Created By: bertrc on November 7, 2011 Last Edited By: bertrc on February 16, 2012
Troped

Risking the King

Sending crucial personel into harms way when other more qualified mooks are available

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"There is an unknown threat on that unstable derelict ship, capable of wiping out an entire starfleet crew. I could send a fully armed squad of trained security personel, but instead I will send a team comprised of my chief science officer, my only physician and myself, the captain of the ship." -- liberally paraphrased from Captain Kirk

Sometimes a story-teller has the main characters do everything; sometimes the writer simply wants to hurry up and bring about a climactic fight. Regardless of the reason, story-tellers will often have crucial characters run pelmell into dangerous situations when more qualified (or, at least, more appropriate) people are perfectly available. This is akin to sending your king out to capture pieces in chess.

Not to be confused with challenging the chief in which, to preserve their honor, the boss agrees to fight one on one in spite of an existing tactical advantage.

The trope codifier, as implied above above, is the original Star Trek series, where every crucial command officer would regularly be assigned to the away team for some dangerous new environment. It was largely subverted in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" where the captain would stay on the bridge and dedicated away teams would be put together for specific trips.

In the book trilogy "His Dark Materials", the ruler of the multiverse, Metatron, identifies Mrs. Coulter as a woman whose entire life is based on betrayal, yet he willingly goes alone with her to ambush Lord Asriel instead of sending a legion of mooks. Lord Asriel, meanwhile, plans this elaborate setup to catch and kill Metatron but decides to spring the trap on one of the most powerful beings alive with only himself instead of with a platoon of heavies. To top it off, they both decide to go unarmed (although there is probably a different trope for this).

Subtrope of Acceptable Breaks from Reality.

Community Feedback Replies: 38
  • November 8, 2011
    Statalyzer
    I can't think of more examples but I know I have seen them. Good trope idea.
  • November 9, 2011
    Statalyzer
    I can't think of more examples but I know I have seen them. Good trope idea.
  • November 9, 2011
    bulmabriefs144
    This is sometimes a Sister Trope to Authority Equals Asskicking.And arguably the opposite of Orcus On His Throne.

    Comic Books
    • Marvel Comics superspy Nick Fury was nominally the director of a covert agency called S.H.I.E.L.D., but from the Silver Age to the Dark Age Of Comic Books he behaved more like the main field agent. Despite S.H.I.E.L.D. having dozens or hudnreds of agents Depending On The Writer, Fury was typically depicted working solo on commando missions, infiltrations, and so forth. This has become an Averted Trope in recent years, especially with his Ultimate Universe incarnation.
      • Iron Man did much the same during the brief period when he became Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
    • Avengers villain Kang the Conqueror has untold legions from across all time at his disposal, but he's enough of a Blood Knight that he often turns up alone to take on entire teams of superheroes.His older, more ccautious counterpart Immortus, on the other hand, has learned to hide behind minions.

    Live Action TV
    • Used towards the end of ''Dollhouse, when the viewer learns that Rossum's chief executive officer has been Hiding In Plain Sight as Boyd the entire time, despite this nearly getting him killed repeatedly and despite having thousands of people around the world capable of acting on his orders.
  • November 18, 2011
    bertrc
    Do I wait to see if anybody thinks this is worthy of hats, or do I have to take another step?
  • November 18, 2011
    bulmabriefs144
    On the original Star Trek series the "Captain in distress" plots were criticized, so Gene Roddenberry decided to make a "new Star Fleet protocol" that barred the Captain from going on away-missions.
  • December 26, 2011
    bertrc
    So should I consider this idea DOA?
  • December 26, 2011
    Generality
    Generally speaking, any time a general leads an army, rather than directing them from a more secure position, is a case of this.
  • December 26, 2011
    Tzintzuntzan
    I like this idea a lot (and as mentioned, so many Star Trek writers complained about it that Next Gen deliberately avoided it). That said, I think the title is a bit unclear; there's too many possible interpretations of it.

    This trope, IIUC, is the polar opposite of the Sorting Algorithm Of Evil.
  • December 26, 2011
    bulmabriefs144
    • Princess Sally Acorn (and sometimes the other Acorn monarchs) in Sonic The Hedgehog, with varying attempts at story justification.
  • December 27, 2011
    bulmabriefs144
    • In Dawn Of War, the Tau AI always sends their Ethereal out to fight. The Ethereal provides damage, health and morale boosts to every units while alive, but induces total morale loss in all units if killed. Guess which unit is targeted with all priority?
      • Similarly, the Eldar Avatar of Khaine allows you to surpass the population cap and build faster. Being a relic unit, it's actually a good idea to send him to fight, but an equally valid tactic is to leave him in the base to keep the bonuses.
      • The Imperial Guard's Command Squad unit is the only melee unit available to them at first, consisting of the Imperial general and his staff.
    • Commander Root in Artemis Fowl doesn't do this... at first. Given the exceptional situation, he judges that there is none better to deal with it in the field than the LEP's commanding officer. Normally sending an officer into the field takes several months and lots of red tape, but the book notes "Root had a lot of influence on the commanding officer".
  • December 27, 2011
    Kizor
    Thank you for coming up with the name! Keep gathering examples and don't consider this DOA in the least if getting recognition takes a while.
  • December 28, 2011
    MorganWick
    Horrible title. I can understand the connection to the trope after the fact, kind of, but I definitely wouldn't have guessed that trope if presented with just the name. I'd have guessed either "it's always the two important, primary characters that face off" or "not-so-powerful, but important character defeats powerful and also important character".
  • December 28, 2011
    bulmabriefs144
    This actually can be done in chess, once one or more rooks, one or more bishops, and both knights are out of the way (why knights? Because in order to get close enough to the queen take take her out of check, and even then she has to put you in check, you have to be something like two over and one up, and she has to be otherwise threatened by your pieces. Needless to say, if you actually pull this off, it's immensely satisfying, since your opponent is probably then completely demoralized, and you can wipe the board through cheap moves). Actually, the king if one of each piece is gone, and the queen is also out, can outmaneuver nearly every other piece, making it almost more effective in close quarters than the queen.

    Like the title. Keep King Takes Queen. The person above me is likely not a chess player, even casually, or they'd understand the metaphor.
  • December 28, 2011
    bulmabriefs144
    Stargate SG 1 had a bad case of this, regularly sending the main cast to do jobs even when, logically, the larger organization should have had people who were better at that particular job than they were (e.g. sending O'Neill to do a diplomat's job).
  • December 28, 2011
    Desertopa
    I agree that the title is only clear after the fact. I can certainly understand the metaphor, but "send a non-expendable person to accomplish a difficult task when more expendable and qualified people are available" is not the first interpretation that comes to mind when I hear the trope name. Even if I know I'm meant to be thinking in chess terms, I would tend to assume that it means something like "Powerful character ends up in position to be defeated by their weaker target due to tactical incompetence." In any case, readers shouldn't have to be chess players to understand trope names; having the basic knowledge of chess that already pervades culture should be sufficient.

    I think something like Send A King To The Frontline would be more intuitive, but I'd like to see some more competing name proposals before I add my hat to one.
  • December 28, 2011
    DracMonster
  • December 28, 2011
    bwburke94
    Definitely Needs A Better Title, as most people wouldn't get that this is a chess metaphor.
  • January 28, 2012
    bertrc
    Do you think too few people understand the chess moves? Out of curiosity, how does one give hats?
  • January 28, 2012
    Ryuuma
    There's also the factor Authority Equals Asskicking to consider: sometimes, the most important person is also the strongest one to do a certain job.
  • January 28, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    • Lampshaded in the third X-Men movie in which Magneto plans to send lesser powered mutants into the fray first as a diversion and uses his most powerful henchmen last.
  • January 28, 2012
    TBTabby
    The SNES Star Trek: The Next Generation game allows you to take Captain Picard on away teams despite the Starfleet protocol. It's still a bad idea, though, since the game ends if he's too badly injured.
  • January 28, 2012
    Dcoetzee
    @TB Tabby: I think that's more a case of The Main Characters Do Everything.
  • January 28, 2012
    mythbuster
    Title sounds more like what happens when this trope goes wrong, rather than what they are supposedly doing.
  • January 28, 2012
    Rognik
    Another problem with the title as it stands is that it could be interpreted as a king literally taking a queen, ie. for marriage. Trying to think of a better title, but nothing's coming. The chess analogy isn't bad... maybe King Takes Queen, Check?
  • January 29, 2012
    Arivne
    ^ x 7: @bertrc wrote "Out of curiosity, how does one give hats?"

    Near the bottom of the YKTTW box, just below any hats that have already been given should be a button labeled "Ready to Publish". Click on it and a box of text will appear. The text basically says "Are you sure you want to give a hat?" If you do, click on the Yes button.
  • January 29, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Even as a knower of chess I can't see how this trope's name could fit the definition.
  • January 29, 2012
    Dawnwing
    Maybe Risking The King as a title? Whether it's chess or a real-life king, you're still risking someone of high rank.
  • February 1, 2012
    Tzintzuntzan
    I like Risking The King. Just one question: what is the precise difference between this and The Main Characters Do Everything (which even has the Star Trek example)?
  • February 2, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    The Main Characters Do Everything is about the main characters doing everything. This is about a(n) important person(s) doing jobs that are safer for mooks or the like to do.

    Agree on Risking The King - especially since in chess, a king cannot hunt down a queen.
  • February 10, 2012
    bertrc
    Renamed. I also changed the chess reference. Shall I launch?
  • February 10, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    For anime:
    • A common theme in Code Geass - nearly every leader in that show will risk themselves to do something when subordinates are available. Lelouch and Cornelia in particular believe in the trope very strongly.
      Lelouch: How can a king expect his men to follow if he does not lead?
  • February 10, 2012
    GuyIncog
    We seem to be working on related tropes - I'm building Outranking Your Job, a more generalized trope for any depiction of a high ranking officer doing something that would normally be the job of a subordinate. Perhaps we should coordinate.

    Also, a reference to Royals Who Actually Do Something, for literal cases of risking the king, might be in order.
  • February 11, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    • In Saiunkoku Monogatari, Ryuuki, the Emperor of Saiunkoku, puts himself in harm's way on several occasions - mostly to protect Shuurei. The most notable example comes when he leaves the capital city entirely to make sure that Shuurei and Eigetsu aren't attacked by assassins on their way to take office in Sa Province, which he has to do in secret and incognito for the obvious reason that, as the Emperor, he's not supposed to be doing anything of the kind.
  • February 11, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    Lampshaded in Belisarius Series. The Persian emperor makes Belisarius' bodyguards promise to keep him alive even if it requires arresting him. This is necessary because The Emperor feels he needs a Roman he can personally trust during a diplomatically sensitive joint military operation and Belisarius has an eccentric habit of getting to close to the fighting.
  • February 12, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    Film
    • Independence Day. The U.S. President, an ex-fighter pilot, decides to participate in the final aerial attack against an alien ship even though his top military adviser doesn't want him to. Justified because if the mission fails, the human race will be wiped out and he'll have no one left to lead.

    Tabletop RPG
    • Villains And Vigilantes. Alexandra Huntington, the Queen (female co-leader) of the CHESS organization. She was once a top CHESS agent and sometimes goes on missions in violation of standard operating procedures.
  • February 14, 2012
    troacctid
    If you're going for a chess motif, Risking The Queen would be a better name, since risking the king is against the rules (any move that puts the king in check is illegal).
  • February 14, 2012
    acrobox
    This is the point of the Fire Emblem series, which many liken to an extremely in-depth chess game with RPG elements. The main character has to come to every map and if they die it's game over. It's typically best to risk the king early on so that they can level up and be strong enough to defend themselves later. Especially since the last levels usually demand that they spend some time on the front lines.
  • February 16, 2012
    jatay3
    But bringing the king closer to the area of the board where the action is going on is not illegal even if it risks putting the king in check. It is only deliberately moving into check that is illegal.

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