Designated Point Man
aka: Point Man
A "point man" is a member of The Index Team whose job description is simple: When they don't know what they are facing, he goes in first. The relevant skills include high survivability (to hold off until reinforcements arrive) and, of course, good fighting ability (to silence all opposition before reinforcements arrive, if possible). This trope is specifically about specialists who take point routinely. In absence of a specialized point man, Cannon Fodder New Meat can be used in his place, but simply being put on point once does not make him the team's designated point man! "Point man" (or "vanguard") is a common military term for the member of The Squad taking the front and most exposed position within a formation (like the point of a spear). Related terms include "to take point", "walk point", and "be on point". The Leader rarely makes a good point man because even though he is often the best fighter, the consequences of losing him are too grave. Even a Frontline General rarely moves to the point position, though in some settings a leader is expected to show that they practice what they preach and lead by example. A Leeroy Jenkins is either an overzealous point man or someone who shouldn't be the point man in the first place but decides to be one anyway. Compare/contrast The Sneaky Guy, who is also often sent in first but with a different mission: to scout ahead and return without alarming the enemy. The key difference between a point man and a scout (including an Army Scout) is that the former always stays in contact (e.g. within viewing or shouting distance) with the rest of the squad, while the latter doesn't. Sometimes referred to as the "Polish/Irish Mine Detector".
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Anime and Manga
- During the "Sasuke Retrieval Arc" of Naruto, Kiba (and his dog Akamaru) were given this task. They were explicitly stated to be ideal, because their heightened sense of smell let them be more alert for traps or ambushes.
- Lampshaded in episode 25 ("Maze of Despair") of Outlaw Star, when Gene sends Jim to round up Aisha and Suzuka to get them back to the ship, while he goes to confront Hazanko in order to rescue Melfina.
Jim: (pleading) But why...? Why can't I go with you? I wanna help!
Gene: (calmly) C'mon, Jim, we've made it this far with our teamwork. I've always been the point man... and you're-
Jim: (in acquiescence) ...the backup.
- In Shards of Honor, when Vorkosigan has to assault a group of mutineers, knowing they will face nerve disruptors with stunners, he puts himself as the head of the assault team. However, sergeant Bothari refuses and claims he has earned the first place.
- Shurf Lonli-Lokli in Labyrinths of Echo is the primary point man of the Secret Investigations team. At one point, Juffin explains to Max that Shurf is the best combat mage on the team whose incapacitation, while bad, wouldn't bring down the entire operation (like Kofa or Juffin's own would). Also, Shurf boasts almost impeccable magical defense and is effectively immune to ambush thanks to his attention to minuscule details.
- Subverted by Ciaphas Cain: his (very much undesired) reputation of a frontline general who personally leads every charge has little base in reality, as he actually prefers staying in the middle of the squad at all times, as a good commander should. However, the troops under his command are in such awe of his reputation that they have no qualms going in front (and it makes more sense than to risk losing him to a lucky sniper).
- The Paranoia "Tips for Traitors" article in Dragon magazine #106 advises Troubleshooter team leaders to order subordinates to take this position, as it is the most dangerous place on the team. Not only is the point man most likely to be hit by the enemies' weapons, he's also the target of the weapons and scrutiny of his own team members, which (considering the nature of Paranoia) is far deadlier.
- Dungeons & Dragons. In an Player Party, the person in front is usually a member of a warrior class (fighter, paladin, ranger, etc.) because they have the most Hit Points of any class, are allowed to wear the heaviest armor and wield the greatest variety of (and best) weapons. If no fighters are available, a cleric/priest type can fill in.
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown has an entire Character Class dedicated to this role: the Assault specialists have the most Hit Points of all classes and are armed with shotguns against any enemy trying to ambush them. Furthermore, their Skill Tree mainly revolves around further boosting their defense (survivability) or increasing their Critical Hit chances. One skill in particular allows them storm the enemy's position, automatically dodging their overwatch shots and clearing the path for other team members to follow them in and clean house.
- Played for Laughs in Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG, item 31:
The backup trap handler is not whoever has the most HP at the time.
- Binwin Bronzebottom is the point man for Acquisitions Incorporated, by the virtue of being the token party fighter with the highest hit points and armor class.
- Michelangelo is typically the Point Man in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012). He'll typically go in fast and loud so every else can sneakily clean up the bad guys after he creates a distraction.
- Skipper from The Penguins of Madagascar usually puts himself on point. In one early episode where he teams up with Marlene, she appoints herself the point man, and Skipper whines "I'm usually on point!"