"My favorite three questions are, 'What do I want?', 'What do I have?', and 'How can I best use the latter to get the former?'"
Completing a triangle with the Action Hero
and the Science Hero
, the Guile Hero is a hero who operates by playing politics
and manipulating the bad guys
. The Guile Hero trades swords and guns (or science and technology) for charm, wit, political and/or financial acumen, and an in-depth knowledge of human nature. The Chain of Deals
, along with the Social Engineering
and Gambit Index
tropes are all at the Guile Hero's fingertips. Often, a Guile Hero will manipulate the other good guys and a whole bunch of innocent bystanders as part of their scheme to bring down the Big Bad
, though they'll take care to ensure the other characters aren't truly harmed in the process (and if they fail, they'll be very
sorry). The Guile Hero is likely to be a politician or a businessman, and engage in Battles of Wits
. If he has superpowers, than he's likely to think that Heart Is an Awesome Power
. Almost always Chaotic Good
The Guile Hero could be a good analog to the Manipulative Bastard
: the Guile Hero is unambiguously a good guy with the same goals as any Action Hero
or Science Hero
. While some other heroes may be unhappy with being manipulated
by the Guile Hero, it is made clear to the reader that this character both has a heroic goal and is not (usually) Jumping Off the Slippery Slope
into becoming a Well-Intentioned Extremist
. When a Guile Hero suffers an Epic Fail
, it falls under the Too Clever by Half
The Guile Hero combines elements of The Chessmaster
, The Trickster
and The Strategist
without having to be all of these. A Guile Hero isn't necessarily The Chessmaster
: the Guile Hero is simply a hero who uses wit, charm, and skill to mislead and set up the bad guys, while The Chessmaster
is often devoted to grander schemes, and more likely to use Chess Motifs
. A Manipulative Bastard
tends to be more personal and controlling in his manipulations. A Guile Hero need not be a master manipulator; "guile" can mean "shrewdness" instead of "deceit". As for The Trickster
, a Guile Hero is just as likely to be The Stoic
or a "Stop Having Fun" Guy
as the fun-loving and mischevious
trickster. The Chain of Deals
is just as valid a tool for these characters as The Plan
, and a Guile Hero may very well be a grown up High School Hustler
In The Team
, the Guile Hero is most likely to be The Face
of the troupe and/or The Smart Guy
though a particularly bright Leader or Lancer can also fit in. If The Chick
uses her emotional influence
to the extreme and combines it with quick wits and words, she can also grow into one. The Guile Hero is also frequently a Sixth Ranger
, and if Sixth Ranger
is also a Guile Hero they tend to be Sixth Ranger Traitor
Compare the Young Conqueror
, which is a young example of this trope taken Up to Eleven
with a side of Take Over the World
ambition as well. May overlap with Good Is Not Dumb
. Compare Silk Hiding Steel
when a Proper Lady
feels like plotting. Very, very rarely will this overlap with Small Steps Hero
, due to the latter being unwilling to sacrifice innocent parties—but manipulating the villains is just fine.
In some rare cases, the Guile Hero may be a character that is actually extremely more powerful than anyone else (either through magic or science and technology) and actually could easily solve everything himself. But he's really not supposed to
Not under any circumstances to be confused with a certain Sonic Boom-tossing airman whose theme song goes with everything.
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Anime & Manga
- The Dollars from Durarara!! as a collective whole are a decentralized version of this. This partially stems from their decentralized nature (they have no concrete organization, mostly rely on cellphones and the Internet for communications, and the only form of 'hierarchy' is that the founder is The Leader but he's usually a hand-offs kind of guy) and it's partially because the vast majority of members are rank and file civilians of all ages, so many have to help using whatever means they have at hand, even if it's not in a direct fighting capacity, which Episode 22 of the anime shows in great detail.
- Bleach: Kisuke Urahara is single-handedly a Power Trio all by himself. He manipulates both the villains and the protagonists to ensure the protagonists can defeat the villains, telling the protagonists only what he feels they need to know and sometimes only just enough to get them into trouble. He's a firm believe in the school of hard knocks, believing the best martial training is real battle experience. However, he's also a former shinigami captain and therefore when he has to fight he willingly becomes a full-blown Action Hero. Most of his machinations, aid and fighting tactics occur in the form of scientific knowledge and invention, as he's actually primarily a Science Hero. There's a reason why he's a Living Legend in-universe.
- Rock in Black Lagoon starts out as a Non-Action Guy Salary Man but he has plenty of cunning.
- The main character (Ayumu Narumi) from Spiral fits this pretty well.
- Lawrence, the main character of the anime Spice and Wolf is the economic type. When Holo is kidnapped and used as leverage in a covert deal, he uses economic wizardry and manipulation to arrange for her release. Which pisses her off to no end since she'd hoped to see him rescue her personally, all Prince Charming style. Every once in a while, he gets himself into deep enough trouble that Holo has to bail him out, but he's still quite the savvy trader...
- Blue (Green in the English version) from Pokémon Special.
- Chief Aramaki from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is shrewd and cunning, manipulating the inter-departmental bureaucracy of the Japanese government to ensure that his people can do their jobs.
- Legend of the Galactic Heroes give us Yang Wen-Li, a textbook example: he has all the skills of the Magnificent Bastard yet remains one of the nicest persons you could ever meet.
- Sociopathic Hero version: Hiruma Youichi, Deimon Devilbats quarterback in Eyeshield 21. How did he get his players? Blackmail, manipulation, or the ultimate fallback, guns. Lots of guns. What does he do with his players? Gives them all nicknames that start with "Fucking," and puts them through Training from Hell including running up Tokyo Tower and pushing a truck from Texas to Las Vegas. What does he do to his opponents? All out psychological warfare, showing his hand, taunting unmercifully and cackling madly (even through a freshly broken arm if he has to.) He keeps innumerable calculations going on in his head and strategizes on the fly, willing (and eager) to go for the insanest of insane trick plays. He's a terror, but he has the absolute loyalty of his players (even the ones he recruited at gunpoint) who are willing to push themselves to insane heights right along with him (although they would be happier if he left his guns at home).
- L from Death Note, heroic counterpart to Light, who is the poster boy for Magnificent Bastards. Less heroic than other cases in that he comes across as amoral- the author admits that he is "a little bit evil"- and is interested in Light more for the challenge than administering justice.
- Also Near, who is L's successor as the Heroic Chessmaster. He makes a lot of inspiring speeches (when his assistants moan about how well Kira, Mello and the mafia seem to be doing), but some that are clearly insincere.
- Colonel Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist. This is a noble guy who makes his "lecherous behavior" a disguise. There's also how he deals with the Maria Ross Incident.
- Kyouya Ohtori from Ouran High School Host Club. Considering that Tamaki Suoh is an Idiot Hero, and he's a Hypercompetent Sidekick, he has to be one of these.
- Sasuke Uchiha showed characteristics of this type, when he was still a member of the Hidden Leaf. An example was the Chuunin Exam in the Forest of Death: He noticed shadow clones with ease, mostly because he analyzed the behaviour of his teammates.
- Shikamaru Nara of Team 10 is widely considered the greatest strategist in Konoha. His accomplishments include out-gambitting a pair of Akatsuki members (extremely dangerous S-Rank criminals, one of whom battled the First Hokage himself), beating his mentor Asuma at Shogi (a Japanese equivalent to chess), and being named the first chunin of his age group, due to his remarkable tactics in his fight against Temari.
- Shino Aburame is also an excellent example, due to his brutally pragmatic and underhanded approach to almost anything. His first fight was over before it started due to him filling his opponent's arm tubes with bugs before the match even began.
- Itachi Uchiha, who manipulates basically everyone (including his younger brother) to protect Konoha.
- It's a constant debate, both in-universe and amongst the fans, whether the title character of Irresponsible Captain Tylor is The Fool, a Genius Ditz, or a Guile Hero who uses Obfuscating Stupidity in order to carry out his plans. Some fans believe that it's actually a mixture of both; that Tylor has somehow become enlightened to the extent of becoming a bodhisattva through his original simple, happy-go-lucky ways and that most, if not all, of his antics in the series are part of a plan to help the others on the Soyokaze achieve enlightenment too.
- Pretty much every main character in a Meitantei series is this, in different degrees. Among them we have Hajime Kindaichi (The Kindaichi Case Files); Shinichi Kudo/Conan Edogawa (Detective Conan/Case Closed); Kyuu Renjou, his Five-Man Band and his mentor Morihiko Dan (Tantei Gakuen Q); Ryouko Yakushiji (The Case Files of Yakushiji Ryoko), etc.
- In the case of Detective Conan, Conan is later joined by Heiji Hattori, Shiho Miyano/Sherry/Ai Haibara, Shuuichi Akai in his Subaru Okiya persona and presumably Rei Furuya aka Tooru Amuro aka Bourbon.
- Shoryuu from The Twelve Kingdoms has some elements of this and Action Hero. While he's a very badass fighter, it's his manipulation talent and his Obfuscating Stupidity abits that helps him the most.
- Kyon from Haruhi Suzumiya eventually becomes this. He achieves some truely impressive feats on this front as well, such as blackmailing the Data Integration Thought Entity to keep it from taking Yuki away by threatening that he can convince Haruhi to use her Reality Warper powers to do all kinds of horrible things with only a single phrase.
- Kurama from YuYu Hakusho is more about the finesse and skill than his brutish teammates. His opponents are often shocked when they find out he defeated them without them noticing until it was too late.
- Kurapica from Hunter × Hunter. He captures Chrollo, the leader of the Genei Ryodan, and leaves his own friends at the place of his enemies and forces them to exchange hostages. Kurapica makes sure that Gon and Killua won't get up hurt and he would cancel the negotiation immediately, as Phinks learns it almost the hard way. During the exchange he manages that Chrollo cannot use his Nen until the Genei Ryodan finds a way to exorcist Kurapica's Nen or that he cannot face his subordinates because he would die. And Kurapica kills at least one of the members because of his conditions of the negotiation.
- Arsene Lupin III, the titular character of Lupin III, wins by guile. Although he is often also the Action Hero (he carries a gun, and one of the best shots in the world) and Smart Guy (his planning and sometimes inventions are beyond current science), his behavior is always characterized by a desire to go "around". He tries to set up situations where the victim of his theft is doing most of the work for him.
- Lina Inverse from Slayers, who mixes this and Black Magician Girl. When she can't solve her problems by blowing them up, she uses cunning.
- Vampire Princess Miyu, specially in the OAV. She is a Good Is Not Nice Dark Magical Girl who often relies heavily on manipulations to get what she needs.
- Shows up frequently in magical girl series that use the Beauty, Brains and Brawn trio. Consider: Belldandy, Sailor Moon and her close friend Ami/Sailor Mercury, Fuu, Mikuru, Mikan Sakura, etc. They all tend to get their way by winning people over to their cause.
- Vision of Escaflowne: Prince Dryden Fassa can't fight as well as Allen or Van, doesn't have medical knowledge like Millerna, and lacks of Hitomi's Psychic Powers; instead he has his riches, his generous heart and a very sharp mind. In his two first episodes, in fact, he verbally owns Allen with his Brutal Honesty and quickly ropes the extremely reclusive celestial beings that built Escaflowne into fixing it, thus saving Van's life after a particularly hard fight that almost killed him.
- Saiunkoku Monogatari has its female lead, Kou Shuurei.
- Minamoto from Zettai Karen Children.
- Virgo Shaka from Saint Seiya, who also is an Action Hero (as a Gold Saint), a Combat Pragmatist and a powerful psychic. The combination of all of these traits makes him an terrifying opponent. Also Aries Mu, Libra Dohko and Phoenix Ikki who actually defeats Shaka by indy ploying his way around Shaka and out-gambitting him, which impresses Shaka quite a bit.
- Although he's more of a Magical Boy Warrior, Negi Springfield has some inklings of this too, specially with how he out-gambitted Kurt Godel.
- Negi might be an example of all three types of Heroes. He uses what materials and abilities he has to become the Guile Hero. When he doesn't have anything that can work, he usually creates some new magical theory that will work to his advantage, and thus becomes the Science Hero. All the while, kicking ass, therefore becoming the Action Hero.
- Aeolia Scheinberg from Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Who has pretty much staged the whole plot of the series and still does this after his death. Also Sumeragi Lee Noriega, who is The Strategist of Celestial Being... the group that Aeolia himself founded.
- Lacus Clyne of Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny combines this with All-Loving Hero in order to set herself up as a political and ideological counterpoint to first Patrick Zala, and Murata Azrael, and later Gilbert Durandal. Playing on her own fame, and that of her martyred father Siegel Clyne, she talks people into switching sides, steals a battleship, launches a propaganda campaign that undermines both sides of the war and ultimately gathers an army that's able to take them down and end the fighting. She also funnels her money into a private Mobile Suit factory, so that when the next war breaks out, her side has up-to-date technology.
- Audrey Burne from Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, a young woman who easily relies on her wit and persuasion as a means to fulfill her goals. Banagher calls her out on it in the second episode twice, first when she attempts to get him to escape with her from the Nahael Argama, and then when she is persuading Daguza to shoot her when her true identity as Princess Mineva Lao Zabi is revealed.
- Relena Peacecraft from Gundam Wing, as the precursor to the aforementioned Gundam heroines, also exhibits this. Being an Actual Pacifist means she may not do a lot overtly, especially when her allies are all One-Man Armies, but she learns how to make exceptional use of her charisma, empathy, and speaking skills to oppose the globe-spanning military-industrial complex which has been manipulating the planet into war for generations. Her real Moment Of Awesome comes when said complex convinces her to become their figurehead leader, and she parlays that into complete control of the organization merely by convincing its members to work for peace rather than war. All this from a 15-year-old girl whose only credentials are being a diplomat's adopted daughter and the princess of a destroyed country (which she only learns about five episodes into the series, and spends seven months mostly off-camera rebuilding and acclimating herself to the role).
- Byronic Hero Lelouch Lamperouge from Code Geass in the Anti-Hero interpretation of his character. He prefers to play politics to sideline his opponents most of the time. For instance, at one point after losing his most important fighter and being attacked by the two most powerful armies in that universe - the Chinese and the Brittanian - he manipulates the Eunuch Generals into announcing their evil plans to their entire country, inciting riots and cutting off their Brittanian support. This plan went very smoothly because he managed to steal it from a third opponent without that third opponent ever telling something about it, who had no choice but to support Lelouch after this fight. Using politics he sidelined one bad empire, destroyed a second one and got the support of the third one.
- Homeron in the Blue Dragon anime is an informant who sneaks into a target, steals information, and gets out before his mark knows he's arrived.
- Clow Reed and his reincarnation Eriol Hiiragizawa in Cardcaptor Sakura manipulate the heroine into accomplishing his master plan aid her in her quest to become the second master of the magical cards he created.
- Toru from Iris Zero lacks the eye powers of his peers. Instead, he is able to construct situations and use his friends abilities to achieve a noble goal.
- When Carol Reed from Ouke no Monshou is exploring some Egyptian ruins, she's the victim of a curse and ends up thrown into Ancient Egypt. Luckily for Carol, she is a Cute Bookworm who's more or less familiar with old Egyptian culture, thus she uses said knowledge as well as her quick wits to protect herself and survive while helping out those who need her.
- Similarly, Yuri Suzuki from Anatolia Story goes through similar experiences when she's tossed into the Hitite Empire instead. While her historical knowledge isn't as big as Carol's, she develops quick and sharp wits with time, and manages to become the Hot Consort to the local Warrior Prince as well as the most dangerous threat to the Big Bad.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All of the protagonists. Battles in this series are more about tactics and mind-games than power levels and the heroes are very good at this. Not that any of them aren't any good just laying a good old-fashioned beatdown when the situation calls for it.
- Joseph is probably best at this, he often sets intricate traps and backups in case his foes figure out the first one. He even manages to defeat the Big Bad of his part by firing the two of them into the air and launching his severed arm at him with a volcano. He can also read minds, so that probably helps.
- Leonhardt "Leon" Aschenbach from Honoo No Alpen Rose, who manages to use his own concert to escape from Vienna alongside his childhood friend Jeudi.
- Meta Knight in Kirby of the Stars leans further towards this than in the games - especially since he's definitely on Kirby's side in the anime. Nevertheless, he's so charismatic that he's very popular with the Cappies, and they even made a mini-figure of him. At the end of the series, he reveals that he had been building his Battleship Halberd in King Dedede's basement ever since he came to Dreamland to everybody can battle Nightmare from inside it during their final assault on his fortress.
- Oz from Pandora Hearts is definitely one of these. Break also occasionally acts as one. Duke Barma straddles the line between this and Manipulative Bastard, as it's still unclear as to exactly whose side he's on. Jack subverts this.
- Harusumi from Bokura no Kiseki. He can kick ass when the occasion calls for it, but given that he has less in the way of combat training than most of the other characters, he tends to prefer to achieve victory through manipulation and coordination with other characters.
- Akiyama from Liar Game. In a series based around tactical mind games, Akiyama is usually the one to engage the villains in Xanatos Speed Chess and win.
- Akiyama's partner Nao, the main heroine is this of the emotional variety. Without her, in fact, Akiyama would have long lost.
- Sun from The Legend of Sun Knight. Having low physical endurance and strength, and sword skills that are "not very good," as well as having been trained to hide his magic talent, Sun can't openly muscle his way through most challenges. He still fights openly with spells when he doubts he'll be recognized, but his preferred tactics are to manipulate others into doing what he wants, something which is helped by the appearance he maintains as an attractive figurehead. Those who know his true nature consider his friend Judge to be the one who maintains the church from the front, while saying Sun's place is to sneak around and mess with things behind the scenes.
- Akira from Eden of the East, as expected from a series about a bunch of people with Supernatural Phones and an obscene amount of money trying to outwit each other (except that Akira also manages to do it all with amnesia.)
- In Fairy Tail, while Natsu gets random Power Ups and Erza just overpowers her oponnents, Gray uses his brain to defeat his opponents and outsmarts them.
- Piccolo is very wise and strategic in battle in Dragon Ball. Manipulating the likes of Freeza, Cell and Majin Buu when it seems they have the upper hand against him. He is considered The Strategist among the Z-Fighters for a reason.
- Vegito also counts. Hell, him manipulating Super Buu and frustrating him into acting desperately was the main plan to saving his sons, friend and the whole universe.
- Shiho Kobayakawa from Private Actress. As the titular "Private Actress", she must put up huge and perfect facades to get her work done and uses her acting skills and quick thinking to do so. It's well-seen in the first episode, where she immediately comes up with a more or less believable scenario to make an ill man believe she's his long-lost daughter so she can keep him company during his last days of life and specially towards the end when she manipulates her rival Satoka and everyone in the set of the movie they're filming so she can punish Satoka for her cruel actions.
- Batman, especially in group settings where his companions and adversaries have superpowers that render his gadgets and martial arts prowess less relevant. He's not called the World's Greatest Detective for nothing, and his habit of spinning victory from available resources have spawned the popular belief that he can take down any opponent with nothing more than "ample time to prepare."
- Charles Xavier. Aside from being a telepath, he keeps secrets even from his own team, has faked his own death as a ruse, and has employed secret operatives for when dogs need to be shot.
- John Constantine from Hellblazer, full stop. This trope could easily be called 'The John Constantine.' While John IS a talented sorcerer, his power is of the mile wide but inch deep bent, and he can't dish out anywhere near the force that his magical peers like Zatanna and Dr. Fate can, but he doesn't need to. Between his silver tongue and his ability to manipulate and improvise, he'll make you beat yourself faster than the other two could beat you into the ground.
- Dwight McCarthy from the Sin City story "A Dame To Kill For". While healing from severe gunshot wounds and on the run from the cops, he had to convince the girls of Old Town to help him out. In a later story called "Family Values", he politely manipulates a crime family into ruin.
- Wallace also manage to gain the cooperation of Sin City cops in Hell and Back while getting his friends to supply him with enough guns to take out the Big Bad.
- While most characters in the Astérix books tend to default to violence (hey, when all you have is a magic potion that gives you super strength...), Asterix himself switches to Guile Hero mode when punching stuff isn't the best answer - such as when there's no magic potion available (Asterix the Gaul springs to mind), or using subtlety gets the villain of the book a far more appropriate fate than mere pulverisation, such as in "Asterix La Zizanie", also known as "Asterix and the Roman Agent" or "Asterix and the Green-Eyed Monster".
- Superman is no slouch with guile. While his life embodies Brains: Evil; Brawn: Good, he will often have to resort to having to outsmart his opponent when his brawn doesn't do him any good. This is most apparent against Mr. Mxyzptlk, as Supes has to trick him into saying his last name backwards because he is a nigh-omnipotnent Reality Warper.
- Commander Arcturus Rann of the Micronauts shifted back and forth between this and Action Hero, during the original series. His main weapon was his mystical connection to the Enigma Force. He spent an entire story arc removed from the main events where he retreated to a spiritual plane (via meditation) and spent all his time philosophically debating with Baron Karza (who had similarly removed himself from the main affairs), the Time Travellers serving as mediators. Both eventually came away with what they wanted, sort of.
- Kid Loki from Journey into Mystery, because it's all he has left. He can't fight physically. He has no magic. All he has to go on is his wits and he's got a reputation as a scheming, deceitful bastard who can't be trusted, which makes his job even more difficult. He's usually trying to trick ancient and powerful beings, some of whom are no slouches themselves when it comes to deceit. Even the soul of his evil adult self gets played by Kid Loki. Yes, he's so good he can trick himself, the God of Lies.
- Later on, in Loki: Agent of Asgard, Loki (who is currently undergoing a case of Heel-Face Turn. It's a long story) frequently resorts to this. For example, in issue 1 his method of getting past the Avengers is to turn them on each other, then casually stroll off while they're brawling.
- In the second volume of X-Men Legacy, Charles Xavier's son, Legion, becomes this - he has won the Superpower Lottery, but even when he cannot access his greater powers, he can work with what he has, bluff and cunning. The series, however, deconstructs this - David is unable to trust anybody and so quickly gets manipulative. He rarely thinks of the consequences of his actions, and the people he uses as pawns are not happy about it, which often gets him in trouble.
- Cenotaph features this as a centeral component of Taylor's personality and strategy. First: as a solo operator with a power best suited to obsevation and spying, she lacks most tricks to end a fight decisively. Second: a great many capes posses abilities that can level city blocks. Third: Many of her enemies don't like each other. She takes advantage of the situation.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami features the titular heroine, who uses her knowledge of modern technology, combined with magic to create Reaper-Golem shock troops, magical power armor, and an airship fleet. All the while pissing off every Dark God in existence.
- Evangelion 303: Gendo and Fuyutsuki –especially the latter- spend most their time negotiating with politicians and bureaucrats in Washington. They find it very tiresome and distressing.
- Scar Tissue:
- Gendo Ikari is accustomed to play powerful, influential people against each other. And in chapter 11 he proved that his skills are unmatched in that area. He was confronting a bunch of politicians planning to extradite him or execute him on the spot, and he drove them mad. He compared it with fishing with dynamite.
- Deconstructed with Misato. She is Nerv’s Sub-commander now, and she hates it. Every day she has to deal with politicians, army officers, civil servants and mass media, assist pointless meetings, staying late in work, oversee Tokyo-3’s rebuilding… and because it she missed what was happening to her wards. She is sick of the feeling of being loaded with all troubles of the world, of being unable to relax in her own home and of having her children physically and mentally wrecked.
- Jess from Children of the Atom is hopeless in a straight fight, but manages to be awsome due to deductive ability and acting diplomaticly.
- While starting out as a side character in the fic Uplifted, by the sequels, Admiral Halid Zorah becomes one of these, though he remains on the sidelines. Still, he tends far more towards being a magnificent bastard.
- Unohana might or might not be a heroine in the AU Downfall, considering her desires to reconcile Seireitei and Hueco Mundo she seems heroic. But as she seems to think that only the wholesale destruction of the Gotei will accomplish this, it would seem that she qualifies more along the lines of well-intentioned extremist. Of course, there seem to be other events and forces involved, moveing behind the scenes...
- Bella in Luminosity is turned into one of these. While most of her characterization revolves around this, one quote summarizes it well:
My brain flew into action.
I want to live. I have the power of speech. How can I get what I want?
And then I spoke the words.
- Raonar Aeducan in Dragon Age: The Crown of Thorns qualifies as this and a Wise Prince, being the second son of the Dwarven King. He is a manipulator and schemer that constantly uses his wit to turn even the most dangerous plots against him, his family or his friends in his favor. This becomes apparent early on, when the events of the Dwarven Noble Origin are fundamentally changed, although things still somehow manage to get more and more difficult for everyone involved as the story progresses.
- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres. His ability to think more logically than most is both his biggest strength and weakness; there are times when one needs to act on intuition, and he has a near compulsive need to understand what he's dealing with before reacting.
- The four do their damnedest to be Guile Heroes in With Strings Attached, since they're Actual Pacifists with a huge amount of power who don't want to use it on anyone—at least, not lethally. In the Fourth Movement, their string of ploys to rescue one another and win back the Vasyn are things of legend.
- Trixie in the Pony POV Series becomes one of these after her Heel-Face Turn. She uses her cunning and ability to lie flawlessly to aid the group in their goals. A great example is faking a hostage situation to distract Princess Gaia's The Dragon so the others can take her down.
- Orangejack, one of Applejack's Alternate Universe selves, proves to be this, using her brain to help her and Applejack defeat Nightmare Mirror with a Fake Defector gambit.
Orangejack: You and big brother dearest are Elements of Honesty, I'm still a liar.
- Jade from Akatsuki Kitten Phoenix Corporation Overhaul. Most stories, of any kind of "characters get turned into small animals and sent to the real world" plot, have whichever teenage girl that takes them in give no thought to the consequences (like paying for veterinary visits, food, supplies, etc.) or origins (random box of animals on your doorstep, anyone?), or only give it a fleeting mention. Jade takes it with a head full of paranoia and skepticism, and even then only because she's being paid a lot and figures that she can sell the kittens for a large sum if their fur colors are natural.
- The Powers Of Harmony: Twilight of course, thanks to her intellect combined with the combat training she receives from her Guards.
- Rarity as well, at least in her dealings with Eclipse after the latter possesses her.
- Most of the Guards qualify as well, to varying degrees.
- My Little Castlevania: Most of the enemies that Twilight faces are too strong to fight head on, so she's forced to use her wits to compensate.
- Lero Michaelides in Divided Rainbow.
- Drawn With The Night Klein Bottle is able to get his way by learning about the various traditions and ethics among the various species in the world of Equestria, allowing him to run his company staffed with minotaurs smoothly, negotiate with dragons, and in his avoidance of the princesses.
Films — Animated
- Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon could be the flag bearer of this trope. Same as Sally below, the whole point of his character is that he contrasts the other, burly Vikings by his brains and lack of brawn.
- Aladdin is a roguish street rat who gets by via theft and charm and uses cunning and trickery to best most conflicts — but we never doubt he's the good guy.
Films — Live Action
- John McClane from Die Hard. He kills one man, gains a radio, a machine gun, and a whole LOT of information about the guys he's fighting. Uses the radio to call for help, uses the machine gun and the next guy he kills to get police attention, and spoon feeds them everything he found out.
- Oskar Schindler in Schindlers List uses bribery and convincing lies to stuff his factories with as many jews as possible, and thereby save their lives.
- Bart in Blazing Saddles. Of particular note is the incident in which he escaped from an entire town of people with guns aimed at him by taking himself hostage and using himself as a human shield to get to safety. It has to be seen to be believed.
- Mattie Ross in the 2010 version of True Grit. Upon first meeting her, all anybody sees is an unaccompanied 14-year-old girl in pigtails... an impression which lasts about as long as it takes for her to bludgeon them into submission with her intellect, her business acumen, and her sheer, gimlet-eyed stubbornness.
- Mike Stearns and Gretchen Richter in Eric Flint's 1632. The former of whom has stated outright that he's trying to be a better chessmaster than Otto von Bismarck.
- The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf to some degree. He's forbidden by the cosmic higher-ups from attempting to combat evil by simple force— they learned their lesson when their battle with the previous Big Bad broke half the world— and mostly limits himself to using diplomacy to cajole the forces of good into taking action. He does take a certain pleasure in being the smartest guy in the room, especially in The Hobbit, as when he tricks the notoriously misanthropic Beorn into playing host for thirteen dwarves and one hobbit.
- Marco from Animorphs fills this role. Later, we see it runs in the family.
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore is a kindly-looking and a little kooky Eccentric Mentor. He's also a master manipulator and extremely powerful wizard who nevertheless devotes himself to battling Voldemort and regrets lots of his unavoidable yet harsh decisions. His friend Severus Snape, who simultaneously stays loyal to Dumbledore and appear to be Voldemort's most loyal servant.
- Alex Verus from the series of the same name seems to be shaping up to be this, using a combination of precognition and quick thinking to stay alive against the odds.
- Miles Vorkosigan of the Vorkosigan Saga and the the rest of the Vorkosigan family qualifies, each with their own signature brand of guile:
- Kim by Rudyard Kipling had the eponymous Street Urchin taking to this so well, he later only needed to be taught cartography and a few things about security to make a Teen Superspy.
- The protagonists of Stalky & Co. by Rudyard Kipling played this in a Boarding School, usually setting up those who interfere with them to make fools of themselves, sometimes just for the love of mischief.
- Most heroic characters in Discworld qualify. Boxed Crook Con Man Moist von Lipwig is a great example.
- Granny Weatherwax has her Headology, and Vimes has a certain amount of this. He knows how to be a good copper and how to play people and situations to come out on top. Vetinari is the morally-grey version. It says a lot about him that he is listed both here and on the Magnificent Bastard page.
- Lampshade Hanging (bordering on Deconstruction) in the introduction of the Disc's version of Odysseus, which says:
It's funny how people have always respected the kind of commander who comes up with strategies like "I want fifty thousand of you chappies to rush at the enemy
," whereas the more thoughtful commanders who say things like "Why don't we build a damn great wooden horse
and then nip in at the back gate while they're all around the thing waiting for us to come out" are considered only one step above common oiks and not the kind of person you'd lend money to. This is because most of the first type of commander are brave men
, whereas cowards
make far better strategists.
- Which is why Rincewind belongs on this list. He doesn't want to be a hero at all and would rather stay where it's safe.
- Hex develops into this over the course of the three The Science of Discworld novels, building upon his invention of Lies-To-People.
- Lyra from His Dark Materials. She is so good at this she earns the title "Lyra Silvertongue".
- Artemis Fowl — Artemis himself because he has more faith in his prodigous mind than his scrawny stature.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe
- Wedge Antilles is a consummate Guile Hero, and his cunning is probably his second-most important talent (directly behind his Improbable Piloting Skills). He is a master of everything from simple misdirections and lies to grand-scale feints. He can run rings around officers who are supposed to be his superiors. On Adumar, he hatches several plans to disorient the enemy: attacking at dawn to rouse the hard-living pilots from their bunks before they're ready, reprogramming his fleets' transponders to lie about their unit composition, ordering some of his low-ranking pilots' fighters to identify themselves as champions, and vice versa. On Borleias, he encourages one of his allies to claim to be a Yuuzhan Vong goddess and lays plans for a galaxy-wide La Résistance against his own government (a government that he browbeat into giving him the resources he needed for his plans). A choice quote from Starfighters of Adumar sums him up nicely:
: So this is the cockpit Wedge. The one the enemy has boxed in, when suddenly he breaks off in a whole new direction, changes all the rules.
- In The Phoenix Guards, Pel gets his True Companions and himself out of prison by tricking a guard into propositioning his (Pel's) lover, who then almost kills the guard in a duel. Then she asks the poor guy who put him up to it, he tells her, and she pulls some strings to get Pel and the others out.
- Vlad Taltos also invokes this trope a lot; he has to be smart and sneaky to last as long as he has, first in an extremely dangerous profession and later on the run from the entire Jhereg.
- Alaric from the Warhammer 40,000 Grey Knights novels was already a Genius Bruiser, but he becomes one of this with his plan to take down the Chaos lords of Drakaasi, even if he does not think such a plan to be right.
- Tavi from Codex Alera. This, coupled with a hefty dose of Badass Normal, is really the only way to survive as the one Muggle in a world where everyone has Elemental Powers. Ehren, too. Lampshaded by Max, who calls the two of them "sneaky little gits."
- Although Harry Dresden from the The Dresden Files is best known as a magical brawler with a tendency to burn down buildings, it's only because very few realize that he achieves his most impressive victories with wits alone (and he is not eager to enlighten them). For instance, in Blood Rites, he manipulates Lara Raith into doing what he wanted, and political intrigue is her lifestyle.
- This is the result of Character Development over the series. In the first few books he was just an Occult Detective, and much more inclined to fight than outmaneuver his opponents. It wasn't until his failure to plan (and deal with his feelings better) led to His Greatest Failure in Grave Peril that he started thinking and asking questions first.
- This is also the result of how magic, and especially the magic of wizards, works. Harry's only real strong inherent talent is his ability to summon fire (so strong that he has tools he uses specifically to avoid burning down everything when he does it) but a lot of Wizardry is about using some external power source or applying leverage carefully, or of storing a spell or power in advance in a potion or device. The best wizards aren't the strongest, but the ones most quick-witted and capable of taking advantage of a situation, such as in Dead Beat where the villains had summoned a giant typhoon of necromantic energy well-suited to raising the dead, and it occurred to him that older bodies were more powerful if you had the energy just lying around, only necromancy on humans was illegal, and the local museum had a dinosaur exhibit...
- El-ahrairah, star of the Watership Down Mythopoeia. He's like a cross between Bugs Bunny and Beowulf. Or even Odysseus: they are even linked in the book, where the human is accused of stealing tricks from the rabbit.
- Poison, the heroine of the Chris Wooding book of the same name, would count as this, as she uses strategy, trickery and intellect to fight rather than brute force. This is also true for many other characters in the story, including villains.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Tyrion Lannister, if you consider him a hero. In the first novel, he walks into the Vale of Arryn in chains and facing a near-certain death sentence, and walks out at the head of an army of tribesmen, thanks to a quick wit, a silver tongue, and the promise of lots and lots of gold.
- Arya Stark has had to rely on her wits to survive just as often — if not more — than swords. While she doesn't make the best immediate decisions, in book 2 she cleverly cornered a man who owed her a debt into helping her liberate Harrenhal from the Lannisters. While she's not as cunning as Tyrion, keep in mind that she's only twelve by now.
- Varys, again depending on how heroic you consider him. A distrusted foreign eunuch with no lands, incomes, titles, connections, or armies, he parlayed a quick wit and a talent for thievery and mummery as a youth into a peerless spy network and immense behind-the-scenes political power. As for his "heroic" credentials, well, he claims to serve the realm... and he might even be sincere.
- In the backstory, most of the Great Houses trace their lineage back to a great warrior ancestor, conqueror, or folk hero (or, in the somewhat odd case of the Starks, a talented architect). All except the Lannisters, whose semi-fabled progenitor is known as Lann the Clever. His claim to fame isn't fighting battles or leading armies, but swindling the Casterlys out of their castle with his wits.
- Dirk Pitt from the Numa Series.
- The scale of his manipulation is not as grand as some others listed here, but Aloysius Pendergast from the Preston/Child novels never hesitates to blackmail anyone into doing his bidding. For the greater good, of course.
- Silk, a.k.a. Prince Kheldar a.k.a. The Guide a.k.a. The Rat a.k.a. Radek of Boktor a.k.a. Ambar of Kotu from the Belgariad and Malloreon. There isn't a chapter he's in where he doesn't make some witty comment, scam the crap out of someone, pull off some incredible stunt or show a depth of character, knowledge or experience that's downright amazing.
- Chilean novelist Alberto Blest Gana was pretty fond of this type of hero, and his two most famous leads are these: Martin from Martin Rivas and Carlos Diaz aka el "Nato" from "El Loco Estero". Both young men are kind-hearted, honest, and suffering of Unrequited Love (for Leonor and Deidamia, respectively), but their deviousness and manipulation skills will help them go forth with their goals.
- Aahz, the powerless demon in Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures novels, is one of the all-time great guile heroes. His catchphrase is "Ah, therein lies the story..."
- Skeeve, his former apprentice and current partner, has learned a lot from Aahz, and at times is even better than him at this.
- Scheherazade from Arabian Nights. To save her own life and stop the Sultan from killing more concubines, she worms her way into his heart with her beauty, her smarts, and her breath-taking stories.
- Most heroes of the Arabian Nights are a combination of Guile Hero and Action Hero. (Some even include Science Hero, considering how technologically advanced medieval Arabia actually was.)
- Alianne of Pirate's Swoop, the protagonist of the Tortal Universe series Daughter of the Lioness. Alianne of Pirates Swoop. She's a spy, chosen by a trickster god, and she can't let her allies know her true identity. She lives entirely off her wits.
- The Wheel of Time:
- Thom Merrilin . He's handy with knives when he has to be, but what he really brings to the table is an intuitive knack for politics that lets him play the protagonists' opponents off against each other without anyone suspecting that he's responsible, and a gift for sifting through rumour and gossip to see larger patterns.
- Mat Cauthon, being something of a protégé to Thom. He learned the fine art of horse-trading at his father's knee, and when his natural quick wit is coupled with supernatural luck and a few thousand years' worth of battle tactics dumped into his head, watch out.
- Egwene al'Vere also becomes a Guile Hero, as the Amyrlin Seat. The Aes Sedai thought she'd become a puppet... hoo boy, did they turn out to be mistaken when Egwene owned them all, just like that.
- Gen and Attolia from Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief books definitely. However, any descriptions as to why would require excessive use of spoiler tags.
- Dirk Provin from Jennifer Fallon's Second Sons trilogy. He's a brilliant political genius with nerves of steel and any more would give away the plot of the last two books.
- Horatio Hornblower and the title characters of the Aubrey-Maturin series have absolutely no problems lying as much as they can without breaking the law and provoking internation incidents. Aubrey himself will lie like a rug in his personal life, and Maturin is a full time spy.
- The RCN series is based on the latter, and since the heroes are often out at the tip of the spear, so to speak, they will lie like crazy in order to complete their mission. It helps that they face a lot of idiots.
- Honor Harrington, the counterpart to the former, is very straightforward. She can be deceptive militarily, but isn't a very good liar otherwise.
- Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games. He's the Non-Action Guy to Katniss's Action Girl, but knows how to manipulate the Capitol audience and knows the right lies to use (like when he claims that Katniss is pregnant). He also figures out the setup of the the Quarter Quell, interpreting Wiress's Cloudcuckoolander message in Catching Fire
- Ruth from Someone Else's War. In the Five-Man Band, she's The Smart Guy rather than The Hero, but her smarts are usually what make up for Matteo's lack of foresight.
- Nicolas van Rijn, from Poul Anderson's Polesotechnic League stories, is large and fat—though strong and fast—and he takes great joy in outthinking and outwitting his enemies.
- Mahlia of The Drowned Cities is a little bit better educated and a whole lot smarter than most of the people around her, including the soldier boys who more or less destroyed her home. Through a combination of wits, planning, and talking very fast she manages to screw over the United Patriotic Front a time or two, earning herself the hatred of Lieutenant Sayle and the respect of Sergeant Ocho. Not bad for a one handed girl.
- Hoemei maran-Kaiel in Courtship Rite. In a clan where status derives from making accurate predictions, and clan members are encouraged to manipulate events to make their predictions come true, Hoemei is the second-best predictor/manipulator.
- In Firebird, we're told that Ilya is a more than competent warrior; he gets beaten only because his brothers gang up on him and they gang up on him because they can't take him one on one. However, apart from his brothers, he never encounters an enemy he can beat in a fight. The boar, the rusalka, the winter, the demons, the dragon, and the Katschei all have to be beaten with his wits, or just fled from.
- Legacy of the Dragokin: Downplayed with Benji as he's too much of an Idiot Hero to make proper use of it but he shows potential:
- Zarracka is impressed by the deviousness of his plan to escape a city.
- He wins his fight with Kthonia by outsmarting her instead of overpowering her.
- In the Rainbow Magic series, Trixie the Halloween Fairy and Addison the April Fool's Day Fairy are fond of pranks and tricking people.
- Rachel and Kirsty are able to trick and manipulate the goblins, and sometimes Jack Frost. They often use this to succeed.
- The Art of War basically spends thirteen chapters explaining how to be this and how important it is for generals and tacticians to do so. Its central ethos can be summed up in one quote: "the Way of War is a Way of Deception". Flank attacks, proxy conflicts, fake peace talks to buy time, striking unexpected targets, feints, false indicators of ambushes, double agents, bribed enemy officials - to Sun Tzu, these were as important to a general as a hammer and saw to a carpenter.
- Kindling Ashes: Giselle relies on out-smarting enemies to stay out of their reach because they are usually professional raiders or bred dragon-slayers.
- In the Age of Fire series, all three of the sibling protagonists qualify as this, especially RuGaard, who uses his wits to make up for the number of crippling injuries he's gained over his life.
- A Mage's Power: As Eric's confidence grows so does his wiliness. He does not defeat older and more experienced mages by overpowering them but by outsmarting them. In this sense, he's not so different from Tasio.
- Mowry from Wasp. He is an Agent Provocateur first and foremost, and mostly makes use of his wits and his ability to manipulate people and act unsuspicious. He can fight hand-to-hand and use a gun, but he takes care to avoid ever needing to do that.
Live Action TV
- The Doctor from Doctor Who. Bavarian Fire Drills are his specialty. Plus he is a Science Hero.
- No incarnation more so than the Seventh Doctor. Remembrance of the Daleks is one of the best examples of this, when he tricks Davros into destroying Skaro and convinces a Dalek to commit suicide.
- Dalek Caan manipulates the Doctor and his companions into defeating Davros and the New Dalek Empire.
- Irving Braxiatel, from the ExpandedUniverse might just be the embodiment of this trope. In his very first appearance in Theatre Of War he was able to out-manipulate the Seventh Doctor. Throughout his appearances in the Bernice Summerfield series his reputation of using people as tools became legendary (to the point where, when someone asks if he isn't being too manipulative, he concludes that they haven't been introduced). It's been suggested several times that he engineered the entirety of events in the Bernice Summerfield series; for example, when his collection was occupied by a group of Fascists called The Fifth Axis, something which should be impossible because, as a Time Lord, he knew that that sector of space was never occupied, he suspected that it might be a future version of himself which had engineered the whole situation and almost killed himself in a temporal paradox (luckily, it turned out to be the Daleks, not him, who were behind it). So devious was he that he became a full blown Magnificent Bastard in later seasons (although it may not have been entirely his fault). He's reformed now (sort of). Of course, none of this should be surprising considering that he's the Doctor's older brother.
- Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle. Showcased when Mr. Hurkabee encourages the class to cheat on an Academic Decathlon and Malcolm obliges... by giving every single team the answers to all the questions, to the point when they are blurting out the answer before the questioner even begins to ask, in an elegantly simple plan that must be seen to be appreciated.
- Or before that, when Hurkabee devised a ranking system to make the students compete with each other. When Malcolm failed to convince the others to rebel, he stopped bothering. Instead, he started over-achieving to such a degree that the others pushed themselves harder and harder to catch up, eventually culminating in a class-wide nervous breakdown that publicly humiliated the teacher.
- Younger brother Dewey evolves into this. Not as strong as Reese or clever as Malcolm, he starts as the put-upon punching bag but learns how to work the arrogant, short tempered and frequently distracted nature of the show's cast to his advantage.
- Dr. James Wilson of House is the only person in the series who has successfully manipulated the title character multiple times. Not only that, but he's less of an Anti-Hero than almost the entire rest of the cast. The title character is additionally a Guile Anti-Hero Manipulative Bastard.
- Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has to be more cunning than most Starfleet captains, placed as he is in a post where he's as much a local political figure as he is a military commander.
- Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation is no slouch either. Watch "The Ensigns of Command" —- after exploiting a loophole in the Treaty of Armens, a document which is half-a-million words long, he puts the Sheliak ON HOLD.
- In "The Drumhead", after a witch-trial occurs on the Enterprise and leads to Picard eventually being brought to trial himself, he calmly begins by making an opening statement that quotes the father of the prosecutor, Norah Satie, about suppressing individuals freedom. This causes her to begin an angry tirade that causes the head of Starfleet Intelligence to walk out in utter disgust.
- In "Peak Performance", Riker gives Worf a tactical scenario; "You're outmanned, you're outgunned, you're outequipped. What else have you got?" Worf gives a one-word answer: "Guile."
- Adelle DeWitt in Dollhouse is an expert in playing the politics (and just plain manipulating everyone) in order to protect her House.
- Richard Woolsey of Stargate Atlantis becomes this when he takes command of the city. There's an episode where he saves the day with lawyering, manipulation, and a little bribery.
- The title character of Nikita starts off her new series exemplifying this when you find out that Alex, the new recruit into Division, is a plant that Nikita trained to be recruited into Division. And all her actions at the start of the episode, an obvious attempt to capture Division's resident hacker and get access to their network was actually a Batman Gambit to convince Division that she was working with a foreign power because she couldn't get access to the network, and its intelligence, on her own.
- That's just the first episode. Listing all the other examples of her qualifications would take up a whole page.
- Babylon 5:
- Londo Mollari and John Sheridan are both clear examples of this, albeit in Mollari's case an ambiguously good one.
- Sinclair had his moments too, such as the resolution to "By Any Means Necessary". And then there was Ivanova's solution to the Drazi Green-Purple conflict which was wreaking havok on the station.
- Shawn Spencer is big on fooling people with his fake psychic powers in Psych.
- Methos from Highlander. An immortal at least 5,000 years old not because he's the greatest fighter, but because he is a clever, slippery and Manipulative Bastard who will do almost anything to survive.
- Boardwalk Empire:
- Nucky Thompson, though lighter on the hero part than usual, is an excellent example of this trope, he pretty much never does anything exciting personally, and he instead uses his political power and somewhat shallow, yet efficient understanding of human nature to get what he wants.
- Many characters (particularly Rothstein, Jimmy, Margaret, Meyer Lansky and Chalky) would actually fit this trope quite well, but all of them (with the exception of Margaret and arguably Jimmy) are less scrupulous than Nucky, and none of them are as clever, and both Jimmy and Chalky have actiony moments. The Commodore is more of an out and out Magnificent Bastard.
- Robert Goren from Law & Order: Criminal Intent. He knows exactly how to push people's buttons, and has manipulated many a criminal into a confession through his understanding of their psychology.
- On Law & Order: SVU, Nick Amaro is most likely to use emotional manipulation, flat-out lies, and his own personal charm to ferret out information and induce a suspect to confess. Amaro's arrival coincides with the showrunner of the aforementioned Criminal Intent, Warren Leight, taking over at SVU.
- Hogan's Heroes kept an espionage/sabotage operation going in a Luftstalag for three years.
- Henry from Once Upon a Time started the series at all of ten years old, but employs all kinds of tricks (stolen credit cards, the Living Lie Detector ability he appears to have inherited from Emma, taking advantage of his adopted mother's absences) in order to try and fight off the curse he's realized is affecting the town. Since that town is populated by exiled Fairy Tale characters, he also employs near-weaponized levels of Genre Savvy to spin things his direction (though he wound up being Wrong Genre Savvy when Peter Pan showed up). It tends to run in the family. His paternal grandfather is the first-rate Magnificent Bastard Rumplestitskin, but he has the moral compass of his maternal grandfather, Prince Charming.
- Jeff Winger from Community is a former Amoral Attorney, and his talents lie in the fields of talking and manipulation.
- Abed Nadir is also a Guile Hero of sorts, albeit with a radically different style to Jeff's. (It's telling that in order to Guile Hero himself in the season four finale, Jeff has to pretend to be Abed.)
- Harold Finch of Person of Interest manipulates information, finances, and people themselves to save lives and bring 'untouchable' villains to justice. Though he doesn't seem to like, and will avoid, manipulating good people, he will occasionally if it is the most expedient way to save a life.
- Gabrielle of Xena: Warrior Princess was very good at doing this, given that she had aspirations of becoming a bard, which set her apart from the brute force of Xena. In the first episode of the series, she outwitted a cyclops and escaped from him.
- Artemus Gordon of The Wild Wild West, who believes that "when you cannot confound the enemy, then you have lost to him."
- Game of Thrones offers several examples:
- Tyrion Lannister is first and foremost, though his antiheroic traits cause him to straddle the line of magnificent bastardry. Nonetheless, he's one of the more heroic characters in the show, and definitely fights best with his mind.
- Robb Stark, once he begins resisting the Lannisters, is forced to fight this way. He's massively outnumbered, and is forced to fight with masterful tactics. Fortunately, he is one of the best tacticians and strategists Westeros has ever seen, and he wins battle after battle (moving him into Young Conqueror territory, as well).
- Margaery Tyrell, who is something of an enigma in the novels, has much more (visible) agency in the show. Her grandmother the Queen of Thorns is the Chessmaster behind House Tyrell, visibly teaches Margaery everything she knows. Notably, she's the only person able to reign in King Joffrey with any consistency, she instantly gains the love of the common people, and when Tommen ascends the throne, it's not long before he's eating out of her hand as well.
- Arya Stark, once forced to go on the run, isn't much of a threat due to being a young girl, and is forced to use her wits to survive, and proves quite adept at it.
- Guinevere from Merlin is quite good at this; in lieu of any combat abilities, she would often use a blend of logic and guile to simply talk various antagonists into doing exactly what she wanted.
- Del from Only Fools and Horses occasionally demonstrated enough savvy to come out on top after a whole episode of apparent failures.
Myths & Religion
- Odysseus must surely be the patron saint of the Guile Hero. In an age when most Greek heroes were part-divine, unstoppable, ass-kicking badasses, along comes Odysseus, whose greatest weapon is his mind, officially making this trope Older Than Feudalism. Having the blood of Hermes, the Greek Pantheon's trickster god, makes him even better.
- Being a personal favorite of Athena, the goddess of guile heroines, didn't hurt either.
- Queen Esther from The Bible managed to save thousands of innocent Jews from being slain by a Smug Snake's orders almost singlehandedly, using her incredible beauty, her charm, her quick wits, her Plucky Girl nature and her uncle Mordecai's wise counseling to work her way into King Xerxes's favor.
- Same goes to Ruth the Moabite (an expatriate who was determined to not fall in misery after losing her husband, ending up as the grandmother of King David and one of Jesus's ancestors), Abigail (one of David's followers who mediated between the King and her Jerk Ass first husband rather skillfully and later was one of David's wives), Judith the widow (who used her good looks to trick Holophernes and kill him) and Judge Deborah (a Lady of War and one of the Judges of Israel).
- Also, Jael, a Guile Heroine from Deborah's story who lures an enemy general into her tent, lulls him to sleep, and stabs him in the head with a tent peg. Specially noticeable in that this is one of the few times when breaking Sacred Hospitality is presented as the heroic thing to do; the guy was THAT dangerous.
- Jacob straddles the line between this and Magnificent Bastard. While he is generally considered a good guy and the father of the Hebrew people, he was also a crafty con man who managed to trick his eldest brother Esau out of his birthright and father's blessing, and after that went sour, he and his uncle Laban took turns conning each other, with Jacob coming out ahead in the end.
- His mother Rebekah was one of his biggest supporters and the one who encouraged him to go forward, so she qualifies as well.
- Several Jewish prophets were like this, especially Elisha and Daniel. Daniel, interestingly, is also a Science Hero, considering the manner in which he manages to persuade the king to cut down on feasting...
- 'Jesus the Christ. True, he was a Messianic Archetype, but he was also a master at outsmarting the Pharisés— often using their own words against them. One example is the famous "cast the first stone' story; he saves a woman by putting her prosecutors in a double bind.
- Krishna in the Mahabharata. Helped by the fact that a.) He is a god; and b.) He is a moderately cunning fellow surrounded by a cast of characters that live and breathe Honor Before Reason.
- Loki, before his Face-Heel Turn, was the cunning trickster to Thor's Action Hero.
- Common in Celtic Mythology - the Celts considered defeating your enemies through trickery just as noble and praiseworthy as fighting them directly, with truly great warriors being capable of both.
- Hercules was the World's Strongest Man, but he wasn't Dumb Muscle. His Super Strength alone wasn't enough for several of his Labors, so he had to use his brain alongside it. When he found out that the Nemean Lion's hide was impervious to weapons, he strangled it with his bare hands. To fight the Hydra, which could grow its heads back, either he or his friend Iolaus seared the stumps with a torch right after cutting them. To clean up the enormous and never-cleaned Aegean Stables, he used his strength to alter the course of two nearby rivers and make them pass through.
- He was also great Indy Ploys. Having been poisoned via wearing a cape doused in the blood of a Centaur that he killed with poison arrows, Hercules was headed to a Cruel and Unusual Death - but then he asked his people to burn him alive in his own funerary pyre, knowing that it would hurt even more for a while but betting that his father Zeus would see it and make him ascend to the Olympus ASAP. He was right.
- A little explanation on the Augean Stables example above. Hercules was ordered by the Gods to serve his jealous cousin Eurystheus. Eurystheus, already having failed to kill him decided to humiliate him instead and ordered him to clean the Augean Stables. King Augeas had not cleaned them in 30 years. Hercules first surveys the area and notices the two rivers. He then went to King Augeas promising to clean the stables in a day, if Augeas would give him a tenth of his cattle. Augeas thinking that it was impossible and that he'd be getting a free days labor out of him agreed. Hercules brings his own sons in to watch Augeas swear an oath, and then diverts to rivers to pass through the stables. Cleaning them out. Augeas is forced to give up his cattle. Hercules walks away not getting his hands dirty, rich and having played two kings.
- Per Gynt from Norwegian folklore qualifies as one of these. Most of the sticky situations he gets in he resolves by outsmarting the baddie. In one example, he convinces a hungry troll not to eat him by challenging him to a contest of feats of strength. In the rock crushing contest, Per squeezes the piece of cheese in his pocket, impressing the troll by squeezing "the water from a stone." In a rock throwing contest, Per grabs a bird out of a nearby bush and gives it a hurl. Needless to say, he was not eaten.
- In tabletop RPGs, while storytelling-oriented Game Masters tend to leave these things to players, there often are classes or character builds which are oriented towards smarts and talk. The bard could be a Dungeons & Dragons example, due to high Charisma score.
- In Warhammer 40,000, Inquisitors blur the line between this and Magnificent Bastard. The best, most loyal Inquisitors are this— though they are willing to sacrifice millions, that's their plan b. The difference between what makes a good inquisitor and what makes a bad inquisitor is the bad ones make sacrificing millions their plan A. Mind you, 40k does follow Authority Equals Asskicking, and Inquisitors are THE authority in the Imperium so they aren't pushovers in a fight. In practice they tend towards Action Hero too, or at the very least have someone to do that for them.
- The idea of the Face build in Shadowrun.
- Also the Face class in Spycraft.
- Legend of the Five Rings: The Scorpion Clan is infamously a clan of assassins, blackmailers, and spies, who view honor as contemptible and enlightenment as a lie. Their leaders have a private book of advice passed down to their heirs, a passage of which explains the depth of the clan's deceptions: "How easy it is to corrupt a man, and how difficult to make him just." The Scorpion Clan prey upon the vices of the other clans as part of a massive Batman Gambit to make the other clans remember their own duties.
- Exalted: while anyone with a high Manipulation would qualify, Changing Moon Lunars (especially Tamuz), the less malevolent Fiend caste Infernals, and Starmetal caste Alchemicals are engaged in a three-way proxy war to see who gets the crown... with the Sidereals sitting back to see who wins and working on strategies to manipulate any one of them. It's also the hat of Eclipse Caste Solars, who are less about "guile" then they are about More Than Mind Control.
- Tezzeret, the Seeker plays The Dragon to... well, to THE Dragon, Nicol Bolas. He boasts throughout the novels and webcomic that his intellect is second to none, and while he openly admits to being a less-than-stellar magic user, he claims that knowing how to use what you have is more important than having a great deal of it.
- Canonically, Justin Xiang Allard from BattleTech is regarded as one of the best Mechwarriors of his time... but not through any factor of speed or personal fortitude. He is, however, one of the most cunning warriors ever shown in the series. In his main appearances:
- He is first shown fighting a 'Mech twice with twice his size and hideous amounts of firepower...and almost wins by destroying its engine, except it pulled a trick he didn't expect.
- He next is shown on in the Gladiator Games fighting a faster enemy with effective short-range weapons while he is slower, using a new 'Mech among other things, and armed mostly with long range weapons with a minimum range. He wins by unexpectedly firing some of his weapons ahead of his enemy, tricking him into pulling up short and right into Justin's sights.
- Justin next fights in a battle where his machine is slower and has less armor and long range firepower, and he is riding a 'Mech known to have unreliable weapons... so he tricks his foe into closing into close range, having equipped a very-short-range BFG beforehand that visually resembles the unreliable weapon. He annihilates his enemy's 'Mech in two shots.
- Now that his modified 'Mech is a known variable, his next enemy (his first foe defeated in the games, as mentioned earlier) attempts to pilot a model of 'Mech that crippled Justin, which still has greater range and more firepower than his machine, and even manages to disable the BFG early on. Attempting to use the tactic that maimed Justin, the other pilot is tricked into shooting Justin's main gun more...only to reveal that his 'Mech can literally punch through his enemy's back.
- Facing a skilled champion who cheats dirtily, he overcomes the trap by summarily destroying two of his ambushers by hitting from an unexpected position and dealing a Humongous Mecha Groin Attack. He knows that his rival will try to shoot him from behind...and marches into the obvious trap area backwards so that he presents strong armor to his enemy, who he overcomes.
- At one point, it's mentioned he won a battle by tricking the enemy commander into making a bad maneuver by giving a false report, using the enemy nation's native language to convince him that it was legitimate.
- Finally, when he is tasked to face an old friend in combat, he once again allows his enemy to fire on him as he closes, knowing that while his foe is piloting the same model of machine, his BFG can quickly overcome his enemy's armor, and his former friend did not pay enough attention to the Gladiator Games to remember the change Justin had made until it was too late.
- Notably, when he was once tasked to go in a straight-up open fight with no chance for mind games or sneakiness, he lost handily to his son, who while a Guile Hero himself is also considered a naturally gifted pilot in terms of raw skill.
- Outside of combat, Justin's story involves perhaps one of the biggest and most complicated scam operations in the history of the Inner Sphere—through a combination of exile, injury, and disgrace, he comes into the employ of the mortal enemy of his former liege lord. For several years he plays the role of a quisling, helping said enemy, Chancellor Maximillian Liao, make small but noticeable advances against Hanse Davion, his former lord. It all comes together at the end of the entire ploy, where the advantages Liao thought he had gained proved to be vulnerabilities instead, essentially getting Liao forces steamrolled in a very short, very one sided war where all of Liao's weaknesses were set up by Justin's advice and machinations to Chancellor Liao...as he was in fact still loyal to Hanse Davion, and taking this entire mission on orders from Davion.
- Sophocles treats Odysseus, the quintessential Guile Hero, quite differently between his plays Ajax and Philoctetes. In the first Odysseus prefers compromise rather than pride, and argues for the burial rites of his worst enemy. In the second he encourages the mostly honest Neoptolemus to lie to the long-suffering Philoctetes to persuade him to come to Troy, despite the severe injustice Odysseus had done against him in the first place.
- Ulysses in The Golden Apple, "smarter than Nick Carter" by reputation, develops a cunning Divide and Conquer plan to take Rhododendron after a straightforward assault fails.
- The Unnamed Hero from the Quest for Glory games invariably comes up against evil sorcerers/Eldritch Abominations that are far too powerful for him to deal with via any means but outwitting them.
- Though by the final game the Hero is potentially powerful enough to just straight-up kill the Dragon of Doom instead of sealing it away like he'd usually do.
- Subverted in the case of Street Fighter's Guile - he's a straight-up Action Hero. There is no lack of guile heroes and heroines in the franchise, though: the most straight-up example is Maya aka Crimson Viper from Street Fighter IV, a CIA Action Mom investigating Seth's S.I.N and Bison's Shadaloo as a Reverse Mole.
- In Planescape: Torment, monsters and goons will often force physical confrontations, but it is very, very rare to have an actual story objective that can only be achieved with violence. Usually, smooth talking, quick thinking, or outright deceit can carry the day every bit as easily as barreling in and breaking things.
- This is also true in the Fallout games, where you gain extra XP and other rewards for succeeding at speech challenges. There are also perks that open extra dialog options with various characters.
- Styled after the previous games, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura also fits: with a high enough intelligence and charisma, the player character can effectively avoid almost every fight in the game, and look good while doing it.
- A purely diplomatic character, missing out on the experience from combat, will finish the game at a lower level, but have a much more powerful overall party. The maximum number of NPC followers can wield every endgame weapon, all at higher levels due to earning the combat experience themselves. Even if your character doesn't talk their way out of the Final Battle, they can still breeze through it.
- Nippon Ichi loves this trope. Seraph Lamington from Disgaea: Hour of Darkness basically manipulated the entire plot of the first game. Virtuous from Soul Nomad designed a plan to solve the real problem with the world. Mr. Champloo was part of a Batman Gambit orchestrated by his boss to counter the scheme of the Big Bad of Disgaea 3.
- Lillet Blan in GrimGrimoire out foxes the devil in a display of cunning that even impresses her demon teacher.
- The Warden of Dragon Age: Origins is a hybrid of this and Action Hero if played as a good-aligned character. If played as a Villain Protagonist, the Warden becomes a Magnificent Bastard, instead.
- Dragon Age II has Hawke, who can be played this way if you often choose the humorous or charming options in dialogue. He/she can manipulate and schmooze with people to his/her advantage, and is presented as being a lot more intelligent than he/she initially seems.
- Commander Shepard of Mass Effect. Shepard will be a Guile Hero if played strongly Paragon and a Magnificent Bastard if played strongly Renegade.
- In any Dynasty Warriors Shu mode, especially in 5 and 6, Zhuge Liang will willingly become this in order to keep any Shu citizen's ire off Liu Bei or any other officer with a reputation as a good man. At some points it skirts towards Magnificent Bastard for the same reasons, namely, ensuring Shu's success while making himself out to be a cold-hearted bastard so Liu Bei seems all the more virtuous for it.
- King of Fighters: Ash Crimson turns out to be this, thus him being the literal embodiment of the Joker card.
- Kyo Kusanagi's mother Shizuka is a soft-spoken but incredibly sly and plucky Yamato Nadeshiko, and the KOF: KYO manga makes her this through and through. Specially by subduing Eiji Kisaragi with words alone (and pointing her naginata at him) and via hilariously showing her own husband Saisyu why he should NEVER go out behind her back.
- In XIII, on top of being a Colonel Badass and Action Hero, Heidern gets to show that he can play the role of Guile Hero pretty well when it's needed. He gets his first try in KOF 99 and 2000, when he and the Ikari Warriors are tasked with investigating NESTS through the KOF tournament, and he does this again in XIII cia organizing and leading an Investigation Team (with Seth, Blue Mary, Ramon and Vanessa as its members), to check on the mysterious circumstances surrounding Those Of The Past — and this is alongside always sending out the Ikari Warriors into the battlefield itself as well. Too bad Ash is just as guile-ful and manages to perform his plan even with Heidern and Co. around.
- The game Alpha Protocol encourages you to play the main character Michael Thorton along the lines of this trope. He's even stated in the beginning to be noted as a Manipulative Bastard. The game encourages you to get an understanding of what makes certain characters tic and use it to your advantage and by the end, you'll be able to play Smug Snake Henry Leland like a fiddle.
- Naoto Shirogane from Persona 4, especially seen when she intentionally gets herself kidnapped in hopes of figuring out who the kidnapper was while at the same time completely expecting the "Investigation Team" to come rescue her. That being said, Kanji does chew her out for putting herself in danger.
- Also the Main Character, who saves almost everyone around him with words and simple emotional guidance.
- Both of the protagonists from 3 and 4. Who knew you could weaponize friendships?
- Shin Megami Tensei games require the player to develop some skills with this with the demon talk mechanic, too. In every game, you really have zero hope of advancing if you do not learn to interact with demons, learning to flatter, bribe and deceive them into serving you, helping you, or just leaving you alone.
- Elphin the Bard from Fire Emblem: Sword of Seals, who is the brains of the West Isles resistence while Lalam is the heart and Echidna is the brawns and leader. He is also Prince Mildain of Etruria, thought to have died in an accident, but no one is supposed to know that. At least not until the war is over and he can return home safely.
- Roy, the hero of the game, is this and an Action Hero. He finds out about Elphin's identity almost on his own, after all.
- Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones gives us two of these. Prince Ephraim of Renais does this by being The Strategist and making guerrilla tactics a complement of his spear-using skills, whereas his rival (and possible brother-in-law) Prince Innes of Frelia is the archer and the lead of the Frelian spy network. OTOH, Ephraim's twin sister Princess Eirika aims to become a guile heroine, but she is more of a Messianic Archetype - using her kindness and charisma rather than deceit and tactics, alongside her swordmanship.
- Princess Caeda/Shiida from the Archanea games. While her boyfriend and local Magnetic Hero Marth is able to recruit some allies to your side, it is Caeda who can influence the most amount of characters to join your side, simply by going up to them in battle and talking to them.
- YOU will become this in Fire Emblem Awakening. Or better said, your character The Avatar - a mysterious young man or woman who belongs to the Tactician Class (able to use both magic tomes and swords). S/he becomes the advisor and best friend (and prospect love interest in the case of a girl!Avatar) of Prince Chrom of Ylisse and his Badass Crew, the Shepherds, both in charge of the team's tactics and as a fellow fighter. And then it turns out that s/he is also the Big Bad Friend, as the potential host for a Dark God. And his/her biggest goal is to go "Screw Destiny" so this won't happen.
- The Geneforge series of games allows the player with high Leadership to pass through diplomatically, an avoid picking a side amongst the factions, at least up until the endgame. A powerful shaper/lifecrafter can summon Mons and arrange them tactically enough to avoid all personal contact with battle.
- Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: Both Junpei and June have their moments of this.
- Elaine Marley-Threepwood in Tales of Monkey Island. She laid down an intricate master plan, used her charm back in Chapter 2 to make sure Guybrush would play his part in said plan, and repeatedly engaged in swordplay and (in one case) naval warfare to help move things along.
- Professor Layton. Helps that the games he's in revolve entirely around solving puzzles.
- Kratos Aurion in Tales of Symphonia. His plan to let a human wield the Eternal Sword relies on him repeatedly betraying the party and playing both sides so that he can finally die. It's never really clear what side he's on until the end, and although it is his sword skills that are commented on the most, his plotting does a lot more to drive the story forward.
- Fittingly, as he's supposed to be Kratos' replacement and foil, Zelos Wilder should qualify. He, too, plays multiple sides of the conflict, intending to stick with the side that has the greatest chance of success. This term works best if you take the route that keeps him alive: he betrays his original allies, Cruxius, at the last minute, just so he can obtain the Eternal Ring. In the other ending, he's just a lying liar who lies...and then dies. Not to mention he's probably had to deal with a lot of political shenanigans on the side, growing up as The Chosen in Meltokio and all.
- Rachel Alucard in BlazBlue leans even further towards this in Continuum Shift than in Calamity Trigger. Her goal? To find the Master Unit Amaterasu and kill Terumi. Of course, the Imperator destroys Amaterasu before she can find it, but naturally, Rachel doesn't lose her cool even when she learns her efforts to find it were for naught.
- Mia Fey combines this with Stealth Mentor in Ace Attorney, often delivering cryptic clues to Phoenix about the weaknesses she spots in the witnesses and prosecutors.
- Phoenix himself turns into one by the time of Apollo Justice, pulling of a truly impressive and long running Batman Gambit.
- In Final Fantasy VI, King Edgar Roni Figaro plays lipservice to the Empire to keep his people safe, but secretly supports The Returners. Some of his guile hero moments are tricking Kefka into believing they will hand over Terra, just to flee with Locke and Terra and have the castle dive in the sand to safety, outwitting Kefka. Later, he uses some of the escaped thieves he imprisoned to find his castle after the collapse.
- Battler Ushiromiya graduates to this in Episode 6 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni. And both he and Beatrice take it Up to Eleven in Episode 8.
- Similarly, in earlier work Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Rika Furude serves as the heroic analogue to Magnificent Bitch Miyo Takano.
- There are several other protagonists who use their intelligence to solve problems; (or cause them...) in particular, there is Keiichi (who has a remarkable gift for knowing exactly what motivates people and how to convince them to do what he wants; see the Atonement finale, where he successfully persuades a psychotic would-be murderer to realise the evil of her crimes and seek help) and Mion, who is easily bored by academic studying, but is a genius leader and strategist. (...who once led a team of about seven teenagers to victory against a crack team of trained government agents, using only a friend's well-placed traps, knowledge of the terrain, and a small modicum of martial skill.) Interestingly, the gaming club she formed tends to attract these kinds of people- probably because in said club, cheating and anticipating how others will play is explicitly the only way to win, because everyone else is cheating too. And since humiliating 'punishment games' are always assigned to the one who comes in last, no one wants to lose.
- Maji De Watashi Ni Koi Shinasai has Yamato Naoe, who is one of the most forward protagonists in visual novels, mainly through manipulating and outsmarting people.
- Petey from Schlock Mercenary isn't above manipulating others into doing work for him, although he has been willing to use direct force occasionally. The reason for this is that 99.9% of his power is occupied with the war against Andromeda, so he has to make others do the work. He also qualifies as Science Hero (being the most powerful AI in the galaxy and thus likely the smartest entity in the universe) and Action Hero ( on a galactic scale), though.
- The title hero of Dominic Deegan likes to think he's one of these, the occasional Xanatos Backfire and What the Hell, Hero? moment notwithstanding.
- Terezi of Homestuck is said to have killed or captured entire parties of FLARPers using mind games and politics. She is so good at it that she made manipulating a literal god into disfiguring and dooming Vriska look like child's play.
- Elator ( "Elly") of Dubious Company has managed to overthrow at least one mutiny and one riot due to his understanding of politics... and that people like to get drunk.
- Buck Godot of Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire is definitely no slouch in a stand-up fight, but his major victories throughout the comic's run were due to his ability to think on his feet and put two and two together just a little quicker than anyone else.
- Koon Agero Agnis, 25th Baam and Ja Wangnan from Tower of God. While one is a Magnificent Bastard, the second is a sharp, but somewhat naive Wide-Eyed Idealist and the last is a true-to-the-blood hothead.
- The obligatory Whateley Universe example would be Ayla "Phase" Goodkind. He is genuinely concerned for people and sincerely wants to help them, and at need is ready to fight toe-to-toe with demons, monsters and supervillains, but Phase is at heart a Chessmaster whose preferred realm is espionage, trickery, manipulation, bribery and financial pressure. As a friend puts it: "No one else quite has that when I rule the world I will not permit such behavior attitude".
- Cassidy Cain in Grandmaster of Theft is a 1st person protagonist version of this crossed with Action Hero. She's held reputation as genius & uses far more strategy, tactics, connections, money, and so on to accomplish goals all while remaining an anti-hero Classy Cat-Burglar.
- Agent Washington in Red vs. Blue. Church often attempts to be one, but fails more often than not.
- Spoony highly recommends playing Bards and Thieves in this manner on Counter Monkey, suggesting dirty tricks such as running past guards wearing nothing but a feathered boa, using makeup to fake wounds and reporting a false assault to send guards on a wild goose chase, or simply knocking on locked doors and punching whoever opens them.
- Jackie Chan Adventures: Jade in general, though she's an impulsive Action Girl a lot of the time, has a number of these moments throughout the series, and tends to be the one who thinks of USING the magical objects they find (i.e. The Talismans) more often than not, not to mention all the ways she's found to follow Jackie.
- Heck, she managed to trick the Monkey King, who is essentially the embodiment of mischief and trickery!
- Jade is accidentally trapped in the Demon Netherworld and her family tries to find the last remaining portal to rescue her. When she gets captured, with Po Kong the Mountain Demon wanting to EAT her, she reveals that their brother lied to them, and that only one of them can escape. She KNEW that they would fight over who would get to use the portal to leave, and uses the infighting to escape through the portal before they can.
- In season 4, she also manages to briefly trick Tarakudo into thinking she was returning to the Forces of Darkness.
- Jerry Mouse from Tom and Jerry qualifies, as he constantly resorts to cunning to outwit Tom and all the other enemies who wish to capture or eat him.
- Rattrap from Beast Wars is the quintessential Guile Hero. Uses his brains and cunning in every situation, will feign loyalty and pretend to switch sides and abandon his team to gain access to information that will really further his team's goals.
- The Spectacular Spider-Man Spider-Man is the trifecta in one person, combining book smarts, street smarts, and superpowered fighting-skills effectively enough to take down much more powerful opponents.
- Heloise on Jimmy Two-Shoes, whenever she decides to side with Jimmy.
- Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender. He is the one who comes up with the majority of their battle strategies.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's Rarity often persuades other ponies (and in one point, almost persuades a dragon - she would get away with it too, wasn't for her greed) into doing what she wants by using her wits and charms. In one episode she gets kidnapped by the Diamond Dogs. While her more action-oriented friends struggle to rescue her, she manages to get out of the situation herself by irritating her captors enough that they're more than happy to let her go. The episode's Aesop is a Take That to "Real Women Don't Wear Dresses".
- Princess Celestia counts as well: Equestria has been threatened by out-of-control malicious gods twice now, and both times Celestia has brought about their defeat, not by using her considerable power, but by mailing letters to her pupil.
- Bugs Bunny. While not averse to pull out a Hyperspace Mallet on his foes, his main tactic is to trick them into taking their own fall, confusing them with witty patter and deceiving them with costumes and flattery.
- All of the main characters in South Park. In a Crapsack World where Adults Are Useless, just a little bit of youthful common sense always saves the day.
- Dipper Pines is perhaps the least manly character in Gravity Falls, Oregon (apart from maybe Tyler, AKA the Cute Biker). Still, he uses his wits to uncover many many mysteries, much to the chagrin of the resident police constables.
- Thor, surprisingly given his normal portrayal, pulls it off in an episode of Avengers Assemble when, after defeating Doctor Doom who has changed history to make himself absolute ruler of Earth, goes back in time to reset history to the original timeline. Instead of rushing in to stop Doom from using his time machine, Thor sabotages it and slips away, allowing Doom and his legendary ego be convinced that the process doesn't work, he's wasted years of effort and resources on it, and to give up on trying time travel.
- King Juan Carlos I of Spain. When Francisco Franco agreed to change Spain from a different kind of dictatorship to an absolute monarchy, he started trying to groom the "Prince of Spain", Juan Carlos of the Borbón House, into a good successor who'd maintain the authoritarian state. The prince went along with this, publicly supporting Franco, enduring harsh criticism from reformists and moderates all over... Until Franco fell gravely ill in 1975 and handed him absolute authority as King. Only a couple of days after Franco's death, Juan Carlos began to institute reforms at an incredible pace, turning Spain from western Europe's strictest dictatorship into a functional parliamentary democracy in less than three years. Heck, he even refused to take power after the military executed a coup so he could be returned to full authority, pretty much single-handedly saving a struggling democracy, and renounced almost all of the ancestral powers he once wielded.
- Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, was the Guile Hero to Mahatma Gandhi's Badass Pacifist. Gandhi himself, too: he fought against the British rule in India through totally nonviolent means. Whenever he and his protestors would march, he called up the local media so that when the rest of the world looked at the news and saw the British beating on unarmed protestors who refused to fight back, they got painted as the bad guys. You know you qualify as a Guile Hero when you can show up to every battle unarmed and still win the war.
- Juan Pujol Garcia. After being turned down as an intelligence agent by the British, he decided to do the job without any government backing, getting himself hired as a Nazi spy and creating an entire army of fictional employees to feed false information back to his boss. Eventually he went to the British again, who quickly hired him after seeing what he was capable of on his own, and became even more effective.
- Mentioned in the Films section, but worth elaboration: Oskar Schindler, generally considered to be an opportunist turned Atoner. As written in Wikipedia:
He was a very persuasive individual, and after the raid, increasingly used all of his skills to protect his Schindlerjuden ("Schindler's Jews"), as they came to be called. Schindler went out of his way to take care of the Jews who worked at DEF, often calling on his legendary charm and ingratiating manner to help his workers get out of difficult situations. Once, says author Eric Silver in The Book of the Just, "Two Gestapo men came to his office and demanded that he hand over a family of five who had bought forged Polish identity papers. 'Three hours after they walked in,' Schindler said, 'two drunk Gestapo men reeled out of my office without their prisoners and without the incriminating documents they had demanded.'"
- A lot of the people Schindler rescued had truly awesome, heart-warming, and—yes—hilarious stories to tell about him, but probably the most awesome, heart-warming, and hilarious of them all comes from Helen Hirsch, notorious Nazi Amon Goeth's Jewish maid. One night, while playing cards with Goeth, Schindler plied him with plenty of booze and got him very drunk, and persuaded him to gamble with Hirsch as a stake in the game. With—no doubt—a little help from the booze, Schindler stacked the deck and cheated outrageously to make sure he had the winning hand. Then, when Goeth tried to welch on his bet, Schindler said something like "Now, now, Goeth, you play fair!" and that's how he won her life in a card game.
- Raoul Wallenberg has the record of lives saved... All through guile.
- The same could be said for Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani boy who escaped a indentured servitude at the age of 10 (twice)... who then turned back around to help other children in similar conditions by infiltrating the factories, using his "psychological dwarfism" (4'0" and 60 lbs at 10 years old) to his advantage. This helped the Bonded Labor Liberation Front free 3,000 children from those conditions in just 2 years. Unfortunately, this painted a big glowing target on him for the factory-owners (he cost them roughly $200,000,000 in exports), and he was killed with a shotgun at the age of 13.
- Manuel Rodriguez Erdoiza, one of the main heroes of the Chilean Independence. While Jose Miguel Carrera was a Hot-Blooded Tragic Hero and Bernardo O'Higgins mixed Hot-Blooded with The Strategist, Rodriguez was a mix of Manipulative Bastard and Master of Disguise who kept La Résistance alive through the hard years when Spaniards took the government back. His Moment Of Awesome was dressing up as a beggar, going to the carriage of the Spanish governor Marco del Pont, opening the door and cheerfully helping Marco del Pont to get off... and getting away with it. Why did he do such a thing, which could've gotten him killed or imprisoned if his cover was blown? Just because he could.
- "By Strength and Guile" is the motto of the Royal Marines Special Boat Service. The similarly elite Long Range Desert Group of the British Army (serving as raiders, reconnaissance, and special forces in the North African theatre of World War II) used the similar Non Vi Sed Arte ("Not by Strength but by Guile." Both of these are slightly tongue-in-cheek references to the Latin motto of Clan Gordon, Animus non Astutia commonly translated as "By Courage, not Craft" or "By Strength, not Guile".
- Josip Broz Tito, The Leader of the Yugoslav partisans in WW2. One of his ruses involved blowing up the bridge over the river Neretva to make it look like his troops would go elsewhere, but then crossing the river using an improvised bridge. At the beginning of the Cold War he broke off relations with the communist East Bloc, but also refused to join NATO. Instead, he became one of the most prominent members of the Non-Aligned Movement.
- Repossession agents often face angry people with guns, and resort to deception to find their target. Bounty hunters and fugitive hunters often face similar challenges.
- Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri is either this or a Magnificent Bitch, depending on your political leanings. Going in to 2012, her seat was considered to be a dead-certain Republican pickup, the only question being whether the next Republican Senator would be businessman John Brunner or the state's Treasurer, Sarah Steelman. So what does she do? Run ads "attacking" the third-runner, Congressman Todd Akin as "too conservative for Missouri", hoping to bait the Tea Party movement into pushing him over the top. It worked, and just two weeks later, Akin made his infamous "legitimate rape" comments, effectively screwing himself out of a victory. Come Election Day, and she won by 16 points (55% to 39%).
- Harriet Tubman could take dares with an audacity that rivaled Robert E. Lee. For instance, on one mission, she was at a train station with her charges and spotted slave catchers watching the northbound trains for escaped slaves. Thinking fast, Tubman had her company board a southbound train and cannily retreated into enemy territory where they could use a safer station.
- Benjamin Franklin. Few people would say that The American Revolution could have been won without his contributions, and he never lifted a gun. His weapons were words. He was occasionally also a Science Hero. For one example, some of his (completely false) "Poor Richard's Almanac" stories presented greedy British officers profiting off of Hessian mercenary deaths; predictably, desertions abounded.
- The "under the radar" winner archetype from Survivor, who lets their Smug Snake accomplices do the major strategizing and take the heat for it, while banking on a superior social game to win the jury over in the end. Subverted with Natalie White from "Samoa", who was not pure dead weight strategy-wise (the Erik Cardona blindside) and adopted a less aggressive approach for pragmatic reasons, having wisely deducted that a female power-player would be nothing more than a walking target in that particular environment, instead just letting her Smug Snake partner dig his own grave.
- Yul Kwon from "Cook Islands" is a more proactive example, being as much of a power-player as his Smug Snake / Magnificent Bastard counterparts, but has a respectable social game (unlike the Smug Snake) and an overall heroic character (unlike the Magnificent Bastard).
- Denise from Philippines is another example; while more proactive than Natalie, Malcolm ended up taking most of the credit as the Magnificent Bastard. At the Final Tribal Council, she was specifically called out on using her skills as a therapist to build relationships and win people over.