Created By: Earnest on July 20, 2011 Last Edited By: Earnest on March 5, 2012

Succession On Death

A lifetime post is forcefully filled at the occupants death

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Page Type:
Trope
Formerly Perished Predecessor Position.

This job posting requires someone always be at the helm, and death is no excuse. Whenever the current office holder dies a new one is put in the post post haste. They may be The Chosen One, one among The Chosen Many, a royal heir (immediate or distant) or even just someone who read the daylies in the paper and meets the minimum qualifications (though they probably didn't get the whole story). Frequently it's something that needs to be filled, like a Legacy Character, or a position of authority / leadership. For any given kingdom there's generally an Heir Presumptive even when the current occupant of the throne is too young to have produced an heir of the body. It also applies to lower ranking nobility in feudal settings.

One common feature of this trope (though not universal) is that the replacement is either destined or at least apt to get the job, but is neither formally trained for it nor spends any significant time with the predecessor and their organization. There are cases where they get trained openly or in secret, sometimes as a "plan C" should the planned successor die or be unavailable, but a lot of the time The Call is completely unexpected by all involved.

If magic is involved the powers can only be held by one Person at a time, and conversely they must always be held by a person at any given time. So the mystic power, Ring of Power or what have you leaves the deceased and manifests brightly in the successor (usually calling attention to themselves by the forces of evil). Even if there's thousands of such characters operating at any one time, there is probably an upper limit on how many can be active at a time and an identical succession method. If it's only one person Reincarnation may be involved.

Compare You Kill It, You Bought It. See also Someone Has to Do It.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Bleach: Hisagi technically qualifies, given that he takes over the leadership duties of Squad 9 after his captain / mentor, Tousen, defects from Soul Society. Following Tousen's death, during the FKT arc, it is likely that Hisagi continues to serve as Interm Captain of the division.

Comic Books
  • There is one Green Lantern for every sector of space in the galaxy, totaling 3600. After being rebuilt following the Hal/Parallax incident they doubled it to 7200 so Lanterns had backup/partners in their sectors.

Film
  • The Empire Strikes Back:
    Vader: You Have Failed Me for the last time, Admiral [Ozzel]. Captain Piett.
    Piett steps forward, as the admiral moves away, slightly confused, touching his throat as it begins to constrict painfully.
    Piett: Yes, my lord.
    Vader: Make ready to land out troops beyond the energy shield and deploy the fleet so that nothing gets off that system. You Are in Command Now, Admiral Piett.
    Piett: Thank you, Lord Vader.
    Piett's pleasure about his unexpected promotion is not an unmixed emotion. He glances warily at the struggling Admiral Ozzel who, with a final choke, stumbles and falls in a lifeless heap before him.

Literature
  • In the Deryni novels, Camber had to abandon his vocation (he was a deacon and planned to be a priest when his elder brother(s) died of a fever) to marry and inherit the family earldom, and Liam-Lajos was noted as a bit undertrained for a Deryni, though this wasn't that surprising since his uncle and his elder brother died in quick succession before him.
  • In the last book of the Dragon Jousters series by Mercedes Lackey, the final battle is settled by the Heroic Sacrifice of the Chosen of Seft, who lets his deity run all his power through the Chosen's mortal body. Before "leaving", Seft arranges for another character to take up the role.

Live-Action TV

Tabletop RPG
  • The Lucifuge in Hunter: The Vigil operate like this. Each one is chosen from birth but their powers only activate when an older Lucifuge member dies.

Western Animation
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender there's two examples. There must always be an Avatar, and they reincarnate. Word of God is that each nation has the same number of Benders, but the populations vary. Because of this the smalles nation, the Air Nomads, were all benders.

Real Life
  • Harry Truman had to be told about the atomic bomb after FDR died at Warm Springs, and he was thought by some to be woefully unprepared to be President.
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • July 20, 2011
    Aielyn
  • July 20, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Vampire slayers. Each time one dies, the next one is called.

    You might want to make it a bit more clear that this is for something other than kings & queens, which it very much resembles.
  • July 20, 2011
    PaulA
  • July 21, 2011
    MiinU

    Anime and Manga

    • Bleach: Hisagi technically qualifies, given that he takes over the leadership duties of Squad 9 after his captain / mentor, Tousen, defects from Soul Society. Following Tousen's death, during the FKT arc, it is likely that Hisagi continues to serve as Interm Captain of the division.
  • July 22, 2011
    Antigone3
    In the last book of the Dragon Jousters series (by Mercedes Lackey), the final battle is settled by the Heroic Sacrifice of the Chosen of Seft, who lets his deity run all his power through the Chosen's mortal body. Before "leaving", Seft arranges for another character to take up the role.
  • July 22, 2011
    randomsurfer
    The Empire Strikes Back:
    Vader: You Have Failed Me for the last time, Admiral [Ozzel]. Captain Piett.
    Piett steps forward, as the admiral moves away, slightly confused, touching his throat as it begins to constrict painfully.
    Piett: Yes, my lord.
    Vader: Make ready to land out troops beyond the energy shield and deploy the fleet so that nothing gets off that system. You Are In Command Now, Admiral Piett.
    Piett: Thank you, Lord Vader.
    Piett's pleasure about his unexpected promotion is not an unmixed emotion. He glances warily at the struggling Admiral Ozzel who, with a final choke, stumbles and falls in a lifeless heap before him.
  • July 23, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    This is a royalty trope, after all, there's generally an Heir Presumptive even when the current occupant of the throne is too young to have produced an heir of the body. It also applies to lower ranking nobility in feudal settings. I think this can include both royalty/nobility and other similarly demanding jobs (US Presidents, Vampire slayers, Green Lanterns, etc).

    As you noted, there's often some scrambling when the title comes to someone further down the line of succession who wasn't expecting to succeed. In the Deryni novels, Camber had to abandon his vocation (he was a deacon and planned to be a priest when his elder brother(s) died of a fever) to marry and inherit the family earldom, and Liam-Lajos was noted as a bit undertrained for a Deryni, though this wasn't that surprising since his uncle and his elder brother died in quick succession before him. IRL Truman had to be told about the atomic bomb after FDR died at Warm Springs, and he was thought by some to be woefully unprepared to be President.
  • July 23, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    • In the novel Poison Study, there must always be a poison tester for the king. When one dies, the next criminal sentenced to be executed is given the option to take the job. Needless to say, most do. While the new tester is being trained, their trainer takes the job.

    Unsure about this one, haven't read the book in a long time:
    • The Giver: There must always be a Receiver of Memories. There is some overlap when the previous Receiver gives his memories to the new one.

    Actually, I think most of the jobs in that story are like that. Come to think of it, I think the entire society is regulated as far as Succession on Death is concerned.
  • July 23, 2011
    GuesssWho
  • March 4, 2012
    CrystalBlue
    Bump.
  • March 4, 2012
    KZN02
    See Klingon Promotion when this is done intentionally.
  • March 5, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    Second paragraph could do with a link to Unexpected Successor.

    I'd give it a hat, but no button appears.
  • March 5, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    How about The Dutchman Must Have A Captain for a title?
  • March 5, 2012
    chicagomel
    Merlin is a natural one, given the whole royal family thing. Arthur became the Heir Apparent in season 1 and then took the throne in season 4.
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