Sometimes The Hero doesn't get a Happy Ending because no ending could conceivably be happy. It would mean the end of the adventures, and nothing could be more dull than the lack of the adrenaline. He's not really alive out of danger. An adrenaline junkie, often enough.
Sometimes The Hero is depicted as a Stranger in a Familiar Land trapped in a dull job or situation, fondly recalling his Glory Days; when a new chance at adventure arises, they invariably jump on it. Sometimes the hero at the beginning already sets out in search of new adventure. Sometimes, in the middle of the story, the hero has a chance to leave, and this is one motive for rejecting it. And sometimes it is an ending trope; the hero resolves not to return to mundane life, And the Adventure Continues. This is the common ending of Adrenaline Makeover.
Some heroes who make a fortune and promptly lose it foolishly may fall under this trope, because it means that they can return to the fun of making money, and the Non-Idle Rich may trample familial objections to stick to a dangerous occupation when they don't need the money, to avoid Rich Boredom. And sometimes the love of being In Harm's Way is merely implied, when the hero never seems to find anything worth stopping for. The Dulcinea Effect may not be so much by desire to help as the chance to get into the thick of things.
This can be an intermittent condition in some heroes; they adventure, get tired of it, settle down, get tired of it, adventure — etc. At other times, it may propel a hero to adventure for years on end before realizing, finally, that he has burned out and wants to settle down. Sometimes, being forced by circumstance to stay in one place grows on him until he realizes that he really does love Home Sweet Home after all.
Characters who enjoy putting themselves In Harms Way include these:
This happens at the end of Tiger & Bunny, after Wild Tiger coming back into action as Wild Tiger ~ 1 minute, at the end of the last episode.
In One Piece, Luffy simply chooses the hardest, most difficult paths in his adventure just because he thinks that will be the most exciting. He lives on adventure. Meanwhile, Zoro is definitely of the Spirited Competitor mold, always on the watch for worthy opponents, and seemingly bored when not fighting and/or drinking.
Though honestly it applies to the entire crew to some extent. Besides almost all of them leaving home to become pirates, when describing how the dangerous and hellish the New World is, every last one of them is smiling.
The vast majority of superheroes, especially those in a Shared Universe, fall under this.
In DC Comics, former The Flash villains Trickster and the Pied Piper joined their old friends the Rogues in an apparent Face-Heel Turn. After the Rogues had murdered Bart Allen (the Flash), they talked revealing that it had been an attempted infiltration and they had both done it to get back to adventure.
Travis Morgan from The Warlord passes up the opportunity to settle down peacefully when it is presented to him, because he needs to keep traveling and adventuring.
One of Morgan's friends became the ruler of some city-state or other ... and was bored. He was delighted when a visit by Morgan coincided with the discovery of a serious plot to overthrow him, saying he'd finally found something that made the job worthwhile: "Enemies!"
Spider-Man, most definitely an adrenaline junkie, in addition to being something of a showman since his inception in the wrestling ring. His patter has more energy the more danger he's in. He often goes out to 'clear his head' with the hazardous sport of swinging from skyscrapers.
When Storm from the X-Men married the Black Panther and became Queen of Wakanda, she could possibly do more good for the planet as a world leader than as a superhero, but finds palace life and politics mind-numbingly boring. As a result, she makes regular trips to California to assist the X-Men.
Scrooge McDuck would seem to be an example of that, travelling the world and making money for the thrill of it rather than for the money. Later in life, when he stops making money and settles down in Duckburg, he becomes depressed, shutting himself away in his mansion, and it is only the return of Donald and the nephews and their subsequent foiling of a robbery that shakes Scrooge out of his funk, turning him back to a life of adventure.
Princess, now Queen, Iolande of the Green Lantern Corps. Like Storm, she finds politicking absolutely dull and would rather be a full time Green Lantern. Since she is the only remaining member of the royal family of her homeworld, that really isn't an option.
At the end of the first Firefly comic, Mal intentionally uses the large money cache the group had found to bribe an Alliance soldier off their backs, sending the crew right back into Perpetual Poverty and preventing himself — and the crew — from being able to peacefully retire.
Moon from Pocket God takes advantage of her resurrection abilities to put herself in danger for thrills. She persuades Klak into doing dangerous things for her amusement when the source of her resurection powers is destroyed.
In Schippeitaro, the young man is seeking this, for the fame.
In Heat, one of McCauley's crew is given the choice to back out of an extremely high-risk job in order to settle with his family, considering he already has a lot of money tucked away from previous heists. The guy declines the advice, claiming that the thrill of the job, not the money in itself, is what he considers the payoff.
E.R.R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros contains perhaps the most egregious example. It ends with the triumph of the heroes and the defeat of their noble foes, after a long and ruinous war. The heroes are bored. So the gods bring back their foes that they might fight them. Without, of course, considering all the peasants, soldiers, etc. who suffered in the war.
In Terry Pratchett's Interesting Times, Cohen and the rest of the Silver Horde love being In Harm's Way. It is also subverted near the end, when Cohen hears a long list of Barbarian Heroes who had died — and one who has left it for being a Guardsman, because it was a regular job and had a pension; it makes a deep impression on Cohen.
In Men at Arms, Gaspode receives a place in a cozy little home at the end. At the very end, he escapes to return to life on as a street dog.
Sam Vimes is often portrayed like this. He's the sort of cop to stop his own wedding to chase a criminal (because "it is the ancient instinct of policemen and terriers to chase anything that runs away.") Later books indicate he may be mellowing as his duty shifts to his family, but if he thinks that he'd let down his son by not doing his job, well then....
Even while leading a parade in his full Ducal attire (which he hates) he cannot resist chasing a criminal. Twice. And, this being Discworld, the entire parade follows him.
Moist von Lipwig in Making Money. He actually takes to breaking into his own office building out of boredom until he gets a new dangerous job. (On the other hand, this is hinted as being, in part, Adora Belle Dearheart's absence.)
Vetinari: Ahead of you is a life of respectable quiet contentment, of civic dignity and, of course, in the fullness of time a pension. Not to mention the proud gold-ish chain.
Moist: And if I don't do what you say?
Vetinari: Oh, you misunderstand me, Mr Lipwig. That is what will happen to you if you decline my offer. If you accept it, you will survive on your wits against powerful and dangerous enemies, with every day presenting a new challenge. Someone may even try to kill you.
Beforehand, in Going Postal, he envisioned himself running off at the end, and it wasn't the same, the thrill was gone — and so he stays with Adora.
Andre Norton's book The Time Traders had the U.S. time-travel operation recruit a lot of these sort of people — "the expendable man who lives on action" — who had been "pressured by the peaceful environment into becoming a criminal or a misfit." They were sent back into some very un-peaceful history.
In Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, after getting his life back, only better, Richard seems strangely discontent, finding that he now wants nothing. So he goes back to the dangerous, deadly world of London Below.
In good seasons, when water was plentiful, those who came down to drink at the Waingunga—or anywhere else, for that matter—did so at the risk of their lives, and that risk made no small part of the fascination of the night's doings. To move down so cunningly that never a leaf stirred; to wade knee-deep in the roaring shallows that drown all noise from behind; to drink, looking backward over one shoulder, every muscle ready for the first desperate bound of keen terror; to roll on the sandy margin, and return, wet-muzzled and well plumped out, to the admiring herd, was a thing that all tall-antlered young bucks took a delight in, precisely because they knew that at any moment Bagheera or Shere Khan might leap upon them and bear them down.
Kipling loved this trope. Many of his better known poems, like "Song of the Dead," consist of little else.
Rachel Morgan, the protagonist for The Hollows novels, is often described as a adrenaline junkie seeking dangerous situations in order to feel alive. This tendency was greatly reduced when she nearly gets all of her friends and several other people killed as a result.
I must have inherited from my father a wild lust for adventure,
In Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno, trying to explain hunting to Sylvie, the narrator starts with the observation that some places men must hunt fierce beasts, and some of them come to like it.
"Well, and so the men—the hunters—get to enjoy it, you know: the running, and the fighting, and the shouting, and the danger."
This is one of the reasons that Eve Dallas doesn't get promoted to Captain (or get pregnant) at any point in the series thus far, and more than likely will not until the end. She likes her place on the streets.
The X-Wing Series fleshes this out a little. Wedge thinks he can do more good as a pilot than as a higher-ranked officer. He's persuaded that it's the other way around and ends up promoted to general. For a time, he's kept from flying combat, and he hates this, but manages to persuade himself that flying combat is only a hobby. Still, it tends to happen to him. Thirty years later, in Legacy of the Force, he's discharged for being too moral - and for a carefully hidden instant panics. Then he realizes that someone's going to try and assassinate him, and this thought calms him down. People have been trying to kill him for so long that the thought centers him.
Rachel in the Animorphs, quickly becomes like this. At one point, she rejects a Deal with the Devil that would instantly end the alien invasion, because she realizes that she'd have nothing to do afterwards.
In the end of the sage the whole team followes suit.
In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, Miranda thinks that Ferdinard had jilted her for a life of adventure.
On Gor, larl hunting is a popular sport for Warriors. A larl is like a giant-sized version of an Earth lion, with a meaner attitude, and the normal procedure for hunting it is that every man should carry one spear and a shield, except the junior-most hunter, who also gets a sword. After each man throws his spear, he hits the dirt under his shield, but if the larl's not dead after tail-end Charlie throws his, he must stand and fight with his sword to let the others get away. And they engage in this sport because "the larl is beautiful and dangerous, and because we are Goreans".
Typical of Gorean society in general, really. Thanks to Gorean medicine, they have extremely long lifespans, but they don't see the sense in sitting at home doing nothing when they could be out finding interesting ways to die.
The fourth episode of The Incomplete Enchanter, The Wall of Serpents, begins with Shea and Belphebe, who narrowly survived the events of the previous story, finding themselves ill at ease living the comfortable suburban life in 20th-century America, so there's nothing for it but to take themselves off to the Kalevala and get in trouble.
The title character of Sinbad the Sailor is a wealthy merchant. He gets bored sitting home and doing business, so he decides to take to the ocean. Inevitably, he ends up in wild adventures (but still wealthy at the end of each one). After seven of these, he figures out he should stay home.
In On the Razor's Edge, several characters think or comment on the excitement of living "on the razor's edge."
In Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet novel Invincible, Admiral Lagemann jests that the Marines are glad to on a ship that's an attack magnet.
In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol stories, all the members of the Patrol have this to a greater or lesser extent. Manse and other Unattached Agents in particular.
Grettir of the Old Icelandic Grettir's Saga takes on powerful enemies (like bears, trolls, or undeads) or puts himself in dangerous situations (like visiting a wrestling contest in disguise even though he is a wanted outlaw) so as to prove his mettle, not because he must. In his own words:
"I don't care for a monotonous life."
King Robert Baratheon in the A Song of Ice and Fire series yearns for his glory days in the war to claim his throne. Even trying to join the melee in one of his kingdom's tourneys.
In the Deathstalker series, once the rebellion's finally over, half the characters start to practically vibrate out of sheer boredom, something that's really not good when they're the most dangerous people in the reformed Empire. The new regime catches this fact, and starts sending them out to do the really dirty jobs.
In Those That Wake, Mal isn't happy unless he's fighting something, and sees not fighting as a failure.
In the Newsflesh world, we have a variety of Intrepid Reporter known as "Irwins", who intentionally go out and find zombies and other hazards to play with, in part to entertain their audience, in part to keep themselves entertained. They tend to be adrenaline junkies, and one non-Irwin character mentions that Irwins and professional security people tend to have similar mindsets regarding putting themselves in danger.
Live Action TV
John Watson from Sherlock is portrayed as an adrenaline junkie who enjoys cases with the eponymous detective because of the thrill of the danger and chase. This becomes a minor plot point in the first episode, as Sherlock states that John will be taking the upstairs room at 221b after John completely forgets his cane and keeps up with Sherlock after the latter takes off chasing a serial killer, more or less curing his psychosomatic limp.
Harmon Harm Rabb, Jr. of JAG is a real trouble magnet and almost a trope codifier. Other characters on the show often make the joke that Harm is in harm’s way and the like.
Happens often in Doctor Who; the Doctor has a marvelous attraction to danger spots.
Summed up by the last lines of "The Five Doctors":
Tegan: You mean you're deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people, in a rackety old TARDIS?
Fifth Doctor: Why not? After all, that's how it all started.
In The War Machines, Ben shows up at a nightspot to sulk every night because he's a sailor, but he's been given a shore job.
In Full Circle, Romana is moody because she doesn't want to go back to Gallifrey after all her adventures with the Doctor. In Warriors' Gate, she tells the Doctor that she's not going with him — she has to be her own Romana, and the Tharils need a Time Lord.
On Dollhouse, Paul basically describes Echo as this, saying the thought of a year of peace scared her.
Samantha Carter from Stargate SG-1 is a subtle example of this. It doesn't come up too often, but she's actually a real adrenaline junkie when off-duty and outside of the lab.
All of SG1 fits this trope to some extent. They are always willing to risk their lives to save the person/village/galaxy/universe of the week and often compete with each other to see who gets to put their life on the line the most this time. After Daniel retakes human form post-Ascension, one of the first things he says, while in moral peril, is that he's having fun. Later, after a particularly harrowing mission and narrow escape, Mitchell says "We have got the best jobs in the world!" and Teal'c agrees.
Richard Sharpe might fall under this, especially apparent at the beginning of Sharpe's Waterloo.
"Adrenaline junkie" is exactly how the writers have described the entire team of Leverage. Word of God states that they really only got together for the excitement.
With a healthy dose of Good Feels Good to outweigh the actual profit of being greedy thieves and keeping what they steal.
Parker especially is this, stating that the way she feels alive is jumping off a building.
Jeffrey Sinclair takes almost every chance he gets to get away from his desk and duty as human ambassador to go fly a Starfury or fight a boarding action because he is a Death Seeker following having lived through The Line. Garibaldi eventually calls him out for it. His successor John Sheridan shows similar tendencies but was at a whole better at restraining himself (and, when he did go out, usually played for bigger stakes).
Londo also has one such moment in the first season when he willingly takes on the role of driving a shuttle through a hotspot fought over by several factions, while being shot at from multiple sides, to relive his Glory Days as a young pilot during the Centauri expansion period.
Hands held him hard, but the vagrant gleam in his eyes grew blind and bright, And Solomon Kane put by the folk and went into the night. A wild moon rode in the wild white clouds, the waves their white crests showed When Solomon Kane went forth again, and no man knew his road.
What do I know of cultured ways, the gilt, the craft and the lie? I, who was born in a naked land and bred in the open sky. The subtle tongue, the sophist's guile, they fail when the broadswords sing; Rush in and die, dogs — I was a man before I was a king!
MagicTheGathering has an ability used by Red mana (mostly) that forces something to attack if they are able to do so. Sometimes certain creatures have this limitation on them to justify stronger physical abilities on said creature.
Elder Scrolls Online: There is a quest in one of the Covenant zones which involves this. You find a plantation run by a group of former adventurers. However, the plantation has suffered a series of misfortunes leaving it flooded and all its workers dead. Three of the four ex-adventurers see it as a sign to take to the road again, which they were apparently longing to do even before disaster struck. The fourth... kills herself so that her spirit may be reborn as a crocodile.
Dragon Age: Origins: Most possible endings for a Warden who romanced Morrigan. Though a Warden in a relationship with Alistar does get to avert this by settling down and becoming a queen.
Also, the reason Oghren shows up in Awakening is because as a Blood Knight he couldn't accept the idea of settling down with his lover and becoming a family man, leading him to abandoning his would-be family to become a Grey Warden. While he will never retire (not that he can as a Warden) he can be convinced to try and be a bigger part of his child's life.
In Dragon Age II, nobody knows where Hawke is at the end of the game, but we're pretty sure it isn't boring.
Likewise, after regaining the family fortune at the end of Act I, Hawke continues to run around Kirkwall performing odd jobs for people, despite clearly not needing the money. Aveline calls them out on being a Gentleman Adventurer simply to avoid getting a real job!
A significant portion of the 'good' endings to Neverwinter Nights 2 Mask of the Betrayer avert this by having the player character go back home and settle down with his/her loved one.
Many possible endings to Jade Empire avert this by having the player character settle down.
The second game in the No One Lives Forever series was subtitled "A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way", which is a quite clever pun: no only does it show that Cate Archer is on it, fighting H.A.R.M.'s agents again, but also that she just cannot leave the front lines again.
Arkantos is portrayed this way at the start of the first Age of Mythology game campaign - it starts with him reliving his glorious battles in his dreams and grumping about 'facing feeble pirates'.
Takahisa Kandori presents a rare villainous example in Persona. Having achieved his long-sought godhood, Kandori finds it's Lonely at the Top and has to be needled into action against the party.
Pokémon Gold and Silver showed that even after the first games protagonist beat The Rival and the strongest trainers the region had to offer he wouldn't settle down and become the champion. He's still out there training, waiting for another battle.
In the Metal Gear Solid series this is one of the central conflicts of Big Boss's character. Big Boss tried to give up on war and live a peaceful life, but he realized that all that he was truly good at was war and he only felt truly alive when he was facing death. Civilian life was foreign and intolerable to Big Boss, his skills were useless back home and he never felt that he could fit in or be appreciated by civilians bar a magazine interview or two, he needed war and anything else was inconceivable to his very existence. This is why he created Outer Heaven, a paradise where soldiers would be respected and needed forever more.
In Mass Effect 2, reading Zaeed Massani's Shadow Broker Dossier reveals that he has been debating retirement, going over a list of planets to settle down on. When he can't quite decide, the entry ends with him considering using the money from this job to buy a ship full of explosives and launch a Suicide Attack on Omega Station, since it's the "easiest retirement plan I've come up with so far".
From the same game, former C-Sec officer Garrus Vakarian has ended up leading a team of vigilantes on Omega, going after the worst of the criminal scum on the station, and in particular antagonizing the Blue Suns, Eclipse, and Blood Pack to such a degree that the three mercenary companies have teamed up just to take him down. Actually, this trope seems to apply to everyone in Shepard's teams, which makes sense if you think about the sort of trouble Shepard tends to ask for help getting into.
The Legend of Zelda CDi Games depict Link as easily bored when he's not fighting and enjoys the fact that Ganon keeps resurrecting himself so he can always have a villain to defeat.
Michael De Santa, one of the playable characters from Grand Theft Auto V, says he gets a rush specifically from narrowly avoiding death.
You go down into a dungeon, fight for your life, amass a vast fortune, and escape, and then—you risk your neck all over again! Why?! Well, if you've ever wondered what drives your character to this suicidal lifestyle, then the newest module for D&D and AD&D is for you! It's called "Home & Hearth".
The human girl Miko from Transformers Prime is a bit of a deconstruction of this idiology. She often rushes onto a battle field just to watch the Autobots fight. She often gets in the way when trying to help, and seems to have zero regared for her own safety and well-being.
Captain N: The Game Master was given a chance to return home at the end of the first episode. Hearing his mother's voice through the portal harping on him for not finishing his chores helped his decision to stay.
Enforced in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon by the setup: the kids couldn't settle down in the realms, they had to continue to look for a way to get back home (that didn't lead to dire consequences.) That being said, almost every one of them were tempted to stay at times.
In The Incredibles, Bob's dissatisfaction with his life is heavily driven by the dullness next to the adventure of super-heroing. (Helen held to this trope when they were superheroing; it was Bob who considered Home Sweet Home an interesting future.)
Almost the entire Smurf Village gets reckless when Gargamel sprinkles Daredevil Dust on them in The Smurfs episode "Reckless Smurfs".
Pro wrestlerTerry Funk. The man has had more retirement matches and retirement tours than one can count, and has yet to actually stay retired despite being in his mid-sixties with knees that look like they were drawn on by a cartoonist. He introduced a moonsault to his repertoire in 1994, at the age of fifty.
Along the same lines, Ric Flair. Still going today at the age of 61.
Ditto Abdullah the Butcher. Still jabbing forks in people's heads at the age of 69 and with no intention of ever retiring.
Albeit many consider this to be a case of not wanting to give up the limelight.
John Paul Jones, who uttered the quotation at the top of the page, falls under this trope. When the Revolutionary War ended and America wasn't at war enough and wouldn't promote him, he served as an Admiral for the Mexican and Russian navies, so he could keep fighting at sea. Ironically enough, the page quote is actually Not an Example; he had been captain of a slow ship for a while and was justifying in a letter why he wanted a faster one.
Thomas Cochrane, who upon being thrown out of the Royal Navy after being involved in a financial scam, promptly went to South America and masterminded the creation of several revolutionary navies...after eventually being exonerated by the British government, he then tried to sign up for the Crimean War in his eighties. It should therefore be no surprise that he was the inspiration, via Horatio Hornblower, for Captain Kirk, Jack Aubrey, Honor Harrington, and Daniel Leary.
As seen in the documentary Man on Wire, Philippe Petit. How mind-boggingly reckless do you have to be to hang a wire between the Twin Towers and walk on it?
Ozzy Osbourne temporarily retired in the 1990s, but within a few years returned to performing live music. In his autobiography he states that the reason he returned was because he found retirement to be terribly boring and missed the excitement of performing in front of an audience. He now says that he intends to keep performing and making new music until he is physically unable.
Fighting Jack Churchill. When World War Two was over, he was furious with the Americans for dropping nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — not because of any moral qualms, but because we had robbed him of any chance of getting over to the Pacific so he could do unto the Japanese what he had done unto the Germans.
This is the same guy who became a commando because it 'sounded dangerous', escaped from POW camps, and captured 42 Germans with his claymore (as in the sword, not the mine). Did we forget to mention? This man led his commandos into war (the shooty kind) carrying a claymore, bow and arrows, and a fucking set of bagpipes.
This is also the guy who jumped on top of a tank proceeded to break open the lock on the lid with his sword and then kill everyone inside with said sword. Alone. Naturally, by the end of the war he had made Lieutenant Colenel