Created By: JenBurdoo on October 25, 2013 Last Edited By: Arivne on May 19, 2017

Team Of Specialists

Every character has a unique specialty.

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Trope
In many works, a group of heroes is gathered together, each a specialist in his own field. Particularly common to superhero teams (often with Elemental Powers), military suicide squads and RP Gs, but this may also apply to Multinational Teams, where each member is from a unique country. Basically, each member brings something unique to the group that no one else can do, and none are considered grunts or redshirts. None of the specialties in the team are doubled up; if a specialist is lost, the rest of the group will have to do without. But by combining their efforts, they can achieve anything.

Dovetails with and often features Crippling Overspecialization.

This concept is especially popular in toy and game-lines, as one can "collect them all" and then combine for particular "missions" when playing. Assassinating someone in the Arctic? Send the sniper and the snow-trooper. Tracking an urban criminal? SWAT guy and K-9 handler. And so on.

Examples:

  • Marvel's GI Joe on the theory that the team would have someone to deal with every possible eventuality. The first series in 1982 alone had a commander, rifleman, mortarman, machine gunner, driver, tanker, artillerist, scout, commando, rocket-launcher trooper, laser-rifle trooper, intelligence expert and communications officer. "Greenshirts", generic nameless soldiers, did not appear in the toyline for decades.
    • (COBRA would not count towards this trope: even though they also had a specialist for everything from Alley-Vipers to Zombie-Vipers, they had whole armies of each.)
  • The Planeteers each had a talent related to an element.
  • Pokemon, where each is based on a unique animal. Trainers in the show never seem to have more than one of a species — no one has two or three Pidgeys or Pikachu, for example, even though (in the wild) they appear in groups.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has a team of six friends each with a unique personality, appearance and element of friendship.
  • Warhammer 40,000 Imperial Guard had the Last Chancers, a squad of guardsmen each with a particular specialty and his own special rules and equipment — sniper, demolition man, missile trooper, and so on. These could even be played alone against an opposing army of any size in a "Dirty Dozen"-styled game.
  • In Star Trek, the main cast always formed this sort of group. Although they also had plenty of nonspecialists present, the department heads were invariably present on a mission that required their specialization.
Community Feedback Replies: 37
  • October 25, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    Would games with Player Mooks count towards this trope?
  • October 25, 2013
    Larkmarn
    I feel like this is covered by Superhero Speciation.
  • October 25, 2013
    AP
    • During Grant Morrison's arc in Justice League, each member had a specific speciality as a reflection of the Greek Pantheon. While many characters had the same or similar powers, they still had specific places in the pantheon.
  • October 25, 2013
    Arivne
    I remember this being on YKTTW before. No idea what happened to it.

    Film
    • The Film Of The Book of The Guns Of Navarone. The team is made up of:
      • Major Franklin. Experienced, extremely capable and lucky.
      • Captain Mallory. Before the war, he was the best mountain climber in the world.
      • Colonel Andrea Stavros. An expert at surviving behind enemy lines.
      • Corporal Miller. A genius with high explosives.
      • "Butcher" Brown, a mechanical marvel. He's a genius with engines, machinery, radios, et cetera. Also an expert with knives (silent killing).
      • Private Spyro Pappadimos, a born killer.

    Tabletop Games
    • Game Designers Workshop's Asteroid. A team of heroes must stop an asteroid from hitting the Earth. Each character had a special ability or skill, including computer programming, exceptional strength, demolitions expertise or being the luckiest person alive.
  • October 25, 2013
    JenBurdoo
    I think I agree with Larkmarn, but Superhero Speciation is almost all about superheroes. These could be added, but the opening paragraphs would need rewriting, and maybe a name change to the whole trope.

    Alternately, this could be noted as "closely related to Superhero Speciation" and just cover those versions that don't involve superheroes.
  • October 25, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Caper Crew would be a subtrope I think (or at least related).
  • October 26, 2013
    lexicon
    Sounds very similar to Five Man Band.
  • October 26, 2013
    Koveras
    We have something similar in Dream Team.
  • October 26, 2013
    DAN004
    Plot Tailored To The Party happens a lot for this team.

    • In One Piece, Luffy's crew is made specifically on being specialists: Luffy the captain (obviously), Zoro the swordsman (some say he's the first mate, and he acts much like one, but it's not made certain), Nami the navigator, Usopp the sharpshooter (he was the engineer and shipwright before Franky came), Sanji the cook, Chopper the doctor, Robin the archaeologist (and primary source of infos), Franky the shipwright, and Brook the musician.

    • In Mega Man Battle Network 5, the teams Colonel and Protoman are structured like this. In every scenario, there's always at least one guy with a certain specialty to solve the current problem. That guy is then recruited to the team afterward.

    Compare Command Roster.
  • October 26, 2013
    kjnoren
    @lexicon: which arguably is a point in its favour, since it lessens the pressure on that trope.

    Dream Team is quite different, I think. The Dream Team is decided by skill level, power, and fame, this one by different skills.

    Some other related tropes in various ways: Tactical Rock Paper Scissors (one way this can express itself), The Squad, Command Roster (as two different groups to which this can apply), The Index Team, and of course The Team. The last one mentions different specialisations, so some decent delineation with that trope will be needed.

    Should the focus here be on roles within the group or different skills? Eg, a Five Man Band is likely to have two characters who are generalists, in The Leader and The Lancer, but they serve different roles within the team.
  • October 26, 2013
    JenBurdoo
    @kjnoren: Good thoughts on the related tropes; I think the Team is very similar and might cover this trope.

    I'd have to think about your last question; if one person can replace another in a pinch, I don't think it would fit, but many tables of organization specifically require the CO and XO roles. Perhaps if the lancer has a specialist role in addition to his lancer role — for example, in a tank, the gunner is usually second-in-command of the vehicle and can take it over while remaining the gunner if the commander is out of action.
  • October 26, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Team Fortress 2 has nine classes, themselves divided into Offense, Defense and Suppport. In the non-game materials, they function as this.
    • TheLadykillers: the team assembled contains the mastermind, Dumb Muscle, a digging specialist, an explosives specialist, and an inside man.
    • In theory, Eight Bit Theater's Light Warriors are this: a Black Mage, a Red Mage, a Thief and a Fighter. However, each is so completely anti-heroic in its own way that they are incapable of achieving anything. And in a particularly hilarious Brick Joke, the Final Boss is beaten by the ultimate in Crippling Overspecialization: four White Mages.
    • Starcraft II: If the player chooses to take out the Zerg's ground-reinforcement rather than their air support, the mission gives you Jim Raynor (leader and sniper), Tychus Findlay (minigun), Rory Swann (builds turrets) and Egon Stetmann (healer).
    • Dawn Of War 2 has your Force Commander (can be used for ranged or melee), Tarkus (tactical Marine Squad, hardest to kill), Avitus (heavy weapons), Thaddeus (melee jump troops), Cyrus (sniper and stealth-demolition), and Davian Thule (tank). You can only take four squads other than the FC per mission.
    • Deathwatch does this to assemble a Deathwatch team from various Space Marine Chapters. For example, Space Wolves make the best scouts, Blood Angels are the best in melee, etc. However, Crippling Overspecialization is averted here, as by default a Space Marine is seven feet tall, heavily armored, and can punch through walls, before you get into specializations.
  • October 30, 2013
    Ominae
    • Done in the various Rainbow Six video games with positions such as Assault, Demolitions, Snipers and Electronics. Averted in the Vegas series.
  • October 30, 2013
    kjnoren
    @ Jen Burdoo I think it will partly depend on how things are set up, but I can see a Team Of Specialists containing up to two generalists. One would be The Leader, and the other could have a freer role. So in a Five Man Band you could have Diplomat/Linguist, Technician, Brawler, Leader, and Lancer (generalist).

    Or one could limit the Team Of Specialists to a single generalist, but I think that's too limiting.

    Can't come up with any examples, though.
  • October 30, 2013
    chicagomel
    The original CSI had this early on. Grissom: entomology Sara: materials amd trace...or was it materials and element and Catherine was trace? i forget. Nick: blood spatter Warrick: audio-visual Greg: DNA
  • October 31, 2013
    AgProv
    In Real Life:
    • According to released literature and factual accounts, this is practically mandatory for four-man Special Forces teams working undercover behind enemy lines: the SAS takes the point of view that the more specialities can be brought together, the more capable and self-reliant a special ops team will be. Thus an SAS patrol might include a trained combat medic with skills not far short of a medical doctor; a vehicles/motor specialist; a signals expert; and a skilled linguist who can speak the relevant languages needed for the ops area. This is on top of their exceptional fighting, fieldcraft, and survival skills.
  • August 31, 2016
    oneuglybunny
    Live Action TV
    • The five covert agents from Mission Impossible had specialized skills that were routinely highlighted in various episodes. Specifically, Jim Phelps was a code-breaker, Barney Collier was the techno-whiz, Willy Armitage was the safecracker, Cinnamon Carter was versed in toxicology, and Rollin Hand was an excellent mimic.

    Film
    • When Ethan Hunt is declared a rogue agent during a mole hunt operation in Mission Impossible, he bands together specialists in hacking and infiltration from among decommissioned agents to discover the real double agent, thus clearing his name.
  • August 30, 2016
    DAN004
    I believe if this focuses on different roles, as opposed to different powers, this can stand separate from Superhero Speciation.

    Though I think a lot of RP Gs would have this...
  • August 30, 2016
    acrobox
  • August 30, 2016
    Basara-kun
    I like this trope, but the examples needs to be added from posts as well reorganized by media. I think I got some more examples, but someone should fix that thing I said
  • August 30, 2016
    SamCurt
    I can think of at least one example, but I'm not adding until the necessity issue is resolved since that defines the contours of the trope.
  • August 30, 2016
    ANTMuddle
    • Martin Landau was an excellent mimic.

    That's the actor, not the character.
  • August 30, 2016
    DAN004
    What's the difference of Cast Speciation and Superhero Speciation?
  • August 31, 2016
    oneuglybunny
    ^ I think that Cast Speciation occurs with an established cast, who fall into Five Man Band or similar roles out of necessity. Superhero Speciation is closer to this proposal, though its title tends to predispose it to superpowers or magic. This proposal is more along the lines of Plot Device that requires a complex and integrated skill set from a team assembled for precisely that purpose. So, the objective occurs first, and the crew is chosen to meet this need, as opposed to Color Coded For Your Convenience teams that await some generic villainy.

    Western Animation
    • Atlantis The Lost Empire has eccentric millionaire Preston Whitmore hand-pick a team of adventurers to use the Shepherd's Journal to discover the fabled lost city. Under the leadership of Commander Rourke are tactician Helga Sinclair, tunneler Gaetan Moliere, physician Joshua Sweet, mechanic Audrey Ramirez, demolitions man Vinnie Santorini, radio monitor Wilhelmina Packard, and cook Jebidiah Farnsworth. These explorers delayed departure until recruiting The Smart Guy Milo Thatch, who is the only one who can decipher the Journal.
  • August 31, 2016
    TonyG
    Parodied on the Animaniacs episode "Hearts of Warners", where the Warner siblings have to search for a director gone rogue in a parody of Apocalypse Now. Yakko lists their specialties in voice over: Dot's is cuteness, Wakko's is the mallet and his is playing two paddleballs at once.
  • September 19, 2016
    ANTMuddle
    Can a Five Man Band also do any of that?
  • September 19, 2016
    oneuglybunny
    ^ Probably, but the distinction between this and Five Man Band is that 5-band is already together as a group that must await a Plot Tailored To The Party. In contrast, Teamo Spec doesn't exist until some peculiar crisis necessitates that they be recruited and hastily coalesced to deal with the crisis. These two would be cousin tropes: 5-band is team first plot second, and Teamo Spec is plot first, team second.

    In fact, now that I look at it, my Mission Impossible fails to qualify. Yes, they are specialists, but they're recurring specialists, that get a peculiar mission that's a Plot Tailored To The Party. Set them aside, I've got a better one:

    Literature
    • The Andromeda Strain has the Defense Department assemble a team of leading pathologists, biologists and researchers to combat an alien contagion from a space probe that almost expunged the entire town of Piedmont, New Mexico.
  • September 19, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ " In contrast, Teamo Spec doesn't exist until some peculiar crisis necessitates that they be recruited and hastily coalesced to deal with the crisis."

    Nothing in the description says that. That bit also makes this trope overly specific. Your example should stay.
  • January 18, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    The description has to be this specific, otherwise it's an expendable duplicate of Five Man Band / Power Trio / Plot Tailored To The Party. The A Team and Mission Impossible and Loonatics Unleashed are already assembled and housed in comfy headquarters until Doctor Badness comes along with an Evil Plan to rule the world. What makes this trope unique is that the crisis happens first, there's panic in the air, "we're doomed!" cries go up, and then highly select wonderballs are recruited from hither, thither and yon to deal with that crisis. The team of heroes happens only after emergency scrounging.

    Film
  • March 19, 2017
    Getta
    Related to Common Character Classes and An Adventurer Is You for the different roles any character might have.
  • The TV Show "Leverage" is the best example I can think of for this proposed trope.
  • May 18, 2017
    SamCurt
    Does it still count as this trope, if one of them (out of 7) is officially a Jack Of All Stats?
  • May 18, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    I'm considering adopting this proto-trope, under the stipulation that this team is assembled after the crisis occurs, and not before. The description will require a rewrite, and some examples with pre-assembled and recurring teams would be voided. As to the team of seven with a wild card member: if these seven are already assembled as a team, ready to battle anything from invisible mole creatures to psioinic Martians, then I'd say no. However, if this team only gets deployed once or twice to combat a peculiar emergency that regular heroes can't handle, then I'd say yes.
  • May 19, 2017
    Getta
    ^ would the One Piece example count then?

    Btw, I think the group can at least have one member that is a generalist. Usually the Standardized Leader.
  • May 19, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    ^ By my reckoning, the One Piece example counts: Luffy could have had a pretty standard crew for routine pirating. However, Luffy is targeting the supreme prize: the One Piece. Therefore, I'd count Luffy and his crew as a band of specialists assembled specifically to achieve a one-time mission. The same mechanism applies to Preston Whitmore and his intrepid team from Disney's Atlantis The Lost Empire.
  • May 19, 2017
    SamCurt
    ^ What about the team original assembled for an one-off mission, but became permanent due to Mission Creep, etc?
  • May 19, 2017
    Getta
    ^^ I kinda think the "mission purpose of the team" shouldn't be the "hard" part of the trope. It's just one of the several reasons this trope occurs.
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