill him.
  • Bellamy from One Piece. Had he not been such a nihilistic, unrepentant bully and pissed off Monkey D. Luffy, he wouldn't have ended up murdered by his own boss for losing to a rookie!
  • In Innocent Venus both Jin and Drake are killed by their pet-project war machines which are driven by the brains of little children cloned for the purpose and then implanted in the 'gladiators', where they obviously undergo horror and torment. When they get a chance for revenge, they're not particuarly forgiving.
  • Seraphim gets this in Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? when she decides not to follow through with the hit on Eucliwood. One episode later, when she's killed in an ambush, Eu was on hand to supply blood to revive her.
  • Mr Don in Eyeshield 21 had earlier used Gaou as his punching bag and ran Yamato out of Notre Dame. In the Japan vs. America game, those two are the first who end up beating him for the first time.
  • Wyald of Berserk is a hedonistic Apostle who is after the Band of the Hawk and Griffith in particular on orders from the King of Midland and has a particular delight in raping people. When he tries to do this to Guts' Love Interest Casca, Guts almost kills him despite being half-dead and "takes his weapon away from him" in graphic fashion. Things only get worse for Wyald when Zodd shows up to teach him a very painful lesson about trying to get in the way of Griffith's destiny as a Godhand and rips him in half for his trouble.
  • Rurouni Kenshin provides plenty of this. Even for Kenshin.
    • One chapter features Kenshin pitted against a foe by the name of Senkaku, a towering, hulking pinheaded thug armed with bladed knuckles, the same speed which our hero can achieve, and is the bullish tyrant who dominated a village for his master's conquests, going as far as even murdering a boy's family for the simple act of leaving. Though he hopes to best Kenshin to gain brownie points from his boss, he is tricked into utterly tearing apart his knee muscles from being goaded into speeding up as fast as our hero, who had better training to adjust to his level of agility, and used his hulking mass to his advantage, by merely gradually speeding up and forcing him to his limits. After this, he is subjected to three people's verbal breakdowns: one from Kenshin, who lets Senkaku know why his body gave out, and puts him under fire for his atrocities, bringing to him the realization of his actions; one from Saito, who explains how Kenshin's tactics worked, and gives him a faceful of ironic humble pie; and one from his aforementioned boss, Shishio, who nails it in that he knew from the start that he had no chance in hell of defeating Kenshin, lets him know that a personal execution is in store for him for being embarrassingly defeated by not even getting his foe to draw his sword, letting him know of how much worth he truly is to his master and ups the shame factor to 11. By the end of this, he is shipped off to the authorities to be tortured and up on the block for Death Row, while the anime shows that he escapes- And is put to death by right hand man Sojiro, who still follows the group's "Kill or Be Killed" mentality and is not convinced of his turn of cheek.

Comic Books

  • In Love and Rockets, Gato and Sergio are killed in a car crash immediately after murdering Fortunato.
  • In Camelot 3000, Sir Tristan's reincarnation as a woman initially seems purely random, until it's revealed that he'd raped at least one woman in his previous life. His new female form is therefore both a deterrent and a karmic lesson, especially when he/she is stalked by his/her reincarnation's former fiancee, who won't take no for an answer.
  • Spider-Man in his origin story allows a burglar to escape from a pursuing policeman. One page later his beloved Uncle Ben is dead, killed by the selfsame man. Not a Tragic Mistake, as this event then galvanizes him to devote his life to heroically fighting crime instead of propelling him towards a tragic catastrophe. Which is also why Spider-Man decides not to interfere with the event when he travels back through time in ASM #500.
    • Flash Thompson seems to be an aversion, as he ends up sharing an apartment with Peter Parker. More brutally averted/lampshaded when he loses his legs when serving in Iraq, saving a fellow soldier, fulfilling the jock ending up crippled aspect of this trope.
      • Subverted, or maybe double subverted, after he becomes the new host of the Venom symbiote. Yeah he gets awesome superpowers that make him more like his hero Spider-Man and his legs back. On the other hand, the symbiote has a nasty tendency to bring out the worst in people and he's already eaten someone.
  • Cassidy the vampire is captured and tortured mercilessly by a hitman until Jesse arrives to save him. Jesse knocks the hitman into the pit where Cassidy's been contained, breaking his neck in the fall and paralyzing but not killing him. The last shot is of Cassidy leaning right over him with a big grin and saying "How're yeh?"
  • In Scrooge and Flintheart's second confrontation for determining who was the world's richest duck, they convert all their holdings into silver dollars and will have the piles measured. Glomgold, worried he might lose, tries to cheat by purchasing a special liquid that can shrink things with the goal of using it to shrink Scrooge's pile of money. His plan is thwarted, and he ultimately the same amount of silver dollars that he spent to buy the juice
  • In one issue early in his time as The Flash, Wally West expresses contempt for a homeless man who seeks shelter in his apartment building. Then he's evicted, and thanks to various other misfortunes (his credit cards being inexplicably declined, his superspeed shorting out from hunger, losing both his luggage and his mother) he's reduced to eating pretzels from mud puddles in less than a day and getting the same amount of scorn from passersby (one of who dropped that pretzel in the puddle to see if he was desperate enough to eat it). It eventually turns out that it's all due to machinations from aliens who were deliberately putting him under stress.


  • The final outcome that awaits Carter Burke in Aliens is this in spades.
  • In "No Country For Old Men", Anton Chigurh murders the innocent wife of the protagonist even after she argues with him that he has no reason to kill her. As soon as he drives off, he gets hit by a car.
  • A very literal use of this trope was utilized in Austin Powers in Goldmember, specifically in regards to the film's titular villain. To put it simply, Goldmember betrays Dr. Evil (who surprising for his name, undergoes a Heel Face Turn when he learns that he is actually Austin Power's long lost brother, and that Nigel Powers is his father) and attempts to fulfill that Dr. Evil nearly started: The destruction of the planet with a Golden Meteorite dragged onto the planet by the Preparation H tractor beam. He also kept a spare of the master key (hint: It's his gilded groin) after losing the original Master Key into the shark tank. Dr. Evil, now Dougie Powers, manages to reverse the polarity of the tractor beam, causing the energies caused by his activating the tractor beam to backfire on Goldmember, electrocuting him, fall near the shark tank's edge. He is then arrested, and going by his comments is most likely going to await execution.
  • In The Dark Knight, Coleman Reese is about to use his information on Lucius Fox as a means of extortion, but backs off when Lucius bluffs him by pointing out a few theoretical flaws in his strategy. Getting off with a warning might make him seem like a Karma Houdini, but then consider what happens later in the movie, when he is apparently considering revealing Batman's identity so as to appease the Joker:

 Random caller: Harvey Dent wouldn't give in to this maniac, do you think you know better than him?

Coleman Reese: I think that if we could talk to Dent today he would feel differently.

Reporter: And we wish him a speedy recovery, because god knows we need him now.

Then the Joker calls.

 Reporter: Who is this?

Joker: I had a vision of a world without Batman. The mob ground out a little profit and the police tried to shut them down one block at a time, and it was so... boring. I had a change of heart. I don't want Mr. Reese spoiling everything, but why should I have all the fun? Let's give someone else a chance. If Coleman Reese isn't dead in 60 minutes, then I blow up a hospital.

And then you see crowds of people in the streets, trying to kill him. Before he could even resort to appeasement, he ends up being the victim of others' appeasement. It would be too cruel an irony if not for the fact that Reese was, conveniently, an extortionist.
  • Happens in Deconstructing Harry as the payoff for short story written by the protagonist: borrow a sick friend's apartment, pretend it's your bachelor pad, use his name to introduce yourself to a High Class Call Girl... hey, that's The Grim Reaper at the door. And he won't believe you're not the guy.
  • What happens to Rodmilla de Ghent and Marguerite in Ever After. They verbally and emotionally abuse Danielle and Jacqueline and also mercilessly bully the servants, punishing them for "stealing" household goods when they themselves are secretly selling off those same items to buy jewelry and other fripperies. So it's a glorious comeuppance at the end when Danielle - now Princess Danielle - and her royal in-laws enact a lavish spectacle to humiliate the pair in front of the court, then banish them to work in the palace laundry. The karma runs in the other direction too; Jacqueline, the stepsister who always treated Danielle with kindness, gets to live in the palace with her and (presumably) marries the Prince's personal guard, and the servants who raised and loved Danielle all her life likewise get to live with her in the palace.
  • Hang 'Em High has a rancher's murderer, who framed an innocent man for the crime and nearly tried to get him hanged by vigilantes. He himself is hanged for his crime onscreen shortly afterward, with his exonerated would-be victim being treated to the sight from the sheriff's office. As for the vigilantes, most of them (save for the Big Bad) are killed by their intended target, who turned out to be a former lawman from a different town and was appointed deputy so he could personally deal with the vigilantes without himself committing a capital crime for real.
  • In Plunkett and Macleane we get a pretty vicious example of this. General Chance, who is quite fond of eye torture, ends up with a bullet through the eye whilst he's about to gouge yet another person's eye out.
  • In the movie Polar Storm, a soldier refuses to believe (including turning off the generator) that Cynthia Mayfield (who has received information) and know how to survive the EMP blast and told her to get out and to not show the map again (no one went and believed her except two people who went with her). A few minutes later, the EMP activates, the generator short-circuit and a bolt of electricity went inside the church, killing everyone.
  • Subverted in The Rape of Richard Beck (also called Deadly Justice): a cop who is flippant and insensitive in his dealings with rape victims is assaulted himself, but as the message of the film is that no one deserves or "asks" to be raped, his attack is not portrayed as karma so much as a terrible experience that he eventually turns into a useful lesson.
  • Done both positively and negatively in Return of the Jedi. Palpatine ends up telling Luke after he (literally) disarmed Vader to kill Vader and take his place as his apprentice. Luke refuses, so the Emperor attempts to kill Skywalker instead. Negative Laser Guided Karma was inflicted on Palpatine as, because of his attempt to replace Vader and hurting Vader's son, has Vader grabbing the Emperor and throwing him down the Death Star's reactor shaft. Positive Laser Guided Karma was inflicted on Luke as, because of his earlier refusal to kill Vader, Vader ended up saving Luke from Palpatine by doing the above act, also redeeming himself in the process.
    • When Luke, Han, Chewie and the droids are surrounded by the Ewoks. While they could've probably fought their way clear, Luke instead gives up his lightsaber and urges Han and Chewie to hand over their guns and surrender. By sparing the Ewoks, and later trying to non-violently win their confidence, the Rebels gain valuable allies in the coming battle. Behind-the-scenes footage of Mark Hamill, George Lucas, and director Richard Marquand shot on the set reveal that this was the intention of the scene.
      • "Valuable allies" is an understatement here. Palpatine's plan was perfect, but the Ewoks proved to be enough of a Spanner in the Works to make it all unravel; if it wasn't for them, Palpatine may have still died at Vader's hands, but all of the other victories would have been beyond the Rebels' reach.
    • A similar example later (or earlier) in the saga was how Qui-Gon befriended Jar Jar in The Phantom Menace, which later leads the Gungan to bring his people to aid the good guys in the battle on Naboo.
    • A New Hope's iconic scene of having the Death Star destroy Alderran. Tarkin destroys an innocent and resource rich world all for the purpose of making a grand statement to the galaxy about his new superweapon's power. All that statement does is convince everyone how brutal and merciless the Empire truly is and boots the ranks of the Rebellion. Then the Death Star gets destroyed before it can actually be used against a military target in an attack coordinated by one of Alderran's few survivors. Little wonder Imperial officers later refer to the whole affair as "Tarkin's Folly".
      • Made even worse when Rogue One came out and showed the Death Star being tested on Jedha and later fired on Scariff. The Empire had already demonstrated the station's power, what Tarkin did was purely For the Evulz.
  • In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Stacey, with a big smirk, tries to manipulate the conversation so that Ramona and Knives discover that Scott is dating them both. A moment later, Wallace steals her boyfriend.
    • Arguably inverted as she was trying to stop her brother from two-timing.
  • Later in the movie, Gideon kicks Ramona down a flight of stairs during the climax, and gets his ass promptly kicked soon after by both Scott and Knives.
  • In the movie Snakes on a Plane, an absurdly, cartoonishly snooty bald guy tries to throw a small dog at the snakes to cover his escape. This is after he insulted a woman and her child for simply sitting next to him and genuinely being a tremendous douche from scene one. His plan ironically failed because he stopped to gloat about it afterward, allowing the snake to eat both the dog and him. Oh but wait, that's not all: afterwards he and the snake eating him were both sucked out of the plane as it crashes. In keeping with everything else, it's was a borderline Humiliation Conga with fatal results.
  • The plot of Snatch centres around a stolen diamond that most of the other characters are trying to steal so that they can profit from it... except for Turkish and Tommy, two hapless boxing promoters who don't even know the diamond exists and are doing nothing more morally or ethically questionable than trying to survive a rigged boxing match organised by a psychotic gangster. They end up finding the diamond and profiting from it, while everyone else either dies, gets arrested or loses out.
  • Happens to most Big Bads in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some of the more noteworthy:
    • Obadiah Stane outright tells Tony that he locked him out of the company and will be using Tony's designs to mass produce weapons and become even richer before casually ripping out his Arc Reactor and leaving him to die. He's killed less than a day later by Pepper overloading a giant Arc Reactor and the Iron Monger armor conducting the energy. He probably even would have survived that if he had resisted the urge to sneak in some Evil Gloating.
    • Done retroactively to the Red Skull. After abusing the Space Stone's power, it banishes him to Vormir while telling him exactly that the Soul Stone is there and that he can get it if he kills someone he loves. Problem is...he loves no one. Come Infinity War he actually admits it was a pretty good punishment.
    • After Alexander Pierce manipulated Nick Fury for decades and tried to have him killed, he's shot dead by the man.
    • Ultron spends the entirety of his film manipulating everyone and building increasingly powerful bodies for himself. By the end, his disgust for organics cost him his allies and the Mind Stone leaving him trapped in a half-operational body that he designed to be Cannon Fodder and is ultimately destroyed by Vision (who's body he intended to be his final, immortal form).
    • Done to Steve Rogers/Captain America in Civil War. After spending the last two films chastising Nick Fury and Tony Stark about keeping projects secret, he's revealed to be concealing the murder of Howard and Maria Stark. Unsurprisingly, Tony doesn't take this well (even moreso considering how hypocritical Steve was being about the Accords) and proceeds to beat both Bucky Barnes (the killer of his parents) and Steve to within an inch of their lives. Taken even further in Infinity War where Bucky (the man Steve has sacrificed virtually torn the world apart for) is among the trillions killed by Thanos.
    • Following Thor: Ragnarök, Loki smuggles the Tesseract aboard the Statesman allowing Thanos to claim it since all that stands between him and it are a bunch of unarmed refugees. Loki's face shows that he's fully aware of this. After he tries to redeem himself by killing Thanos, he's promptly choked to death for failing Thanos beforehand.


  • Arianna Ortega from The Dresden Files falls prey to this; she kept her dad from interfering with her plan to gain the prestige to dethrone him by citing legal reasons; when the father of the girl she kidnapped and planned to sacrifice came calling, he used the same excuse that she did to get her father to let him challenge her, which ended with Arianna impaled by ice spears.
  • Lots of fairy tales rely on this trope. Charles Perrault and The Brothers Grimm have a lot of stories like this, such as Diamonds and Toads and The Queen Bee. In at least one Russian story, Baba Yaga's gate/pets/household goods help the heroine to escape because she was kinder to them than Baba Yaga was.
    • Many fairy tales have poor, hungry, often ugly old women who just want some food or a place to stay. They may or may not be a fairy queen in disguise, but it's always a Secret Test of Character, generally with good advice for the people who succeed and deadly curses for those who don't. The most obvious example is "Beauty and The Beast".
  • And you know what it means when the tale of "Androcles and the Lion" runs on this...
  • In the Lord of the Rings, each of the Ring-bearers shows mercy to Gollum and is rewarded for it later. Bilbo refrains from murdering Gollum in the goblin caves, and is rewarded (according to Gandalf) by taking very little hurt from the evil of the Ring, and being able to give it up at the end. Frodo is merciful when Gollum finds him and Sam in the Emyn Muil, and is rewarded when Gollum successfully gets the two of them into Mordor. Finally, Sam himself shows mercy to Gollum on the slopes of Mount Doom, and is rewarded when Gollum bites the Ring from Frodo's hand (thus freeing Frodo from the Ring's control) and falls with it into the Fire. Conversely, the Ring's malevolent corruption of Gollum ultimately results in the Ring's own destruction.
  • In Harry Potter, this trope is subverted and then played straight, then subverted again. Harry allows Wormtail to live, even though Wormtail was responsible for the death of Harry's parents, which first allows Wormtail to find Voldemort and return him to full power. However, as Dumbledore suggested, Harry's kindness meant that Wormtail felt that he was in Harry's debt, eventually leading to Wormtail saving Harry's life in the final book. Wormtail is then rewarded for this act of mercy by being strangled to death by his own magical prosthetic hand, which had been programmed to do so by Voldemort in case Wormtail's loyalty ever wavered again.
    • Snape does this. Voldemort kills the woman he loves, he betrays Voldemort and spies for the Order. Also, Narcissa Malfoy in Deathly Hallows: Voldemort tries to get her son killed, takes over her house, and treats her family like dirt; she lies to him at a crucial moment, causing Harry to win.
    • A possible case of Laser-Guided Karma existed in the first part of the film adaptation of The Deathly Hallows, where, after Harry Potter managed to deactivate Umbridges' patronus keeping a hive of Dementors at bay, she and the court were engulfed by them.
      • Umbridge at the end of Order of the Phoenix. Hates "half-breeds" like centaurs, mermaids, etc. Traumatised so badly by them that the next time we see her (not too long after the incident in question), she's practically catatonic.
      • Lockhart, who takes credit for other people's achievements then erases their memories. He gets his memory erased (accidentally) by himself towards the end of Chamber of Secrets.
  • One particularly horrific version appears in the Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventures novel Festival of Death, in which a character wipes out a species as research into how they are able to resurrect at the beginning of their lives with memories of how the last one went, in the hope of doing this and saving his parents from a shuttle accident. He succeeds, and learns he can only watch, not interfere with what's happened, essentially forcing him to watch all the tragedies and atrocities of his life an infinite number of times.
  • The Eludidated Brethren of the Ebon Night, who summon the dragon in Guards Guards, end up burnt to death as soon as the dragon slips the leash. The Discworld Companion lampshades this in the entry for the Brethren "The thing about karma on the Discworld is that it often happens real soon".
  • Walter The Weremouse, by John Dashney, works on this trope. Walter Wampler stops on his way home from work to help an old woman who's struggling with her grocery bags, and when they've been successfully trucked home she reveals that it was actually a Secret Test of Character; she appears to people who don't even have the opportunity for potential (much like Walter, whose life is at such a dead end that occasionally people forget he exists), and if they pass her test, she gives them a special cheese that, aside from being the most delicious cheese anyone's ever tasted, gives them just enough of a shove that they can make their lives go much better, but will have unpleasant consequences if eaten after midnight (hence why the book is called Walter the Weremouse).
  • Although Artemis Entreri was a Karma Houdini The Icewind Dale Trilogy, taking Regis captive and cutting off two of his fingers, karma catches up to him shortly after. In The Legacy he tortures Regis even more, to goad Drizzt into fighting for his friend's life. But when it's all said and done, Entreri ends up badly injured and hanging from a cliff by his torn cloak. He is stuck in that position for over a day before he is Regis. Regis taunts the helpless Entreri, takes several of his possessions, wonders aloud if he should bring help for the assassin...then decides that he's not feeling too merciful, and cuts the last remaining strands of Entreri's cloak, causing him to fall. And while Entreri does survive this, he winds up stuck in Menzoberranzan, and he is absolutely miserable there.
  • In Tom Kratman's Caliphate, an amoral, self-centered pedophile with no redeeming qualities whatsoever is working for the book's bad guys to create a super-virus. When he along with the child slaves being used for both test subjects and his personal gratification are rescued by the protagonist team, two of the children he abused use a shoelace and pencil to create a tourniquet they use to kill him by strangulation.
  • In O. Henry's "A Retrieved Reformation", safecracker Jimmy Valentine tries to make a new life for himself as "Ralph Spencer" after pulling a few jobs, but his nemesis police officer Ben Price tracks him down. During Ben's visit, a little girl gets herself locked in the bank vault. Jimmy puts his safecracking abilities to good use by rescuing the little girl, confirming his identity to Ben beyond a doubt. But when Jimmy resigns himself to being arrested, Ben pretends not to know him and says goodbye to "Mr. Spencer".
  • In Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell Jonathan's father Lawrence decides to punish a servant who annoyed him by sending him out on a long and pointless journey on a cold night. When he comes back feverish Lawrence insists that the man attend him as he works all night, and opens a window. He overlooks that feverish as the man is, he's in much younger and in better health, and in the morning Lawrence is found to have died of exposure.
  • In Warrior Cats , Tigerstar has been maniuplating events for a while in order to become Thunder Clan's leader. He got set a trap for Bluestar at the edge of the Thunderpath with the intention of killing her, but Cinderpelt ended up investigating the Thunderpath and getting hit by a car, which permanantly damaged one of her legs and dashed her hopes of ever being a Warrior. Before that, in Into The Wild, he killed Redtail, Thunder Clan's deputy at the time. Not many moons after that, he learned that Ravenpaw, his apprentice saw what happened, and Tiger Star planned to kill him to make sure he stayed silent. In Forest of Secrets, he led a group of rouges in an attack against Thunder Clan, and he surely would've killed Bluestar if Firestar hadn't been present. In A Dangerous Path, he led a pack of dogs to Snakerocks, which ended up killing one apprentice and disfiguring another. It all came to a head In Darkest hour when he wanted to unite the clans as one(which is a lot worse than it sounds) under his leadership. He managed to get River Clan to join "Lion Clan" and tried to get Graystripe's kits killed by having Stonefur, Bluestar's son, to kill them. When Stonefur refused, he sic'd Darkstripe on him, and when it looked like Darkstripe was going to lose, Tigerstar got another one of his followers to kill Stonefur. And after his betrayal, Bluestar completely lost her mind, which made her stop caring about her Clan. While his death at the hands of Scourge wasn't one that any sane cat would wish on another, you have to admit that after all that happened he really deserved to die. In fact, Tigerstar was so despised, that his son carried the suspicions of his Clanmates.
  • Roald Dahl's The Enormous Crocodile. The title character's misdeeds towards other animals throughout the book backfire on him big time, and devious attempts to eat kids are thwarted at every turn. He ends up being thrown into the Sun by the elephant he bit earlier.

Live Action Television

  • The premise of My Name Is Earl. Not just laser guided, a karma satellite orbital attack grid is aimed at the cast of characters.
  • On Tosh.0 this trope is invoked in a Web Redemption, when a video shows a man attempting to do a complicated slam dunk falls into a garbage can immediately after littering. In his words "that would be some fast-acting karma."
  • Exemplified in Angel Season 2, when Darla and Drusilla crash the Wolfram & Hart party after Darla was brought back by them. Angel bursts in, the Wolfram & Hart people wait expectantly for him to save them despite all they've done to him, and then watch on in horror as he slams the door shut and traps them inside with two bloodthirsty evil vampires. Needless to say, they do not survive.
    • Karma tends to creep up on Angel nearly every season, particularly after his attitude problem in season two.
  • Alexander Armstrong presented an episode of Have I Got News for You where one of the questions was about a survey claiming women laugh longer at punchlines than men. The joke on the autocue was "Shame you're not as good at delivering them, eh, girls?" He tripped over the line. Repeatedly.
    • Similarly, in another episode, the host ruined a joke about David Beckham being inarticulate.
  • In a positive example from Deadliest Catch, the Hillstrand brothers rescued a man from another boat who fell overboard, and ended up with a record haul that season.
  • The Jaleel White show Grown Ups featured the lack of a response to some negative deed he'd done, prompting some other character to comment on how it will come back and bite him in the ass eventually. Cut to him waking up and looking at himself in the mirror, then commenting with surprise: "what the hell bit me in the ass?!"
  • Dakota Fred seemed to be on the receiving end of this in the second season of the Discovery Channel series Gold Rush; kicking the Hoffmans out of Porcupine Creek while being a relentless Smug Snake came back to bite him big time when his house and everything in it was ruined by flooding.
  • Inexplicably, what happened to Rob & Amber at the end of Season 7 of The Amazing Race. Over the course of the season, Rob played the game like he had Survivor, including convincing two other team to quit a Roadblock and voluntarily take a penalty, and talking his way onto a closed flight. Alone this was nothing to get upset about, except he gloated constantly and guaranteed their victory, pissing off fans and the other teams in the process. Then, in the finale, when Rob & Amber are sitting alone on the plane to the Final Destination City, the race in hand, Uchenna & Joyce beg their way onto the plane, despite the gate already being closed and the pilot already having pulled away. Uchenna & Joyce eventually win, despite running out of money and having to beg to pay their cab driver at the Finish Line, as Rob & Amber get lost looking for the final clue in Little Havana. The comeback was so improbable (especially with Uchenna & Joyce getting all their money and possessions taken away for losing the previous leg) that it had some fans claiming the whole thing was staged (this rumor was started by a bitter Rob).
    • It happened to them again on All-Stars. Even before winning the first three legs, Rob's ego was flying as high as ever, and he was already declaring them the winners. Then every single thing went wrong for them on leg four, and Rob had to watch as Charla & Mirna made up a twenty minute deficit to pass them at the Roadblock.
  • Russell Hantz on Survivor: Redemption Island set off a Chain Reaction of karma for his tribe. He might have been able to get away with some of his old tricks in Heroes vs. Villains, back when he was an unknown quantity. Not this season (which began through a dare from Rob). Ran the exact same play in the exact same way, which triggered the no-less stupid decision to throw an immunity challenge while only two players ahead. He was the first one gone from the tribe, with the rest following in short order.
  • In Big Brother, Jeff pretty much spends the entire game trash-talking the newbies and calling them "Floaters". (Ignoring, of course that his girlfriend Jordan was doing the exact same stuff they were yet somehow got away with it.) After he thinks getting rid of their apparent leader will cause them to run around recklessly and give him the easy win he was promised), one of his supposed goons decides to start playing the game for herself and decides to join the newbies in getting him out. When him and his partners fail to win Head of Household and Veto, guess who's sent out the door?
  • When Roy Walker left the British game show Catch Phrase (a show he was very well-known for hosting), he was replaced by Nick Weir. He tripped and broke his leg within the opening of the first episode he hosted.
  • The Malcolm in the Middle episode Malcolm Defends Reese: Mr. Herkabe, not wanting his title of "highest GPA ever" stripped by Malcolm, has his brother Reese publically humiliated in front of the class, and when Malcolm tries to stick up to Reese, he ends up risking to fail his class, and thus not get the highest GPA ever in order to keep Reese from being humiliated again. After Mr. Herkabe lets slip that he failed Gym, his title is automatically stripped, and he has to retake PE as a student. And to add insult to his (rather deserving) injury, he has to take it the exact same PE Class as Reese, who takes sweet revenge on Herkabe by absolutely creaming him at Dodgeball.
    • Hal has also been victim to this at least twice. Once where his earlier claim that the nads were easy pickings when playing basketball with his sons resulted in him being hit in the crotch, another time was in the episode Red Dress. He ended up burning Lois's red dress that she intended to wear for their anniversary. As a consequence, he ended up having his anniversary dinner all by himself while waiting for Lois, and presumably burn the house while completely drunk in Lois and the kid's absence.
  • In the first episode of Heroes Volume 4, when Nathan is rounding up and imprisoning people with superpowers, Peter runs into Mohinder and asks him what he thinks of Nathan's plan. To Peter's dismay, Mohinder thinks it's a good idea because of his own experience with turning into a dangerous monster after giving himself superpowers not long ago. Immediately after Peter leaves, Mohinder is kidnapped by Nathan's goons - and realizes that he really doesn't think it's such a good idea after all. . .prompting a Heel Face Turn by episode's end.
  • In the 2nd episode of Sherlock, General Shan is the only member of the Black Lotus to escape, much to Sherlock's disappointment. At the very end, we see her communicating with Moriarty, right before we see the laser sighting of a sniper rifle on her forehead and hear a gunshot as the screen goes black.
  • One episode of Only Fools and Horses has Del become romantically involved with an antiques dealer named Miranda. It's obvious to the audience she was only interested in a painting that hung in the Trotters flat, which they apparently don't know the value of. She manages to coerce Del into giving her it for a birthday present, assuring him that she just want to hang it in her home. At the end of the episode Del goes to meet her at an auction house, and finds the painting up for sale. Miranda smugly tells him she's registered the painting to show that it has been in her family for years. Turns out Del knew how valuable it was all along; his grandmother stole it from an art dealer she had been a cleaner for, and Miranda is going to be in a lot of trouble.
  • Despite any retribution being absent from the actual movie (save for a deleted scene), Saturday Night Live has the "lost" ending of It's a Wonderful Life cover the duly-deserved just desserts for Mr. Potter. Uncle Billy remembers what happened with the money he lost, and the town storms Potter's office after learning he has it. As George starts giving him a beating, Potter reveals he was faking being a cripple. The short ends with George, Mary, and Harry simultaneously whaling on Potter as the town sings Auld Lang Syne.
  • "The Summer of George" from the eighth season of Seinfeld is pretty masterful example. The episode's main plot revolves around George receiving a huge severance package from the New York Yankees and deciding to use it to fund a summer of laziness, or "The Summer of George" as he calls it. This is all derailed when George slips on a glossy party invitation from the same invitation store where he purchased the cheap invitations that led to Susan's death one year prior. At the hospital the same doctor that gave the gang the news that Susan had died tells them that George will walk again but now will have to spend the whole summer in rehab. Hilariously, Jerry, Elaine and Kramer react with the same indifference the whole group had towards Susan's death as George laments the loss of his summer.
  • Used quite frequently on The King of Queens anytime Doug or Carrie (or both) come up with a selfish scheme to benefit themselves. A good example: in the episode Buy Curious an elderly neighbor dies and Carrie convinces Doug to buy her house for a small sum then "flip it" to make a larger profit. However, it costs them too much to make repairs to it, theuy inadvently insult an African couple who attempt to buy it, and are forced to sell it to Lou Ferrigno (whom they had forced away from the house, despite him only tending the plants)for much less then they paid for it.
  • Gregory House of House sometimes finds his underhanded actions will undermine the very goal he was aiming to achieve. Perhaps one of the most poignant instances was when he plugged up various sewage mains at the hospital as a result of his anger at Wilson deciding not to seek cancer treatment. When he finally accepts the decision and resolves to enjoy what time he has left with Wilson, he's jailed for felony vandalism as a result of flooding the hospital and loses that remaining time.
  • Two noteworthy examples in Victorious:
    • After arranging a trip to Yerba without doing any research, Tori is the first of the gang to end up in supermax (admittedly for an accident).
    • When Jade finds that a picture of her on Google Maps makes it look like she's picking her nose, she goes to great lengths to have others remove it and replace it with a better one while redefining Ungrateful Bitch. When the new picture is taken, it makes it look like she's making out with Robbie.


  • Some might say it's subverted in Greek Mythology because most times karma is just the gods helping or messing with the heroes, but the fact is that the heroes good or bad actions have consequences, and the gods represent universal forces, so this is still technically true. Here are some examples:
    • Achilles's profanation of Apollo's temple led to his death by Paris, who was a servant of Apollo.
    • Odysseus blinding Polyphemus was what incited Poseidon to curse him, setting the stage for The Odyssey.
      • Other examples include the greed of Odysseus' crew leading to Aeolus' gift blowing them off course, the plunder at Ismaros being rewarded by storms that blew them off course, and Odysseus' patience and faithfulness at Calypso's island leading to divine intervention aiding his escape. On the other hand, Odysseus only put out Polyphemus' eye because the cyclops meant to eat him, so they were kind of holding each others' lasers. Odysseus' tribulations are as much because of hubris as anything else, because he would have gotten away with blinding Polyphemus if he hadn't decided to boast by shouting his real name at the monster as he left. Polyphemus initially offered to feast with Odysseus instead of on Odysseus in his honor for his cunning; it was only after Odysseus cursed him that Polyphemus cursed him back.
    • Jason helping an old woman across a stream was fortuitous, for she was actually Hera in disguise, and she set in motion the events that let to his later adventures with the Argonauts.
      • Jason would suffer both good and bad karma with this trope, as his efforts to dump his lawful wife Medea (who had allowed the Argonauts to escape the land of her father Aeetes) for another woman cost him Hera's favor and led to his disgrace and eventual death.
      • Jason's betrayal was a case of Laser-Guided Karma for Medea, who betrayed her father, murderer her brother and later tricked the daughters of Jason's uncle into murdering their father. Her father was actively trying to murder (indirectly) Jason using undead skeletons and an unkillable dragon. His uncle was a Lawful Evil despot who murdered Jason's father and stole his throne, and was ALSO trying to get Jason killed indirectly. Her brother...was just kinda in the way, and his murder forced her father to stop his pursuit of Jason to bury him.
    • Ixion is another mention, given that he first murdered his father-in-law, fled to Mount Olympus to escape punishment, and repaid Zeus's hospitality by attempting to rape Hera. An infuriated Zeus banished him to Hades, where he was strapped to a flaming wheel and left to spin around for the rest of eternity.
      • Ixion's son Peirithoos is just as bad, convincing Theseus to sneak down with him into Hades and kidnap Persephone to be his bride. Needless to say, Hades was not amused. When Heracles came down to the Underworld on the last of his Twelve Labours, he was allowed to free Theseus from Hades' captivity. The Underworld shook when he tried to free Peirithoos, which was Hades' way of letting our hero know that this was a very bad idea.
    • Tantalus was a king who tried to steal some ambrosia from the gods. They found out and banished him from Olympus. He invited them to a feast at his home to "try to make it up to them"; he killed his children and fed them to the gods as revenge for being banished. They found out about that, too [they are gods, after all] and now he's in the Fields Of Punishment. He's standing in a lake under a fruit tree, and he's starving. Every time he tries to eat or drink, the food/liquid moves away from him.
    • Sisyphus' attempts to cheat death (and by extension Hades) ended in failure and got him stuck pushing a boulder up a mountain for eternity.
    • The moral of these stories? Don't piss off the Greek gods.

Tabletop Games

  • Instant Karma is an optional game mechanic in GURPS: Thaumatology that can strike people who use ritual magic to harm others.
  • Magic: The Gathering has It That Betrays, a card that makes any card your opponent sacrfices yours. It also makes your opponent sacriice two cards each time it attacks. Given that Eldrazi (the creature type It That Betrays is a member of) cause people to sacrifice permanents...this is more like Laser Guided Theft.
  • In Traveller judicial slavery is sometimes used as an alternative to capital punishment in the Sword Worlds. If this is interpreted to imply that this is the penalty for human trafficing which seems likely, then the poetic justice of this is rather grimly amusing.

Video Games

  • In the prologue of Resident Evil 4, you can choose to rescue a stray dog from a bear trap. Most players do this solely due to the dog's Woobie-ness, to be rewarded when he jumps into their fight with El Gigante, distracting him and making the fight easier.
  • Early at the fair in Chrono Trigger, Crono has the opportunity to help a little girl find her cat, and to eat a random man's lunch for HP. A few sequences latter, though, he needs character witnesses, and every Good or Evil act comes back up... not that it will matter. Sure, being found innocent nets you a couple Elixirs, but...
  • At the end of Metroid II Samus spares a baby Metroid that imprinted upon her as its mother. In Super Metroid, the Metroid returns the favor by not draining Samus to death, and then sacrificing itself to save her life in the fight against Mother Brain, triggering the mother of all Mama Bear moments from Samus, who, by the way, now has the Hyper Beam.
    • Not counting for the fact that without that baby Super Metroid wouldn't happen...
      • In the beginning of Metroid Fusion, Samus gets infected by the X Parasite, whose only natural enemies are the Metroids she all but annihilated. Her life is saved by cells extracted from the last Metroid and these events would have happened with less favorable results even without the baby Metroid.
      • ...Except that it is also negative Laser-Guided Karma, as Samus was the one who killed all the Metroids.
    • Another cross-game example: Remember those cute critters that taught you how to shinespark and wall-climb in Super Metroid? At the end of Super Metroid you can take some time off your busy schedule of escaping the self-destructing planet and help them reach their own ship (it's the small dot flying away from Zebes in the ending cinematic). At the end of Metroid Fusion, they'll return the favor by saving your ship from the rampaging Omega Metroid, allowing you to escape the doomed space station.
  • Especially common in adventure games by Sierra, especially Quest for Glory and King's Quest, being based off of ~The Hero's Journey~ and Mega Crossover Fairy Tales respectively. Kill a rare flower? You'll eventually get turned into one. Fail to stop a cat from attacking a rat? Well now who's going to chew through your ropes?
    • Quest for Glory tends towards the positive karma version of this trope (usually negative karma is quite predictable since someone is present and may warn you not to do something). Fail to rescue the monkey from the cage? Well good luck going to the lost city. Didn't show compassion to the woman turned into a tree? Well no magic fruit to make a dispel potion!
  • A minor act of kindness by Disgaea 3 Absence of Justice's Chew Toy Almaz towards Sapphire (she overheard him defending her in the guard barracks) in the background story is the ultimate source of his case of Throw the Dog a Bone and Rags to Royalty.
  • In the second Ryu ga Gotoku game, Kazuma helping out a fun-loving old lady with item quests will allow him to learn some useful fighting techniques, and eventually discover that she is in fact the former martial arts instructor of a Triad leader he fought in the first game.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV has this. At one point late in the game, you can choose to either help a man who once betrayed you with a large heroin deal (you're ordered to do so by a mafia boss), or just kill the guy for revenge. Whichever choice you make though, you end up paying for it DEARLY. if you help with the H deal, not only do you get double-crossed AGAIN, but your cousin gets killed. If you go and kill the guy who betrayed you, the mafia boss that ordered you to work with him comes along and shoots your girlfriend. During a WEDDING!
    • The mission that follows this lets the player get their turn at inflicting some Laser-Guided Karma.
  • Near the end of Dead Space, you desperately fight to put an artifact back in place on a pedestal to neutralize all the alien monsters on the planet. Then The Mole shows up and steals it away, mocking you. Not five minutes later, said Mole is smashed into paste by the Cosmic Horror that would have left everyone alone if the artifact hadn't been disturbed.
    • In the sequel, Daina Le Guin dies about 20 seconds after you find out she was a Unitologist using you the whole time.
  • Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 absolutely love punishing egotistical behaviour on higher difficulties. The game actually actively spawns Special Infected next to people that wander off on their own to scavenge some pills or think they can survive on their own. Chargers in particular have a reputation for this.
    • Rumour has that "tea-bagging" a downed/dead team-mate spawns a couple of hordes which home in on you.
  • In Final Fantasy you have a sort-of example with tonberries, which cast a spell called "Everyone's Grudge" (varies from game to game) which does damage that scales with how many of their friends you've murdered.
  • In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, a priest locked himself in a small fortress with a powerful artifact that could've been used to save his village from vampire attacks for his own personal protection. Almost immediately after the main character takes the artifact from the priest to use against the vampires, the priest gets torn apart by vampires who seemed to have been waiting for the moment they could kill him.
    • In the original series, a now-retconned plot point revealed Alucard to be Trevor Belmont's father. This would have meant that Dracula had been getting taken down by his own descendants, generation after generation.
  • One of the choices at the end of The Dark Meadow is to corrupt your daughter's soul in exchange for a longer life. If you decide to cross the line, your character will land in a mental asylum for the next 17 years of his life. Have fun!
  • In the first Dead Rising, Frank comes across a paranoid gun shop owner warning another man to stay away, while the other man is asking him to let other people use his guns. Finally the shop owner shoots the man with a shotgun, blasting him out of the store. After defeating him in a mini-bossfight, he staggers out of his shop blubbering and terrified, only to run headfirst into the zombie of the man he killed.
    • In the sequel, Dead Rising 2, Chuck comes across an unhinged CURE (basically a zombie rights group) supporter in a bathroom. He's been keeping a zombie around to spread the disease, because he thinks it's a blessing of sorts. Shortly after you beat him, he stumbles right into the bathroom stall he was keeping the zombie in, and is bitten. Rather than become a zombie, he opts to slit his throat.
  • In the scenario of "Battle of Okehazama" in Samurai Warriors 2, a dying Yoshimoto threatens Dark Lord Nobunaga with a speech about Karma that will eventually find him and make him suffer a painful defeat. Nobunaga's answer?

 Nobunaga:"... I cannot wait....."

  • In the Fallout: New Vegas downloadable content Dead Money, you spend most of the time trying to access a secret pre-war fortress of technology for the insane former elder of the Brotherhood of Steel, Elijah. At the end of the DLC, when you finally access the Sierra Madre Vault, you have the option of talking him into coming down then simply leaving. Elijah will walk into the vault and try to access whats inside. Then he'll and accidentally trigger an event on the computer that traps him inside. There's no way out of there now, he's trapped in there until he dies.
  • In the Mass Effect series, there is a race of aliens called the Quarians. The Quarians created a sentient slave race of synthetic machines known as the Geth, using them for many years until one day they decided to commit genocide against the Geth. The Geth didn't like this, so they drove the Quarians off their home world for hundreds of years after. It was tragic for them to be sure, but they completely brought it upon themselves.
    • It gets worse: the Geth are, by and large, a peaceful group who believe that every intelligent being has the right to choose how they live out their lives. The Quarians attempted genocide against the Geth when the Geth became sentient, and the Geth only fought back in order to protect themselves. It's even implied that they've kept the Quarian homeworld in pristine condition, awaiting the day they can make peace with their creators. So, yeah, the Quarians really brought it upon themselves, and the only reason they're still in the situation they're in is that they keep bringing it upon themselves.
      • If you inquire further about this, Legion cannot explain why the geth do it, but compares it to organic memorials (such as Arlington and Auschwitz). When Shepard asks why a machine would care about such things, Legion cannot properly explain, only suggesting that they do it in place of the quarians.
    • Mass Effect 3 puts yet another nail in the Quarians' karmic coffin: they gain enough of a military advantage to attack the Geth. The Geth, panicked and made a bit more stupid by the loss of some of their number (Geth intelligence is dependant on how many of them are networked at once), decided they would surrender to the Reapers to preserve themselves. The Reaper-controlled Geth force starts kicking Quarian ass. Really, will these guys ever learn? The answer is possibly yes: if you play your cards right, it is possible to free the Geth from Reaper control and broker peace between them. It's not easy though, and depends on numerous decisions made as far back as Mass Effect 1 to accomplish.
  • Arguably the sacking of the Dales in Dragon Age. While not directly connected to it, it was likely triggered primarily by their choice to not involve themselves in preventing a potential appocalypse, thus souring their neighbors additudes to them further and considering the elven additude towards humans, their reason for noninvolvement was likely a petty one when compared to the fate of the world.
    • Also in Dragon Age's Dwarf Noble origin, Lord Harrowmont is a Reasonable Authority Figure who will support your character if you were falsely accused and puts his political career on the line to try and save your life (although he ultimately fails because your accuser was one step ahead). You later return to Orzammar and find him deadlocked in a battle for the throne with your accuser, and have the option of handing him the crown.
  • In The Reconstruction, Yacatec is a slave trader who sells his own race into slavery, but he's revealed to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold due to Love Redeems. After the apocalypse, his wife is murdered, and he himself is enslaved by the si'shra.
  • One of the PvP factions in Dark Souls, the Darkmoon Blade, is all about this. When players kill other players and NPCs, they accumulate sin. The Darkmoon covenant is a covenant specifically based around hunting down those with a large amount of sin.


  • The Order of the Stick: After conquering the hometown of the paladins, Redcloak loses his eye to a paladin that he had tortured in order to gain information about a plan for which he had, in Start of Darkness, murdered his own brother, who himself had lost an eye to a paladin of the same order who helped conquer Redcloak's hometown. It's like a karma palindrome.
    • For bonus points, it's the other eye! And afterwards, when Xykon's phylactery is falling, it bounces off the statue of Redcloak, hitting the same eye he lost!! Brilliant!
    • For double bonus points, Redcloak, as a cleric, has access to the Regenerate spell that would let him get the eyeball back... but Xykon forbids him from ever using it, so that he'll always have a reminder of his failure. Sure, he's talking about losing Xykon's phylactery, but come on...
    • Also from their first fight with the Linear Guild the guild disables their cleric and moments later loses their own. Roy even said at the time "I think karma just evened that score".
    • From the same fight, Nale falling off the bridge that he ordered destroyed. And Lampshaded again with "Karma-riffic!"
    • Vaarsuvius unleashes a spell called Familicide that wipes out an enormous number of black dragons and their descendants. Turns out the Draketooth clan that guards one of the gates is descended from a black dragon, wiping out the clan and leaving the gate unguarded.
  • Material Girl has this happening to the main character right at the beginning.
  • In WTF Comics, Nikisha (a Dark Elf Dark Action Girl working as an assassin for the villains) helps an imprisoned child she was supposed to be guarding escape. The same child promptly acts as a Character Witness and prevents the heroes from killing her. That is not enough; the Big Good happens to meet her shortly after, and gives her advice on how to protect herself from the Big Bad. Karmariffic, indeed.
  • In Sluggy Freelance the exact moment Cloney tries to bite off Aylee's head, Torg chops Cloney's head right off.
  • A Loonatics Tale: Not a villainous example, but certainly notable: Dr. Chester is mean to everyone, and the degree to which he is mean is in inverse proportion to how much they need someone to be nice to them (so to his bosses, he's merely surly, but to Dr. Qubert or his own patients, he's actively derisive and hostile). As a result nothing ever goes his way-machines won't work, his bosses wonder why they hired his useless butt, and his coworkers have nothing nice to say either to or about him.
  • From Blip, this guy trying to slip some roofies to a succubus.
    • Also worth noting is the children at Hesters summer camp who could have saved themselves some future therapy bills and mental trauma had they been actually 'nice' to Hester, as it stands their hazing of the red headed witch is directly linked to their terrorizing by a vampire.
  • In Dead Winter, Arlen insists on kicking Liz, Alice, Monday, and Lou out of his shelter (in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse)--and as if that wasn't dickish enough, he also steals the keys to Lou's van. Then the hitman Sixgun comes looking for Monday, and the van out front convinces him that Monday is inside the shelter. Arlen attempts to bar Sixgun's entrance, and just gets shot.

Web Original

  • Invoked in the Whateley Universe. A powerful sorcerer commits heinous, heinous deeds. Then, she gets one of her spells rebounded at her, using the rule of three. She now has a black hand approaching her, that is all her misdeeds. When it hit a previous character who allied with her? HIS FACE MELTED OFF! She's done far, far worse.
  • Played for laughs in Team Four Star's Let's Play of Left 4 Dead 2 custom campaign I Hate Mountains. During the rescue, they remind each other to remember the lessons learned when they played Hard Rain. After a Beat, they start shooting Kaiser Neko, who was the Sole Survivor of Hard Rain[1]. When the rest of the group runs to the escape plane, a Tank appears and starts kicking their butts; they instantly declare it the Karma Tank (though two of them still manage to get away).
    • Lanipator gets hit twice with this during part 3 of Blood Harvest. At one point Takahata has been incapped and Kaiser Neko asks if anyone wants to help him. Lani just says he's shooting Taka. A Charger then attacks Lani. Later, Ganxingba gets trapped by fire and Lani decides to throw a gas can and a propane tank to make it worse. He's then grabbed by a smoker. In both instances he calls it karma.
  • In the Yogscast Minecraft Machinima, Simon jokingly sets fire to the Yogcave, then stands around yakking while Lewis panics trying to put the flames out. Moments later, Simon is "accidentally" knocked into a deep underground pit. He climbs out and promptly burns to death. Later, when he's respawned and the fire's gone out, he wanders out the back door... and triggers a booby trap and blows up.
  • Of all people, The Runaway Guys are struck by this in episode 8 of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, when Proton Jon is attempting to guide the others through the fortress, and Josh Jepson decides to have a little fun...
  • While she's too oblivious to see it as such, The Nostalgia Chick has got her disregard for the privacy of others thrown back at her a few times, like Obscurus Lupa hiding in her bed or Nella popping up next to her out of nowhere.
  • Bitey is usally the victim of this in the Brackenwood series. This is mostly due to the fact that he keeps being a total Jerkass to the many peaceful animals of Brackenwood. However in a twist, in "The Last of the Dashkin" it's revealed that some of those sweet little animals may be just as deserving of that karma as Bitey.

Western Animation

  • Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy are ALWAYS falling victim to this. For example, when the Eds play a trick on Jimmy in Tinker Ed, this leads to Sarah and Jimmy setting up an elaborate trap for them to fall into, resulting in an embarrassing photo being taken of them in fairy-tale costumes which is promptly handed off to Kevin to show to the other kids.
    • The infuriating part is that it was all Kevin's fault for crushing Jimmy's beliefs in the first place.
  • Disney's Beauty and the Beast has the prince and his castle and staff transformed for denying a beggar woman shelter. She was really a beautiful (if somewhat petty) enchantress.
    • The prince really was a real Jerkass, and more importantly he was also a prince with the power to make people's lives really unpleasant. This was not his first act of selfishness, and even on becoming a Beast it was not his last. There is no telling what sort of authority he might have grown up to become without learning a lesson about love and selflessness.
  • Positive and negative karma example: in The Incredibles, Syndrome being callous about Mr. Incredible threatening to kill Mirage, and Mr. Incredible not being able to carry out the threat is what convinced her to do a Mook Face Turn and help the Incredibles stop the robot.
    • Another example is Mr. Incredible's rather callous treatment of Buddy, who only wanted to fight alongside his hero. This, obviously, came back to bite Mr. Incredible when Syndrome appeared, some Disproportionate Retribution aside. In the end, however, it doesn't end well for Syndrome when he later shoots Mr. Incredible's family out of the sky, leading to the exact same family coming to their patron's rescue and giving Syndrome a good, hard, well-earned ass-beating throughout the rest of the film.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Sokka tries to stop Well-Intentioned Extremist Jet from robbing a harmless old man belonging to the hostile Fire Nation, and when later Jet attempts to destroy the village, Sokka is able to successfully evacuate it after the old man speaks out in his favor.
    • An indirect, somewhat subtle example that could just as well be a coincidence. Ozai burned and banished his son, Zuko, when he was thirteen years old. Cut to only a few years later, when Ozai is defeated by Aang, who was (presumably) thirteen years old.
    • To add the this, it is later pointed out (by Zuko himself, no less) to Ozai that if he'd never banished Zuko in the first place, things would have probably worked in his favor.
      • And who was it that became Aang's firebending teacher, allowing him to complete his training and defeat Ozai (including teaching him the perfect counter to Ozai's trump Card)? Zuko.
  • In The Boondocks, Riley is playing a game of basketball where he got the center to run off crying by telling her that her parents were getting divorced and waiting until after her birthday to tell her, and she was replaced by an autistic kid. Said socially challenged child turns out to be a child-prodigy at basketball.
    • Another example was Uncle Ruckus Tempting Fate by declaring that if he wasn't correct, may God strike him down. God does.
  • Cartman of South Park gets bitten in the ass by this every so often. For example, he feigns Tourettes syndrome (mental disorder that strips people of control over their behavior and speech) so he could swear to his heart's content without reprimand. All goes shiny until he loses control of himself and starts spilling out all his embarrassing secrets.
    • To balance this however, he is often thrown a bone on the rare occasions those he plots against are presented with similar cruel intentions (eg. bumbling terrorists or immoral anti-tobacco companies). In recent episodes odd occasions have shown the other boys turn on Cartman without provocation or go to similar ruthless measures in their Escalating War with him (especially Kyle, who has an exceptional hatred of him) only for it to fall flat on them (eg. Fat Beard). That said this doesn't prevent Cartman from taking his retaliation completely overboard at times (given all the unprovoked pain and humiliation Cartman went through in Scott Tenorman Must Die, fans seem to be mixed as to whether his revenge on Manipulative Bastard Scott Tenorman counts as Moral Event Horizon or Crowning Moment of Awesome).
    • "Humancentipad" is possibly the ultimate case of Cartman getting an episode of this trope. His mother stands up to him for once for the episode and when he nearly gets rewarded for humiliating her on national television get struck down by lightning.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, a show that thrives on contrived coincidences, if Candace and Doofenshmirtz don't do anything particularly malicious in an episode, they'll usually get a happy ending along with the other characters.
  • In The Batman vs Dracula, when The Joker shocks Penguin and tosses him in the river, Penguin recovers just in time to see Batman swing after a retreating Joker. He nearly drops the trope name:

 Penguin: Instant karma, Joker!

  • The Joker is usually a Karma Houdini, but he got it good in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series. He pushes Jack Ryder into a vat of chemicals after dosing him with laughing gas. Ryder comes back as the Creeper, who hits on Harley and eventually chases Joker through Gotham in a chase scene so wacky it ends with Joker yelling, "He's a lunatic!" and practically begging Batman for help.
  • And from Batman the Animated Series, Ferris Boyle gets just this in fan favorite episode Heart of ice, where Batman delivers the tape that proves his whole 'humanitarian' shtick was all a load of bogus, and how he was the one who turned Victor Fries into a woobie supervillain (bonus points for him saying an epic burn and just leaving him half frozen.

"Good night... Humanitarian."

"Good night... Humanitarian."

"Good night... Humanitarian."

"Good night... Humanitarian."


 Tom: Gee, I'm throwing away a million dollars... BUT I'M HAPPY!

    • Especially noticeable since Jerry had been beating the crap out of Tom because he knew the cat couldn't fight back
  • Cyril Sneer both suffered and benefited from this trope. When he was a nasty Corrupt Corporate Executive, he would be repeatedly burned and lose money whenever one of his schemes was thwarted. After Character Development turned him into an Honest Corporate Executive and he became a better person overall, his luck dramatically increased and he begain winning Karmic Jackpots.
  • Alejandro suffers this in the Total Drama World Tour season finale. After manipulating most of the female cast for most of the season, he falls in love with Heather....who tricks him into holding off his victory and kneeing him in the balls before pushing him down a mountain. He suffers the same fate he inflicted on all his victims. DAMN.
  • An episode of Johnny Test was devoted to Karma. Johnny insulted a man with a 'glandular problem' that made him look fat by calling him fat. Thanks to testing a muscle enhancing bar for Bling Bling Boy, Johnny gets the same problem and is insulted by the same man as earlier. Throughout the episode, Dukie keeps telling him to do good deeds, but Johnny doesn't believe in karma...things keep going bad for Johnny until he finally does a good deed, triggering a series of events that returned him to normal. Bling Bling also tried to help Johnny return to normal, and ultimately became a pop star.
  • In Xiaolin Showdown the monks choose to save a little old lady, letting the villains get away with the "Bird of Paradise." Guess what the little old lady turns out to be.
  • Happens in Lola and Virginia where the Rich Bitch Virginia always gets her comeuppance in the end.
  • Later episodes of The Angry Beavers has this happen to Norbert a lot as a result of his increasingly Jerkass behavior.
  • Angelica in Rugrats gets hit with this a lot:
    • After taunting Chuckie about his potty-training anxieties, she wets the bed...just moments after Chuckie overcomes his fears.
    • In "Fluffy vs Spike", she gets Spike punished for various misdeeds she and her cat Fluffy committed. Then Spike does get his own back on the two...and gets away with it. He's back in the garage the moment Didi comes in, and Didi immediately scolds Angelica before Drew takes her and Fluffy home.
    • When she broke Tommy's clown lamp, she bragged about it to his face and ended her tirade with "and there's nothing you babies can do about it cause you can't talk." Unfortunately, Betty and Didi are right in the next room and hear every word. They drag her into the kitchen and force her to sit in a high chair, much to her displeasure.
    • In "Slumber Party", she opens Tommy's window, causing him to catch a cold. He ends up puking all over her.
    • When she decides to bully the babies out of their treasure while they play Pirates, Didi catches her about to push Tommy into a kiddie pool and drags her into the house to do chores.
    • During "Chuckie's Wonderful Life," she steals Chaz's CD and causes Chuckie to blame the other babies. After they leave, she tells him it was all his fault and everyone would be better off without him. Drew ends up finding her with the CD and drags her back to the Finster house to return. He forces her to apologize to Chaz before announcing that she's not getting any dessert for a week.
    • In "Angelica Breaks a Leg", she fakes the titular broken leg so Stu and Didi will wait on her hand and foot, driving Stu to a breakdown in the process. The episode ends with her being forced to wait on her mother hand and foot along with Drew when Charlotte breaks her own leg.
  • While Roger Klotz found himself on the business end of this many times in Doug, there was one time it was not funny or deserved. In "Doug Saves Roger," he plans to bully newcomer Percy Femur, only for Percy to turn the tables on him to the point where Roger fears for his life. It doesn't take Doug long to realize there's a difference between this trope and just plain cruelty, and that Roger doesn't deserve what Percy's dishing out. Later played straight when Percy decides to attack Doug instead, and Roger rats him out to his uncle-Mr. Bone. Percy gets dragged away by the ear for his troubles.

Real Life

  • This Cracked article describes 8 cases where people who were generally being dicks and getting away with it met their comeuppance through the power of Anonymous. A crowning example is the case of Zhang Ya, a bratty Chinese girl who complained that the mourning period after the devastating Sichuan earthquake prevented her from watching her favorite TV shows or playing games, and went on to say that everyone in Sichuan deserves to die because they are poor and unattractive, and ended her rant by hoping that the rest of the Sichuan survivors die off. Cue Anonymous posting all of her personal info online and making her life a living hell.
  • Happens sometimes in the Darwin Awards. For instance, this man tried to steal from a collection plate, ran outside onto a highway, and was killed by a bus. That's pretty instant karma right there.
  • The effect is, as stated above, nearly impossible to substantiate in Real Life, but Instant Karma is a recurring observation for many transplant-natives to places like Greenwich Village in Manhattan, The French Quarter in New Orleans, and the Haight-Ashbury of San Francisco. This is explored in fiction, but with less regularity than it's become a recurring topic in Real Life conversations.
  • Eric Bauman, founder of eBaumsworld and infamous for making a fortune off of content stolen from across the net, was recently fired by the current owners of his company.
  • Lakers player Andrew Bynum put a major hit on Gerald Wallace in a game in late January 2009, a hit that caused Wallace to get a broken rib and a collapsed lung. In Bynum's very next game, he got into a collision with Kobe Bryant, which caused Bynum to have a major MCL tear which put him out for 8-12 weeks, the amount of time some NBA fans believe he should've been suspended for the hit on Wallace.
  • During the filming of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, director Melvin Van Peebles had his 13-year old son, Mario, shoot a scene as a young Sweetback. The scene was where Sweetback lost his virginity to a old hooker. It was as disturbing as it sounds - especially since Mario's skinny frame made him look all of 9. Trying to shoot this scene today would've resulted in a vice raid and a nice long talk with Child Services - at a minimum. Instant Karma got Melvin when he caught gonorrhea during his own (un-simulated) sex scene during the same filming.
  • Another sports example would be in the National Hockey League with Eric Lindros and Scott Stevens. Eric Lindros was viewed as the next Wayne Gretzky when he was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques, only to enrage Quebec fans by refusing to play for the team and demanding a trade to Philadelphia. While in Philadelphia, his behavior led many to view him as a self-centered, pampered Jerk Jock who didn't care about anyone but himself and his own stats. This attitude, along with his punishing physical style of play, made the many injuries he suffered, particularly the brutal concussion he suffered from New Jersey defenceman Scott Stevens in the 2000 playoffs, become viewed by many fans as karmic retribution. Stevens himself could also be construed as a victim of this trope. His fierce physical bodychecking led not only Lindros but several other victims to suffer major injuries, while he himself would eventually be forced to retire due to post-concussion syndrome. Connection, perhaps?
  • Another example from the NHL in which during a match, player Steve Sullivan was hit in the face with a teammates stick causing a cut across his nose. Cue a fan heckling Steve as he skates off. Two short handed goals by Sullivan later, the opposing teams goalie Patrick Roy tries to clear the puck, only to have it go over the glass and hit the same heckler in the forehead. Bonus points for the man's female friend (who is covering his cut with a cloth) giving Steve a thumbs up as he skates by with a few words of his own.
  • A rare case of MMA Instant Karma, but by former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans' own admission, he was actually in the process of taunting Lyoto Machida (or reassuring himself) by attempting to say "you hit like a bitch," only to be cut off by a looping right hook from Machida made all the more effective by Evans' open mouth.
  • Speaking of sports, Zinedine Zidane at the FIFA World Cup.
  • Several stories on Not Always Right.
  • Hunter setting illegal snares is chased off of game preserve by hippos and eaten by lions.
  • Three guys attempt to mug someone in Sydney, outside what turns out to be a ninjitsu class.
  • From the Maury Povich Show, we have this fine speciment of humanity. It's hard to feel sympathy for this bum given that he apparently never paid one thin dime in child support to the kids' mother.
  • One German agent in Istanbul during World War II was being more of a bother than the Emniyet preferred. So the Emniyet sent a man to go up to him and say, "We have discovered that you are Jewish..."
  • On the Israeli version of the TV show Big Brother: the "Big Brother" himself, speaking to someone else with him in the black room thinking that the mic is offline, made an extremely rude sexual comment about one of the competitors. Except the mic was online, and the incident resulted in a lawsuit. Big Brother was defeated by excessive surveillance: karma!
  • From Sixty Minutes: A bank tried to take away a woman's house by using forged documents. Unfortunately for the bank, said woman was a lawyer and fraud/forgery expert who trains FBI agents. It didn't help that the bank(s) did things like putting in the wrong date, occasionally listing the target as "BOGUS ACQUISITION", and hiring a sweatshop's worth of people to sign the same name to hundreds of documents. However it ultimately might not matter since it'd be too expensive to fight all these cases and the government is thinking of putting aside billions to make the homeowners settle.
  • Adolf Eichmann, who came up with and implemented the idea of incinerating concentration camp victims, including Jews, was himself consigned to the flames by the Jews after being hanged for his crimes. His ashes were then scattered over the Mediterranean from an Israeli police boat.
    • The 10 condemned Nazis hung for their crimes after World War II were burned in Munich, and their ashes were scattered over the Isar; Hermann Goering was presumably burned as the 10 were being hanged, as he had poisoned himself before he could join them at the gallows.
    • Ironically, Hitler doesn't count; he had killed himself in his bunker, and his own men burned him and his wife (who had also killed herself) in a funeral pyre at his own request.
      • He did use prussic acid to kill himself, however. Prussic acid was manufactured by I.G Farben and Degussa under the trade name Zyklon-B. Maybe Hitler was Genre Savvy enough to realize that what goes around, comes around, and the Gas Chambers would soon come back to haunt him anyway, so he decided to take such a haunting literally himself by taking the same poison Eichmann suggested be used to gas the Jews to death with...
  • Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet died of a heart attack on 10 December 2006 (Human Rights Day). It was also the 84th birthday of his wife Lucia Hiriart.
  • It seems that it is at least true that Casey Anthony lied about the investigation and the search cost a load of money. She was not guilty of murder and released however she now owes 217,000 dollars for Caylee's search. See this article.
  • After scoring major legal victories against Samsung in Germany and Australia (as well as a minor victory in the rest of the European Union and a stalemate in the United States) and HTC in the United States, BAM! Motorola whacks Apple and basically asks them, "How do you like them Apples?" Also, Apple now faces an antitrust lawsuit from a small-town Spanish tablet manufacturer that they had harassed for the past year. Their victory in Australia was also nullified in December 2011 pending a final hearing on the matter, and they also failed to kill a modified version of the model to which they had shown the German border back in September, because apparently this time around Samsung placated the German courts with said modified model.
  • Lindsay Lohan's father Michael was convicted of sexually and physically assaulting his ex-girlfriend Kate Majors and somehow managed to avoid getting a jail sentence, getting sentenced to four months of anger management instead, which many people were angry at. Soon, Michael was scheduled for emergency heart surgery due to chest pains, and the surgery would up being delayed after blood clots were found in his lung.
  • During the European-Ottoman conflicts it was common for Pirates to raid peaceful villages for slaves. When one was captured his probable fate would be to be hauling an oar himself.
  • The Cabin Boy Thomas Pellew was captured by Barbary Pirates and Made a Slave. Later he escaped. His descendent Edward Pellew would return to the same place, with two dozen ships of the line.
  • During a regular-season NHL game in December 2010, the Anaheim Ducks' Bobby Ryan had his stick stolen from him by Minnesota Wild player Mikko Koivu. Later on that same play, Ryan steals Koivu's stick and scores with it. Keep in mind that Koivu is right-handed, and Ryan is left-handed.
  • Gene Roddenberry produced the pilot for a proposed ABC series called The Long Hunt Of April Savage in 1965 (the only pilot he oversaw which he didn't create - he did it on behalf of his friend Sam Rolfe), and banned the network liaison fron the set. Fifteen years later the man from the network, Harve Bennett, was put in charge of the second Star Trek film after Roddenberry's behaviour on the first one, and not only brought it in for "less than forty-five fucking million dollars" but was entrusted with the next few as well. Result: the most successful film of the series (until J.J. Abrams had a go) and the most acclaimed among fans and critics were both made under Bennett's watch instead of "executive consultant" Roddenberry's. (Oh, and the pilot? It didn't sell.)
  1. partly because he got on the escape boat early, partly because the others insisted on trying to save Lanipator despite the fact that it was impossible and thus they also got killed