In an organization with a ranked hierarchal structure, you can get a promotion by showing aptitude for the work, impressing senior ranked individuals, fulfilling certain criteria, having a place open up due to retirement, resignation or death and probably kissing a lot of ass. On the other hand you can get a Klingon Promotion, which means that if you kill a superior (or they die by some other means), you gain their rank or a rank that the result of this death leaves open. Then the cutthroat competition for a promotion becomes a lot more literal.
This is a sister trope to You Kill It, You Bought It. However in that one you kill someone, purposefully or accidentally and gain something of theirs. That could be a physical object or something more metaphysical like a role in life or a curse and you don’t need to have a system that puts the character in a position to get the job. This requirement of a rank to get into for a Klingon Promotion means it will show up in connection to different sorts of organisations.
For instance, the Klingon Promotion will turn up in organisations that favour ruthlessness and the heavy dominance of a leader. Hence the trope name referring to the Klingons of Star Trek, who are often portrayed as accepting assassination of a superior (with varying justification) as a legitimate option for career advancement. You’ll get it in royal or noble lines of succession where individuals can obsess over the fact that if only 72 people would die in a very short period they could become King.
A common subtrope is the Challenging the Chief trope where the role of boss goes to whoever's the biggest Badass, who can kill any other Badass in ritual combat.
Perhaps, the focus will be on a character, who uses this method often to get ahead in the world. They could easily then be The Starscream and if we get the chance to follow them going through several stations in life, advancing themselves with cunning, guile and possibly the odd bottle of arsenic, we might get to see them as a Manipulative Bastard and maybe a magnificent one.
This trope tends to enforce its Super Trope: Superior Successor.
Asskicking Equals Authority is when you get a society that works based on this trope. The Evil Prince tends to see the world this way, due to his position. Occasionally, a superior can forestall it with Kill Me Now or Forever Stay Your Hand. May result in You Are in Command Now if the replacement is lacking in qualifications for the position they gain.
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In Bleach there are three ways to become a Captain. One requires achieving Bankai and demonstrating it to the other Captains; one requires receiving recommendations from the majority of sitting captains; the last, the most ruthless one is to kill a sitting Captain in front of two hundred members of the Captain's division. Zaraki Kenpachi chose the third route, unsurprisingly.
It is implied in the Turn Back The Pendulum flashback chapters that only 11th Division uses this method to "choose" its new Captain, and that this is the only method by which a new Shinigami can take the Captaincy of that Division; the 11th Division Captain is also the holder of the title of Kenpachi, strongest swordsman in all Seireitei, which can only be passed on by this trope. Although other Divisions would be allowed to use this method, only the 11th, with its obsession with one-on-one combat, actually does.
Kisuke Urahara managed to get Mayuri Kurotsuchi as his personal Psycho for Hire Research Assistant by tempting him with this trope. Mayuri does eventually succeed him, but not by being The Starscream. He just managed to keep his nose clean while everyone above him got exiled.
Grimmjow regained his rank as Espada #6 by killing Luppi.
In X/1999, The Sakurazukamori is a clan of assassins with only one member at any particular time. The fate of the Sakurazukamori is to choose to die at the hands of the one they love most who then takes their place and repeats the cycle. Yes, it's a weird series with so many masochistic characters that want to be killed.
The headband rules of Afro Samurai fall under this. If one has the number one headband, they are considered god and only the number two can challenge him. The person who has said latter headband though can be challenged by anyone.
In Fullmetal Alchemist, Major General Olivier Armstrong kills Lieutenant General Raven, then assumes his position after telling Fuhrer King Bradley she killed him.
In the Trigun manga, the Murder, Inc. group the Eye of Michael appear to practice some form of this, as Wolfwood apparently succeeded to the Chapel seat in the Guns by shooting his Evil Mentor in the back, rather than being penalized by either organization. Though it turns out Master C isn't quite dead. Of course, it's possible he covered up that he'd been the one to do the shooting rather than owning up to the murder and Master C let him get away with it, because he thought it was funny. Probably not, though; it's not like the most deadly assassins in the world are going to believe one of their number went down to a stray bullet. And the Eye and Guns are both made of crazy and believe that Asskicking Equals Authority.
In Code Geass, Lelouchinvokes this trope after killing his father, Emperor Charles zi Britannia, ascending to the throne himself as 99th Holy Britannian Emperor, Lelouch vi Britannia. Played with in that he didn't kill his father for that purpose, but was quite happy to take advantage of this trope afterwards. Further played with in that none of the nobility and fellow royal family members recognized his authority until he used his Geass powers to force them to accept his rule.
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder must run in the family - quite some time later, after Eggman's reorganized the Legion into his Dark Egg Legion with Lien Da's ancestor Dimitri as Grandmaster, she eventually double crosses him too and leaves him for dead so that she can become Grandmaster again.
And Dr. Robotnik, before he became the Big Bad, was the head of the Kingdom of Acorn's military - a job he got by throwing the previous holder of the title into the Zone of Silence (not murder, but close enough). And when he took over the Kingdom, he jump started his coup by doing the same to the King.
In the epic Low Fantasy series Artesia, this is common in the Highlands of Daradja. The eponymous Queen Artesia gains her crown by killing her erstwhile king and lover, Branamir of Huelt.
A non-lethal variation occurs in the Star Trek graphic novel Debt of Honor by Chris Claremont and Adam Hughes. Starfleet lieutenant Jamie Finney, who acts as a liaison officer on Commander Kor's Klingon ship, recommends caution in an unclear tactical situation. Khadri, a female Klingon officer taller by more than a head responds by insulting her as coming from a "coward's race" and threatens her, to which Finney reacts by knocking Khadri out with a flying kick.
Kor: Most impressive.
Finney: Her challenge left me no alternative, commander.
Kor: And you rose to the occasion, Lieutenant, like a Klingon. I salute you. Of course you realize your victory entitles you to assume Khadri's status and position aboard the Revenge.
Finney: Commander! That really isn't necessary-!
Kor: Oh, but it is. In fact, I insist, as a means of binding our regrettably ad hoc alliance more closely together.
The original Marvel Transformers comic series had a lengthy chain of Klingon promotions in the Decepticon army. What made it truly bizarre was that Starscream never fulfilled the trope.
At the end of the original limited series, Megatron and the Decepticons were left crippled and helpless. Shockwave turned up while the Autobots were celebrating their victory and blew everyone away, deemed Megatron incompetent, imprisoned him and assumed command.
Megatron eventually escaped and reclaimed his leadership position... only to lose it again, when Shockwave preyed on his paranoid fear of the (then-presumed-dead) Optimus Prime. Megatron blew himself up and Shockwave again took command.
Ratbat, essentially the Decepticon supply manager, showed up on Earth to ensure that Shockwave was using Decepticon resources efficiently (It Makes Sense in Context). Shockwave ends up presumed dead fighting the Autobots, because Ratbat doesn't want to waste gas fishing him out of Earth's atmosphere. Ratbat assumes command.
Scorponok, a powerful Decepticon leader in his own right, arrives on Earth after that and jockeys for supremacy with Ratbat. Scorponok eventually shoots Ratbat in the back and assumes full command of the Decepticons.
Scorponok fends off assassination attempts by Megatron, Starscream and Shockwave, only to bite it fighting Unicron. Bludgeon, up until now a basic grunt, assumes command because none of the other Decepticons around are qualified for the job.
Bludgeon lasts into the subsequent G2 series, but is killed by a rebuilt Megatron, who stays in charge until the series is canceled.
All of this gets more complicated if you include the UK comics and a time-traveling Galvatron.
This is Iznogoud's entire motivation and modus operandi: as Grand Vizier, he'll take over if the Caliph dies, hence his oft-repeated Catch Phrase "I want to be Caliph instead of the Caliph!".
A kid-friendly version in Astérix and the Goths, where every Goth chieftain is doped to the gills on magic potion and spends their time beating the other chieftains with large wooden clubs and declaring themselves ruler over all the Goths to general hilarity (as a Batman Gambit by Getafix, who knows they won't invade Gaul with all the infighting). Since none of them die, they just get back up and start plotting anew.
In the Fat Freddy's Cat comic "Animal Camp", the Cat is tossed in with a pack of bloodthirsty dogs. When the leader of the dogs, Beelzebub, charges at him, the Cat fluffs up so much that Beelzebub drops dead of a heart attack, and the cat is proclaimed king of the dogs.
Dilbert once did this by accident. Having landed on top of an Elbonian resistance leader (after being deliberately launched there by the other side via giant slingshot), he is appointed to be the new leader. He negotiates an end to the civil war and goes home.
Ami from Dungeon Keeper Ami was bestowed the title of Empress Ami, Ruler of Avatar Island by the Light Gods after she slew the self-proclaimed Emperor Zakeros and beat the Avatar.
Saul: "The practice of apprentice killing mentor is not limited to Dark Jedi. I fully expect you to kill me once you are settled in, but I'll have the comfort of knowing I have a competent officer running things - which is more than I can say for my current crop of groveling idiots."
The Infinite Loops portray the Gryphon Lands on Equestria as this, though it's nuanced a little.
Gilda: “So, we're arranged into... well, prides or packs, the meaning is the same. Your village is a pack, your county is a pack formed of the village higher-ups, and so on up to Imperial level. You can move up in two ways – either by election, which is sort of a contest of strength of mind, or by combat, which is a contest of strength of body. Elections are kinda recent, historically speaking. Anyway, you can only challenge either way within a pack. So if Joe Average Gryphon wanted to become Emperor, he'd start at the village level. If he won there, he'd be a member of the county pack, and could move up there, and so on.” Gilda coughed. “I have an unfair advantage. I'm... sort of a member of the Imperial family. That counts as a pack, too. Mind you, the pack leader usually has a band of sworn talons who he can have kick the arses of any potential challenger, so he doesn't have to spend the whole day fighting. In practice, successful challenges involve those sworn talons either stepping aside or getting whupped en masse – and either way, we as a species tend to be alright with that.”
Captain Kanril Eleya of Bait and Switch got her first command after nearly every other officer on the USS Kagoshima was killed or assimilated by the Borg. (This is based on Star Trek Online's pre-Season 8 Federation tutorial.)
Films — Animated
Disney's Aladdin and the King of Thieves. The third movie features the Forty Thieves (as in "Ali Baba and ...") and Aladdin causes the death of one in self-defense. He's sure the others are about to butcher him when they say it can only mean one thing. The One Thing is that he's now a member, unless someone kills him, which they'll be more than happy to do if he doesn't measure up. (If that's not bad enough, the former holder of his position is Not Quite Dead, and wants it back. That can only happen one way.)
Films — Live-Action
Star Wars: The Sith "Rule of Two" is exactly this trope. Every Sith lord takes an apprentice. An apprentice can only become a Sith Lord himself with the death of his master, even if the apprentice is the one, who kills him. He then customarily takes on an apprentice of his own and the cycle continues. Such betrayal is not only common,it's actually ''expected'' of the apprentice. If the master has become weak or foolish enough to be killed by his apprentice, then obviously it was time for a new Sith Lord to take over anyway. And if he fails to take advantage of a (real) opportunity to replace his master, he's clearly not ready to be the Sith Lord.
Also we have the Skywalkers: Anakin (the eventual Vader) killed Dooku, current Sith apprentice - which, unknown to him at first, put him on the path to become the new one. Palpatine then wanted Luke to kill Anakin and become the next apprentice...
Ironically, both Palpatine and Anakin would try to violate the rule themselves — Anakin by explicitly taking a secret apprentice, then Palpatine by intending to cast even Luke aside and rule alone, immortal and eternally. (The other Force-sensitive agents they used didn't count, as they weren't trained in Sith tradition, and some may not even have been aware of it.)
Interestingly, it appears from the Expanded Universe that numerous Sith cults remained isolated and secret, never challenging or revealing themselves to the active Two at any given time, in case the line ever failed.
The Necromongers in The Chronicles of Riddick exemplify their adherence to this philosophy in their motto: "You keep what you kill".
At the end of Death Race 2000 (1975), Frankenstein assassinates Mr. President. In the next scene he's shown to have become the new President.
In the 2008 remake, Frankenstein is an identity given to a random racer, with the idea being that everyone (including the other racers) think it's the same person all the time. When one Frankenstein is killed, someone else replaces him so that he appears to be invincible. "He's a gimmick"
In Starship Troopers, Rico keeps earning promotions from the deaths of those above him, the first two times because the Lieutenant gave him field promotions. Then he is forced to Mercy Kill the Lieutenant (at his insistence), takes his position by seniority, and is given a formal promotion after things have settled down.
The main plotline for the Ealing Studios dark comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets, where Louis Mazzini, the disowned grandson of the Duke of Chalfont, systematically murders his way through the family to become the sole heir to the title and estates.
Attempted in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, when Harvey Logan demands that Butch fight him to the death, with the expectation that the winner would be the leader of the hole-in-the-wall gang. "Guns or knives?"
Subverted when Butch tells Sundance to kill Harvey if he wins the fight.
In Shanghai Knights, Lord Rathbone plots to kill the Queen and the those in line for the throne before him in one fell swoop to make himself king.
In The Santa Clause, this is essentially the spirit of the titular rule: there has to be a Santa and when you put on the suit, you're him. It's just that Scott makes the mistake of accidentally killing the last Santa that makes it this trope.
Miss Nobody has a variation, with Sarah Jane killing her co-workers in order to get promoted to their positions. A secretary (and former friend) named Charmaine later tries to do the same to her, feeling that she'd been passed up for promotion because of Sarah Jane's meteoric rise.
Invoked by Edward (the actual heir) in The King's Speech, when he thinks his brother Albert wants to be king (he emphatically does not, he just wants Edward to pick up his act), calling it "positively medieval".
In Doomsday, Eden apparently takes over running the cannibal tribe after killing Sol and presenting his severed head to the rest.
An explorer in the deepest Amazon suddenly finds himself surrounded by what appears to be a bloodthirsty group of cannibals. Upon surveying the situation, he says quietly to himself, "Oh God, I'm screwed." There is a ray of light from the sky above and a voice booms out: "No, you are not screwed. Pick up that stone at your feet and bash in the head of the chief standing in front of you." So the explorer picks up the stone and proceeds to bash the life out of the chief. He stands above the lifeless body, breathing heavily and surrounded by 100 cannibals with a look of shock on their faces. The voice booms out again: "Now'' you're screwed."
In Dune the Fremen traditionally determine leadership via Duel to the Death, but when it comes time for Paul to take command of the tribes from Stilgar he refuses to fight, stating that it would be a waste of a good future lieutenant.
Quantum Gravity has Demons settling almost anything by fighting, although this only becomes apparent book two onwards. the straightest example comes in book four; Lila had asked Teazle to search Demonia for certain artifacts, and later learns he resorted to killing the heads of countless families, not to mention angry successors, as the only way of finding the things is to claim the treasure by Klingon promotion.
when she later took over the empire he had raised, she called a meeting of the family heads. The discussion was punctuated by several attempts on her life, and on their failure she promptly, without a backwards glance, ordered the heirs to all the deceased summoned to continue.
In Paul Féval's The Black Coats this is the family tradition of the Colonel's family. Julian does succeed at this over his father.
Happens on the planet of Surebleak in the Liaden Universe all the time. If you want to be in charge of a territory, you have to off the old boss.
The Children of the Light in The Wheel of Time have a ritualized dueling ceremony entitled "trial by the light," in which the loser's rank and property are forfeit to the winner. Galad uses this in conjunction with surviving a military Everybody's Dead, Dave shortly beforehand to skip virtually the entire command structure and go from an unspecified junior rank straight to Lord Captain Commander.
One of the two ways of becoming a Blademaster is to kill another Blademaster in fair single combat. The other is to have a panel of five Blademasters unanimously vote to accept you. Guess which way is used by every character who became a blademaster over the course of the series (though none of the characters in question did so with the sole intention of becoming a blademaster).
Though the Forsaken are more or less equal in standing to one another, one among them is elevated to serve as the Dark One's right hand; this lucky individual earns the title of ''Nae'blis'' and gains limited authority over the others. Three guesses as to how the title can change hands.
The early Roman Empire is depicted this way in I, Claudius, albeit with the murders carried out by proxy rather than in person. Livia, after killing everyone higher up the line of succession, poisons Augustus so Tiberius can succeed him; Caligula succeeds by having Tiberius smothered; and at the end Agrippina poisons Claudius to clear the way for Nero. The only Emperor who DOESN'T succeed this way is Claudius himself, who had nothing to do with Caligula's murder. (Historically, it's doubtful if Augustus and Tiberius were murdered or not, though Claudius probably was.)
In the Unseen University of the Discworld, killing a higher-ranking wizard was the preferred means of promotion (via the "Dead Man's Pointy Shoes" rule). The catch being, however, that wizards aren't allowed to turn magic against one another, forcing them to resort to more practical means, making daily UU living for high-ranking wizards an exercise in forensics. This came to an end, however, when Mustrum Ridcully became Archchancellor and proved nigh unkillable; and, Wizards being creatures of laziness, they soon came to realize a less competitive work environment is rather enjoyable. Added to this, now the senior faculty are all settled and long-standing members, they've probably realized in the old days each one of them would be a target for an up and comer; it is in their best interests to act as a group now.
There is also a persistent rumor that if a student Assassin manages to inhume one of his teachers, he will be graduated to full member of the Assassin's Guild on the spot. But since it is definitely known that trying to inhume one of the teachers and failing will get the student expelled not only from the guild, but from life as well, no actual attempts have occurred during any of the books.
Also, Vetinari (maybe), although in his case he replaced the replacement of the Patrician he assassinated.
For that matter, back when Ankh-Morpork still had kings, there were a number of monarchs with very brief reigns (all with a crown and "magic sword"). The record was King Loyala the Aargh, who ruled for all of 1.4 seconds before being killed by his successor.
In the Merlin cycle of Roger Zelazny's The Chronicles of Amber series, Merlin's mother "arranges" to have everyone whose place in the line of succession was closer than Merlin's end up dead so she could become shadow ruler. Not a direct example, but definitely in the spirit of the Klingon Promotion. Of course, by the time Merlin becomes King of Chaos, he's no longer under her control.
In David Anthony Durham's novel Acacia, the people of the Mien have a tradition of dueling to become chieftain instead of the chieftain, but this is never used as a plot point.
In Jack Chalker's Four Lords of the Diamond series, the four planets of the Warden Diamond, as a dumping ground for all the sociopaths, criminals, scum, villainy, and political opponents that the interstellar human empire decided weren't worth killing (or mindwiping) use this method for their internal hierarchies. On the one planet where this is frowned on, it still happens if you can frame or con someone higher up the chain of command to make them look bad so they get jailed, demoted or transferred for being stupid enough to fall for it.
In the Dale Brown novel Air Battle Force, Ozarov kills the Taliban leader Zarazi and briefly takes over. When Zarazi's deputy Turabi kills the usurper, the leadership falls into his hands. Also, Grzylov stages the killing and disappearance of Russian president Sen'kov and his succession line.
In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, the Gentleman with Thistle-down Hair believes that once he and Steven kill the king of England, it will be a simple matter for Steven Black, a black manservant in 19th century England, to become king. This is often how things work in Faerie, and the Gentleman never really troubled to make a distinction between his opinion and reality.
Comes back at the end of the book when Stephen kills the Gentleman with Thistle-down Hair and inherits his Faerie kingdom.
Needless to say, Gor has its share of examples. Two instances: In Raiders of Gor, Tarl Cabot kills a pirate named Surbus in a tavern brawl. At the (surprisingly considerate) request of Surbus's slave-girl, whom he had been about to kill, Tarl allows the dying man to see the sea with his last breath, which causes his loyal crew to acknowledge Tarl as their new captain. Later, in Tribesmen of Gor, our hero has made the desert march to the hellish salt-mines in Klima. Every man there is a former salt slave, with the leader being one Tz'shal who advises the new arrivals that anyone who wishes to be first at Klima need only kill him. Of course, he who did so would then have to watch his own back, as well as inheriting not just the power over the salt-mine but also the responsibility.
He also ultimately becomes King of Aquilonia this way, through leading a popular rebellion against its previous king Numedides.
In "Iron Shadows in the Moon" Conan kills a Red Brotherhood pirate captain in a duel, which according to their rules makes him their leader.
In "A Witch Shall Be Born" Conan is rescued from crucifixion by a band of desert outlaws. He then spends the next year winning the loyalty of the outlaws until it gets to the point where he can remove their leader and assume that title himself.
In Maledicte, Maledicte's lover systematically kills or tricks Maledicte into killing everyone between himself and the crown, so he can take the title for himself. this is also part of his scheme to totally screw with Maledicte, since he's now the man Maledicte must kill to complete her quest.
In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel The Bacta War, the captain of the Lusankya refuses to surrender, despite his ship being heavily damaged and outnumbered. He orders his men to crash the Super Star Destroyer into the planet Thyffera, which would kill all 250,000 people on the ship, millions more on the planet, and destroy the sole source of one of the galaxy's most effective medical products. One of his Lieutenants shoots him, promotes himself to Captain, and accepts the surrender offer.
The Laundry Series has a few short stories that show this as the inevitable conclusion of working at the Laundry, a vast entity of the civil service that no one's allowed to leave (mainly because of their line of work). It's dead man's shoes all the way up, and some folks underneath take pains to vacate the shoes of the one above them...
In the Sword of Shadows series, the generally accepted way to succeed the Surlord of the city-state of Spire Vanis is to off him (though if you're not of noble blood, you probably won't keep the title very long). In the later books, it becomes a plot point that Surlord Penthero Iss chose his own successor, his commanding general Marafice Eye. Since Eye didn't kill Iss himself or arrange for it to be done (in fact, Iss was killed almost incidentally during the rescue of an important prisoner), and is a commonor to boot, he has to fight tooth and nail to keep his throne once succeeding to it.
Inverted in Animorphs, where becoming captain of the Helmacrons gets the new leader killed-dead leaders don't make mistakes, but live leaders can.
In the novel StarCraft: Ghost: Nova, the eponymous character is an extremely-strong telepath / telekinetic (she can almost literally go nuclear). She runs afoul of a gang leader in the Tarsonis ghetto. After figuring out that she's a very person, he threatens to kill little children if she doesn't work for him. Before that, she "predicts" that he'll be killed by one of his lieutenants (after reading the mind of one doubting lieutenant). Years later, Nova is tracked down by a Ghost Academy recruiter. When the gang leader (who has gone insane over months due to the abuse of a telepathy blocker) is about to shoot him, Nova mind-controls the doubting lieutenant and has him shoot the leader in the head. So, in effect, this is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. The lieutenant becomes the new leader. Trouble is, there isn't much of a gang left, after the crazy former leader has killed many of his subordinates for slightest faults (even imagined ones). Also, the gang headquarters is the in process of being raided by Confederate forces. To top it off, this is the day the Zerg invade Tarsonis. Nova barely makes it out alive.
In Mockingjay, Finnick reveals that President Snow used this trope to get control of the Capitol. He poisoned his rivals and superiors and then drank from the same glass (to ward off suspicion) before downing poorly-made antidotes. That's why he wears roses, to cover up the smell of his chronically bleeding gums.
In The Taggerung, killing the previous Taggerung means you get this title. Considering the Taggerung is supposed to be the greatest warrior, this isn't easy. Gruven Zann claims to have accomplished this, and it's eventually "confirmed." Ruggan Bor, who also wants this title, promptly kills Gruven.
The Seguleh from The Malazan Book of the Fallen have a lineal rank structure among its warrior caste. Every ranked warrior is given a number with the lowest numbers indicating the best fighters. To progress through the ranks you have to defeat everyone ahead of you one rank at a time. If the current holder of a rank is unavailable, you wait till he/she returns or is declared dead. This trope gets inverted as you get to the top ranks as at those positions the fights are merely a test of skill rather than a fight to death and actually killing your opponent is considered to be extremely bad form. If you show yourself to be a superior fighter the current rank holder will give up the position willingly since for the Seguleh leadership Asskicking Equals Authority is a religion. A full inversion occurs when it comes to the top position of the One. The position cannot be challenged for and is a lifelong appointment. When the position becomes vacant it is offered to the current Two and if he/she declines, the offer is passed down the ranks till someone deems him/herself worthy of accepting it.
In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this is how Dorothy Gale becomes the Witch of the East. She's accidentally killed the old one, and is given her silver slippers. She then goes inside her house to change clothes, what she's wearing having been damaged in the tornado. In Oz, witches, and only witches, wear white, usually trimmed with the color of whatever area of Oz is under their jurisdiction. The East's color is blue. Dorothy changes into a white and blue dress and the silver slippers, not knowing that, as soon as she steps out of the house, she's taken over the job of the woman she just accidentally killed.
The Star Trek Expanded Universe specifies that challenging a superior and taking their position by beating them in a fight is only acceptable under specific circumstances. The superior must have demonstrated cowardice, incompetence or other dishonorable behavior, and the challenger must be qualified for the position.
The Mirror Universe novel Rise Like Lions has this happen to change the leadership of nations three times during the course of the story. In two cases, it's the Klingons, who apparently roughly keep to the rules mentioned (with the rather important provisos that you could pretty much always accuse the Regent of incompetence, since something is always going wrong somewhere in the Klingon Empire, and that the Klingons apparently regard any Klingon who can get in a position to formally challenge the Regent as qualified). It's a bit less clear how Damar got away with killing the previous leader of the Cardassian Union by shooting him in the back of his head during a speech to the public and then taking over the Union, since this is both illegal and the sort of thing that sets a bad precedent.
Invoked in Diane Duane's Star Trek novel Doctor's Orders, in which a Klingon starship shows up after Kirk inexplicably vanishes on an alien planet. Not wanting to explain this to an enemy, McCoy (who Kirk put in charge just before he went missing) instead claims to have killed him in a duel and taken command.
Tharkian society works something like this in the Barsoom novels. If you kill someone of higher rank than you in single combat, you get to take their rank, their stuff, and their name. Averted slightly at the highest levels; the jeds and the jeddak don't have to face challengers unless their entire circle of subordinates votes that they are unfit and must prove their right to continue to rule by defeating the challenger.
This is standard operating procedure among the Boskonian Space Pirates of the Lensman series, as their hierarchy is built on power and intimidation. If you can't keep your underlings from killing you and taking your job, you clearly weren't doing that well at it in the first place.
This is how the draconic monarchy works in the Wings of Fire series, with daughters challenging their mothers for the right to be the queen of each clan. The entire plot to the series is in fact set up when the queen of one clan is killed by a human, leaving her daughters to fight amongst themselves over who has the right to be queen now, and setting off a continent-wide war in the process. The exception is the Rain Wings, who, largely being Actual Pacifists, have a "rotation" of queens, and when one is challenged, they compete in non-violent ways for the position.
This is how the Empire Of The East (in Fred Saberhagen's trilogy) keeps its various lords and satraps subservient to the Emperor, apparently; they are so busy competing with each other for their various positions that they never think of allying and overthrowing the Emperor himself. The Emperor tacitly approves of the practice, as several characters note; he will readily accept the service of a Lord who gains his position by disposing of his predecessor, since the former occupant was obviously not worthy of the seat in the first place.
Trope Namer - Star Trek: The Next Generation, many places, big example is the episode "Reunion," where the current Chancellor is poisoned, and Picard must help investigate the murder as well as ceremonially choose the successor to the High Council. The whole reason there's controversy in the Klingons' eyes is that the Chancellor's killer used a cowardly method like poison, instead of fighting him in a duel.
Rather depressingly, Worf's promotion to Security Chief (the whole crux of his career) came about due to Lieutenant Yar's death. ("Skin of Evil")
Another good example, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, episode "Tacking Into The Wind," where the new Chancellor from TNG "Reunion," Gowron, is screwing things up during the Dominion War, mismanaging the Klingon battle efforts due to his jealously of the glory that General Martok is gathering on the battlefield. Worf decides to challenge Gowron. He wins, becomes the next Chancellor, but almost immediately passes the torch to his friend and mentor, General Martok.
In one episode, Dax explains the intricacies after hearing O'Brien and Bashir talk about the trope. Only a direct subordinate can make the challenge, and only after a severe infraction (cowardice, extreme failure, dereliction of duty).
In the TNG episode "A Matter Of Honor," where Riker serves aboard a Klingon ship in an officer exchange program, the subject of Klingon Promotion comes up; it's the accepted way to remove a captain who is unsuitable for command.
"Let me get this straight, as first officer, one of my duties is to assassinate the captain?
Later, when the Klingon captain's misunderstanding threatens the Enterprise, Riker finds a way to exploit this rule, though in a rather more human and less bloody manner. He contrives a way to get the captain transported off the ship, then engages in a standoff so they can force the Enterprise to "surrender" and stop the hostilities. When the captain is beamed back, Riker takes a punch from him to let them save face, getting the crew's respect for understanding Klingon proprieties.
This actually started for the franchise with the Mirror Universe episode of the original series. Chekov is planning to kill Kirk for treason, and he mentions everyone else would advance in rank. It's later mentioned that the mirror Kirk killed Pike to get the captaincy.
The Star Trek: Enterprise Mirror Universe episodes start off with Mirror!Archer offing the Mirror!Forrest, who is the captain of the ISS Enterprise. Subsequently, Mirror!Hoshi poisons him, and not only moves on to Captain, but also takes the recovered Prime-Universe's 23rd century Defiant and uses it to declare herself the new Terran Empress. Talk about a promotion...
Mirror-Spock specifically mentions that he doesn't want to become captain of the Enterprise over Kirk's body, as Mirror-Kirk has many friends in the fleet, and Spock's command (and life) would be extremely short. He does, however, state that he will kill Kirk if he fails to take decisive action against the Halkans, but only because these are his orders from Starfleet Command.
Parodied in one episode of DS9. Quark is made leader of the Ferengi, and the last leader's son tries to take power this way. The capitalistic Ferengi, who would have respected him if he undermined Quark's power-base and accumulated all the real power behind the scenes, just called him an idiot for thinking it would work. The whole thing was a setup, as the previous leader was still alive, having faked his death to test his son's worthiness to be his real successor. Needless to say, his son failed. Interestingly, Quark was impressed by Rom's ruthlessness (he helped Zek's son), even commenting that their father would have approved.
This actually happens very briefly in the TOS episode "Amok Time", though not on purpose. We are led to believe that Spock has killed Kirk, and McCoy tells him that, as strange as it seems, he's in command now. Of course, Spock doesn't want to be the captain, and is planning to hand over command to Scotty and turn himself in to the authorities until he finds out Kirk is alive after all.
Chakotay: "Sounds great! If I miss, I get to be Captain."
Amusingly, Basics, an earlier episode, had established that he had no idea how to use a bow (and that Tuvok is an expert marksman who used to teach archery professionally), so this is actually the most likely outcome.
In another Voyager episode, a Kazon boy wishes to become a man by killing Chakotay. He fails. He then explains that killing a person is the rite of passage for the Kazon. Apparently, killing a clansman is also acceptable in some cases. At the end of the episode, instead of killing Chakotay (who hopes that the Doctor can make him better), he turns the weapon onto his maj (clan leader). Before the maj's Number Two can execute him, the boy swears loyalty to him as the new maj. After a few seconds, the new maj accepts.
Lilah Morgan does this to her boss in the premiere episode of Season 4 of Angel. With the permission of the Senior Partners, of course.
In Stargate Atlantis, this is how Wraith promotions work. So, in "The Queen", when the Wraith "Todd" kills the Primary Queen and gives the credit to Teyla, who's currently disguised as a lower-ranking Wraith queen, Teyla becomes the new Primary. This allows Todd to take over the entire hive by giving orders on behalf of his "reclusive" queen who doesn't actually exist. It's limited in that this only works for Queens. A male can't take a Queen's place by killing her, especially since they'd lose their reproductive line.
The series has the rite of joma secu, where a Jaffa commander can be challenged by another Jaffa to a duel to the death. The victor gets the commander's position. First seen in "The Warrior".
In "Bounty", SG-1 points out to Bounty Hunter Odai Ventrell that Netan's position as leader of the Lucian Alliance is tenuous at best and that if somebody managed to kill him they could probably take over the entire organization. Three guesses what Ventrell does next. Of course, Ventrell is never seen again after last seen pointing his gun at Netan. When we see the Lucian Alliance in Stargate Universe, there is another member of the Alliance played by the same actor with no relation to Ventrell.
''Battlestar Galactica: Felix Gaeta, believing Adama has been derelict in his duties by becoming too close to the rebel Cylons, leads a mutiny to give himself a Klingon Promotion. It doesn't end well for poor Mr. Gaeta, and he ends up in front of a firing squad.
Well, arguably it was more Zarak who was going for the Klingon Promotion. Gaeta was just trying to keep everybody safe (and actually had a point).
Red Dwarf's episode "Holoship" had this; the eponymous vessel had a full complement, and the only way for Rimmer to join is "dead man's boots" by defeating another crew member in intellectual combat. His opponent had fallen in love with him and she resigned from the combat to give him his dream, effectively committing suicide. When he found out, he promptly resigned from the ship and returned to Red Dwarf to bring her back to life.
Non-lethally subverted, by the heroes, no less, in Power Rangers S.P.D.: The season's Rangers are the "B-Squad" of the eponymous galactic police force, and after they defeat and capture the "A-Squad", who were thought missing in action but had actually switched sides offscreen to work for the Big Bad, their commander offers the entire team promotion to "A-Squad." They decline.
Invoked in an episode of Farscape by Zhaan in an effort to stop an aggressive alien from attacking Moya.
Interestingly, the Alternate Universe version of Lionel Luthor expresses disappointment that his adopted son, Clark, has not done this to him.
In an episode of the short-lived Flash Gordon TV series, Ming forces Flash and Barin to fight to the death for Princess Aura. Barin easily beats Flash (Flash isn't much of a fighter) but then turns around and throws the poisoned weapon at Ming. Ming falls over and is presumed dead. Both combatants are imprisoned, but Aura (who is currently in charge) lets them go and reveals that she has replaced the poison with a sedative that temporarily mimics death, so Ming will soon wake up. After Ming comes to, he's disappointed that Aura hasn't followed this trope, claiming she's unworthy to be a leader. In the last episode before the series cancellation, Aura and her brother have captured Ming, and he's being led to a gas chamber to be executed. As he speaks with his daughter for the last time, Aura (with tears in her eyes) tells him that it's necessary. Ming's last words? He tells her he can finally be proud of her. He doesn't die.
In a late Season Two episode of Babylon 5, Vir and Londo receive a prophecy that both of them will become Emperor of the Centauri at some point in the future, with one of them being the other's successor. At the end of the episode they're each visibly wondering if the other is going to kill him for the title. In the following season, it is revealed that Vir takes the throne after Londo's assisted suicide.
In a more straight example, both of them follow the reign of the mad Emperor Cartagia, who died at Vir's hand as a result of Londo's plotting.
Used for a comedic effect in Disney'sPair Of Kings. Cousin Lannie would have become king of the island nation of Kinkou, had not the epynomous brother kings have been found. He keeps trying to set up their deaths (or sometimes just abdication) so he can advance to king. Once, he succeeded by making it so they were going back to Chicago, but they came back and were re-instated (It Makes Sense in Context).
On Teen Wolf, the most common way for a Beta or Omega werewolf to ascend to the status of Alpha is to kill an existing Alpha.
Doctor Who uses this a few times. In "Doctor Who and the Silurians" the Leading Elder Silurian is killed by the Young Silurian, who becomes Leader.
In "The End of Time" the Master invokes this, pointing out that if the Doctor kills President Evil Rassilon he could lead the Time Lords.
Diana pulls this off twice near the end of the second V miniseries, killing both Pamela and John within a day to usurp control of the alien fleet. What makes it stand out in particular is that she's clearly breaking protocol — while intrigue and political scheming is expected among the Visitors' higher ranks, flat-out murdering superiors in cold blood is not. Neither target even saw it coming.
For Drow of the Forgotten Realms campaign, treachery is an acceptable method of achieving advancement, provided the assassin does not get caught. No different from any other culture perhaps, except that it's oft-cited conventional wisdom, and the word of their goddess Lloth.
It doesn't apply only to individuals but two whole noble clans as well. If one noble family becomes extinct, every lower ranking clan moves up in the hierarchy.
The twist however is, that any noble who survives can report the murders. Which usually leads to every other noble clan teaming up against the offenders to punish their "crimes". As a result, attacks on the castles of noble families rarely leave any survivors. But drow are opportunistic bastards, so in the days and weeks following the "mysterious disappearance" of an entire clan, there are frequently some Cousin Olivers appearing in "random" other families.
Devils are often promoted this way in the Armies of Hell; most sources state that all of them are either Starscreams or potential ones, and their leaders encourage it. (In fact, the original ruler of Stygia, Geryon, was stripped of his position because he showed loyalty to the Overlord of Hell, something that has no place in this society. Of course, what did you expect from Hell?)
In 1st edition of Dungeons & Dragons, you had to do this to get to the highest level of the assassin class.
Druids worked similarly in AD&D. There were only a limited number of a druids of higher rank in the world at any given time; to advance past a certain level, you would have to seek out and killnote or defeat in some other manner; the loser goes down a level a higher ranking druid. The highest rank - the Great Druid, of which there is only one - usually abdicated his position after some years rather than being killed by another druid. Presumably once you get to that position, you see the writing on the wall.
Monks in 1st Ed AD&D also followed this system - it kicked in quite early in the level progression, with there being only one monk of every level above 8th. It should be noted that in contrast to the evil Assassins, druid and monk promotions both allowed for a non-lethal victory.
The Ork hierarchy in Warhammer 40,000 tends to work this way, ditto the Dark Eldar: if you succeed in killing the previous Warboss/Archite, the former officeholder clearly didn't deserve the job.
The Dark Eldar are a particularly stellar example as literally the only method of advancement is to kill the person holding the desired title. Orks may simply intimidate other Orks into servitude with their superior size and bash the skulls of anyone who disagrees, but this trope is so fundamental to Dark Eldar society that bodyguards have to be hired from outside their Cabal (the closest thing they have to an organization) because none of their subordinates are trustworthy. Incidentally, Asdrubael Vect, the leader of the most powerful Cabal, is one of the oldest and most powerful beings in the galaxy.
Chaos, as well as some of the more psychotic loyalist chapters have this trope as well.
This is both averted and played straight with the Moritat. The Moritat are a death cult, but it's considered taboo to kill a fellow Moritat unless you have a damn good reason. The singular exception is the leader of the cult, the High Reaper. She will take one apprentice and groom him/her as her replacement. How does (s)he gain the rank? Take a guess.
The Skaven in Warhammer, and how! The entire race is built around the concept of backstabbing = good, and they follow it with gusto. There's probably not a single Skaven who is not planning to off his superior/tormentor/brother. Higher up in the ranks you have to get creative, as demonstrated when Grey Seer Thanquol of Gotrek and Felix fame offed his competitor for the position of army general with an accident involving a loaded crossbow and an exploding donkey.
Pretty much the way the Greenskin army hierarchy works.
Traveller. In the Third Imperium's history, there was a period where naval admirals would kill the current Emperor and take the title themselves. They were called the "Emperors of the Flag". In 2nd Edition MegaTraveller, Archduke Dulinor assassinated Emperor Strephon and tried to take his place, but failed.
In the Star Fleet Universe, whose origins spring from the original Star Trek TV show, this is how the Federation views the Klingons, but sourcebooks dealing with the Klingons say otherwise. As stated in #4 of Ten Myths About the Klingons in GURPS Klingons:
Klingon warriors fight (for practice) all the time in all manner of duels and other contests. All warriors, Klingons or otherwise, are a very competitive group constantly on watch for any weakness in their enemies or rivals. But it would be foolish for any professional military force to operate this way. You might see the best engineer in a generation die in a meaningless duel in the Academy just because someone with half of his IQ had twice his cunning. Officers with two decades of combat experience might be killed by junior ensigns half of their age who have no clue how to run a starship or command a battalion.
In the Star Fleet Universe fiction story Mutiny on the Demonslayer, Commodore Jark Valgan attempts to assassinate his superior, Admiral Korvik, so as to take his position. Valgan is an ethnic Klingon.
Champions. The VIPER organization has often allowed its members to advance by murdering their superiors. For example, in the 5th Edition Viper: Coils of the Serpent supplement Redstone became Commandant of the Vancouver VIPER’s Nest after killing the former Nest Leader.
Heck, the chieftain in Halo: Contact Harvest, Maccabeus (who's more of a Reasonable Authority Figure than almost any other Brute so far), recalls that, when he challenged his own father for the right to lead, his father was happy when Maccabeus knifed him in the neck, as it was considered the best way for an old Brute warrior to go. For bonus point, the Brute who challenges and kills Maccabeus for leadership is none other than Tartarus, The Dragon in Halo 2.
The Elites apparently have a similar system of promotion in effect. As shown in Halo: The Cole Protocol, where a newly-ascended feudal leader fighting off two assassins sent to kill him. After dispatching them, he shows up before the lower lords and disrobes to show that he doesn't have a mark on him (in the Elite society, to be wounded by an enemy is a grave dishonor, which can only be paid back in blood). He then proceeds to execute the lord who sent the assassins, which is their version of a vote of no-confidence. Why? Because the lord didn't challenge him openly. The only reason he didn't slaughter the lord's entire family but had them exiled instead was because the lord fought back at the last second, showing he had some honor left.
The way the game was originally designed, during the moment where Gradenko or later Zhukov gets killed, instead they would be fighting to the death. A pistol conviently lands in front of you. And then, you got to choose who to shoot - Stalin? Or Gradenko. This opens many worms since Gradenko was an Alliance defector.
In the Soviet ending, just as Stalin celebrates victory in Buckingham Palace, the tea he drinks turns out to be poisoned by none other than Nadia. In his dying moment, he gets to look at Nadia and his 'advisory' pointing a gun to him. Long story short, you get told you are being promoted to premier.
Darth Malak tried to pull this off in the backstory by killing his master Darth Revan. It doesn't work as well as he had planned. He mentions when you meet him that his power base is weaker than it would otherwise be because he didn't do it personally like the Sith are supposed to.
The Dark Side ending has you show Malak how a Sith Promotion is done properly. With a side of revenge for kicking you out to begin with.
In Makai Kingdom, Klingon Promotion also seems to be the standard method of Overlord succession in the Nippon Ichiverse. Even humans who kill a strong enough Demon Overlord (or enough) will become one. And if a Demon Overlord were to kill enough other Demon Overlords; they would become something... else.
Similar to No More Heroes above, in MadWorld you ascend the ranks of the gladiator game by killing those above you. Unlike No More Heroes, you don't need to be directly below their rank to gain it. Which is just as well, since you start out ranked 256th. Thankfully, killing the very first boss cuts that nearly in half, putting you at rank 198. Unfortunately, subsequent bosses ranks are much closer to each other, so you don't climb the ladder nearly so quickly after that.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Killing drug lord Ricardo Diaz has the main character inherit his mansion and his gang in a very Scarface-like fashion.
In Jagged Alliance 2, an example done by good guys, out of the five Santos brothers, Manny, the youngest one is a failure and does not own his own bar, instead he is working in someone else's bar. However, it just happen that his employer is a wanted international terrorist, so you can kill him for cash. Once you have done so, Manny will become the new bartender.
Morrowind. Great House Telvanni, a political faction made up of ancient, amoral wizards, explicitly tells new recruits that thievery, backstabbing and murder are not only common but accepted (and required) means of rising through the ranks. And while you can be expelled for murdering fellow house members, your penance "quest" consists of the person who let you join in the first place saying, "Oh, you were expelled?" and then letting you back in.
"If you steal from another Telvanni, but still live, then clearly you deserve whatever you stole. Murdering your opponents by magic or treachery is the traditional way of settling disputes. If you win, then clearly your argument has more merit. You may be expelled as in any other Great House, but most Telvanni will not care or even know about it."
It is only required to rise to the very top. Presumably because there is only one other point in the Telvanni hierarchy when you actually displace someone from their rank, and in that case it is left open if the other guy wasn't just promoted away from the position to leave room for you. In fact, almost every faction you can join either forces you to fight the leader to replace him or at least has it as the most likely or encouraged method — there can be only one Knight of the Imperial Dragon (the highest ranking Legion officer) on Vvardenfell, so a duel is suggested by the current one, the Mages' Guild Archmage is an idiot battlemage who challenges you to a duel if he thinks you want to replace him, the Redoran Archmaster is too much of a xenophobe to ever let you become leader but can be convinced to duel you, the good path in the Fighters' Guild involves removing the corrupt Master and the Morag Tong's Grandmaster is supposed to be replaced with this trope (although the current one is getting tired of the job and suggests you just let him retire and he'll name you to the post).
Played with interestingly in Final Fantasy X, of all games, where the revelation of the Klingon Promotion is a major part of the development of the Church of Yevon. The first time we see Seymour, he has just taken over his late father Jyscal's position of Maester (roughly equivalent to some sort of sub-Pope) in the Church of Yevon. At that time in the game this can seem a bit odd, since at that point Yevon is apparently a Saintly Church dedicated to stopping fiends and Sin, while havng the son take his father's place smacks of nepotism. Because Seymour is established as having already been a high level church official, however, a player can gloss over this without suspecting the true corruption at the heart of Yevon. Several hours later in the game, it is revealed that Seymour killed his father discreetly in order to get said position, cementing his status as a viable villain and adding to a strong impression that the Church of Yevon is actually a Corrupt Church. (It was Operation Mi'ihen that started said impression.) Some time yet later in the game (it varies, depending on how much Level Grinding the player had to do to defeat Evrae), it is revealed that not only did Seymour kill his father for his position, but that all but one of his peers, (including the Pope-equivalent and de facto ruler of the world), were aware of his actions and condoned them as a way for Seymour to become a Maester, thus proving that it really is Klingon Promotion at its finest.
This is pretty much how Kormir became a god in Guild Wars: Nightfall, and for that matter what happened after Grenth defeated the previous god of death, Dhuum. It's implied Grenth wasn't the first, too.
Parodied in the Touhou game Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, when Marisa asks Sakuya if she can become chief maid by killing her. The answer is no.
At the end of the first God of War game Kratos kills Ares and becomes the new Greek God of War.
When you infiltrate the Lotus Assassins' fortress in Jade Empire, your supervisor, Master Gang, expects you to help him replace his superior Master Shin by this means. Another of Gang's acolytes points out that "if one vacancy would raise us all, two vacancies would raise us even farther."
In Fallout: New Vegas, it is eventually revealed that Benny, proud bearer of the Idiot Ball, is the head of the Chairmen for this very reason. It should be clarified: Benny isn't stupid, and can be downright ruthless, but he tends not to think things all the way through.
You can help Benny's second in command get a similar promotion. Similarly, you can replace the heads of the Omertas with Cachino, who promises to make an effort to "run a tight ship".
The Independent path essentially means doing this to Mr. House.
The Legion path gives you the option of performing an Et Tu, Brute? on Caesar allowing Lanius to take over the legion.
In Mitsumete Knight R: Daibouken Hen, a second playthrough of the game reveals this is part of the Backstory of no less than The Hero, Christopher MacLeod: in order to infiltrateOrcadia Empire, so he can strike at the right moment to achieve his Revenge and destroy it, he climbed to the prestigious rank of Captain of the Imperial Guard's Knights part through his own abilities, part through underhand tactics such as assassinating or permanently crippling higher-ranked people and potential replacement for them.
Escape From St Marys: The chemistry department has their own tradition of underlings slaying the head to take control.
Warcraft: While this is not standard in orc society, Orgrim Doomhammer becomes warchief of The Horde by killing Blackhand, after finding out that not only is Blackhand just a puppet of the Shadow Council, but that Blackhand was involved in the death of Orgrim's best friend Durotan (Thrall's father). In fact, Blackhand's own sons carried out the assassination of Durotan and his mate.
In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Ulfric claims to be the High King of Skyrim because he slew King Torygg in "a legal duel". The Empire, however, does not consider his claim valid and named Torygg's widow Elisif to the provincial throne.
In League of Legends A Klingon Promotion is how the champions Darius and Gangplank achieved their positions in the game's setting.
Plain Sight is a game about Suicidal Ninja Robots IN SPACE murdering each other for energy. The fastest way of getting said energy? Go for the big, glowy ninja robot and kill him, gaining all of his energy!
Wild Star: Then Emperor Azrion assimilated the Draken into the Dominion by killing High Clanlord Zhur in one-on-one combat. It's also implied to be the traditional means of promotion within said alienspecies.
With the Legacy of Romulus expansion's revamp of the Klingon campaign, you challenge your ship's captain to a duel after he tries to turn over a newly captured prisoner to The Federation. Notably this is right after you were Klingon Promoted from second officer to first officer after the first officer challenged the captain on the same grounds and lost (you later find out that she didn't even get to properly fight. The captain stabbed her in the back while they were preparing for the duel). The Klingon high command considers this highly irregular (only the first officer is allowed to challenge the captain and your promotion wasn't official yet), and requires you to win a ground duel later as a formality.
In the Federation tutorial:
The original tutorial had the Starfleet Player Character advance to acting captain of their starting Miranda-class because everyone aboard senior to them got killed by the Borg. Overlaps with You Are in Command Now.
Season 8 and the revamp of the Federation tutorial stage kinda-sorta does this for the Federation player: the captain of your ship is kidnapped by boarding Klingons and he tells the player to lock onto his commbadge and blow the cloaking Bird of Prey sky high. As you're pretty much the next highest ranking officer (as part of a group of recently-graduated cadets), you're now the captain. To play this even straighter, play the tutorial as a Federation-allied Klingon.
The game Star Trek: Klingon Academy deals with the potential consequences of this: The Klingon Empire circa the sixth movie was having a decline in quality commanders because people who were skilled in dueling but not in running a starship kept ending up in senior positions through this trope, so General Chang created a command school to train junior officers in shiphandling.
A similar event occured here during Gordon's trip to Nova Prospekt in Concerned.
In the Sluggyverse, the anthropomorphic incarnations of the holidays can be killed by mortals (or each other, or aliens). The slayer, by "right of caste", then becomes the new personification of the holiday. Bun-Bun the killer rabbit accidentally became the Easter Bunny by this process. In order to stop being the easter Bunny, he set out to kill all the other holidays. Once in possession of all their powers, he could then change the rules. But he was defeated in the end by Mrs. Claus.
As the Doctor points out: "That's ... not how our government works."
Averted in Kevin & Kell: Kell intervenes in a fight between Herd Thinners CEO R.L. and Executive Frank Mangle. R.L. and Mangle are seriously injured and, because she was the "last man standing" (as it were), she is promoted to CEO of Herd Thinners.
This is how Redcloak becomes the supreme leader of the hobgoblins. Unwilling to take part in the painful, humiliating and time-consuming initation rituals, Redcloak is informed that he can become leader by killing the current one, which he does. However, it turns out that Redcloak ends up killing a random hobgoblin, but the real supreme leader, seeing how powerful Redcloak was, choose not to press the issue.
Later on, while Belkar, Haley, and Celia disguise as some corpses and a necromancer to get past some hobgoblins, Belkar kills one of them for doubting that he's actually an undead corpse and the other tells them to "Have a nice day, and thanks for the promotion"
Ashton does this in Winters In Lavelle; killing the dragon prince grants him the deceased monarch's land and status "by rite of blood." Though, the killer probably would have been executed instead, except he was also a dragon.
Homestuck has a race of aliens known as trolls with classes based on blood color. At the very top is the Tyrian blood caste and there are only two alive at a time: the current Empress and the Heiress who needs to kill the Empress for her place on the throne. And for good reason: there is only one lusus that shares the tyrian blood of the Empress/Heiress and they fight not just for the throne but also for control over this monster, who can easily wipe out the entire race save for those of tyrian blood if he isn't properly maintained.
In MSF High, if you can beat up the hall monitor, you become the new hall monitor.
The Ninja Mafia in Sam and Fuzzy is ruled by an emperor and his ruling council (which the emperor selects when crowned). One of the council is elected new emperor if the emperor dies. It's never stated outright, but implied pretty heavily, that traditional succession often involved an incumbent stealthily assassinating the sitting emperor. In addition, if (in an extremely unlikely scenario) someone were to assassinate both emperor and the entire council, the assassin becomes the new emperor.
This is how Dorf Quest deals with gods: A sufficiently powerful mortal may challenge one in a duel in order to gain his or her godhood. In addition, it takes ten years to get properly used to these new powers, during which the new god is (relatively) easy prey. It has been established that the turnabout rate is quite high, although there are also four gods who have never been defeated.
And it may be how the ruling clique at WhateleyAcademy works in the Whateley Universe. More than one student has speculated that Team Kimba could become the Alphas just by beating down the current Alphas and laying claim to the position. And Team Kimba has already demonstrated they can do it if they want to.
Played straight in The Salvation War's first book with Hell: other than Satan, the demon hierarchy works this way... which suits Satan just fine. However, as things go to hellColonel Keisha Stevenson (US Army) inadvertently becomes a participant by gunning down a Hell village's lord. She is far more benevolent than him, but presumably abdicated the position once Civil Affairs troops arrived.
The throne of Trisol, a planet in Futurama, works this way, with the end result being each Emperor only rules for a short time before he's drunk. Did we mention the beings of Trisol are living water who sleep in bottles? And "a short time" means he's usually done away with the night after his coronation?
In fact, the longest reign of any emperor was one week. In the palace's portrait gallery, there are empty frames after Fry's portrait labeled "Fry's Assassin" and "Fry's Assassin's Assassin".
Fry: Well, at least my assassin gets what's coming to him.
Hell, this scene ends with a panel opening the wall, and a straw coming out to (unsuccessfully) try to drink him.
Also from "Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences" while referring to Lrrr's king cape:
Played for laughs in Justice League Unlimited. Shayera confesses to her romantic rival Vixen that she is unsure of Earth ways of rivalry; "It's not like I can poison your water or something. *sigh* I miss Thanagar." As Vixen leaves after their workout, Shayera casually tosses her a water bottle. Vixen pauses for a moment, claims she's not worried, then disposes of it.
Played much straighter when Lex Luthor took over Gorilla Grodd's Legion of DoomExpy after the latter's failed plan to turn the entire world into apes. Basically, Luthor admits he was planning on biding his time before taking over, but Grodd's plan is so stupid, he might as well do it now, and does.
In Shadow Raiders, that's the policy for the rulership of planet Bone. although we discover near the series' end that Femur couldn't entirely stomach killing his brother, the king at the time, and merely imprisoned him on the Prison Planet in order to take the throne.
In nearly twenty-five years of being in various Transformers series, Starscream accomplished this exactly once. And mere hours later Galvatron (a reformatted Megatron) came back to do the same thing to him.
This is, essentially, how the Decepticons work. The same for the descendants, the Predacons. The Beast Wars Megatron even points out after an attempted assassination by Tarantulas that he's ok with treachery. It's incompetence he hates.
When Rhinox is infected with a virus that turns him into a Predacon, he immediately starts plotting against Megatron... and nearly succeeds. Rhinox is really smart. Trying to make him ruthless is probably not a good idea. And then Megatron goes and does it again.
Likewise, the kingdom of Assyria decided its inheritance of throne simply by civil war where the princes began to murder and assassinate each other. The last of the sons of the former king alive became the new king.
There were 25 different Roman emperors between the years 235 and 284, mainly because they kept getting assassinated.
Mainly for this reason, there's a rather small proportion of Roman emperors whose sons succeeded them. At least once, there were six separate claimants to the imperial throne - with a few exceptions, no matter what kind of crisis the empire might be in you could generally count on there being someone else who was trying to get on top.
Some years were worse than others, with multiple people becoming emperor and being overthrown. There were four emperors in 69 AD, five in 193 AD, and six in 238.
There was a short string of (childless) Emperors who got around this by adopting whoever they thought was powerful and ambitious enough to take it from them and making them the legal heir.
This was actually how the Imperial succession was supposed to work: the Emperor and the Senate choose the successor as soon as the right person appeared, who would then become the Emperor at the death of his predecessor. Sadly most Emperors had the bad habit of choosing their sons as successors, leading to this trope when the Praetorian Guard failed to kill an incompetent successor in time (an traditional and unofficial duty of the Guard was to kill the emperor if he proved too incompetent, corrupt or depraved, starting when the Praetorians killed Caligula and all of his possible successors other than Claudius, who was either the Only Sane Man of the family or thought too stupid to do any damage).
Another cute Roman example, this one with less blood—if you successfully prosecuted a Roman Senator in court, you obtained their rank. Cicero only sued or prosecuted people who were of higher rank than him (he generally preferred to defend) so he could take their ranks and move up the Senate hierarchy list—which determined your right to stand for certain offices or obtain the floor of the Senate in a debate.
Technically happened to Prince Dipendra, perpetrator of the 2001 Nepal royal massacre — after murdering his father (the King), his mother (the Queen), and several relatives, he shot himself — as he lay in a coma in hospital, he was technically King of Nepal. He died after a three-day "reign".
This incidentally left Dipendra's uncle Gyanendra as monarch. Gyanendra was at this point fairly far down the line of successionnote He had at one point been third in line, and indeed had been placed on the throne for two months as a small child during a political dispute that caused his father, grandfather, and older brother to flee the country and was more or less not fit to be monarch: he utterly butterfingered things, adopting an authoritarian style of politics that led to a (nonviolent) revolution that deposed Gyanendra, abolished the monarchy, and established a republic.
During the Middle Ages, the Abbasid Caliphate was pretty much nothing but this. There was at least one caliph who ruled only for a day before being assassinated. Eventually, rulers started a tradition of sending their sons into exile to cut down on the amount of random dethronings.
This reached its pinnacle during the Ottoman Empire when the sultans would imprison their heirs in Kafes, literally "The Golden Cage", a prison palace. Of course, the future sultans who grew up in the confines of the Cage would often turn out even crazier and stabbier than their predecessors.
Almost all Islamic states in the Middle Ages arranged their inheritance of throne by Klingon Promotion principle. They admired the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem on how smoothly there the crown passed from the dead to living, without the country collapsing into anarchy and civil war.
Averted by the Medieval French slogan King is dead; long live the King, implying that the old King had already nominated his legitimate successor, thus preventing the Klingon Promotion from occurring.
During the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) on the 18th February 1913 three people were president in one day. President Francisco Madero was forced to resign and Pedro Lascurain became president. 45 minutes later Victoriano Huerta forced President Pedro Lascurain to resign and became the new president.
Sand tiger sharks. They are live-born, and only one or two actually make it out into the world (even though several are inside of the mother.) They fight and kill each other inside the freaking womb, leaving only a survivor or two.
The English "War of the Roses" was basically a series of these (although several of them were by proxy the intent is the same) with a couple of natural deaths thrown in for extra chaos factor. The eventual winner (Henry Tudor — the father of Henry VIII) actually picked his crown up out of the mud after it fell of the severed head of his predecessor, Richard III.
Even afterwards, this was a problem in the British military as lower-ranking officers would often challenge senior officers to duels in order to gain promotions. This ended when Queen Victoria forbade all military officers from dueling.
According to Sir George Fraser's The Golden Bough, there was the shrine of Nemi in Italy that decided the title to the priesthood by this method. Only fugitive slaves were eligible, and achieved the title of rex nemorensis by taking a bough from a tree, then challenging the previous priest to mortal combat. According to the writer this was an adaptation of a Pre-classical Greek Human Sacrifice ritual, though "anthropological" methods in Fraser's time were less than scientific, so his interpretation should be viewed warily.
In the US military, the ranking NCO may relieve an officer of command by lethal force under serious extenuating circumstances. Whether this becomes only a temporary promotion or a possible court martial depends on the intense review as to whether mission objectives and/or personnel were preserved. But during Vietnam's long deployments and inconsistent contact with chain of command, delays in review could leave a sergeant in command for a long time.
The British Army instituted rules against duelling other officers in the 17th century because this trope doesn't work in real life.