The Five-Man Band is a group of characters whose members fall into archetypes which all complement one another. They are a very specific team with skills that contribute to the group in a unique way.
The group traditionally includes:
- The Leader — (lead singer) The leader of the group. Can be a mastermind, charismatic, levelheaded, headstrong, or some combination of the four. Often also The Hero.
- The Lancer — (lead guitar) The second-in-command, usually a contrast to The Leader. If the Leader is clean-cut and/or uptight, the Lancer is a grizzled Anti-Hero or Deadpan Snarker; if the Leader is driven and somewhat amoral, the Lancer is more relaxed and level-headed.
- The Smart Guy — (keyboardist) The physically weak, but intelligent or clever member. Often nerdy and awkward played for comic relief. Sometimes unconventionally young (early- to mid-teens). Sometimes a Trickster and a buddy of the Big Guy. May be the one with all the "street" connections.
- The Big Guy — (drummer) The strongman of the team. May be dumb. Or mute.
- The Chick — (vocal effects, tambourine) A peacekeeping role to balance out the other members' aggression, bringing them to a nice or at least manageable medium. The Chick is often considered the heart of the group. This role is played by a woman or girl. Someone female. Otherwise, it is not a Five-Man Band.
Associated Character Tropes
- Big Brother Mentor / Team Mom / Team Dad / Cool Big Sis
- The Medic — Generally either The Chick or The Smart Guy, or a combination of the two; more likely to be The Smart Guy the further up the Mohs Scale of Sci-Fi Hardness you go.
- Mentors — The wise advisory type who comes and goes. Potentially organizes the team, trains them to be an effective group, and/or has a personal connection with the Big Bad. They might be killed to give the group someone to rally around.
- Sixth Ranger — A johnny-come-lately addition to the team, often an outrider type who has been lurking on the edges of the action from the beginning. Their addition to the Five-Man Band usually shakes up the status quo. Has a tendency to be a defector from the bad guys. Sometimes the Ensemble Darkhorse.
- The Sneaky Guy — A function of The Lancer or The Smart Guy.
- Tagalong Kid — Usually the Leader's or the Chick's younger sibling. Gets to save the day about once per season, thus generating about a 1:63 ratio of "being useful" to "getting kidnapped".
- The Team Benefactor — This person or group keeps the adventure(s) going by supplying some resource that only they have access to, such as money, transport, knowledge, etc.
- The Team Pet — The dog, cute alien, or Robot Buddy. Might occasionally enable plots, but not really a character in the conventional sense.
See also ¡Three Amigos!
, Power Trio
, and Cast Calculus
. Fighting ability is usually determined by Fixed Relative Strength
Compare the Command Roster
, for military-esque teams. Contrast with the Five-Bad Band
. The Psycho Rangers
are the collective Evil Counterpart
of a given Five-Man Band.
This can sometimes literally be a musical group. Characters can also be divided by personality instead of function: See Four-Temperament Ensemble
Notable five person bands
These are examples of teams that fit all five
of the character tropes. Remember that they form a team dynamic; it's always tempting to match two of the characters in a show, then try to convince yourself and others that the other characters can be squeezed/wedged/stuffed into the description of the other character types, but that's not the point of the Five-Man Band trope. The individual character types exist outside of the band. The Five-Man Band only occurs when the team as a whole fits, not just a few characters.
As a rule of thumb, if your band example has to justify more than two types, or a single trope with more than two sentences of qualifiers, you're trying to pull a fast one. If it isn't a Five-Man Band, it isn't a Five-Man Band.