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Jack-of-All-Trades
Barbie, the only person in the world with 126 careers... and counting.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

Specialization is a common trend in fiction. It allows the author to create an ensemble cast where every member of a team provides a specific function, and avoids role duplication.

Not always, however.

Perhaps a character is a loner, and needs to be able to do everything on his own. Perhaps everyone else is just so useless, he had to take over their jobs as well as his own. Perhaps he just has a wide variety of interests. May be a sign of a person with a checkered past, who has had to take on a lot of roles in his life, just to get by. Whatever the reason, this character has at least some skill in a wide variety of disciplines.

Sometimes the leader of a group may actually be a Jack-Of-All-Trades, with a good, basic grasp of the specialized skills possessed by the members of his team, allowing him to understand how to use each team member to their fullest potential.

Supertrope of Renaissance Man (where someone is exceptionally good at many things) and Master of None (where someone is not very good at a lot of things). A related trope found in Video Games and Tabletop Games is the Jack of All Stats, who has well-balanced stats, not skills.

See also The Red Mage, Renaissance Man and Power Copying.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Ussop from One Piece (before the time skip) seems to be this. He's not an especially good fighter, though he gets in on the action here and there and uses his cleverness when he can. He was doing his best to fix the ship, as the only one who had any skills in that area before they got a shipwright. He mostly did odd jobs on the ship for the crew, not having a specialization like all the others.
    • Whilst his pure combat skills where sub-par compared to the other (Admittedly super-human) characters, his aim was always extremely good (Which did in at least one occasion come to great help). Since the time-skip it simply seems he has gotten the combat power to use it effectively against more powerful enemies, along with a wide variety of bizarre plants to use as Abnormal Ammo.
  • Asuma Sarutobi from Naruto is this. He has near perfect ninjutsu and taijutsu, as well as near perfect speed and strength. This gives him many options in battle, from Katons that explode by blowing gunpowder ash onto a target, charging his trench knives with Futon, to his long ranged Futon. His taijutsu also allows him to last long against stronger opponents such as Kisame or Hidan without being overwhelmed. And against weaker ninja, such as Sound Ninja, he can kill nine of them before his cigarette hits the ground.
    • Another is Jiraiya. He is the most versatile character in the manga, only being a master of Ninjutsu to give him a wide pool of techniques. His taijutsu is near perfect, and so are his strength and speed as well, while his perfect stamina allows him to outlast his opponents. Then he becomes a proper Lightning Bruiser when he gets Sage Mode active. And that's not even going into his giant Toad allies.
  • In Hayate the Combat Butler, the titular butler is himself an excellent example. He can clean anything, cook like a gourmet with anything available, appear out of nowhere whenever and wherever he is needed, and has such a huge array of odd-job abilities that he is constantly getting roped into helping the other characters, whether it be helping Saki with her shop's finances, being a health manager for the local Idol Singer, helping Ashibashi-sensei finish his manga manuscript for the weekly deadline, work part-time in a cafe (as both waiter and cook), and even has shadier skills such as being an expert at cheating in Mahjong due to desperate need for money growing up. In combat he is shown to use damn near anything as a weapon, including being skilled in both various martial arts and even firearms, however he actually does have a specialty: he is trained as a Master Swordsman since childhood.
    • Hinagiku Katsura is this as well. She's just as hard-working as Hayate and has acquired a similarly expansive skill set that includes being highly skilled at household chores, an amazing cook that can even impress Hayate, having the best grades in the school, being good at every sport, almost always knowing whatever bit of knowledge other characters are asking for, excelling at the (surprisingly complex and important) paperwork for the academy's Absurdly Powerful Student Council, being the other go-to character for help in any situation, and even working part-time job at the same cafe as Hayate and fighting random demons/monsters in her spare time as an 'Ally of Justice passing through'. Unlike Hayate, she's actually completely specialized in combat as a kendo specialist, though it's hardly a problem since she can summon a magic sword at will so she is never unarmed. But don't doubt the awesome power of her unarmed punches when she's angry...
  • Mamoru Chiba /Tuxedo Mask has a number of skills and it is sometimes commented on that there is very little he can't do. It helps him be the resident Badass Normal and Batman Expy.
  • The Enforcers of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha must, by default, excel in a wide range of abilities that will let them handle situations when they work both investigative cases and actual criminal apprehension either by themselves or with a team. Out of the heroines, this distinction falls on Fate Testarossa. She has an arsenal of close, mid-range, and long-range spells and is also a competent close range fighter. Her balanced skillset contrasts that of ranged specialist Nanoha and nuke-girl Hayate.
  • Lucy Snow, the protagonist of Hollow Fields. Being the newest student at the titular academy, she lacks the experience of the other students: Claude specializes in mechanics, Summer in genetic engineering, and Carmen in golem construction. Most of Lucy's inventions have been basic yet practical, in contrast to the flashier projects of the other students. What she can do better than most students is act on the fly: she can construct clockwork robots in a matter of seconds, quickly find her way out of problems, and use her pet Dino as a Swiss-Army Weapon.

    Fanfiction 
  • In Harry Potter and the Price of Being Noble Remus admitted to having "a few skills here and there" after "so many odd jobs."
  • The Office of Special Resources from The Universiad is more than just a combat and special operations formation. Apart from the logistics concerns they really do handle, senior OSR operatives are trained to bear a wide range of responsibilities, including but not limited to counterintelligence, equipment testing, espionage, law enforcement, security and training.
  • In Harry Potter and the Four Heirs Remus ended up with a wide variety of jobs due to the limited employment possibilities for werewolves.
    He'd helped lay mundane roads, dug ditches, learned how to plaster a wall. He'd washed cars in France, car windscreens in Germany, and worked for a commercial herbologist in Spain. Whatever he could find to do, he did.

    Literature 
  • Robert A. Heinlein's immortal character Lazarus Long (the source of the page quote) is a firm advocate of learning a wide variety of skills to be prepared for change (a matter of some concern for an immortal, of course).
  • The aptly named Jack of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, a freelance businessman who does "a little bit of everything", though he will assure you that he is not one of those giant-slaying Jacks.
  • Michael from the Knight and Rogue Series has a multitude of unusual skills ranging from carpenty to bar tending. This is mostly due to his knight errantry consisting of helping with odd jobs that need to be done as he's passing by.
  • In the Star Wars novel "Wraith Squadron" this is featured with Falynn. However she fails to recognize the value of this type of character and considers herself Always Second Best to other members of the squadron, not realizing that she is second best to several different people. In the end, her desire to prove herself and do things that no one else has done causes her to take a lot of risks, and eventually gets her killed.
  • Ben from The Leonard Regime has had extensive military and espionage training. He continuously demonstrates skills in a variety of different areas.

    Live Action TV 
  • Remington Steele: he may be a fake detective, but Steele's previous life as a conman left him with a wide variety of useful skills.
  • A nonfictional example: Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs tries to be this, though he often ends up closer to Master of None.
  • Highlander has Methos who after 5000 years has held just about every possible job and has picked up just about any practical skill imaginable. This makes him different from most other immortals who seem to pick a niche and stick with it.
  • Henry of Eureka has multiple jobs, including being the town mechanic, forensics expert, coroner, and skilled physicist. He even becomes the mayor.

    Mythology 
  • In Celtic Mythology this was Lugh Lamfada's hat. When he first applied for entry into the court of the Tuatha de Danaan he was asked what he could do. he then listed a number of things he could do, warrior, smith, healer etc. When he was told there was already someone filling each position his answer was to ask if they had someone who could do all these things.

    Music 
  • Bruce Springsteen has a song called "Jack of All Trades".
    I'll mow your lawn
    Clear the leaves out your drain
    I'll mend your roof, to keep out the rain
    I take the work that God provides
    I'm a jack of all trades
    Honey, we'll be all right.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Black Rose: swimmer, dancer, actress, personal trainer, certified yoga instructor and professional wrestler.
  • Bobby Lashley: professional wrestler, mixed martial artist, manager, fight promoter and health food salesman.

    Puppet Shows 
  • A Sesame Street Muppet sketch set in the Old West featured Adam T. Glaser, who had so many jobs that he had to be reminded what a dentist does.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dominion: Hinterlands gives us the Jack of All Trades card. It grants four common effects — gaining a card, inspecting your deck, drawing cards, and the option to trash a card — but is nowhere near the best at any of those.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • A five-color deck will have a less reliable mana base than a one- or two-color deck, but it'll have access to all the different tools that every color can offer.
    • Obelisk of Alara. It gives you access to five different simple abilities with a wide range of uses, spanning all five colors.
  • Murphy's World. Sean Murphy (the man who discovered the title planet) spent a lot of time in crummy jobs, giving him a wide but shallow set of skills.
  • Eando Kline of Pathfinder, as part of being a well-built sorcerer/rogue/bard.
  • Shadowrun supplement Aztlan. Shamans of the Jaguar totem prefer to acquire a minimum level of talent in a wide array of skills rather than specializing in a limited package of talents like most characters.
  • Classic Traveller. The Jack of All Trades skill allowed a character to use any other skill at level 0, which meant that they would avoid penalties for lack of skill but not gain any bonuses either.
  • Hollow Earth Expedition supplement Secrets of the Surface World. The Jack of All Trades skill gives a broad familiarity with a variety of different tasks, without any formal training. The character may use any skill that they have no training in at no penalty (General Skill) or reduced penalty (Specialized Skill).
  • The Factotumnote  class from the Dungeons and Dragons sourcebook "Dungeonscape" gets all skills as class skills, as well as limited spellcasting/turn undead/healing/sneak attack abilities and the ability to boost saving throws/attack rolls/damage rolls/trained skill checks by tapping into their pool of "Inspiration Points" (which represent their ability to spontaneously recall facts from the vast pool of knowledge they've accumulated). The end effect is that they are incredibly effective skill monkeys who can emulate any class for at least a short period of time.

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy XIII, all of your characters can eventually use any class, not just the three that they start with. However, classes developed outside of a character's main three are relatively underpowered and may not be suited to that character's strengths. (For example, Hope can become a Sentinel but his very low HP makes him unsuited for the role.) The costs of developing these "outside" classes are also extremely prohibitive, with the first node requiring 3000 points while you're currently using less than 1000 for your normal skills.
  • Shamans and Druids in World of Warcraft were nominally supposed to be viable at all four roles in a group: melee damage, ranged damage, tanking, and healing. However, it quickly became apparent that they were not Jacks of All Trades but Masters Of None, as the large groups necessary for endgame raid content all but guaranteed there would be a better class to fit that spot. Since then, their class development has shifted from versatility to specialization, and they have had a much better history since.
  • In Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu, the Master Knight class is this. It can use any weapon of the game outside of Holy Weapons, A-Ranked Light Magic, and Dark Magic. It's a strong class able to perform well in anything it can do, even though it doesn't pack the immense power the Holy Weapon wielders have.
  • In Drakensang you can possibly create such a character by learning different abilities from different teachers. You could end up with a human swordsmaster who can also practice stealth, pickpocket, recognize plants, identify magical items, disarm traps and know of to seduce a lady. And you can do this with basically any character (however, some characters have natural disadvantages regarding certain skills).
  • In RuneScape, the Player Character is encouraged to become one of these. There's no class system; all players get to train every skill, and are rewarded for doing so. The Shattered Heart activity gives rewards in 15 different skills and has a bonus reward if you do all of them. The "Jack of Trades" aura (invoking the trope by name) gives an xp bonus if you work on lots of skills in a short time. There's lots of other ways that skills are subtly intertwined so that it's better to train them in tandem than it is to work on them separately, and of course, all the different skills are required for various quests, so anyone who wants to do all the quests will be forced to branch out.
  • Dragon Quest VI: thanks to the vocation system, characters can learn spells from every class and keep them even when changing vocation (which only affects stats).

    Webcomics 
  • Quentyn Quinn, hero of Tales of the Questor, failed every apprenticeship he applied for, leading him to think he's not good at anything. Once he become Questor, however, it becomes clear that while he's not good at anything, he's a little bit good at everything, allowing him to combine his skills in unexpected ways.
  • Afkinz of Zoophobia is known for possessing a myriad of hidden skills and abilities, none of which he is a master of.
  • Lackadaisy's Mordecai is this.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Jim Morales from Code Lyoko had a ludicrous amount of jobs before settling down as the gym teacher of Kadic Academy. His skills come in useful from time to time, particularly in one episode wherein he and Jeremie had to survive alone in the wilderness.
  • Huckleberry Hound. Each episode of Huck's show had him in different occupations—even in caveman and Medieval times.
  • Mr. Bogus appears to be a borderline example of this trope, as nearly every episode has him in a different activity, depending on the episode.
  • American Dad!: Roger has many skills; it's been shown that he can quite forge armour and weapons with a high degree of skill, he has a Master's Degree in city planning, he's run restaurants, he has a bartender licence...the list goes on and on, to the point it's been lampshaded by Stan. Most of these are actually Roger's hobbies; he says he does what he feels like doing. It's rarely ever explicitly said that he's amazing at what he does, just that he does a lot of things.
  • The Simpsons: Homer has done so many things over the years, there's no way he can't be a Jack of All Trades.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: One episode played with this when Applejack became shamed and depressed that she didn't win even a single event in a big rodeo after confidently predicting doing well, convinced it made her a Master of None. Meanwhile, everyone else was massively impressed that she placed highly in everything.
    • Alicorns are this on a species level, having flight, magic, and a connection with nature while the other kinds of ponies only get one.
    • Fluttershy herself is a pegasus with Earth pony-like qualities.

    Real Life 
  • Most members of the military. Soldiers are trained with an "expect to fight" mentality, and everyone from clerks to medics to cooks are held to the same physical standard and trained to fight.
  • Ravens and crows tend to be this. They have very general purpose beaks and are the most intelligent of all birds. They are highly adaptable and can eat many things.
  • Anyone can be this, just do and practice many different things in life.

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alternative title(s): Jacks Of All Trades
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